Over the years I’ve had the good fortune to work with some incredible companies. Some had great teams in place, but they struggled to find the right business strategy. Others had a fine-tuned business strategy, but they lacked the talent to pull it off.
In his book Good to Great, author Jim Collins shares what he found in organizations that were making the transformation from good to great. His observation is that most organizations figure out where they want to go and then recruit the team. He then shares that the leaders who took their teams from good to great first started by recruiting the right people, then decided where they wanted to go. That’s a brilliant observation — sort of.
If you’re in a position of transforming your entire organization and possibly altering the direction of the company, that concept is exceptional. There is no doubt in my mind that an organization going through complete transformation should build the organization with that concept. If, however, you are not in a position to modify your company or organization, there are realistic steps you can take to rebuild your team to maximize organizational success:
Inventory your talent. Determine if you have the right people in the right places in your organization. Sometimes the talent we acquired to get us where we are is not the talent to get us where we want to be. Take some time to inventory your talent. If needed, move your employees around until you get them in the right position to benefit them and the company. Just because they may be in the wrong position doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a seat at the table as you move your organization forward.
Determine who needs to go. Once you’ve done a thorough inventory of your organization, you may find that some employees simply need to go. Maybe they don’t possess the talents you need. Maybe they’ve become so disengaged they are no longer contributing. If your leadership team is doing everything possible to build a culture of engagement and you have employees who STILL won’t get on the train, it may be time for them to go. Do everything you can to make it work, and if it can’t or won’t, follow every procedure and law to get them transferred to your competitor as quickly possible.
Recruit the appropriate talent. Once you’ve identified your needs, go out and get the right people if you don’t have them on your team. Don’t settle for mediocrity and don’t try to get off cheap. Quite often you get what you pay for. If you need a good technician, go find the best technician and pay the person what they’re worth. If you need a strategic thinker as an executive, go find the best one available and pay their price. It will cost you more money in the long-run if you try to save money upfront.
Hire for leadership needs. A banker I met at a state banking conference once told me the biggest problem they had at their bank was too many bankers. He said, “We never consider our need to fill leadership positions with good leaders. We just fill leadership positions with good bankers.” Interesting point. If you need strong leadership, go find a good leader. Depending on the position you’re filling, it may be easier to teach the skills needed for that job than to teach the leadership skills needed to lead.
Hire for attitude. Years ago I drove past a restaurant with a sign out front that read, “Now Hiring Smiling Faces.” I remember thinking to myself, “Apparently you can have no skills at all, but as long as you’re smiling, you can work for us!” Although I didn’t think it was a very smart approach back then, it makes a lot of sense now. You see, you can’t teach nice. You can’t teach happy. But you can teach the skills that go along with the job you’re filling. Start out with the right type of employee.
Be honest. If you make promises you can’t keep, don’t be surprised when employees leave. If someone tells you the opportunity for advancement is important, don’t hire him if you know there won’t be opportunities for advancement because of the size or structure of the company. It’s not fair to him, and it won’t be fair to the company when he becomes disengaged or packs up and leaves.
Give challenging and meaningful work. You’ve moved around your existing team to maximize their potential. You’ve gone out and recruited the appropriate talent. Now put them to work. Employees become disengaged when they think their potential and time is being wasted.
Train them. Once you have them, train them. Do not assume since employees came to the table with the skills you need that you won’t need to provide professional development. An untrained employee is a disengaged employee.
You can have an extraordinary vision, but if you haven’t identified and positioned the appropriate talent, all the effort and motivation in the world won’t get you there. Sometimes we simply have to step back, analyze our business, and rebuild a team to maximize organizational success.
© 2015 Clint Swindall — Clint is the president & CEO of Verbalocity, Inc., a personal development company with a focus on leadership enhancement. For information about how he can enhance employee engagement in your organization, please visit www.verbalocity.com, or contact him directly firstname.lastname@example.org.