Tuesday, October 4, 2011


 Mayor Bates: Daryl, he wouldn't hurt a fly. I know my son, Colonel. He's not the guerrilla type.
Colonel Ernesto Bella: According to records, Mayor... your son is a prominent student leader.
Mayor Bates: Yes, well... he's a leader, but not in a violent or physical way. You see, Daryl... he's more of a politician, like his father.
Colonel Ernesto Bella: A member of an elite paramilitary organization: "Eagle Scouts." 

--Red Dawn, 1984

Over the weekend two questions came together with the same answer. The first, what characteristics make a good employee? The second, what values do I want my six year old to develop? The core work value I want to see in my business, and the one I think is key to the insane "new" world we live in, is adaptability.

The nature of work has changed, and those who expect a comfortable, static, job are likely to be disappointed or at the very least, on a dreary track of boredom, slow advancement and perpetual unemployment.Work nowadays is often what you make it, sometimes multiple jobs, sometimes jobs that are "beneath" you, and increasingly self employment. Small business is half of all non-government jobs in this country and I think that trend will only increase, and with small businesses getting smaller. Those who can tap into that, either with their own business, or bringing a creative skill set to another small business, will do very well. What is that skill set? Who knows? Who cares, really. The key is that you'll need to define new skill sets continuously and show some adaptability in doing so. I want employees to have this and I really want my son to have this. But how do you get it?

My experience over the last seven years with employees shows that those who have been Eagle Scouts tend to have the values I'm looking for. Not college degrees. Not a military background. If you're an Eagle Scout, that should always be on your resume, forever. It says something important about your character. The Eagle Scouts are the ones that have shown me the most adaptability, the skill in taking half a dozen disparate elements (my business, for example), and putting them together in some fashion that makes sense to them, on their own, without a lot of direction. They can clean bathrooms, design sales promotions, and come up with systems, all without complaining about the task or the nature of the work, and all while keeping their heads and adding value to the process. That is adaptability and it comes from years of similar scouting projects.

The down side for me is I really don't care for the Boy Scouts of America. It doesn't matter so much with employees, but with my son I don't care for the BSA's homophobia and I also don't care for their "people of the book" religious requirements. They expect every home to abide by a belief in God, which not only disqualifies atheists, but also Buddhists, Hindus and any number of religious groups. Sure, you can look the other way on these things, and the Bay Area groups tend to be almost completely free of these antiquated mindsets, but if you're someone of principle, who thinks they shouldn't have to hide their true nature or their true beliefs, it's hard to just ignore it. That's the dilemma that faces a non theist who wants their child to have the scouting experience. I think it's an amazing organization otherwise.

There's also no female equivalent of the scouts, at least one that's focused on the same values I'm looking for. Most fathers of girls I talk to agree with me on this. Yeah, Girl Scouts is good, but it's not the same. So I'll leave how to instill hard core adaptability in girls to someone else to ponder. Also, my female employees are no better or worse than most of the guys in their adaptability, so don't tell me it's a natural thing for them.

So adaptability and humility gained through hard work and a sense that there are just tasks to be done, not tasks that are above or beneath your abilities. If you've got a better way of getting that across, other than, you know, twenty years of excellent parenting, please let me know.

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