Hiring? Look for Ambition
Last week, I was speaking with a startup founder named Ryne, who leads the product department at Selly Automotive, a CRM and communication platform built for independent car dealers. He had posted a few open positions for new hires and asked whether he should be looking for people who hoped for massive career growth in short periods of time. His concern was that people who wanted constant growth couldn’t be satisfied and might even try to grow into the founders’ roles.
Now, if someone has spent five months at each of their past seven jobs, that’s a different story. It’s a pattern that’s likely to repeat itself, but worth bluntly asking the candidate. In those cases, I would take a lesson from Leadership and Self Deception by The Arbinger Institute, and listen for people owning their decision instead of blaming others for bad situations.
However, there are ambitious employees who want to grow and it’s your job as an employer to create those opportunities. We loved hiring ambitious people at DealerScience because we wanted to encourage a culture of growth. But wanting a growth culture versus actually creating it were two different things. It was a constant challenge to balance work that needed to get done with our employees’ desire to grow and learn more.
As a founder, you’re constantly faced with difficult decisions about where to spend your scarce time. You are often the bottleneck limiting your team’s performance, whether you realize it or not. The best thing that could happen to you is that someone on your team rises to be able to take over some or even all of your work, but handing over the reins can feel strange. Remember that it’s natural to resist when someone might become as good or better than you in your role. It’s scary to think that you could be replaced or unnecessary. With the help of these ambitious employees, however, you will free up time so that you can focus on other important tasks.
I assured Ryne that he had nothing to fear when hiring ambitious employees. In fact, doing so could improve his productivity and create a symbiotic mindset for him and his employees.