Let’s ask the tough questions right up front…Are our employees or coworkers the right fit for our Future Forward businesses? Do they have what it takes to lift our businesses to the next level?
How’s that for an opening? We could have eased into this delicately, but ensuring the future relevancy of your business isn’t just about exciting next trends or cool technologies or stirring new products. It’s also about the people who must make it work. If they are neither capable nor willing to carry it out, your business is at risk.
Did the opening questions make you uncomfortable or a little scared? If so, you already have your answer: your team needs to be upgraded immediately.
I do understand how difficult a topic this is. Employees and coworkers often become your friends, sometimes family, and it is difficult to approach logically. Think of it this way, though: If the starter on your car was not working, you’d fix it. If your smart phone kept dropping calls, you would replace it. If your Wi-Fi only worked at half speed half of the day, you would upgrade it. Managing your team is no different.
So, how do we develop the team that keeps your business relevant and impactful in the future?
Step 1: Evaluate
My personal experience has led me to focus on the acronym AIDED. I always think of it as “I know that I need to be AIDED to achieve success.” This means that I look for team members to be Adaptable, Innovative, Driven, Energetic and Disruptive. Essentially, I want people who can easily navigate changes in the environment, readily offer new ideas, enjoy working hard, are full of energy and constantly want to make processes and products different and better than before. I love people who look at things as they should be, instead of as they have been.
You’re probably saying to yourself that these types of people are rare. Well, they are rare because very few leaders take the time to develop these qualities within their people. Countless individuals have these abilities; they have just never been nurtured. This begins with leadership…it starts with you. Teams reflect their leader, so the true first step is evaluating yourself and putting yourself on the right path to being adaptable, innovative, driven, energetic and disruptive.
Then, it’s time to evaluate the current capabilities of your team. I focus on three actions:
- Mission – Clearly defining what you want your company to be and being consistent to that mission will assist you in identifying who is on board and who is not. You’re looking for people who are enthusiastic about the mission. People like this will propel you forward.
- Transparency – Share the good and the bad of the situation you are facing. Also, share the microphone and be open to their ideas. Transparency will build understanding and buy in for the mission.
- Score – There must be measurement to discern whether members are the right fit today or have the potential to be the right fit tomorrow. You’ll find that you have some great people, but be prepared, as you will also uncover those who either don’t have the skills or are just unwilling to grow with you and the company.
Step 2 – Transformation
Executing change is essential. Please don’t let feelings of friendship get in the way. If the team members truly are your friends, they will help you transform the company. If they are unwilling, then they really aren’t friends.
Transformation must happen and it starts with your score card.
- Organize – Develop an organizational chart outlining the positions needed for the future.
- Move – Elevate the people whom you have identified as the right fit for your company to the roles that are best suited for their skills. Always match skill set with position; don’t put square pegs in round holes. Plus, understand that there will be gaps in the organizational chart; you will hire for those.
- Remove – This is the hard part for sure. Some team members will not possess the necessary skill sets. Look for ways to help them transition to a new business. Other team members may have ability but be unwilling to adapt. Part ways with them ASAP, as they can impede your efforts to improve your firm.
- Hire – This is the exciting part as you look to bring new people with new experiences and new ideas into your company as you fill the holes in the organizational chart.
Step 3 – Nurture
After placing the right people in the right roles, a focused cultivation will help the team grow quickly. Try the best practices below.
- Listen – The team is made up of innovative members who are willing to disrupt existing practices. Leverage that. Incite that. I personally like to hold “cooking” sessions where I gather the team together, toss a few thoughts (ingredients) into the middle of the table and let an uninhibited discussion ensue. Chaos sometimes follows, but the group turns it into solid and actionable ideas. When we have a good idea, we often throw a few more ingredients in the pot and stir a little more. I am always amazed at the unexpected yet creative ideas that are cooked up. A key for me is mixing people with experience and inexperience in the room together. I love ideas that are not diluted or polluted by legacy experience yet end up being enriched by the more experienced in the room.
- Empower – Allow your team to make decisions on their own. You picked them for a reason; let them own their actions and have the freedom to make it work. Micromanaging inhibits growth, so macro-manage to encourage growth.
- Train – Support everyone in improving every day. Be open to paying for outside training on core competencies. Encourage the team to bring you learning opportunities that make them and the company better.
- Experiment – Create a culture where failure is okay. I would rather someone try something new and fail than create a culture where they never try new things at all. Don’t misinterpret this, though – consistent failure is not acceptable.
- Measure/Accountability – Evaluate results every day and be accountable as both a group and as individuals. More importantly, be adaptable and nimble in making course corrections based on the data.
- Motivate – To me, what really makes a team a team is the support that each member has for one another. Build enthusiasm. Build a culture where everyone tries to make the person next to them even better. Do not accept anything less. A single member not supporting the rest of the team will destroy the entire culture.
If I could offer my two best pieces of advice to developing a future forward team, I would say:
- Surround yourself with people who are adaptable, innovative, driven, energetic and disruptive. Settle for nothing less.
- Fill the right skills to the right roles; you want team members who know their roles better than you do. ▪