Volume 18 Number 2 - February 4, 2020


Comedienne Leslie Jones is leaving Saturday Night Live after five years with the 45-year-old NBC show. That opportunity leveraged her primary skills for the last four years. Why not all five years?

Timing is everything.

In a recent interview Jones described her initial conversations with Lorne Michaels, executive producer and hiring manager for the famous comedy show. For those that don’t know, Jones was a standup comedienne for over 25 years prior and had a few movie roles before Michaels “discovered” her.

Michaels told the mid-40’s woman that he wanted to hire her as a writer, something she definitely was not. And sketch comedy is very different from stand-up. She protested that role, admitting her lack of writing skills. He said he knew that. But he also knew she has a great sense of humor, recognizes humor where others don’t, and would be a great add to the team.

He said to her, per Jones, “I know that’s not what you do, but we need people like you around here.” She reluctantly accepted the job, quickly realized she knew even less than she professed to know, threw herself into learning everything she could about sketch comedy, and found herself on stage performing – where she wanted to be – one year later.

Why is she leaving now? Her well-developed skills and enhanced visibility brought opportunities to her she could only imagine previously.

So why did Lorne Michaels hire someone he knew would struggle the first year, and perhaps never successfully make the switch? Because he knew she is special. He was willing to take what he viewed as a low-risk chance, invest heavily in her, and benefit greatly from her contributions.

As leaders in manufacturing businesses decry the skills shortage, how many Leslie Jones’s have they passed on?

If they had hired that very smart and highly curious candidate a year ago, today they would have someone skilled in that key role. And interested in learning other key roles. But instead we wait for the perfect fit, or in desperation hire a bad fit.

So what if they leave after five years? Is several highly productive years a problem?

Every single mid-size manufacturing company can always use curious thinkers. Extend your vision beyond next week. Build your company for next year, and the years after that. People who are smart and curious will grow with your company; people who have a specific skill will likely not.

Hire the bright and the curious when you have the opportunity. Timing is irrelevant.

The Starting Pistol

Wangari Maathai:
"Until you dig a hole, you plant a tree, you water it and make it survive, you haven't done a thing."

The Tape

Rebecca Morgan:
"If we only pick fruit, we will all starve. It’s okay if seeds from the trees you plant in your yard blow into fields of others. Plant and water regardless."

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