There are four questions each leader should ask first when thinking about people and the business.
- Are all of your stakeholders happy and engaged?
- Would you enthusiastically “re-hire” all of them (this includes customer, partners, employees, etc.)
- Is your executive team healthy and aligned?
- Do you have the right people in the right seats doing the right things?
Citizant – Right People, Right Seats, Right Things story
Citizant is an IT staffing and contract firm in the Washington, DC, market. Raymond and Alba were founders (husband and wife team) and they were growing very nicely quarter over quarter – then they hit a wall and had trouble continuing their growth process.
One of my colleagues in Gazelles International spent time with them and walked through a simple “people” exercise to help determine the source of the challenges to growth. He asked 3 key questions every organization should ask at least once a year (often more frequently):
•Are there any seats with 2 or more people/leaders? (lacks clarity and accountability)
•Are there leaders that are occupying too many seats (key roles)? (to be truly effective)
•Are there missing or empty seats (roles) that are vital for success? (needs accountable leadership)
As he worked with Raymond and Alba, the following key challenges were identified and corrected: Both Alba and Raymond were acting as CEOs, thus sending mixed messages and confusing their teams; Dick (a key leader) was occupying multiple roles and was spread too thin and thus was ineffective; the role of customer service (care) did not exist, that is, there was no one accountable for customer satisfaction and it was suffering. Also, when asked who was in charge of Marketing, he was told that they all were which means that no one was.
Corrective actions were taken, roles clarified, key leaders added – and they broke through their growth barrier and went on to a new and exciting level of success!
Further to making sure you have the right folks in the right seats, here are some other ideas on how to get the most out of your team:
- Hire fewer and pay them more. The Container Store pays its employees 2x the industry average and has a 3x industry average ratio of revenue to FTE. Costco has a similar model and impact as does Goldman Sachs. So few companies do this. It can be a game changer and huge competitive advantage but means that you have to look at your people and how you support them in a different way.
- Uncover, codify and keep alive Core Values and Purpose. Companies like Zappos, Starbucks and Rackspace are known for their focus on Core Values and Purpose. Graham Weston, Founder of Rackspace says, “What we all want is to be valued members of a winning team on an inspiring mission”. People want to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. Give it to them. It will be one of the best investments you ever make and it costs virtually $0.
- Hire the best people you can afford and keep them challenged and growing. A players like to work with other A players. Coincidentally, when the company starts to lose its way, the A players are the first to go creating a downward spiral effect. Hire intentionally and with a plan. Most hiring processes are haphazard and loosely organized. This is arguably the most important thing we could ever do in a company and too often we do not give it the respect it deserves.
- Provide 1-1 coaching to your team. Coaching is a skill and a mindset. A good coach/manager strives to make him/herself unnecessary for the day to day work and puts the team and direct reports first. The team should only “need” the manager for exceptions, overall direction, and inspiration. When I was GM, I knew that when my team no longer needed me for the fundamental daily work freeing me up to think longer term and how I can best help each of them grow, that I was doing my job well and it felt great!
- Proactively recognize and show appreciation regularly. Also, when I was GM, we created a team-led initiative to “catch someone doing something right”. The division was groupSPARK so we called it “Spark-ing” someone. It was a great success and I enjoyed walking around seeing all the blue ribbons proudly displayed in everyone’s cube. We also did some other fun things around our main goal which was customer satisfaction that ended up earning us a 92% approval rating from our client base up from 58% the previous year. The entire team headed to a ballpark that summer to watch a game together as a celebration. One of my proudest moments.
There are a number of other important things to do to help your people succeed such as:
- Set clear expectations
- Remove demotivators
- Help them discover their strengths and leverage them (see below)
- Throw them a party on their first day, not just on their last day.
Focus on strengths
Many managers seek to make well-rounded employees. They search for weaknesses to fix and have been brain-washed into thinking this is the appropriate strategy. However, the best managers realize that this is nearly impossible and they work to build well-rounded teams that leverage the strengths of the individual members. This takes practice and skill that most managers do not yet possess. This is an important way to help your team excel.
One exercise to help your team to find their strengths is the Love/Loathe test oft-credited to Marcus Buckingham. Here is how it works.
Things you Love give you strength and energy. You look forward to them. Things you Loathe sap your energy. You get bored or tired while doing them, put them off or do not do them at all even when they are necessary.
Create the love/loathe list – For a few weeks, keep a list of things that you Love and Loathe. Create a column for each on a sheet of paper or your electronic device.
Once you feel like you have enough, look at the Love column – this is where your true talents are. These are things you could likely do all day and never get tired.
Next, look down the Loathe column. These are things you should think about how to stop doing or delegate to someone else. These are items you need to figure out what to do with. Rory Vaden, the author of Procrastinate on Purpose, suggests three options:
- Delegate – give to someone else on the team that enjoys the task
- Eliminate – Many things we do are legacy related and may no longer need to be done.
- Procrastinate – Drop it to the bottom of the list and keep it there. If no one comes looking for it, you can probably eliminate it. If they do, revisit Delegate or “grin and bear it” because someone has to do it. An alternative is to create a new position if it is worthy of it.
This and the several other items are samples of what a solid manager will do to get the most out of the team. What’s more, if done well, the team loves it. Productivity, team strength, and esprit de corps should begin to skyrocket.
There is so much more I could write here about hiring humble, hungry and (people) smart team members, having Core Values and Purpose alive in your organization to create an immune system for poor fits and a magnet to attract the best people, establishing a North Star to help guide everyone, creating a culture of learning, teaching your supervisors to be coaches not managers, teaching your leaders to be vulnerable and trusting of one another, creating a deliberate and thoughtful hiring process, creating an environment that fosters psychological safety, etc. but like to keep my posts to less than a 5-minute read (see below for more resources on the topic).
The People decision is THE most important one you can make as they (and you) do everything to help make your company successful. You, as CEO/Owner, cannot do everything – come up with the strategy, make every decision, create every process, hire every person, negotiate every deal, etc. and expect to scale. You MUST have a team around you that can get the job done one. I encourage every leader to improve in this area if they want a successful and growing company.
Try just one or two of these things with your team and see what the results are. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
Consider this my holiday gift to you!
For more on the topic read any of the following authors – Pat Lencioni, Liz Wiseman, Kip Tindell, Marcus Buckingham, Rory Vaden, Simon Sinek, Dave Logan, and Tony Hsieh. I have a number of their books (and others) listed in the Resources area on my site.
I look forward to your comments. If you found this post useful, please share, comment and/or like.