by Brian Turner

I went on a long hike with my wife recently. We were in the Sol Duc region of the Olympic National Forest, between Lake Crescent and the Hoh Rainforest in Washington state. It was a beautiful day, in beautiful surroundings, and our goal was to spend some time looking forward at the next chapter of our lives, our jobs, our marriage…everything. It was a re-recruitment exercise, if you will. We needed to remind ourselves of our purpose and really own our journey forward.

The conversation was fruitful. About a mile into that seven-mile hike, I was reminded of my purpose.  I was reminded who I am as a leader. Turns out - I’m a good boss, but I’m a great coach. During the pandemic, those roles were switched for me. Challenging times meant hard decisions. And I took on more of that decision making and gave my teams less and less opportunity to do so. In the end, I found that the more I try to command and control, the more spirit I take away from others and myself. So, I came up with a plan.

But more on that in a minute. For now, let’s think about how to use re-recruiting to help you and your employees connect with their purpose and the purpose of your organization.

Help Your People Find Their Path

Sometimes the path forward isn’t clear for your employees. They may not have taken that long hike yet. But re-recruiting can help. It’s the act of connecting the purpose of the employee with the purpose of the organization. Your people ultimately own their own journey, but it’s your job to provide insights, remove roadblocks and ask questions. Why are you here? What do you love about being here? Give me a picture of what you want to do with yourself two years from now? What do you think your current role and our organization can do to help you fulfill that vision? What contributions do you want to make to the organization, your communities and the world?

Re-recruitment is a journey in itself, and it doesn’t really end. It’s an ongoing series of conversations and interactions that give your people the power to take responsibility for their own next steps and you the opportunity to say, “I’m here for you and I’m vested partner in your future.”

Your Network Is More Important Than Your Org Chart

When you think about who you want to re-recruit, take a network point of view – not one from an org chart. Your social network can matter more than the chain of command, as tomorrow’s rock stars may be sitting deeper within your organization. And those are the people that need to see their future within your organization and be connected.

For me, this means meeting with people not on my team to help them find their purpose and check the boxes to get to their goals. To find those people, I pay attention to the human element in any interaction and am constantly evaluating talent. I look at who is asking questions, who is interested in learning more, who raised their hand with a point of view, etc. I look for who is driving with energy and initiative, and I’m interested in those who are willing to risk exposure as well as those who are more introverted, but that have good ideas and just need to be connected.  

Operationalize Your Purpose

Back to that hike. The Monday after, I worked with my Chief of Staff to put in place a structure that would get me out of being at the center of all decision-making. That structure was made up of things like shifting my meeting cadence to put my people more in charge of daily decisions, putting a new path in place for issue escalation and giving my teams the specific power to figure things out before I need to come in and give the final word.

It’s been a vulnerable exercise, as it’s hard to give up control. You must be willing to step back from what you know and surround yourself with people who help you realize your own purpose while being true to their own. But it’s worked out. My team has the ball now. They’ve transitioned right along with me, with a few bumps in the road along the way, and now they’re getting the very best of me. We’re all giving the best we’ve got to give.

Know That You Can’t Keep Everyone

One of the more complex parts of re-recruiting is knowing you can’t save everyone. When you help someone do the work of finding their purpose, sometimes the realization is that they’re not a match for your organization. At some point, you both will know what your organization can and can’t do for them. And sometimes it fails. People leave because it’s in the best interest of their career journey, and it’s your job to remain neutral and be a good coach for the human being and not the employee.

Re-recruitment is just one tool in your toolbox for helping your people find their purpose. It’s an ongoing exercise and one that can be as meaningful to you as it is to them. It pays you back in countless ways, especially when it starts with you (with or without that seven-mile hike in the forest).