The Curious Case of Invisible Employees
What makes for a good experience? How would you know that something is so good that you can't define it? How would you rate it?
In my opinion, when something is so good, it usually vanishes from our conscious attention. If something is not so good, you are reminded of it.
Let's say you are watching a great movie. If the movie is so good, it absorbs you into the experience. You are in the story, putting yourself in the shoes of the protagonist. And for a while, you forget that you are watching a movie. You forget that you are in a theatre, with someone sitting beside you. It goes away from your conscious attention.
However, if the movie is boring, then you are constantly reminded that you are watching a movie. You are reminded of it. You look at your watch, wait for the movie to end, or distract yourself by checking updates on your phone.
The more you are aware that you are in a movie, the less you are involved in the movie. The better the movie is, the more you are into it, the longer you forget that you are watching a movie, at a theatre, with someone.
- If you eat great food, you are, for a few moments, just lost in the taste.
- If you are with great friends, you are lost in the conversation.
- If you are riding a great motorcycle, you are lost in the travel
- If you are reading a great book, you are lost in the story
- If you are listening to great music, you are lost in the music
And so on...
Any experience that is good enough, will make you lose yourself in the experience. And if the experience is not good, you are constantly reminded of what you've got yourself into.
The same goes for great performers in your team.
Great team members, who clearly understand their role, disappear from your conscious attention. They are part of the team, but behind the scenes enabling the movement of the entire business. Such team members also help you focus on your own craft so that you can make your work your meditation.
I have been lucky enough to hire some kick-ass folks in my business, and I don't think about them too much. I talk to them a few times a month, and they are churning away their work, day in and day out, without me having to check on them.
They are self-starters, self-managed, motivated team members building the vision along with us. For me, they are invisible, apart from team meetings and catching up as friends.
Only during the team meetings, I am like "Wow, so you have been up to date with everything that is expected of you? Great, next."
Quite contrary to that, the poor performers, people who dodge around their responsibilities, act like they are doing a lot of work but are not that productive, it becomes apparent that they exist in my team.
As a basic rule, the team member that I think most about during the week is the one who needs to be let go of first. They are just taking too much of my mental space and attention. They remind me of their existence and are conspicuous by their lack of discipline to get things done well, and on time.
Whenever a new team member is hired, the first thing I look for is: Can this person get work done so well that I forget that he/she is part of the team? If the answer is No, then I have a problem. If I have an inkling that, yes, this person can do what they are told to do, and I can rely on them, I go ahead and hire them.
There needs to be a good balance of skill and will to hire a team member. A lot of startups hire people with great skills but no will. You can only take the horse to the water, you cannot make it drink. When someone doesn't have the will, they make themselves apparent. And when they make themselves apparent enough, it is time to let them go.
Also, you might want to read my article about how I have built a hiring funnel for my startup if you want to hire the best of the best (and then make them disappear).