Ah, the A Team – we’d all love to have nothing but amazing top performers around us at all times, but too often reality is quite different. People are one of the biggest assets to any business, one of the largest costs, our greatest source of competitive advantage, and our biggest headache when things aren’t going right. Year after year, CEOs cite Finding and Developing Qualified Managerial Talent as one of their Top 10 Challenges.
Here are 7 ways to source all the A-player Talent you need:
- Change the sequence. Isn’t it interesting that the “challenge” is defined as finding and developing. Instead, switch your focus to developing first and finding as a secondary strategy, and you’ll be surprised how quickly talent surfaces. Think about it. When Jack Welch stepped down as CEO of GE, he had 3 succession candidates to consider because GE has a culture of developing deep talent. The transition under Jeff Immelt was successful. In contrast, HP disastrously went through 6 outside CEOs in 12 years (one of whom caused a 30% drop in HP’s value during his very short tenure) because they had never developed sufficient bench strength to promote someone internal into the lead role, despite employing 150,000 people. Imagine having that large a talent pool to draw from, and not considering ANYONE to be qualified!! When you invest to develop talent first, you’ll often find hidden talent already in your organization. It takes strategic and consistent investments of time and money to train and develop the people you already have – but not nearly as much time and money as hiring, training, and developing the people you don’t have and crossing your fingers that they’ll be a match.
- Start at the top. One hiring mistake at a senior level is all it takes to create a domino effect that destroys value throughout your organization, causing goals to be missed, disengagement, turnover and the high costs of management time to get into damage control and fix what went wrong. Think back to your success rate with new hires. Are you creating or destroying value in your organization with the decisions you’re making? What about the others on your leadership team? When B-level leaders hire C-level employees, they trigger the domino effect because good Talent doesn’t leave the company, they leave bad managers. If you don’t have good managers who know how to hire and keep good talent, get help. Use HR professionals and/or any of the excellent pre-assessment tools on the market to make sure you’re only allowing A players in the door.
- Developing means creating opportunities for doing, not just training. How much money have you spent on training and developing staff in your organization? Is it “too little”? Is it “too much” based on the results you’ve seen in your business? As a former Dean of an Executive Education program, of course I’m a fan of training, but too often I’ve seen it fail to make any difference because once the course is over the binders get put on the shelf and it’s back to business as usual. The answer lies in ongoing learn-by-doing programs, such as the ProfitU program I developed after being dissatisfied with conventional professional development approaches. You don’t want another 3-day “intervention”, what you want instead is an ongoing process that develops deep and lasting skills as it simultaneously delivers solid business results. Think about learning how to ride a bike – it’s just never going to happen in a classroom or from watching a YouTube video. Kids develop their skills by actually getting on the bike and skinning their knees a few times before they find their balance, and then, as they say, “it’s like riding a bike; you never forget”. Ongoing learn-by-doing delivers lasting change and results. Put your high potentials on project teams in a comprehensive program like ProfitU and let them step up to a higher level of performance. Realize that they may need training wheels for a while and support them as they learn.
- Develop Talent Through Mentoring – in both directions. Don’t believe a word that those who can’t do, teach. Having someone teach or mentor another is the best way for them to get very clear on what works and what doesn’t! One of the best ways to develop your managerial talent is to have them mentor others inside or outside of your organization AND to simultaneously receive mentoring, also from someone inside or outside. When they understand how it feels to be mentored, they’ll automatically understand what it takes to be a good mentor and their own skills will develop. They’ll become a better leader and manager as a result.
- Hire for Attitude Not Skills. If you’re a growing organization, sooner or later you’ll have to hire from outside the firm. You’ll have to shift to “finding” mode. Research shows that people skills constitute 80 percent of an individual’s success, while technical skills only account for 15 percent. Yet most companies hire for technical or job-specific skills and do not have an effective interview approach to uncover people skills. Hire attitude and aptitude first, because you can always train for skills, but not for behavior. And in a changing global economy, yesterday’s skills and experiences may be quickly outdated. Instead look for enthusiasm, proven initiative, a desire to learn, a positive outlook and a ‘can do’ approach. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way several times. Last year, I had a different experience. After a disastrous hiring experience with someone who was an “expert” but showed no initiative whatsoever, I met a young lady who knew absolutely nothing about the work I needed done. I made her a job offer on the spot, just based on sheer force of personality, her enthusiasm, and her desire to be a winner. A year later my assistant Tiana is a self-taught whiz who continually far exceeds my expectations, has become my right-hand, and an indispensable resource to my business.
- Get Clear on Your Successful Hire Characteristics and Indicators. No, I don’t mean using a hiring instrument, although those can be very valuable. Take the time to look at what your A players have in common in terms of demographics, psychographics, background, interests, attitudes etc. Then, look at what all of your C players have in common. Spot the differences, and build that understanding into your hiring process by developing beyond-the-usual interview questions that delve deeper and help you understand their potential as a fit.
- Hire Talent Every Time It Presents Itself. As an Executive, do you always have more To Do List than time? Turn that into what I call the Special Project advantage. Let your network know that you’re “always hiring” and when a talented resource approaches, even though you may have no appropriate job opening at the time, hire them anyway. Have them create a return on investment by tackling one of your bigger To Do items as an individual contributor or team leader. You’ll have the opportunity to assess them for fit, they’ll do the same, and the odds are good that by the time the project is over, you’ll know exactly where they would be a great contributor going forward.
What’s the first action you’ll take to build YOUR A Team?