I had a pattern of hiring people who I thought were skilled but after a few months, they threw the team into dysfunction. I was using shark bait to attract people, and I was attracting sharks. I hear so many companies crying that they can’t find good talent. They hire people that don’t work out, and they can’t find “good” people. Are they using shark bait?
What is a Shark? You hear people called ‘Sharks’ at work, but what does it really mean? I think some people take it as a compliment because it seems like you are strong and tough. A Shark is someone that will viciously attack others in order to get ahead. They don’t mean it, it’s in their nature!
There’s also an element of a shark that is direct and no-nonsense. The TV show “Shark Tank” is about having contestants present their product idea to “Sharks”. The idea is that if you can survive the shark attack, your product must be really great.
Shark Bait in the Hiring Process. Have you ever interviewed at a company where the interview was particularly tough? I had an interview once that left me with PTSD. Though I ultimately got an offer from that company, I was not interested in working somewhere that tested you for toughness. But people who take those jobs love showing off their sharkiness. And they end up with a company full of sharks.
A friend once told me that an interviewer asked her for one word to describe herself. She said “ruthless”, the interviewer loved it, and she got the job. If you hire people who pride themselves in being ruthless and congratulate them for it, you will build a company of sharks.
Shark Bait in the Retention Process. Talent retention is anything relating to keeping good people. It’s not just HR’s responsibility, it’s influenced by everyone in leadership. Think about what is rewarded and what is punished in your company. For example, I have heard people directed that success is when you “get people to agree with your point of view.” If success is convincing over collaborating, you’re growing sharks.
Even worse, I have seen people punished for collaborating either because of narrowly defined outcomes or simply fear of sharing. At one company, people were reprimanded for sharing ideas with peers in similar roles but in other departments. When people are punished for collaborating, non-sharks will either get eaten or leave.
Sharks in Leadership. I know everyone loves the T.V. Show “Shark Tank”, but when you model your meetings after this show, it’s not productive. I’ve been warned that some executives will “rake you over the coals” in their meetings. People enter these meetings wearing body armor. When people are fearful of meeting with leaders, they will likely share only what the leaders want to hear, and omit important insights. If only sharks survive meetings with senior leaders, you end up with a company full of sharks.
Does your company hire and grow sharks? How is that working out? Let us know!