Does the company North Star align with the employee North Stars?

December 24, 2009

As a growth venture capital firm that puts a lot of resource against recruiting support for our growing portfolio companies, I do a huge amount of interviewing of potential new employees.

My basic belief is that each person is a certain “shape” peg and each position in each company is a certain “shape” hole. My job in the interview is to help the candidate and the company identify if the two fit. My approach is as open and transparent as possible both to the candidate and to the company, as both need to understand both shapes (and the potential friction points) and I look at the interviews and follow up as being my contribution to this goal. The model also makes it extremely easy for me to tell candidates where their shape works well with the company and where the potential issues are and also give the feedback to the company and most candidates have a very good understanding of my view by the time the interview is over.

When I have a more difficult time understanding candidates, it is generally because their “shape” is not as visible to me for one reason or another. Sometimes I change the topic slightly and ask about what they really love to do and advise them that they should figure out how to do exactly that in their next role (which I sometimes call “following your own personal North Star“). The approach sometimes opens up a really good discussion which helps me to understand their “shape” much better and helps me to determine if the position moves them closer to their North Star (if it does, then the position is a much better fit for them and they are generally a much better fit with the position).

The idea of following your own personal North Star applies to everyone whether or not you are currently looking at job opportunities. The idea is to live YOUR life rather than living the life that others think you should be living. Perhaps this means starting to look for new activities in your current company, giving up some of your current responsibilities that don’t fit your interests, or starting to think about a different position elsewhere.

The idea of helping people find their own personal North Star also applies to you if you are in a management or advisory role. If the people that you manage and/or advise are following their North Stars and their roles are aligned with their North Stars, you will be surrounded by much more passionate and engaged people.

Senior managers and recruiting support functions can really help identify this alignment by being disciplined about creating and living company aspirations of mission, vision, values and being disciplined around having really good goals and job descriptions, as they will help candidates and employees better identify their aspirations and goals against the company’s aspirations and goals, which is really helping them test the alignment of the company North Star (Aspirations and goals) with their North Star.

Steve Job’s did an excellent job of making the point of people following their North Star, and many others, at this year’s Stanford University commencement, which I highly recommend watching:

Founder & Partner

As the founder of OpenView, Scott focuses on distinctive business models and products that uniquely address a meaningful market pain point. This includes a broad interest in application and infrastructure companies, and businesses that are addressing the next generation of technology, including SaaS, cloud computing, mobile platforms, storage, networking, IT tools, and development tools.