In case you haven’t read any other posts of mine, I talk about Chris Lema, a lot. Chris is someone that has made several big impacts on my career and life. He hired me at Crowd Favorite to solve big client services problems. He helped me build a foundation and vision for my own business at CaboPress. He has been a constant source of wisdom and encouragement to me, both professionally and personally, since I first introduced myself at WordCamp Austin in 2014 about as awkwardly as possible. 🙂
But I bring Chris up today to tell you to go read his latest post on hiring amazing people. Seriously, stop reading this and read that first. It’s awesome. Not only because Chris has hired some amazing people in the past and is doing so now at Liquid Web and can teach you how to do the same, but he is also showing you how to BE an amazing hire and high performer in the process. Here are the lessons that Chris writes about and that I believe he’s shown me.
Always be learning
Completely understand the problem
One of the things that I’ve always considered a true differentiator between senior level employees and mid-level or even junior employees is how well they understand the problem presented by a client, boss or other entity. Do they just read the given notes? Do they research? Do they ask questions? Do they take the time to think about the problem and not just solutions? These are all important steps. I know as a developer, my first instinct is to jump into a solution. My second is to think of as many solutions as I can and then pick the best one and dive in. But the truly best way to solve a problem is to tackle the idea of what the real problem is first. The person that understands the problem the best will always perform higher in the long run that those who just seek the fastest solution.
Never do something because it is easy
Stick around any agency long enough and you’ll hear a conversation like this between developer and project manager. One will say something like “the client wants to know if we can do X.” The developer will say, “sure we can do that, but it will be really hard and really expensive.” Or maybe even just flat out say no, because secretly it is “too hard.” One of the lessons I learned while working for Chris is that saying no because it is too hard is a missed opportunity for you and for the client. First, you could have presented the new request as a change order and made more money and been the hero. Secondly, a hard opportunity is almost always a place to grow not just your skill set, but also resilience and fortitude.
Chris points out that one of the keys to finding amazing people to hire is to always be building relationships. Not just to further your own goals either. Truly caring about people and their success is a great way to make friends and to build a network that is caring and passionate about you and your business. But that same principle is true for employees too. Care about your coworkers. Your boss. Your clients. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen coworkers become bosses, bosses become partners and clients become both. Business and life are always changing. How you treat people could be setting the stage for your next job or your next important relationship on a personal level. But beyond that, treating people well inside and outside the office is important. Don’t be a jerk.
I and a growing group of people work remotely. I love working remotely. It allows me the freedom to spend time with my family while also solving complex challenges for clients all across the globe. For remote workers, communication is the single most powerful tool at your disposal. But beyond that, communication is vital for ALL people. My simple rule of thumb has become communicate early, often and always. I’d much rather be someone who over communicates than face the consequences of not communicating enough or at all. Communication opens the door to grace, mercy when things don’t go well and helps everyone feel the victory when success happens.
The single biggest idea that I took from my time with Chris Lema was about taking ownership. The idea that I don’t just work for a business. I’m not just pushing code. I own that code. I’m an owner of our business’s reputation and culture whether or not my name is on the building. People who take ownership, who strive to do their best work, be their best self, and make sure their team is doing the same, are performing at their best. Their desired employees. They are trusted colleagues. Managers don’t have to worry if something will be done right because those employees take ownership of making sure it’s bug-free, tested and ready for the client. They don’t just do “my part.” They make sure every part is in sync, ready to go and flawless. It’s not about perfection, it’s about responsibility and passion, caring about your work, and making the effort to improve everything around you. As a developer, we often delivered one section of code. A feature, a page, a set of styles. But ownership requires that we test to make sure everything else still works after integration. Ownership tests the entire project to make sure bugs haven’t come up. Ownership makes sure that the functionality doesn’t just match the spec, but achieves the client’s desired outcome.
So you want to be a high performer? Do you want to be someone who is sought after instead of having to interview at dozens of employers? You have to work on yourself. Work on these things. Improve them. Work hard. Build relationships. Communicate. Make a difference. Take ownership. Those are the people that I notice. Is that you?