Missionaries Not Mercenaries: Thoughts on Team Building

In our quest to Make Work Life Better, we’ve realized that we need a specific type of person on our team. This is not to say that Bridge people are more superior, but simply speaks to the type of fit we seek. Yes, we look for skill and capability when we screen potential hires, but as we refine our criteria for an ideal team member, a few statements recurringly come up that describe the kind of person that fits at Bridge:

1. Hungry: A Missionary Not a Mercenary
We look for people who are hungry and not apathetic or stuck in a comfort trap. We look for people who don’t rely on fallbacks, who don’t hedge on family, and who are hungry for more than money and validation, but hungry for our shared purpose: to Make Work Life Better. I don’t like mercenaries, people who simply trade their time for what they want. I like missionaries, people who don’t get dressed to perform tasks, but people who wake up to burn. They’re not constantly wondering, “Is this good for me?” but instead are obsessed with the idea, “The world needs what we have. How do we spread our message?”

2. Team Player: A Team Before Me Mentality
Vanity is a silent killer. Vanity is having excessive pride in or admiration for one’s own appearance and achievements. This doesn’t mean the vain person is outwardly proud. All of us can be vain. The word vanity also means worthlessness. It is worthless to be so proud about our achievements. It doesn’t encourage teamwork and team accountability but hero worship. Vanity makes us put ourselves before our team, it makes us easily rejected, easily discouraged, or easily proud. We want people who aren’t vain and more focused on serving others more than themselves.

3. Diligent: A Back of the Cabinet Conscientiousness
I love the story from Steve Job’s childhood where his dad taught him to paint the back of the cabinet even if no one sees it. It illustrates perfectly the type of excellent level we like to see in our people. We like people who pay careful attention to doing a good job even in the areas no one sees – because it’s impossible to be sustainably excellent if we’re only awesome with the things people can notice. People who have this level of conscientiousness aren’t like this because someone polices the but because they’re craftsmen. They’re not excellent for the sake showing they’re excellent. They care deeply about the output they offer the world.

4. Commitment: A Whatever It Takes Devotion
“What’s my job description?” is a typical question I get. And my standard answer is, “That’s the wrong question. The question is ‘What’s our mission?’ Answer that and you’ll know what to do.” Because when the ‘why’ is clear, when the reason for being around, for being together is clear, and if we have people who really embrace the mission, then the answer to the “What’s my job description?” question is simple: WHATEVER IT TAKES. Having this mentality is one life hack that will assure constant growth. I like to tell our team, “10 years from now it won’t matter so much whether you can do inbound marketing or write an analysis. What will matter more is that you can clarify a vision in your head, strategize a path from where you are to that vision, and creatively, resourcefully, and diligently make that vision a reality.” You develop those skills by never accepting your best excuses and always doing whatever it takes.

5. Purposeful: Intentionally Outwardly Impactful
This is very closely connected to #2 Being a Team Player. Many very awesome people have come and gone at Bridge. It’s been a very tiring and challenging journey, but that’s what startups are like. The important thing is that our ranks are filled with leaders who are intentionally outwardly impactful instead of inwardly focused. Let me break that down: Intentional means they are deliberate and organize themselves to Impact Outwardly, meaning they are intentional about serving the needs of others. I like to remind them that fame doesn’t necessarily mean impact, it simply means attention. Impact is the quiet drop that ripples through the whole lake. Impact is the small stone that felled Goliath. Impact is the acorn that became an oak.

In one of our recent hire interviews, I asked the young lady applying what she would do if she had all the money in the world. She said she would get further studies and become a CPA so that she can get a better job. I asked why she would need a better job if money weren’t an issue, and she said, “If I had all the money I need?” having a hard time with the idea of unlimited funds. I said, “Yup. All the money you’ll ever need.” She then started to cry, bowing her head in embarrassment. “Sorry, sir.” she said. I told her it was ok but I would like to hear her answer. “I would support our church and Bible school. That’s why I want a better job. That’s why I want to be a CPA.If I had all the money in the world I would fund our church and Bible school. The building is old, we need books…” She went on about her desire to serve her community. I sent a message to Carla, who heads up our People Solutions, “Where’d you find this girl? She’s awesome.” It’s not so much the religious inclination that resonated with me but her desire to impact others, so much so, that thinking about it made her cry. People like her inspire me to push our mission forward.

6. Mature: Embraces the Necessary Hard Things
Business is hard. Startups are hard. Heck, life is hard. But it’s also beautiful. It’s also amazing. And it’s in the process of struggle, of growing, of transcending, that we are able to reach peaks, that we are able to enjoy great achievement. At Bridge, it is important that we all maintain a level of maturity that understands that our goals have a cost, and because we have great goals, we are going to pay a great price, and this is not necessarily a bad thing but all part of the process. We need to all get good at embracing the necessary hard things that make us better and bring us closer to our goals. In other words, we need passionate people, not passionate as popular culture understands it which is all feelings-based, but passionate as the original meaning defines it: suffering. We need people mature enough to understand that reaching lofty goals involves a level of suffering, and embracing these increases our chance of success.

7. Teachable: Desires to Learn More than to Prove Smarts
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people tell me, “I love to learn”. Which I follow-up with a question: “What’s your systematic process for ensuring constant and relevant learning?” To which I usually get a blank look as a response. I’ve found that very few people truly love learning. Most people like random interesting things. They like trivia. They like the idea of knowledge. What most people don’t like is the discipline of learning. There’s a big difference between knowing data and learning how to master the data. True learners are not simply about gathering bits of knowledge but about developing understanding, which we like to define as empathy (understanding how things affect people by putting ourselves in their shoes) and wisdom (understanding how to address the issues and pains of life as we encounter them).

I want to add that the single biggest thing I’ve seen that prevents true teachability is the Vanity I mentioned above. When a person is too proud of his or her achievements, so overly concerned with how they’re perceived, with their identity, with being appreciated, this person becomes difficult to teach. Every piece of data isn’t seen for what it is but for how the data can advance them or how it hurts them. Vanity makes a person too small to be taught. So a good way to ensure a teachable culture is to only hire team players who have gotten over themselves.

Bridge on a Mission
These are a very difficult set of criteria to screen for, as I don’t think it’s possible to screen these in a short amount of time, leaving us to make our best guess many times. Even more, these are incredibly difficult standards even for our current team, me included, to live up to. But that’s how you know you’re values are truly value-able, that they cause you to aspire to be someone greater than your current self in order to be people of greater worth. I struggle with each of the 7 criteria at different times and different levels, but it’s a struggle upward to become more like our ideals, keeping in mind our central why, our purpose, as we start every work day at 7am, plod until the job is done, and journey as a team on a mission to Make Work Life Better through technology and services. Amazing payroll is just the start. We can’t wait to share more.



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