Recently during a discussion on leading a recruiting function someone raised the question, “How do you motivate recruiters.” Since then, I have been thinking about the concepts and issues around rallying recruiting teams. Especially, when the daily drive and energy requires an intensity that many jobs may not.

Let’s all admit, it is tough to give 110% every day – we all have days where our minds are prone to wander. Outside factors can eat away at our focus and even organizational events can pull at our energy.

The issue for recruiters is that when we are “not on point,” it not only impacts productivity; it can show through in our interaction with candidates. Coming across as the energy vampire, like Colin Robinson in What We Do in the Shadows, is not exactly a compelling candidate experience.

In this first of two parts, we will define the goal and look at the most fundamental parts of building a successful, motivated recruiting team. In part two, we will discuss fundamental parts of leading a high performing team.

The Key to Building Dynamic, High Functioning Teams

Before addressing that question, let’s start by defining the type of team you want to build. In the simplest terms, I believe there are three main types of recruiting teams:

  1. Failing Teams – These are teams that fail to deliver the expected results or align with the organization’s expectations for its recruiting function. I think I am safe in saying these are a team no one wants to build but may likely be teams new leaders inherit.
  2. Journeyman Teams – Think of Spirit Airlines. It gets you where you want to go but without much in the way of innovation or great customer experience.
  3. High Performing Teams – Teams filled with diverse personalities and differing capabilities, but filled with people who are driven by the desire to achieve greatness together.

There is nothing wrong with Journeyman teams. If you need a “keep the lights on” style recruiting team to fill jobs, they’re fine. However, if you’re trying to move the needle, embrace innovation and leverage new ideas — this should not be your go-to model.

Achieving new heights is not for the faint at heart or those desiring comfort. It requires driven people with a curious mindset who are willing to be vulnerable and do the hard work necessary to push beyond the ordinary. These situations require being comfortable with discomfort as we learn from testing new ideas, making mistakes, growing and iterating.

There is a strong misconception out there that high performing equates to high burnout. That should not be the case in a true high performing team because you have filled the team with curious, driven people aligned with the goals of the organization.

Once we understand our desired model, we need to focus on hiring the right people. Finding the right people for the job will make your life much less chaotic and frustrating. It will also lower the risk of churning people, which can burn up your time and productivity.

Hiring for Give a F*@$ Factor (“GAFF”) is key.

GAFF: It is not doing what you’re passionate about; it’s being passionate about what you’re doing.

GAFF is the term I use to describe the intrinsic motivation some people have for creating high performance outcomes in whatever they are doing. These are people with a passion for always doing their best, even if it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best at what they do.

Put another way, GAFF is vital because all motivation is intrinsically internal. Put simply: You cannot motivate people, but all people are motivated. I am not saying that we cannot create environments in which we enhance or detract from performance. External factors can push someone towards short-term action (or inaction), but it cannot create long-term outcomes.

“Non-GAFF” people are only motivated to do the bare minimum at work. This may be because they would rather be doing other things, they’re not passionate about their role, etc. While you cannot motivate non-GAFF people to become GAFF players, you can demotivate GAFF people, causing them to turn into non-GAFF players.

Some people may say, you get what you pay for and paying more money will motivate non-GAFF people to achieve. I disagree with that statement for two reasons: (a) as an external factor, money is the excuse not the cause, and (b) money will be an ever-moving target so it will never be enough. At best money will get you a short-term boost. While you should pay people fairly for their work, do not expect it to motivate people in the long term.

This last point is important: You can only move the needle slightly one direction or the other, you are not likely to push the non-motivated to long-term motivation. The power and disruption you incur trying to motivate non-GAFF people to become GAFF team members far outweighs the minimal gains you will see in the form of short-term increases.

Non-GAFF team members are not bad people, in fact they can be great humans, and-by definition-they’re achieving the basic goals…but achieving the minimum is likely to lead to mediocre performing teams. If your team design is “Journeyman Team,” these can be fine role players, who you may want on the team if your goal is a “High Performing Team.”

FInd the Divas & Avoid KnaveS

Similar to GAFF, hiring “Divas” drives success. Considered by some people to be difficult to work for – Divas are driven to exceptionalism but on a team level. Unlike “knaves,” who are driven for personal success without regard to others, Divas can be worth their challenges.

Mike McGuinness recently tweeted about this quoting How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg. In their book, they provide this differentiation:

“Knavish behavior is a product of low integrity; diva-ish behavior is one of high exceptionalism. Knaves prioritize the individual over the team; divas think they are better than the team, but want success equally for both. Knaves need to be dealt with as quickly as possible. But as long as their contributions match their outlandish egos, divas should be tolerated and even protected. Great people are often unusual and difficult, and some of those quirks can be quite off-putting. Since culture is about social norms and divas refuse to be normal, cultural factors can conspire to sweep out the divas along with the knaves. As long as people can figure out any way to work with the divas, and the divas’ achievements outweigh the collateral damage caused by their diva ways, you should fight for them. They will pay off your investment by doing interesting things.”

Importantly, Divas not only push themselves to achieve but can also push others. Their high expectations for others often show up when their own performance is negatively impacted by others. Divas are the ones your low performers will complain about because the Divas are calling out how the low performance impacts them.

Divas are also often the ones willing to speak up. Sometimes this brings voice to things others may be thinking but unwilling to say. Leaders may mistake this as not being aligned or as dissent, when in fact Divas are simply trying to give voice to other views. To build great teams, smart leaders are open to hearing these thoughts with the goal of ultimately seeking commitment on the leader’s move forward decision.

By hiring people with “GAFF” and “Divas”, you’re building the foundations of high functioning, successful recruiting teams. In part two, we will discuss the foundational steps to getting the most out of that talent.

Tim Koirtyohann

Tim is the founder of Charitable Recruiting, a recruiting solutions provider focused on making a difference in the communities served. Based in Dallas/Fort Worth, Tim has provided international recruiting strategies & support to companies like Sunbelt Rentals, Reece USA, & others to help solve labor supply issues. Charitable Recruiting offers consulting in contingent/retained searches, data analytics, and talent acquisition strategy/technology solutions to improve recruiting outcomes.


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