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When I calculated recently that I have interviewed over 5,000 people in my headhunting career I thought to myself, wow, that’s a pretty big number. Especially when you think of all that one-on-one time with people. I know the word ‘interview’ makes it sound like work – but it really wasn’t. Well, maybe the first 1,000 or 2,000 might have been “work”, but some time after that things changed.

What happened is that I started to focus less on “extracting answers” and more on really listening to what people were saying. What a great opportunity to learn! And it’s funny because often what they were saying was less about the words and more about the way they were talking. I still find it fascinating.

For example, people literally light up when they relate a story about a challenging role they had in a great company where they had previously worked and where they had a boss or mentor who had taken the time to coach them through the difficult times. Often, the more challenging or difficult the circumstances, the more engaged and animated they are.

People are awesome. Watch what we can and will do if you give us a problem to solve, then challenge us, support us and encourage us to work together to solve it. Sure, we’ll make mistakes sometimes, but we can learn and get better if you invest the time and trust in us.

As a leader in your startup business are you really listening to what your people are saying to you?  Are you being clear in the challenges you’re setting your people? Are you stretching them the right amount and encouraging them and supporting them? Get these things right and your people will light up when they talk about you too. They will also do amazing things for your business.