Purple Unicorns: Do They Exist?

business hiring new hire Nov 18, 2020

If you’ve ever been tasked with making a hire, you’ll understand what I’m about to address, which is the elusive, “purple unicorn.” If you’ve never had to make a hire, let me explain what this majestic creature is. 

When hiring, we all have a vision of the perfect human that we aim to bring onto our team. They’re the right blend of every valued characteristic a company could possibly be looking for. Task AND people-oriented, arrive early and stay late, attentive to detail while also a big picture thinker, a visionary and an implementer; this person can do it all. They’re the quintessential employee. We look long and hard under the mountain of applications to find them, but often to no avail, and the reason is simple. They don’t exist.

Think about yourself for a moment. And I mean REALLY be honest here. Are you perfect? When was the last time you made a mistake? Spelled a word wrong? Forgot to email that person back? Probably in the last week, right? Exactly. So while we want to hire the person who will never let something slip through the cracks or let a deadline pass, we are all human. And humans make human errors. And to err is human, as the old proverb goes. 

The real value is in where strong leaders and talented employees meet. Those who are willing to work together and hear each other out from both sides. This is the place where one party doesn’t always insist that they’re right and the other is wrong, but is open to addressing what might otherwise go unsaid. We all know that it’s easier to avoid the tough conversations, but does anyone really benefit from that? Or are we just avoiding an opportunity for growth and learning?

Now the land of growth and learning is not always the easiest to find, because both the employer and the employee will need to make concessions to get there or the life raft will sink, taking them both down with it. A leader might say to herself, “Eddie Employee didn’t complete this project I asked him to work on.” But let’s pause there for a moment. Did Eddie have the proper training? Was the leader clear on her expectations? Now Eddie might be thinking, “Betsy Boss didn’t give me clear instructions. I’ve never done this before, and I certainly don’t know how to start now.” 

In the land of learning and growth, Eddie might stop to consider that Betsy is really busy and maybe overwhelmed in her day to day activities and providing a clear explanation might have slipped her mind, while Betsy might need to step back and observe that Eddie would never intentionally avoid working on an important project, but maybe he was unclear on the vision and how to move forward. 

When Eddie and Betsy come together to discuss and course-correct, a mutual respect is formed. When employees feel safe and respected in the workplace, things like staff engagement and business growth can take place, because everyone is working cohesively towards the same goal. Without clear direction, deadlines, and accountability, it’s unlikely that you’ll advance the big blocks of business growth, and without growth and a clear vision, you’ll never know where you’re going or if you’re getting there. As a team, clarity can emerge as everyone works towards their goals and collectively tracks and meets them. Together, a team is more successful than apart, but it takes a willingness to learn from one another and to set sights on a common goal.

So to put it simply, purple unicorns do not exist. Moving a business forward is a team effort. No one person is going to perfectly tackle every task and obligation, but when everyone is openly communicating and moving in the same direction, a positive shift will occur. Being a strong leader means taking the time to understand your employees and what motivates and excites them and showing them what does the same for you. So to be clear, there is no perfect person to bring onto your team. Everyone will need some molding. So before you ask yourself if the person you’re looking to hire is the perfect fit, reflect on if you were the perfect employee or leader when you started? Did you come in with one-hundred percent success in everything that you did? The answer is probably no, so keep that in mind when you’re doubting your new hire. Everything good takes time.


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