Shiny Objects May Appear Brighter Than They Are

recruiting recruitment staffing Jun 01, 2022

Have you ever started an important project and then abandoned it after you got a sudden flash of excitement about some new idea, opportunity, or project?

I have….many times. I still get the impulse to do this. This instinct is so common that there are names for it like" Shiny Object Syndrome" (SOS) and  "Fear of Missing Out" (FOMO). Everyone has this drive, some more than others. As highly driven people, recruiting firm owners and leaders tend to have a higher dose than average. Most people wouldn't launch their own businesses if they weren't willing to pursue shiny new opportunities that appear better than their current ones.  SOS has positive and negative aspects. The key is not to have it take you over.


Why SOS is so common in recruiting firm owners and leaders

The recruiting industry is a high-distraction, interrupt-driven business. Think about the number of emails and phone calls you receive from clients, candidates, and internal staff. Most of them don't need to be addressed promptly. But do you stay focused on your high-priority tasks and then set aside time to catch up on your emails? If you're like most recruiters, you tell yourself that your next phone call or email could contain an offer, acceptance, new job order, or great candidate referral. It's hard to resist shiny new emails and phone calls!  

We get addicted to the rush of dopamine, the brain chemical that stimulates our desire for a reward. The more dopamine you get, the more you need to feel the same effect. Under this spell, staying focused on your most important but less stimulating work is tough. You just want something new to reignite the excitement. 

 Why SOS is so powerful

We know that the greatest long-term success comes from consistent, focused action on our highest payoff activities. These actions are high on long-term rewards and satisfaction but low on instant gratification and excitement. However, our dopamine-addicted brains are easily bored and want to seek pleasure now rather than satisfaction in the future!

When a new idea, opportunity, or project that promises a quicker payoff arises, the combination of novelty and instant gratification can overwhelm us. We then abandon our high payoff, longer-term efforts. Our minds usually tell us, "this new thing is better than what we're currently doing." If our minds weren't rationalization machines, the message would be, "what I'm currently doing is better, but I have the urge for something new that I can enjoy sooner." We truly believe that our sudden change in direction is different this time and the shiny object is real gold, not "fools gold."

 Why SOS matters

As a recruiting coach, advisor, and founder of two successful firms, I've had the privilege of experiencing and witnessing success and failure many times. In reality, fewer than 5% of firms grow beyond the 2-5 employee level. The reality of scaling recruiting is that it is difficult. One of the hallmarks of those that do scale is the commitment from the owners and leaders to bring their key strategic projects to completion. They still feel the pull of SOS but have learned to resist it. They know that the number of good ideas you have is of minimal importance. The number executed is what matters. An "average idea" that's brought to completion will improve your firm. A great idea that's not will drain your time, energy, and confidence.

Take a moment and consider the following:

  • How long have you wished you could break through the revenue and success level you've been stuck in for years? 
  • How many ideas and initiatives have you failed to start or abandoned when "better ones" caught your attention? 
  • How will you bring your firm to the next level if you have a habit of not staying on projects to completion?

 How to overcome SOS

As with most of life's challenges, there is no quick and easy solution. Fortunately, there are ways to overcome and master these challenges. Below are some practical solutions to help you experience the benefits of completing projects and achieving the goals that really matter to you:

  • Be ultra-aware that Shiny Object Syndrome will continue to appear. This way, you know that the voice that tells you "I just found something better" is probably not Mr. or Mrs. Right, just Mr. or Mrs. SOS in disguise.
  • Make a list of the specific reasons you're engaged in your current effort. Review it frequently, especially when you feel the urge to stray.
  • Accept in advance that no long-term project is a smooth, easy ride. There will be obstacles that will make you want to throw up your hands and move to something else. 
  • Plan your projects and break them down into bite-sized steps. With each step, list the obstacles you need to clear and how you'll clear them. 
  • Create milestones for your projects and feel the satisfaction and encouragement of each achievement. You can learn to use your dopamine for long-term motivation rather than short-term pleasure.
  • Get help. Nobody is good at everything, and nobody sees everything. Flying solo is not smart.

 I hope you've gotten some practical insight and value on a very real issue that gets in the way of small businesses in every field but even more in recruiting. I'd like to hear from you about your experiences with SOS.


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