A Couple of Hiring Mantra's

by Jeff Metzger

Kids First Sports Center

Cincinnati, Ohio

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In our organization, over the years, out of necessity, we became students of the hiring process. Then, a few years ago, being a principle-driven
organization, we sought to reduce that which we had learned about hiring and
firing into a few 'rules'.

All Learn to Hire & Fire

The primary purpose of this effort was to identify whatever it was we were doing to make us successful so we could repeat it. In other words, we wanted a few principles which could help us better train and guide those people in our organization who make hiring and firing decisions.

I want to share the first couple of the five hiring mantras that we use.

Before going on, let me explain that all programs in our organization are decentralized and each department has a manager and each manager has 10 responsibilities, one of those responsibilities being to hire and fire

In other words, at Kids First we have17 people who shoulder the
responsibility of staffing a program. This means we have 17 people who hire and fire.

Note also that it is probably not a good thing to discuss hiring without also discussing firing for, no matter how careful or skilled one is in the hiring process, there are times in every business when firing is the right thing to do.

Hire the character, train the skill.

It is no accident that this Mantra is the first one of five. It is first
because it is fundamental to all the following Mantras. Of course the
interpretation of this Mantra must be taken with a grain of salt. Hiring a
wonderful person of high character but zero gymnastics experience to coach
Level 10 may not be a first rate idea.

What this Mantra DOES mean is that character should be prioritized more highly than skill. In a highly technical job where skill is so-o-o important, decision-makers often are so concerned about skill that they overlook (or talk themselves out of seeing) character traits that are going to cause trouble in the organization as time goes on.

Conversely, in a preschool gymnastics program which requires far less technical knowledge, this mantra may very well be interpreted literally.

Of course, as alluring as this idea is, before one can 'hire the character'
one must have a pretty good idea of what 'character' means to them. In our
organization, character is well defined and we call them our Seven Unifying

Unconditional Respect
Cooperation & Teamwork
Open Communication
Continual Growth
Reverence for the Company
Sense of Good
Will and Humor

Practically speaking, no matter how much skill a prospective coach may have, if that coach is lacking in one of the above areas, we gracefully pass that coach on to another organization.

This year, while experiencing a grave compulsory coach shortage, we passed up three coaches, all of whom were accepted at nearby clubs. In other words, we were willing to suffer minor pain now to forestall major pain down the road.


Select ONLY people capable of helping your
business grow and prosper, financially and emotionally, over the long run.

We shall go short-staffed before we go poorly staffed.

During that year, along the way, each step, our eyes were wide open to the fact that a decision to 'not hire' any of the candidates would likely cause
short-term pain for our Company. And in fact it did: about 9 months' worth.
But, as strategic thinkers, we had already learned that our #1 job is to
hire people who have character traits consistent with our Company's 7
Unifying Principles (Hire the character...). And we knew, if we hired a person inconsistent with our principles it would cause long-term pain.

So, Hiring Mantra #2 reminds us to 'opt out' and go short staffed. In a very real sense, short-term pain vs. long-term pain is analogous to an acute injury vs. chronic health problems. An acute injury will heal: chronic health problems hang on forever and often ripple to additional health problems.

If you'll allow me to explore a tangent for a moment, the business discipline
we are discussing is closely related to the healthy personal discipline of
'delaying gratification'.

As a business, we must delay the immediate gratification of plugging a pressing/critical staffing 'hole' in exchange for the long term gratification of selecting ONLY people capable of helping our
business grow and prosper, financially and emotionally, over the long run.

We have learned, the later approach to hiring takes far more time and effort but, oh, what a difference over the long haul. n