I remember a colleague who came from a Big Company to work at our Small Company, because our Small Company was so cool. Not cool in a hip way, but cool in a lots-of-smart-people and a really-appealing-product way. This new guy was well-qualified, good-humored, and extremely squared away. We were glad to have him because we knew he had come from the Land of Success and would know many tricks of the trade that would make us bigger and better.
He was gone in year.
It was hard not to take it personally. We liked him and we were so….well…likable. Why would he leave such a cool company just to go on to yet another Big Successful Company? (Which he did.)
Then I thought about the first time the New Guy asked me for help. (I was his peer.) He’d lean in my doorway and give me a scenario he was managing. This was typical. Our team always collaborated and calibrated and we’re always bouncing scenarios around. No problem.
So he’d spell it out, then ask, “So, what do we do?”
I’d think for a second, then talk through my response so he’d know how I reached my recommendation.
He’d say, “OK. So that’s what we do?’
I’d say, “Uh, yeah. That’s what I’d do, at least. Does it make sense to you?”
“Well, sure. I’m just asking if that’s our policy.”
“Oh. Well…no. I mean, we don’t exactly have a policy for a scenario like this, but it makes sense to me, so I think you should just do it.”
“Wow. I can’t believe we don’t have a policy for that.”
“Hmm. Maybe you’re right. Maybe you should write a policy for that. It might be good to have.”
He seemed baffled by the absence of a policy. And probably by my apparent lack of interest in writing the policy myself. He took my advice. It was good advice and he agreed with it.
He did this several times. And each time I’d give him my opinion, and he’d roll his eyes and say, “Don’t tell me. There’s no policy on this either.”
“Nope!” I’d reply with a grin.
I could see this bugged him no end. He clearly felt like he was suddenly doing business in a 3rd World country. He missed his credenza with the neat little row of binders containing the wisdom of the ages. And admittedly, I felt a little embarrassed. Like my company was so green and underdeveloped….
Wait a second. I loved my company. And the people in it. When applicants ask my why I like it here, the answer is easy: The people are amazing. Smart, funny, inventive…resourceful. Every day is a puzzle and everyone is here to help you solve it. We ‘re masters of problem solving and complexity doesn’t freak us out. I love that about us. We don’t want a stinking policy manual. We want to think.
We’re amazing. He’s a fool.
He’s not a fool. In fact, he was well-qualified, good-humored, and extremely squared away. He just needed something different that what we could give him. Structure. Guidelines.
I was fine without a policy for everything. Flying by the seat of our pants and problem solving was part of the thrill.
But for him, those policy binders freed him. To do what, I’m not sure. Maybe to straighten out the details so he could focus on the future? It’s hard to say. Because I’m not in that world, and I don’t think I’d like it as much.
It’s made me realize, though, that just because somebody is smart and good-humored and squared away, doesn’t mean they’re a fit.
To be the best you can be, you need to find the root of your gifts. The thing that floats your boat every day. You need to know what you need to do your best work.
And find a place where your best work is what’s needed.
Then you can blossom.