Leading Self Self awareness Values

The Invisible Backpack

When we spend more time finding out who people are and what they can do, our chances increase that we will be hiring people who fit within our culture.

Earlier this week, we went out for a coffee with the family, played a new game we discovered over the holidays called ‘exploding kittens,’ and bought a pair of running shoes before heading back home.

On the way out, we passed a store with many backpacks on display. Backpacks in all sizes, colors, and quality. 

That’s how I got to this story.

We all have an invisible backpack on our back.

A backpack filled with experience, ambition, purpose, values, beliefs, hopes, and fears.

We carry it around our entire life on our journey to …


On our journey to what?

Good question.

The weight of the backpack differs for each person. For some people, it’s ultra-light and easy to travel with. For others, it feels like many concrete bricks inside, and it’s a burden to take it around.

How does your backpack feel?

What would you like to keep inside, and what would you like to take out, so you can travel faster? How much do people know what’s in your backpack?

Is it just you who knows what’s inside, or are you an open book that makes the contents of your backpack visible to most?

Or perhaps you don’t even know what exactly is inside, and it just feels terribly heavy at moments.

Are you allowed to bring your backpack to work, or do your colleagues rather see you leave your backpack at home?

Or perhaps, you are the one who is hesitant to share what’s in your backpack. And you don’t want to know what’s in other’s people’s backpacks either.

But, would you agree with me that we probably would be able to travel further if we knew what was inside each other’s backpack?

So we can help each other carry some of each other’s stuff, or perhaps get rid of some ballast we don’t need anymore. 

When we build true values-based teams and organizations, as I suggested in my first insight this year, we need to know the people who make up these shared values.

One can’t proclaim to be leading a values-based company when we have no clue which values my colleagues have.

If entrepreneurship is a value we would like to see in our company, we need to ensure that we hire and develop people with an entrepreneurial spirit?

If teamwork is another value, how will I determine whether the person I’m about to hire is a true team player?

If I have a suspicion that somebody is not living up to my value of integrity, how am I going to find out for sure? How do I know it’s not just my perspective, or perhaps there’s a lot of context I’m missing.

Most companies hire for what we can DO for them, not who we ARE.

If we spend more time finding out who people are and what they can do, our chances increase that we will be hiring people who fit within our culture.

So next time, ask someone to tell you a little about their invisible backpack. Explain the context of your question, and then see what happens.

No matter what happens, you’ll get a better picture of the person you consider hiring.

Your turn: what’s inside your invisible backpack?

Do more of what makes you happy!


PS. My webinar “Personal Growth Demystified” will take place on
Thursday the 20th of January at 2 pm CET. Sign-up below.


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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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