Posts Tagged 'career development'

Developing Teams – It’s About Time To Get Serious!

In the spring of 2008, I made over a dozen presentations to business groups interested in learning how to be more effective and successful managers. 

When they hired me, these folks knew they were going to hear about one thing, leading, or managing if you prefer, people.   After 20 years in management training, that is the part of the business I understand best.

 

In every instance, whether I was speaking at a trade show and conference or to a private business management team, in one way or another, I asked this question; what is your most vital resource?  To clarify, if you had to pick one resource that, if properly used, will lead to success, what would it be?  And I offer these choices; Products? Equipment? Operating capital? Credit? Marketing programs? People?  And in every instance the answer is the same; people are the key resource in building a successful business.  It’s not that other resources aren’t required; it’s that they are more easily acquired and managed.  If you accept that as fact, let’s move on.

 

Again this season, as in every spring since 1985 [when I began training/consulting], I encountered owners and managers who struggled mightily with people. It has to be the single biggest frustration we face. 

 

As an example, reflecting on my experience with one company, the sequence of events goes like this:

  1. Plan the year…marketing strategies and details.
  2. Create the annual budget with all known costs, revenue projections, etc.
  3. Set timelines/benchmarks for activities, marketing, sales, and production.
  4. Oh yea, people!  Do we have enough of them?

 

And the story repeats itself to a greater or lesser degree in 90% of the businesses I encounter.

 

My point; everything is nailed down…except for people.  Smart managers plan and strategize.  Owners and top managers with valuable experience lay out the year, deal with banks and vendors.   We know it pays to contact each customer and confirm their business for next year.  So, many make the time to do that.  But staffing with the right people? Gee, time to get the ad in the paper.  Bad.

 

Enough ‘brow beating’.  The intent of this article is to make you think about developing your team.  My goal is to get you to put people on the top of your resource planning list and do it now!  The intended result will be to begin 09 with the best prepared core of people you’ve ever had.  Does it take time? Yes.  Will you invest more labor dollars up front? Yes.  Is it a smart business move? Yes…if you do it properly, as part of an overall people strategy that builds teams vs. just filling chairs.

 

Mistakes to eliminate:

  • Assuming your best, core people are satisfied and will be there when you need them most.
  • Assuming staffing is pretty much a ‘roll the dice’, run the ad and see what happens game you play without predictable results.
  • Assuming you can start new hires and bring them up to speed in a week or two.
  • Assuming training and daily coaching will happen without specific, focused plans in place.
  • Assuming you can’t control new hire turnover.

 

Strategies I’ve seen work to develop people:

 

  • Assess your staff.  Don’t assume you know a person’s mind.  If you want to build a team of loyal, committed players, you must begin by confirming that motivationally, your veteran leaders are ‘on board’ and supportive of your business philosophy and practices.  If not, they will sink your ship, guaranteed.  Have a one-on-one with core team members.  How did the year go for them?  Are they getting bored, need a challenge or expanded responsibility.  What can you do for them that will motivate them to help you?
  • Designate a competent person to handle new hire recruiting and on-boarding.  It’s time to get serious about bringing on the best new hires.  You cannot develop someone who is simply doesn’t have what it takes or who has taken the job for invalid reasons.  Understand, you can control this process and, do a large degree, the results will be predictable.  The days of finding the best new people in the classified ads are gone.  You’ve got to be more pro-active than in the past.

          Sales reps find jobs on the internet.  Go to ‘monster’ or ‘career builder’   and be pro-active!  Scan resume’s listed and contact them!  This takes time.  Assign the responsibility or do it yourself but don’t sit, waiting and hoping ‘the ad works’.

          21st workers search specific, industry focused internet sites. So, get familiar with sites that address your industry and business.

          Use your best employees to find additional labor.  Create incentives for successful ‘in house’ recruiting.

 

Don’t let incompetent people conduct screening interviews!  Prepare and role-play the hiring  questions in advance.  Be sure you are looking at past performance as the best indicator of future results.  And, for most jobs, I place a candidate’s attitude above all else in scoring the interview. 

 

Show candidates your ‘best face’ but present the job honestly with clear expectations and rewards.  A candidate will be asking him/herself “Why should I work here”.  You must effectively answer the question in their mind.

 

Don’t forget the interview setting.  What are the physical surroundings like?  Clean or disorganized?  The physical environment means a lot.  Walk outside and come back in.  Would you want to work here?  Is your office private, uninterrupted?  Desk cluttered?  All this matters.

 

 

  • New hire on-boarding must be a positive experience.  Bring new hires into a positive, organized and well planned training, learning environment.  Show the new team member how he/she is now an important team member.  Introductions are first.  How does the new hire fit into the group?  Give the new person an opportunity to spend some time with each veteran and get to know them unsupervised.  You are going through a process called ‘socialization’ and it takes time.  Be sure that each day of the first few weeks is planned and controlled to ensure a positive start and finish.  The new person should be given limited goals, followed by honest but consistent positive reinforcement as they learn and gradually take on more responsibility.  When new people feel important, respected and succeed, they don’t quit.

 

  • Provide ‘hands-on’ daily coaching after the initial training period.  It is vital that the each new person on your team is brought on-board with enough advance time to go through a reasonable learning period without undue stress.  ‘Hands-on’ coaching is an investment of time and effort that is not only worth making, it is key to the new person’s success.  You or your designated ‘recruiting/training’ person can be this coach.  Or, the immediate supervisor can do the job.  But someone must prioritize and maintain consistent daily contact, coaching and reinforcement of early learning.  Though daily coaching, the new hire will learn and form the right habits quickly.  To throw new people out on the job without initial training and follow up coaching simply does not work.  Your investment in the recruiting, on-boarding and follow up coaching process must become an integral part of the annual business plan.

 

 

  • Provide visible ‘top-down’ examples of positive leadership.  Practice what you preach.  If you truly want to build a team of loyal, ‘can-do’ players’, your people must see exactly those traits in you.  Telling people to be considerate of customer’s feelings and needs, then failing to do the same with your staff, sends an undeniable double message.  If your people feel you highly value your customers but treat the staff with less caring and concern, your people will simply leave.  Think about how you treat customers vs. your people.  Be honest. If you place the same priority on your employees feelings about you as you do the opinions of your best customers, I guarantee turnover will drop!  So, don’t assume high turnover.  Be certain you have a positively motivating work place environment.

 

With limited space, I have tried to address some of the most impactful and controllable factors we all face as people managers and leaders.  The suggestions I make have been proven to work in the real world.  How much you need to change, how seriously you take the people challenge is up to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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