Years ago, I was going through the interview process for a potential career shift. Honestly, I wasn’t looking to transfer, but the money was about double what I was making at the time and they were courting me pretty hard.
A defining moment happened when I was being interviewed by the person who would have been my boss if I would have accepted the position. The interview was going really well and it was finally my turn to ask some questions.
I asked what he loved about his career and what inspires him to constantly improve. I asked why the former person left the company. I asked what he does to show his good people that they are his most valuable assets. I asked about his leadership approach and what he does to make his people better. Then I asked about his work-ethic and how he invests his time in the business – and this is when I politely ended the interview process.
He went on and on and eventually got to this statement: “I work about 70-80 hours a week. I’ve been doing that for years. I love my work. My home life has suffered but nobody works harder than I do. I expect my people to take the same approach with their work-ethic.”
I’m sure my mouth was wide-open as shocked as I was. I had several thoughts, but maintained a diplomatic response. I simply responded with “do you think working 80 hours a week is a good thing?
I didn’t listen to his answer. I didn’t care what his answer was. It was already over. Here is what I wish I would have said if I could go back in time:
- What are your priorities in life?
- Why do you think you are working 80 hours per week?
- What do you think that says about you?
- Are you married? If so, how do you and your wife intentionally and consistently cultivate a strong relationship?
- Do you have kids? How often and when do you see them?
- What do you enjoy doing for fun/recreation? How often do you get to do this activity?
- What do you think goes on in my head when you say you work 80 hours/week?
- In what ways are you working to create systems/processes so that the demand on your time is not as high?
- Are you proud of where you are in life?
- When was the last time you calculated your pay per hour? Are you satisfied with where your pay/minute is at this stage of your career?
If you have to work that much, it says a lot about you. It says a lot about your priorities. Now, I’m not saying I won’t put in 70 hours one week if I absolutely need to. I’m an entrepreneur building a business and a brand. We have a vision and a strategy for exponential growth, and there are times when I need to work through the night to help us get where we need to be. But that’s not a lifestyle. Those 70 hour weeks are an anomaly.
Now, I could have simply told him what I was thinking and how his “work-ethic” was the opposite of impressive. Instead, I know now that asking thought-provoking questions is the most profound way to inspire someone to change. Rather than telling someone what to do, create an environment of self-discovery and help them tell you what they need to do.
Ask better questions. Not because you need better answers, but because your people need your help in finding the answers.