People You Want to Work With

31 May 2017

“Do you know Sarah? What do you think of her?”
“Oh she’s super smart. She’s on my Hire List.”
“What? You have a Hire List?
“Of course. You don’t have a Hire List?”

You should have a Hire List.

Companies are people. Families are people. Crowds are people and markets are people. As complicated as it can make things, it all comes down to people.

Given that, a lot of books about career and personal development focus on people. Meeting people, getting to know people, “winning” people. You must feed the beast of “Who You Know” by engaging Thought Leaders!

Maybe that’s fine if thought leadership floats your boat, but investing in people doesn’t need to be contrived. All you need to do to get started is make a list of people you want to work with one day. People who would make good team members, people who inspire you. Keep it updated, and stay in touch with them. Then, slowly but surely, you can assemble your dream team.

Avengers, assemble

When I was getting close to graduating university, I started a spreadsheet of folks that might make good co-founders. I initially filled it with friends, but it was soon populated by ex-coworkers, fellow students, conference speakers, mentors – anybody in the Vancouver technology world that I thought I’d like to work with.

Eventually I did find a co-founder, but the list lived on with a new name: People to Work With. For years now it’s been an indispensable tool. While it was originally just developers, I’ve long since expanded it to all kinds of roles, even if Steamclock doesn’t have anybody in that role yet. Especially if we don’t have anybody in that role yet.

It’s never too early to start keeping a list like this. By being able to refer great folks, you can be a more valuable team member and help shape your team for the better.

Building your team may not be the most time-consuming part of leadership, but it’s the most important. You can either trust recruiters not to submit candidates that can’t fizzbuzz their way out of a paper bag, or you can take destiny into your own hands.

Now, to be useful, your list should probably be more than just a series of names. At the minimum it should remind you why you want to work with each person, and ideally what they’re up to. If you want to take it to a Randsian level, you can grow it into a rolling database of folks to go for coffee with, complete with last-contacted dates and notes.

Regardless of your approach, it’s almost always worthwhile to open up your List and pick somebody to catch up with. These people are on your list because they’re good at what they do, and even if you never do get a chance to work together, they each have something to teach you.

It’s worth remembering that as useful as making the List is for recruiting, it’s a worthwhile exercise in and of itself. In order to build a People to Work With List, you need to do the important work of thinking about what kinds of people you want to work with. Do you want people who succeed at all costs, or folks who enjoy teaching? Does your team need more clever people, more talkative people, or more inspiring people? Do you have enough rotund felines named after famous historical figures?

Your Hiring List is also good place to start working on fighting the monocultures and underrepresentation that have crept into your existing team. It can be hard to rapidly change who is applying to your job postings, but you can rapidly change who you’re reaching out to, and who you’re investing time into staying in touch with. Whether you’re a CEO or a new hire, you can make a difference in who you work with every day, and the kind of team you’re building. So think about it.

Who do you want to work with?

  Steve Stories

© Allen Pike. See also Twitter and Steamclock.