Ants don't need no stinking job description.

Ants leafIf the "no stinking job description" movie reference escapes you, ask a friend, accept my apologies, and please read on. In a time when jobs are few and applicants many, here’s something I learned recently that just might make the difference if applied.

It was modest lunch with an even more modest businessman.  Thirty years ago he inherited a small company from his father and parlayed it into an extremely profitable and equally charitable business that has served Chicago-land well for more than four decades.  I was honored to get time with him and asked many questions.  One issue on my mind was staffing.  I wanted to know how important he believed staffing was, and how he managed to get the right person, in the right place, at the right time in their life.

"It is everything,” he said.  “The team makes the difference, and that’s what separates leaders from managers.”

I’m not sure how we arrived there, but eventually the subject turned to well written job descriptions.  “Don’t believe in it,” he said, “not at this level.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, our people know what’s expected of them and it's written down, but that has nothing to do with the hiring process.”

Now he had my attention.  He continued.

“First, I want to get to know the individual. I want to know what they value, what they love, and why they want to work for us…even if it’s just the money, and there’s nothing wrong with that, I want to know.  Then, I spend a lot of time introducing the candidate to myself, to our company, to what we value and to why we exist.  This will take more than one meeting.   After that, if they can’t articulate to me the invaluable role they want to play in our story, I don’t write them a job description. I simply don’t hire them. I’m not looking for employees to fill a position. I’m looking for people to bring on a team.”

“You see,” he said, “I can coach them, I can train them, I can encourage them, I can correct them, but I cannot create them, and if they’re not alive enough to get caught up in what we, or for that matter they, are trying to accomplish, I cannot help, and I will only hurt them and us if I try."

“No,” he said with a sincerely hurting kind of smile, “it’s just not the right time for that person; maybe another day, another time, but not now.  I owe it to the rest of the team to bring on board individuals who get it. Anything else is dereliction of duty on my part.”

After our meeting I remembered reading Jim Collins writings on the same subject in his book; “Great by Choice.”

I also remembered a passage of Scripture that just might apply.

“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!  It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet if it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.”  (Ecclesiastes 6:6-7)

Consider it food for thought for everyone out there hungry for a new beginning. Don't wait for opportunity to write you a job description. Look for opportunity, filter it through your gifts and graces.  If it fits, get passionate about the role you can play and articulate it.