One of the most persistent questions leaders ask me at seminars is, “How and where do I find great people?” The most obvious, but overlooked, answer to this question is to start with those you have. If you haven’t done what is necessary to develop the people already on your team it’s irresponsible to dismiss their potential, discard them, hire new people and then subject them to the same abuse. Following is a ten-point checklist to ensure you’re doing what is necessary to bring the best out of those already on your team.
1. Set clear performance standards for them. Quality employees will strive hard to hit your standards if you’re clear about what they are in the first place. One of your first responsibilities as a leader is to make it precisely clear what you expect from each team member.
2. Make certain they understand your vision, mission and core values. These aspects of organizational clarity serve as a filter to help them make decisions, know right from wrong and take appropriate action in given situations.
3. Learn their motivational triggers. You must know people to move people, and the only way to truly know them is by investing your time in a relationship with them to determine their strengths, weaknesses, aspirations and personal hot buttons.
4. Give them fast, honest, specific feedback on performance. Feedback eliminates gray areas that cause people to wonder how they’re doing, or speculate whether or not anyone even cares. Positive reinforcement will bring closure to the productive things they do, and increase the chances they do more of those things. Constructive feedback will confront errant behaviors, give you a chance to redefine what is expected, and make it less likely they do the same wrong things again. It’s essential that feedback is given as close after the performance as possible and is specific in both your praise and correction.
5. Hold them accountable for results. You must care enough to confront them with appropriate consequences when necessary to stop or turn around unacceptable behaviors and production levels, and get them back on track.
6. Consistently train them. Your job is to take the human capital on your team and make it more valuable through training. This means you must provide the time, tools and structure for team members to consistently upgrade their skills, habits and attitude. If the cost of training even gives you pause, consider the cost of having people who remain ignorant and unproductive because you don’t train them.
7. Schedule and conduct one-on-one coaching sessions, and make sure they’re developmental rather than punitive. While the occasional punitive one-on-one coaching session may be necessary to address poor performance, one-on-one coaching sessions are primarily for drawing out the talent and potential each team member brings to the table. They are an incredible opportunity for you to understand, coach, reinforce and challenge each team member to higher performance levels. Make them a priority.
8. Lead by example. This includes keeping your commitments, living the company core values, putting people-work before paperwork, and placing the team’s welfare ahead of your personal pride, preferences or agenda.
9. When they’re not performing well, evaluate them with the “Three T’s”. It’s helpful to periodically evaluate each team member with the question: “Knowing what I now know about this person, if he applied for the job today, would I hire him?” If the answer is “no” you have three options: train him to bring him up-to-speed on the skills necessary to become more successful; transfer him to a position better suited for his skills and talents, or terminate him. Follow the advice in the next point if the first two T’s are not viable options.
10. If after following these strategies the team member still does not make measurable progress in reasonable time, remove him or her. Continuing to invest time and resources into a team member who will not, or cannot grow, cheats those on your team who are bringing to the table what it takes to succeed.
Incidentally, if you have persistently high turnover issues in a given department, there’s a very good chance that the leader of that department is the primary problem. Make sure you’re following the same ten steps with him or her so they are equipped to perform up to your expectations.
Final thought: It may help to remember that when Coach Vince Lombardi took over the Green Bay Packers in 1959, he inherited a team that had suffered through eleven straight losing seasons and had finished the 1958 season with a record of 1-10-1. He turned the team around in a year despite the fact that there was no free agency in those days. Under his leadership, thirteen of those men became All-Pros and seven of the players on that team went to the Hall of Fame including Bart Starr, Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor; all of whom were warming the bench under prior coach Scooter Mclean.