I’m quickly approaching my 16YR wedding and five years of business anniversary, which coincidentally shared the same weekend in November 2018! While the actual number may be higher, according to official national statistics, over 50% of business fail within the first five years, so I’m very excited to be crossing over this critical milestone in our business at YOUNGTECH. Some of you may know that over the last five years, I’ve gone from being a self-employed “solopreneur” (single person company) to building and managing a team of collaborating End User Computing focused IT Professionals, presently half a dozen plus me. It’s had its share of challenges and opportunities, no doubt! Many of which seem to revolve around my own failures and learning opportunities as the lead, employer, financier, mentor, friend (and occasionally “boss”) to my team. Prior to November 2018, the majority of my professional experience has been functioning as an individual contributor, supervisor, and coworker, executing under the leadership of others. As such, I do my best to make leadership decisions through the lens of the Luke 6 Golden Rule: “The way you want others to treat you is how you should treat everyone else.”
To share about one difficult challenge and personal failure, in the past five years, I made a bad hiring decision. Totally shocking, I’m sure! In spite of all the evidence telling me that I should have gracefully cut the team member loose before the official 90 day probation ended, I gave the team member many benefits of a doubt. I counseled with advisors and took responsibility for my part of the failure, namely that I wasn’t sharing enough feedback about the lack of professional job performance along the way. This particular team member claimed ‘Expert Skills in…” with over a dozen different key technology skill areas on their official resume. Many of those skills were put to test, on the job, in the first couple months of employment.
In our industry, Imposter Syndrome is fairly well known to get the best of us, and for those that aren’t familiar, here’s a common definition: “Impostor syndrome, also known as impostor phenomenon or impostorism, is a psychological occurrence in which people doubt their skills, talents, or accomplishments and have a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as frauds. Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon do not believe they deserve their success or luck.” (Wiki)… That’s Imposter Syndrome in a nutshell.
While performance anxiety and imposter syndrome can explain a lot of issues in the workplace, when you claim ‘Expert Skills in…’ on your resume, puff your chest in arrogance of your skills, but fail to deliver at an intermediate level, time and time again, that’s not easily explainable. Am I being too rough? When you make excuses, ‘I’ve only done that in a lab’, ‘I’d need to see you do those projects first’, ‘I have a headache’ or ‘I need to take a couple hours to lay down’ before multiple customer calls, it starts to wear team patience thin. Not just my patience, but the entire team carrying the extra weight, loses patience. On a long group hike (or ruck), nobody wants to pick up another 60 lb bag from a failing team member, but occasionally we have to do it, when injuries or other failures are involved. In the end, this team member decided to fall on the sword, resigning a little over six months into the position with clear evidence that they were unable to do the senior level job, they were hired to do. Personal or professional crisis, decided to take a career turn, what have you. We blessed and sent the team member on their way, but the financial loss and client expectation damage was already done. For the sake of the team member’s dignity and future prospects, that’s the extent that I will share.
I share this because the job market is super rough right now. Not exclusively in the tech market, but in other areas as well! No matter how desperate a candidate gets to land a job, it’s always important to be truthful and honest with prospective employers or hiring managers. A candidate can’t sacrifice moral integrity by claiming expert skills in a whole bunch of areas that can’t be proven or showcased once in the job. One of my favorite new hire level setting conversations was many years back when my manager at the time outlined how little of the job skill requirements he perceived I actually had, and just how much I would need to grow in order for him to be trusting enough to put me on the projects that I wanted for my career growth! Wow, that was a wake up call and gave me serious motivation to prove myself to the team. And you can bet, I rose to the challenge. While I’ve learned many important lessons as an entrepreneur, it’s also caused me to be a lot more timid with a couple candidates and prospects that I’m considering for the current opening on my team. Working on a small and tight knit team can be super tough, without a doubt. Every hire is a crucial team member!
Whether fully remote, fully onsite or hybrid; jobs can be super stressful! The job market can be super tough to land a gig. To quote the movie, The Princess Bride: “Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” While all of that may be the case, I have chosen consistently to believe in the best in people! To be loyal and dedicated, oftentimes to my own detriment. I live by the personal philosophy to under-promise and over-deliver. I strive to give people an opportunity to prove themselves and earn their place on our team. If they’re rockstars, I strive to incentivize and reward them appropriately. If they need an opportunity to grow and shine, I strive to give them the opportunity!
I can’t stop living a life of hope, optimism and moral integrity, just because I hit speed bumps along the way. For my Band of Brothers and team of All Stars, they continue to knock it out of the park every time they’re at bat. They have the resources needed to call in naval or air support when needed! Maybe in the end, the business and my team come crashing down to the ground, or sinking to the bottom of the sea. But for now, my team have my utmost support, loyalty and dedication. To a fault at times, I’m sure… The captain goes down with the ship, right? My teammates continue to fight the good fight and strive to be better than they were yesterday. Even when it’s too much to handle… We pick ourselves back up, grab our ruck sacks, climb the next peak and prove to ourselves and each other that we have whatever it takes! Sometimes that’s the best you can promise and deliver. We do all the hard things, one day at a time!