16 Nov 2017

Leaders Know When to Take a Chance

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Leaders understand people are not printed on resumes, and the best people almost never come out of job sites.

Let me tell you the story of Ross, the best employee I’ve ever seen.

I was the Director of Computer Operations at Trader Joe’s, and it was a strange day. I’d just fired someone for cause, which is never a good feeling.

I needed to take a walk, so I wandered to the reception area. I saw a rough-looking guy waiting there. He was dressed in a flannel shirt, jeans and tennis shoes.

HIs laugh sounded just like Wolfman Jack – yeah, I’m old enough to remember Wolfman Jack.

He saw me and introduced himself. He was a friendly guy. He wasn’t there for an interview, and told me he was waiting for his  wife. She was in HR interviewing for a position they had open.

He went on to say he loved motorcycles. Looking at him, yeah, I could tell. He had the look of a motorcycle guy. In fact, he used to own a motorcycle shop, but sold it, and used the money to go to Devry to learn computers. He said he’s gotten into an accident a couple of years before. He was riding his motorcycle and someone hit him, breaking  his back and breaking his skull open. The doctors replaced some of his skull with a metal plate, and if you looked, you could see the slight distortion on one side of his head..

I liked him a lot – and I had a new position open. I  hadn’t even had time to place an ad or anything.

Something about Ross impressed me, so I mentioned the position to him. I explained how I had just fired one of my team, literally that morning, and now I’d have to go through the trouble of finding someone new. Looking for good team member is always a pain.

Ross said he was interested in the position. He didn’t have any experience – but he would work for 30 days and if, at the end of that time, if he didn’t work out, he’d be happy to leave. No hard feelings.

I hired him on the spot.

When I left Trader Joe’s 16 years later, Ross was still there, doing the same job.

He was the perfect employee. Always delivered. Always on time. Never complained. Supportive of everyone.

Managers! You say you want to be leaders. Well, take a chance now and then. You might be surprised.

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