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Worries of a first time employer

If there is one thing I have learned in the last 18 months, it’s people are tricky. Finding them, hiring them, helping them grow… it doesn’t matter what you are trying to do, working with people is hard.

I am writing this sat cross legged on the floor of a conference vendor area in Oslo, Norway. Its 10:27 in the morning and my brain is desperately trying to convince me its night time. I am here to talk about my research, about my tools and my thoughts on security in human beings.

There is an irony in this.

Security in humans in all about vulnerability.

It is about how we react when we are put outside our comfort zones and what happens when our natural instincts to trust are exploited.

But from this conference, in the middle of Europe and so far from home. It the happiness, security and vulnerability of my team that is on my mind.

Hiring people is hard. The hardest and most unexpected challenge of running a small business.

Hiring into a new company is a mad experiment in trust

You are asking somebody to trust in you and your vision and to join you on a journey that comes with a high degree of uncertainty.

Your new employees trust you to protect them, provide for them and guide them on a journey that nobody knows better than you.

You trust your employees to make good choices, to push themselves out of their comfort zones and to help you build your vision.

Employing people is a delicate balance, a continuous fragility that you feel acutely aware of.

Even if you could hire the best in every field to join your adventure, you would still have this worry.

Can I communicate my vision well enough?

Can I provide what they need to thrive?

Can I compete with a market filled with employers just like me?

But what worries me the most is the people are the start of their careers. Those who are able and willing to come grow their skills and start their journeys in an unconventional setting.

Growing people as well as companies

Hiring people at the start of their careers is challenging. Enthusiasm and energy are tempered by lack of experience. Bright ideas and perspectives that have yet to have the well earned experience to add depth and stop future flaws. These people are amazing, inspiring balls of potential.

I love working with people at this stage of their career.

Watching people find their strengths and understand the challenges of the world around them. Helping to find balance in a world of continual demands, helping them find ways to solve problems on their own and helping them to communicate in ways they have never done before.

I am selfish in this enjoyment. I learn more from my young employees than they know.

I learn how to communicate and how to lead. I learn when to stand back and when to get my hands dirty. I learn to listen more than I speak (something I will always need to practice). I learn to see the world as a new generation does, not as a product of my experience. I learn to slow down and see the small achievements we each make everyday and overlook.

But it scares me.

There is always a chance I will screw it up.

I will push to hard or not enough. I will fail to spot a problem or I will speak to late and a failure will destroy confidence in a way that is hard to repair.

I am scared I will break them for their future career. Will they become good team players and find their own dream job one day?

Will they find their own perfect path and feel confident enough to go follow their own crazy ambitions one day?

I worry that I am too soft and they will be used to having support — failing to become resilient.

I worry that I am too hard and they will lack empathy as they grow and shape their professional approach.

I worry I will fail to provide support in ways that would be like failing provide sunlight and water to a seedling. Starving it early and making it fragile and unable to fulfill its potential.

I worry a lot.

I failed at this many times early in this company. I hired poorly and managed badly. I communicated late and in the wrong ways. Eighteen months have no passed and I am getting better at it. Slowly.

As a small company I don’t have the resources to just throw toys and courses at problems. We have to hire slowly and carefully. We have to save and work hard to make change. Sometimes this can’t happen as fast as we would like or need. But we keep pushing to make it happen.

Fear won’t stop me but it helps me grow as a leader

But I hope I never forget this feeling now. The vulnerability that being an employer brings. The fear that I feel and the focus I have on getting better at this.

I hope even when I have more resource or people that I remember how hard it is to build an environment where people thrive.

The people I hire are each unique. Not special or ninjas or wizards but unique none the less. They deserve the best I have to offer and that’s about more than just money and office gadgets. They trust me to provide this.

This is what it means to be an employer, to run an early stage company and to grow people.

Only time will tell if that trust is well founded.