Transcendence. I promise, I’m not just making these up. Yes, I had to look it up, but yes, it also describes one of the indispensable qualities I’m looking for in staff. For those of you who need a definition, here you go:

  1. to rise above or go beyond; overpass; exceed: to transcend the limits of thought; kindness transcends courtesy.
  2. to outdo or exceed in excellence, elevation, extent, degree, etc.; surpass; excel.

Every position needs a job description. Every employee should have regularly set goals. Am I happy with staff who consistently fulfill the functions of their job description and regularly reach their goals? Absolutely. However, there’s something about the employee who consistently surpasses my expectations. They do far more than what it expected and these are the employees I lean into and entrust with more.

A little over a year ago, my Preschool Director got married and moved away. As happy as I was for her life transition, I now had an opening in our preschool department. My intention was to do a national search and find an experienced candidate to take our preschool to the next level. At the time, I had an amazing coach serving in our nursery who was going to be perfect for the interim.  Leslie was a high-capacity volunteer who executed her role as a coach every weekend, but also spent several hours in the office every week helping out in a variety of ways. I knew that she was actually interested in the open role.

I invited Leslie to join our team as the Interim Preschool Director and she accepted. I had a very clear conversation with her before she began to reset any expectations that she might have had about the job. I told her that she wasn’t qualified for the role. I told her that I was looking for someone with a lot more experience and expertise that she had at the time. I know that she was disappointed, but she was excited to be on the team.

Months went by and we interviewed many incredible candidates, none of which worked out for us. It was a frustrating experience trying to find the right person for this role. Meanwhile, Leslie continued to lead the department well. I was actually surprised by how well she was doing. She had actually recruited several more coaches and she had grown the volunteer team, something that usually never happens with interim staff. She was doing things beyond what I had set out for her and her efforts were paying off.

Several months later, I had a realization. Although I had my heart set on a highly experienced Preschool Director that just wasn’t coming out way, Leslie was killing it. I decided to reconsider her for the role. I began to ask the staff what they thought about her stepping into the role on a permanent basis. The staff gave a resounding “YES!” So I hired Leslie and I’m so glad that I did.

Leslie surprised me. She surpassed all my expectations and that won her a job.

I love it when my staff surprise me and those are the kinds of employees I’m looking for. Believe it or not, you can discover this quality in the interview process by being creative.

I’ll be honest. I’ve never heard anyone say that transcendence is a quality they’re looking for in their staff, but it should be. Find individuals who will blow your mind and perform in ways you didn’t expect. It’s contagious and your team will never be the same again.