The first time I was employed, I immediately realized I was incompetent. The principal assigned me to teach World History, Economics, and Asian History. Of course, I knew these subjects very well. But I was lacking in something fundamental.
I had no formal education in teaching.
In my first month, the impostor syndrome kicked in. I felt very incompetent though I was doing better (according to the principal’s informal survey) than most veteran teachers.
The feeling of incompetence pushed me to study harder. I spent two hours in the library studying teaching methods and theories on learning. It was during this time that I learned about active teaching and learning.
As a teacher, I believe that all people have potential. I don’t also give limits to what they can eventually do. The grades I mark on their cards reflect their performance, not intelligence.
I believe in giving chances.
But I will warn you against hiring people who are not competent.
On Small Business
One common problem of small business owners is their inability to get the right people.
They don’t need many employees but they just can’t find excellent ones because they are too busy looking for ways to earn.
But a small business cannot afford to hire incompetent employees. Small business owners seldom have the time nor the ability to train people.
They need help from people who know how to do what they can’t do.
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You can’t afford it.
When my consulting business was growing, I thought that the first thing I needed to do was to hire an employee. I needed another hand to do some of my jobs.
A friend recommended a relative. She’s a fresh graduate from a good school.
But during the interview, I learned that she was clueless about marketing, sales, human resources, events organizing, and training. I need help in all of these areas, and someone who can help me in one would be a great help.
Against my better judgment, I hired her.
Because I was a teacher, I thought I could do it. I was given the chance to teach even when I did not have formal education in teaching. I thought that, maybe, I could teach my first employee in any of these areas.
I was wrong. I was right too.
I gave her small assignments first in marketing. She failed to accomplish anything on time. I had to supervise her every work. I caught myself doing more training for my employee than conducting the training programs for clients (where I got paid).
Since she could not do marketing (and sales), I assigned her to do event organizing. And I played the role of micromanager again.
I realized that for her to do her work best, she needs direct supervision. She could see the end goal of the project.
But I did not fire her. I was stubborn, if not stupid, or both.
It pays to wait.
I got lucky with my second hire though.
She could do marketing campaigns, organize events, close deals, and conduct training. At times, she can do something better than I do.
And when I assigned her to supervise my first employee, I found more time to do business development and customer fulfillment.
A competent employee can solve many of a small business owner’s problems. But getting an incompetent one is another burden.
What can be done, then?
You’ve got to multitask until you find the right people for the job.
It is nice to give chances to people and provide them with an environment to learn. But that’s not your job when starting a business. Your small business is not a school.
You ought to hire competent people first, and until you have them, you need to keep waiting.
It was not a sad ending, though.
The first employee was patient enough to stay. I was also patient enough not to fire her. After three years, she did improve greatly.
She learned how to speak with confidence and deal with people. When she left the company, she got hired in human resources.
Did I learn something from the experience?
I learned greatly. But I was stubborn.
I still hire incompetent employees one in ten times. Some employees mastered the art of the interview. They know the right answer to every question.
Today, the members of my team need to audition first for a job.