Creating a Great Place To Work Will Attract The Right People


In 1970 Stanford University professors conducted a study at the Bing Nursery School on the campus. The purpose of the study, which later became known as the marshmallow test, was to understand the control of deferred gratification.

Over 600 children participated in the study. Children were placed in a room without distractions except for a treat of their choice – a marshmallow, a cookie, or a pretzel – placed on a table. The children were told they could eat the treat right away; however, if they waited 15 minutes without giving in to their immediate urge, they would be rewarded with two snacks.

Some children ate the snack right away, while others delayed for five or six minutes. Only 1/3 of the children were able to earn the reward. Researchers then followed all the participants for 25 years, and the ones who had the discipline to resist eating the snack became the most successful in life, while the ones with the least willpower were the least successful.

What does this have to do with servant leadership? I think having the patience and courage to do the right thing, as opposed to the easy immediate thing; will pay significant dividends in the long run.

I have seen this play out in a big way in an organization’s hiring practices. Servant leaders build performance by building a dream team. The first and most important aspect of building a dream team is hiring for values.

In my informal studies of clients and other organizations that I am familiar with, those that don’t take short cuts in their hiring processes, and never sacrifice on hiring for values are the most successful in the long run. When you bring people onto your team that are aligned with the organization’s values you eliminate problems down the line.

In times of great growth, or high employee turnover, it can get tempting to hire anyone who comes through the front door. That would be like the children who couldn’t wait 15 minutes to eat their treat. It is very hard work to find values aligned employees, but it is worth the work and wait to have a team that is aligned with the values of the organization.

Practices I have found to help this process:

  • Invest the Time – You must take the time to clearly articulate your values, and the associated behaviors expected behind those values to effectively determine if an applicant will align. No shortcuts here!
  • Seek Internal Referrals – People from within your organization know best who might be a good fit from a values standpoint, as they experience the culture daily and know the type of people who would be successful in that culture.
  • Always Recruit – Finding people who are values aligned is not a quick process. It takes more than a 15-minute waiting period. You cannot afford to only be out looking for people when you have an opening. Recruiting should be a continual process, so you always have a bench of applicants who are values aligned.
  • Build Strategic Relationships – Developing relationships with technical schools, universities, recruiters, and communities who regularly produce employees for your organization will pay dividends. Staying in front of your main source for employees will keep you at the top of mind for people that you most desire.
  • Create a GREAT Place to Work – There is no better way to maintain a consistent flow of great values-aligned applicants than to build the best place in town to work. People love working for organizations that have a culture of servant leadership. They realize they will be valued, challenged, and developed and that is where they most want to work.

You will not win unless you are building a high performing team! The best way to do that is to start by hiring for values. Don’t jump at the first warm body you see. Build a process that will ensure deferred gratification by bringing only the right people on the team!

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles…  Luke 6:12-13


Mark W. Deterding
Mark W. Deterding
MARK Deterding is an author, speaker, consultant, executive coach and the founder of Triune Leadership Services, LLC. His purpose is to work with leaders to help them develop core servant leadership capabilities that allow them to lead at a higher level and enable them to achieve their God-given potential. He has written two books, A Model of Servant Leadership, and Leading Jesus’ Way. With over three decades of experience directing companies and developing leaders, Mark created A Model of Servant Leadership parallel to the principles that Jesus himself illustrated. Working with organizations, leadership teams, and executives one-on-one, he helps bring focus, clarity, and action to make things work. He also conducts training programs to teach faith-based servant leadership principles. His greatest passion is seeing the impact servant leadership has on people’s lives and beyond. Prior to Triune Leadership Services he worked for 35 years in the printing industry holding senior leadership positions at Taylor Corporation, RR Donnelly, and Banta Corporation. He is an accomplished executive with a proven track record for developing purpose-driven; values based teams that drive culture improvement, enhanced employee passion, and improved business results. He is featured in Ken Blanchard’s book “Leading at a Higher Level”, and has been a featured speaker for the Ken Blanchard Companies Executive Forum in both 2007 and 2011. Mark lives in Alexandria, Minnesota with his wife Kim. They have two sons, two daughter-in-laws, and three grandchildren, so far. To find out more about Mark and his work, visit Triune Leadership Services via the Link adjacent his Photo above.

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