Passion and Performance

I know a developer who recently left a local internet startup to join another. This happens all the time of course. But when we dig deeper there are lessons that we should all heed.

Turns out this developer, lets call him Steve, is passionate about a particular aspect of product development. He doesn’t have much experience in it yet, but he’s studied it. When he goes home at night, he reads more about it and he practices. At his 1st startup he tried to align his role with his passion. The company resisted because he didn’t have experience. So, he tolerated doing stuff he was less excited about. No one was happy. He wasn’t doing what he loved. And the company was getting OK, but not great performance from him. No surprise.

Fast forward a few months, Steve is now at another startup. A hot one. One that most people would love to work at. And guess what? He’s doing what he loves. Someone took a chance on him and he’s a happy guy. And I have no doubt that he will kick ass.

One of the reasons that people become entrepreneurs is autonomy. No more ‘working for the ┬áman’. You get to (more or less) do what you want. Well, turns out, everyone would like a taste of that. Quelle surprise.

This new generation of talent is not really interested in tolerating work that they don’t love. I grew up in a profession where it was a given that you would do crap work for most of your waking hours for your 1st few years. That is still the case for lawyers, accountants, etc. But, not so for most of us.

There are two takeaways for me in this story:

Startups need to move fast. It can be tempting to grab the first person who fits the job description. You need someone yesterday. Take the time to find out what really floats a candidate’s boat. What are they truly passionate about? If its something unrelated to the job, like yoga, that’s cool. But if it is related to their work but is not the core focus of the job you have for that person, don’t make the hire. He or she will just try and change the job to match what they love.

Take a chance and let your people define their role inside your company. I’m not saying just let people do what they feel like. But, while making goals and results crystal clear (not just for the company but for each person), give people freedom to define their role and their input towards those goals. You will unlock energy and passion in the process.