Yesterday I was thinking about onboarding new employees and I came up with a couple of snippets that I shared on Twitter. Sunday isn’t usually a day when I get many reactions on Twitter so I was pleasantly surprised to have these two tweets really resonate with people.
The first tweet came to my mind because I had read others talk about interviewing, which is really competing for a job opening. People get really concerned, even anxious, about competing with so many unknowns, and it is unnecessarily stressful. So I shared this:
Me, as hiring manager: “I don’t need you to be THE best, I just want you to bring me YOUR best.”
— Jason Alba (@jasonalba) November 15, 2020
I was thinking about a round of interviewing I recently went through, and one I did a few years ago. People are really worried about showing that they can do the job but what I’ve found is I have already analyzed your hard skills (aka, your ability to do the job) before you get into an interview with me. I might have a few follow-up question, but really, by the time we interview, I’ve come to some conclusion that you could likely actually do the job.
The interview, then, is for me to analyze your soft skills. I want to get to know you as a person, and see how you communicate. I want to see how you think, and how you respond to my questions about you. I am looking for a cultural fit, trying to determine if you would work well with the team I’ve already put together. I want to know if I’d enjoy working with you.
It’s critical to understand the interview process is when I figure out if I want to work with you. Don’t take that too personally… there really are a ton of factors that go into the final decision. But I’ll pick out things from interviews that help me feel comfortable adding you to my team.
This is partly how cultures are created. You don’t get a blank slate, and then dictate to everyone how to “culture.” Instead, you put a bunch of people in a room who bring their own nuances and preferences and ways of thinking, and maybe you get to influence that a bit so they work together as a high-functioning team.
The second tweet got even more reactions, which was surprising. It was this:
As a hiring manager I factor in a good six months for you to work through the learning curve and imposter syndrome, and I tell you that. Give yourself a little slack as you settle in to your new job.
— Jason Alba (@jasonalba) November 15, 2020
This is honestly how I think. I realize not everyone things this way, and for some roles this is unrealistic. I’m specifically talking to professional-level hires, such as programmers or business managers.
I have a bit of an ego. Or, in other words, I am usually highly self-confident. In my last role, I was well-paid, had a nice title, and awesome responsibilities. I was the perfect fit for the weird job. I remember reading the job description thinking “I’ve been around a few blocks and I’ve never met anyone that comes closing to meeting these job requirements. The company wanted someone who was an entrepreneur, who had books published, experience with professional speaking, podcasts, and radio, and who had created products. There might have been a couple other things I’m forgetting, but I remember reading that and thinking “this is the weirdest collection of skills… who in the world has done this aside from me?”
I got the job, which seemed to have been customer tailored for me, and was excited to work on something big. Something really big.
And then imposter syndrome set in. I was blind sided by this powerful phenomena. I wondered what happened to my normally overly healthy ego. I worried I wasn’t the right person for the job. I worried I wouldn’t be able to measure up. I worried I just couldn’t bring what they needed.
Imposter syndrome is one of the weirdest mind games I’ve ever experienced. Fortunately, my boss was amazing and I sat down with him during a one-on-one to talk about it. We talked about some past trauma from a previous boss, and he made it very clear that (a) I was definitely the right hire, (b) he had confidence in me, and (c) he was going to give me plenty of time to learn and come up to speed.
I have to say, I had been an entrepreneur for many years. When you are an entrepreneur you don’t have “plenty of time”… you are in a “you eat what you kill” environment. If I didn’t come up to speed, and figure something out, I would fail. But in the corporate environment I had time to learn my role. A lot of time. There were dozens and dozens of salespeople who were generating income for the company. It was a well-oiled machine that didn’t rely on me. Unlike the pressure of my role as an entrepreneur, I wasn’t going to make or break the company.
My boss let me know, very kindly, that it was okay to have those feelings of inadequacy. He gave me space and time, and eventually the imposter syndrome passed.
Back to my tweet, I think it’s important that hiring managers understand their new hires will go through two things: a learning curve and imposter syndrome. Once you understand that, it is critical that you figure out how much time is reasonable for them to go through it, and be okay with that phase of their onboarding.
The next part is critical. Having understood that they will go through that, you need to communicate your awareness and expectations with your new hires. This helps them know that they will go through some discomfort, that you are aware of it, and that you support them as they go through.
Type-A personalities will be frustrated and anxious to be producing. They’ll get hit hard by imposter syndrome, and wonder if they should quit. How powerful is it when you say “hey, most people aren’t firing on all pistons for at least six months. We’re here with you during that time to help you learn. Don’t worry about not being productive immediately, you are a long-term investment for us!”
Wow, can you imagine if someone would have told you that? How powerful.
This, my friends, is how you create culture. You create a culture of trust, of long-term vision, of priorities. You create a culture of loyalty when you show you are investing in your new hires. This kind of culture attracts the right talent, and influences people to stay on your team even during some rough patches.
At Snowfly we are culture nerds. We love creating cultures with our clients. We know that gamification and performance and incentives and recognition impact culture. We also know that there are a thousand smaller things, like what I’ve described above, that will influence and mold a culture that you hope to create.
Want to talk about your culture with us? We’d love to. Set up some time here: