Bob DylanLook, let’s face it. Bob Dylan’s harmonica and guitar skills are not his biggest strengths. His lyrics defined his greatness and captivated his audiences. All-time basketball legend, Larry Bird, undoubtably lead the Boston Celtics to three titles, but let’s not forget his stellar support team. I would imagine cloning and placing five Bird’s on the court to work together would have been legendary as well but we can’t really be sure since each position requires different skills and abilities and chemistries.

Each individual superstar brings their unique strengths to the table and team is everything. But how do you build a diverse team of superstars with a shoestring budget? As a not-for-profit (NFP), you can’t just sell shares or stock options.Accordingly, one of the biggest challenges young and lean organizations share is attracting top notch human resources. Even with an incredible growth trajectory, a limited budget can sober even the greatest world-changing ventures. In a hiring market where successful experience is in high demand, attracting a proven professional likely isn’t an option while the NFP is still building with shoestrings. So, how does an in-demand NFP hire the inexperienced rookie of the year?

Stop filling positions and start hiring people. An organization that I was advising and knew intimately, had the unfortunate experience of hiring a lemon. Management quickly recognized that the new hire lacked an important ingredient for the original job description. Nevertheless, he was quite talented in many other areas. We quickly pivoted and rebuilt one of the NFP’s programs around this new hire’s strengths. This allowed him to flourish during his time with the NFP by maximizing his unique strengths toward the overall mission and goal. That pivot was incredibly successful and arguably brought far greater returns than when management tried forcing him down the original road map attached to his job description. They successfully made lemon aid and gleaned a successful new program and an important lesson on hiring.

Today, some key questions I ask new recruits at our NFP’s are as follows:

1. What do YOU want to do?
2. What is YOUR vision?
3. How would YOU reverse engineer that?
4. Do you have the required skill sets and drive to get it done?

The first two questions are important because the candidate will be most passionate about a vision he owns. Of course, his programmatic goals and vision must be closely aligned with the overall mission, direction and goals of the NFP. The third question will help the interviewer understand if the candidate is a driver or if hand holding will be required forever. Lastly, and arguably most importantly, we give a fun but fairly rigorous field test to make sure that the candidate has all the raw materials to get there. This will help us better understand whether or not this B Player can be coached and build himself into an A Player.

During employment, we meet with our team members weekly to discuss progress and challenges, to share notes, and to constantly learn and sharpen the game plan in real time. As an employer and entrepreneur, I am passionate about helping the driven professional actualize his unique potential and vision and this passion comes across to our recruits. The types of future talent that we are seeking to attract know that they are going to get real attention, advice and experience which makes the difference and gives us the edge over other job-description-driven organizations. The recruits that we want to hire are drivers who will own their programs and eventually drive things forward without needing the handholding.

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Building a Team of Drivers by J.P. Katz