As businesses and organizations begin to grow and flourish, the leader’s most challenging obstacle becomes recruiting talented people. Some of the most painful experiences of leadership come when we hire the ‘wrong’ people. We end up continuing to do their work, while losing profitability. Our client’s most stressful situations are always around the issue of dealing with underperforming team members. I want to share some of the things we have learned from the pain over the last 10 years.
The first problem is the leader has unrealistic expectations. We have listened to many business owners and entrepreneurs describe their perfect employee: “Work as hard and care as much about the business as I do, bring results immediately, do all the things I don’t like to do.” Usually they are looking for a Unicorn.
Resumes and interviews reveal technical competence and historical experience. Important, yes, but not the most imperative. Typical interview and assessment processes fail to uncover the DNA of a truly exceptional employee. After watching the struggle in hundreds of businesses, here are six characteristics of employees who are consistently top performers.
- Fits the culture of your team: Values must be written down and shared with the team regularly. Values lived out over time create the culture of your business or organization. If your interview process does not screen for value alignment, get better questions before the next one. If the leader cannot talk about the values, that is another problem.
- Driven by the craft, passionate: Work is important to this person. A big part of their identity, story, daily conversation involves their work. While recruiting prospects, search for their passions while they tell their stories.
- Dependable, reliable, does what they say: To find out if this is important to a prospect, ask them about their worst boss ever. If the prospect describes someone who does not do these things, it is important to them.
- Cares about the bigger picture: Great employees ask about vision and values, where the business is going. Leaders must have clear and compelling answers or top performers will go ask someone else.
- Intensity and Initiative → self-motivated and self-directed: Ask prospects what they do when not at work. People that have intensity and initiative have a plan for the weekend, make the most of their time, are trying to make a difference with their lives.
- Consistently delivers results: Great employees are not as concerned about their title as they are about their responsibilities. They know what results they are charged to deliver and it is a matter of personal pride to come in on time and under budget.
Imparting this DNA to a technician that doesn’t have it is nearly impossible. Search instead for people with “The Right Stuff;” they can easily pick up most technical and process details. Adapt the interview and assessment to uncover these six traits and the Acceleration of Results begins.
XM Truth: Unicorns are not real.