The Strongest Tool I Know for Hiring & Development

Over my time at Chick-fil-A, I had the privilege of hiring hundreds of employees into the organization. And I’m often asked what tools I used to do that effectively. Today I’m thrilled to introduce you to one of my favorite tools for both hiring, and developing strong team members: the In Your Element triangle.

Everybody comes into this world with a degree of talent. We can’t give ourselves talent, and for me personally, I feel like it’s God given. But what we can do is identify what our talent is. There are certain things that we are innately better at; it comes to you more naturally because you’re more naturally gifted. So, I think part of our job as human beings is to identify the talent that we’ve been given, and part of my job as a leader is spotting talents in my people that they may not see in themselves. But talent in and of itself doesn’t mean much. There are plenty of people who are super talented that don’t go far. What you have to do in order to continue to grow and succeed is add skills and knowledge to talent. Talent is the interior – what you’re born with – while skills and knowledge are the exterior – what you can do, and what a leader can help you with, in order to cultivate a strength. Cultivating strengths is part of the job of the individual, but also part of the job of the leader; helping people identify their talent, helping them add skills and knowledge, and as a result, cultivating strengths. We need to be operating out of our strengths.

Secondly, I feel like all of us have passions in life. And passions I think of as things that energize you. Things you do for eight hours that feels like just eight minutes to you because of how energized you are by what you do. I can’t tell you how many days I miss lunch because I’m so energized by what I’m doing that I don’t even think about eating. But if all I’m thinking about all day is when am I going to be able to take a break? That’s not an area of passion for me. So, I’ve always thought about passion as things that energize, or charge, my battery. That’s one way to figure out what our passions are.

More recently, in the last few years of my career, I realized there’s another dimension to this. It’s super important, and in some ways, easier to find than just the things that energize us. In addition to things that energize us, passions are things we’re happy to sacrifice for. What are the things in life I’m happy to sacrifice for? I’d say I’m happy to sacrifice for my family, certain organizations, and so on. Those are the things I’m passionate about. If I’m not happy to sacrifice for it, I’m not very passionate about it. At Roam, this concept is something we want as part of our values because we want people working here that are happy to sacrifice for what they’re doing because they see it as important. They don’t just have a mission. They’re on a mission. When I went to work at Chick-fil-A, I sacrificed to be there. I lived at home for two years. I worked out of a mobile home. It wasn’t like a big step up in life. So, I think the things that we’re passionate about, we’re always happy to sacrifice for. And that’s super important.

Then there’s another thing called values; what’s valuable to us in life? And in what order? Both of those are important: to know what’s valuable and to know in what order. Because sometimes values come into conflict. So, for instance, let’s say in a business you value speed and you value safety. At some point, speed and safety are going to come into conflict. Which one is more important in that case? You’re always going to have things that you value that come into conflict. And the reason that’s so important is that most of the key decisions we make in life are tradeoff decisions. In fact, I would define strategy as tradeoffs. If there is no tradeoff, there is no strategy in my mind. If there’s no need for a tradeoff, there’s no need for a strategy. We label everything strategies, but most of them are not strategies, they’re kind of just standard operating procedures. You intentionally trade off one thing for another if it’s a strategy. So, the reason values are so important is that they inform our tradeoff decisions.

For example, when people choose a college, they decide to trade off one school for another. When you get married, you trade off one human being for all the other human beings. When you go for your first job, you trade off all the other options that you had. So many important life decisions are trade off decisions and values inform our tradeoffs. I can’t tell you how many people get to my age and they say, “I never thought I would end up here in life.” They feel like they got so far away from what they intended to do and be. I know exactly how they got there: they made a lot of decisions out of alignment with their values. They made the wrong tradeoffs and ended up somewhere they never wanted to be.

What I’m looking for is where my talents that have been developed into strengths intersect with my passions and they’re in alignment with my values. If you can get to that point in life, you have what I call IYE: you are In Your Element. In sports, we would say you’re in the zone. You are unstoppable because you’re really good at what you’re doing, you’re energized by what you’re doing, and it’s taking you where you want to go in life.

When I interview people, I look for clues about their talents and whether they’ve developed those talents into strengths. What are they passionate about, what energizes them, what are they willing to sacrifice for? What do they value in life? That starts to give me a picture of what it looks like for them to be IYE. And does what we have to offer align?

Here’s what gets a little confusing: all of us have heard, and I heard, that you should do something you love for your career. That sounds right, doesn’t it? The problem with that is it’s right, but it’s what I call a half truth. It’s half true that you need to love what you do, but it’s not the whole truth. If the only person that benefits from your passion is you, that is what I call a great hobby. It’s a terrible career. It’s a great hobby because you love it. It’s a terrible career because a career needs one additional piece: a career needs to create value for someone else; that’s why you get paid. I would agree that you need to love what you do. That’s what all this is about. But it’s an incomplete way of thinking about it. For whatever you love to be a career, it has to create value for others. My job as a leader is to help my employee identify their strengths, passions, and values, and figure out how that can create tons of value for our organization. That’s called job fit.

This is a great way to screen people when you’re hiring them but it’s also a great framework after they’ve been hired, because this becomes clearer and clearer over time. You can spend a lifetime fine-tuning what this looks like for you. It’s not like one day you have it all figured out. In fact, it even evolves over time. And usually some themes emerge. Like for me, if this job involves identifying and developing talent, sign me up. That’s something I feel like I’m talented in, passionate about, and is aligned with my values. If this job involves innovating and creating, sign me up. I can help the team win because it aligns for me. If this job involves connecting seemingly disconnected ideas, sign me up. That’s where my talents lie, it’s something I am passionate and energized about, it’s in alignment with my values, and I think I can create a lot of value for others. If it doesn’t involve those three things, there’s probably somebody better for you.

My hope is that this IYE triangle serves you as you identify talent, cultivate, and develop your people, and as you grow more into the kind of leader you are designed to be!

Next month I’ll be sharing a second tool that works in conjunction with IYE and is more singularly focused around developing people once they are part of your organization. Don’t miss it!


I’d love to connect with you on social media, you can find me on these platforms:

Together, we can Spark a Revolution of brands more defined by meaning than money, brands that achieve success in a manner that redefines it.

David Salyers
Founder, Spark A Revolution


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