Warren Buffett has stated, “Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it’s true. If you hire somebody without integrity, you really want them to be dumb and lazy.”
My philosophy about hiring employees is this: I don’t want employees at all. What I want is peers with a congruent value system to share a personal and business journey. I want co-workers in a horizontal company who can teach me and make me a better human being and businessman. This means everyone, including the receptionist.
This journey begins with common values, particularly seeking out executive business associates who want their work to give back to the world through service and truth-telling to customers and potential customers. Under that rubric of shared values, I have always wanted to only hire executive colleagues who are better than me at both genuine caring for the client and creating efficacious results, in that order. However, the truth is we are all better and worse than each other in our variegated ways.
To me, the staffing ideal is a company that affords all associates the freedom to maximize their own service instinct and acumen with minimal interference from the big, bad boss (me). I’ve found that this philosophy makes for an enlivened, creative company and a happy business community. It incentivizes and vivifies autonomy as a core value.
Etymologically the term autonomy derives from the Greek word meaning self-governing. To be autonomous means to act in accord with oneself. When we are autonomous we all emanate service and salesmanship infused with energy, integrity, and a personal authenticity that sells at all points of contact with the public and with stakeholders.
Authenticity is compelling. Like the judge who, when asked to define pornography, said, “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.” Customers feel much the same way. They know authenticity when they see it. Stephen Colbert famously calls this quality “truthiness.” I see incentivizing “truthiness” in every associate as a primary leadership imperative. You want to activate truthiness, not just because it is moral, but because it is effective.
Therefore, part of incentivization is hiring people who innately share corporate values so they are always, without thinking, succeeding by propelling a corporate narrative from inside themselves. In my case I have hired educated, value-oriented, experienced people who are adults and self-starters.
Of course, everyone works for money. That has to be fair and appropriate. But I firmly believe that passion and commitment are not fundamentally incentivized by money. They are better motivated by a will to generosity, happiness, and autonomy.
As Albert Schweitzer said, “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing you will be successful.” (Herman Cain frequently appropriated this quote when he ran for President of the US in 2012.)
Thank you, Albert.