I ended my last post by saying, “In today’s new economic reality, or new normal, you’re no longer hiring people to fill roles; you’re hiring them to make a difference.”
For small business owners, this has been true for a long time. After leaving a position at a multi-billion dollar corporation (nearly 25 years ago) to join a 50-person real estate development firm, I learned this lesson the hard way, but it has stuck with me ever since.
It was a Friday afternoon; the CEO stopped me in the hall and asked, “What did you do this week that added value to the company and justified what I’m paying you?” (I’m paraphrasing of course, but you get the gist). Unfortunately, I was woefully unprepared in the moment to answer his question very convincingly. As I was standing there gulping, I’m thinking about some of the meetings I attended, etc. Hardly much of an answer. He had me considering that I should go to my office and write HIM a check. The CEO was actually quite kind about it. He cut me a break that day, realizing that it would likely be the last time I’d ever be unprepared to answer that question. He was right.
I learned later that he periodically asked the same question of every employee. While I would have appreciated a heads up from someone – anyone – about what I was likely to be asked, it was actually much more beneficial in the long run. A lifelong lesson housed in two minutes of embarrassment. It’s a pretty good trade when you think about it.
My “aha” moment of course was realizing the difference, at least in terms of mindset, between a large corporation and the perspective of being paid out of boundless corporate coffers, and engaging with an individual who owns a private company and is essentially writing you a check out of his own pocket. Big difference.
It offers lessons to large companies about how they might approach building and improving their workforce, yet also offers guidance to job applicants who would be well-served to frame their resumes not just in terms of past roles and responsibilities but, more importantly, in a manner that showcases their accomplishments.
So how are YOU making a difference? More employers should ask the question and more employees should be ready to answer it!