Are You the Problem or the Solution?
Don’t we all want to feel valued in the place where we spend so much of our time? What will happen if you don’t invest in your people? They’ll leave anyway. Or, worse, they’ll mentally quit, and stay.
So many companies are trying to solve the wrong problems—fighting the smoke, not the flames. Yes, you need to get rid of the smoke if you want to breathe, but the smoke will be there until the fire is put out. Will your misdiagnosis cause your organization to fail? Perhaps not, but it can stifle your company’s growth. Misdiagnosis is a mistake you can’t afford, especially when employees are ready to leave the moment something better comes along.
So how can you diagnose a problem correctly? It begins with you—the leader. The people you hire create the foundation of your company. Ultimately, they will be your greatest assets.
The Three Essential Questions
Right out of the gate, this simple question gives people the liberty to express their thoughts about why they would or would not recommend their place of employment. The conversation quickly moves through subjects like pay grade, management style, and work environment, all at the employee’s guidance. To help identify consistent trends in a company and what matters most to employees, try to include these questions in every interview:
- On a scale from 1 to 10—with 1 being “I hate it” and 10 being “I’d never want to work anywhere else”—how much do you love your job?
- If the answer is higher than 8 or lower than 5: What’s the number one reason why?
- What’s the greatest thing the company does for you that keeps you here?
The idea is to form the foundation of actionable ideas that will help the company increase engagement and loyalty. Then if you want to create lasting, meaningful change, you have to talk about solutions. Remember if your people can’t grow where they are, they will leave and grow somewhere else.
Creating Your Dream Team
Hiring process, and the practices that the most successful leaders have followed as they hired new employees for their companies comes down to four basic principles:
#1 Hire the right person, not the convenient person
Okay, you might be thinking: “But where do I find the right people? They don’t seem to be anywhere!” or “I don’t need any more employees right now.” That may be true, but this mentality is a reactive one. If you want the right people to help build your company, stop operating under the perception that any effort to change or improve your business can happen only when it’s forced upon you, or when you have no other choice but to start looking for more employees. Instead, remember that innovative organizations are proactive. They are always on the lookout for great people. Having a mindset of “always be recruiting” will make it easier for you to hire the people you want, instead of the ones you think you desperately need.
#2 Hire internally when possible
The smartest place to look for a new hire is within your own company. More often than not—and despite what they want prospective employees to believe—companies hire from the outside because they believe it will save money.
Hiring younger or less experienced employees so you can pay them less than you’d pay to promote from within might be cheaper in the short run, but it’s not an effective policy in the long run. Hiring from outside has two immediate consequences for existing employees:
- It discourages them from seeing any potential for future growth within the company.
- It begins to disengage them from their work.
Though hiring from the inside will help your people feel excited and empowered about the career potential they’ll find in your organization—and that means increased engagement, and increased loyalty.
#3 Hire for the ABCs: attitude, behavior, and character
Hiring for these three qualities is at least as important as hiring for technical ability. In some fields, it might even be more important.
In the past, hiring managers typically focused on where candidates have worked and what they’ve done, how many degrees they have, or where they went to school. But the working market is changing—creativity, adaptability, collaboration, teamwork, and the ability to communicate are now considered essential for many jobs.
These skills are difficult to assess from résumés, especially when you consider that a high percentage of résumés are, shall we say, inaccurate. Catching someone in a lie tells you something about that person’s character, so that, at least, is one way to eliminate someone from your pool of candidates. Integrity seems like an important requirement for just about any job (outside of politics of course)
Checking an applicant’s references is a good place to start. Occasionally there’s just a tone or there’s just a hint, even if they’re saying something nice like, ‘Oh, they’re a hard worker. But you can always sense something.
Use interviews to learn what you can about the candidate. To draw people out asks three questions
- If you could pick the ideal job and it had all the things you need, what would that entail? What are the things that you would have on your list?”
- Tell me about a place you’ve worked where you wish that things had been a little bit different, and what you would do to fix it.”
- Who is somebody that you really loved working with? And why did you love working with them?”
#4 Let your employees focus on what they do best
If you want an employee to stay actively engaged, make sure the tasks you assign them are aligned with the strengths they naturally possess. This doesn’t imply that you shouldn’t push or challenge your people to try new things or expand their skill sets, but more that you should ask yourself where you could put them and who you could put them with to best utilize those strengths.
The most personable employers asked their prospects (internal or external) questions like these:
- What is your life’s dream?
- What is it that you want to achieve in life?
- What means the most to you?
- What do you want to accomplish in the workplace
These might feel quite personal, and not everyone will want to answer them—maybe not until they know you better, maybe not ever—and that’s fine. Your intention is not to trample people’s boundaries, but to communicate interest and caring. A big part of your role is to be a mentor, but it’s hard to be a mentor if your employees don’t even know what they can expect from you.
Keep It Simple
The leaders who have the highest employee regard are the ones who are masters at keeping things simple—not only within their leadership, but also throughout their businesses. This simplicity allows for better interaction with employees and greater access to them as leaders. For the most part, it comes down to priorities, and being great at creating boundaries and standards that lend themselves to simplicity.
Whatever you’re doing and whomever you’re doing it with deserves the gift of your time and attention. An inaccessible leader is of no benefit to a team.
Here’s some good news: there are a few simple things you can do right now to create time in your schedule with hardly any major adjustments. Here’s a quick list:
#1 Cut your meetings in half.
Obviously, sometimes you do need a meeting. But don’t think you can’t simplify it, no matter what the topic. Cut it in half. Yes, trying to cover too much information in too
#2 Cut workplace stressors.
Five factors that are often the largest source of stress for employees:
- A rigid and controlling manager
- Low salary
- Excessive workload
- Lack of support or friendship from colleagues
- Limited prospects for growth or advancement
#3 Cut the clutter.
An unorganized or unkempt office environment affects employees’ esteem, along with their value for the company.
#4 Cut bad habits (and swap in the good).
Don’t be afraid to leverage the skills of your people to better their experience, and everyone’s environment.
Give Them the Wheel and Let Them Drive
If you don’t trust your employees with more responsibility, then perhaps you’ve hired the wrong people. Or maybe you don’t yet know your employees well enough to assess their character and capabilities. If that’s the case, start there: get to know your people, and make sure they can trust you. And keep in mind that cultivating ownership is not all-or-nothing, nor is it tossing your people into the deep end of the pool and seeing whether they sink or swim. Start small, experiment and evaluate, change your approach as needed, and build on successes.
A lot of the great initiatives can be organized into five categories:
#1 Enable your employees to act.
Organizations can create a culture of ownership by giving employees the autonomy to help clients in whatever ways seem appropriate.
#2 Involve your team in hiring decisions.
Rather than leave hiring exclusively to the hiring managers, innovative companies often bring their wider staff into that process.
#3 Allow flexible schedules.
Employees are now looking for and needing more flexibility to meet the various demands both inside and outside the workplace.
#4 Ask for ideas.
As you brainstorm ways to let your employees drive the car, consider asking them what they think.
#5 Delegate responsibility
Sometimes you don’t even need to ask; you just need to listen when your employees come to you and ask to take charge of something.
Small Things over a Long Period of Time
Greatness does not come from a function of circumstance. Greatness comes from a function of conscious choice and discipline. The greatest part about your role in leadership is that it matters. The hardest part is that it matters every day.
The most successful leaders practice all of the principles and they practice them on a constant, consistent basis. They understand all of this:
- A single moment in time is priceless, and can change a person’s direction in life.
- Leadership is a key factor in employee retention. People quit bosses, not jobs. And they stay for them, too.
- You can create your employee Dream Team by hiring the right people for the right positions, and connecting your people with each other so that you are all acting as a cohesive whole.
- Becoming a Mentor Manager creates stronger influence, increased profitability, and loyalty that lasts.
- Your job as a Mentor Manager is to spark the possibilities in the people you lead.
- People work at their best in a safe, encouraging, and calm environment. You can create this environment by keeping things simple.
- When you give your employees a sense of ownership over their job and their career, they feel more invested in developing their skills—and in the company’s success.
- You must let people do their jobs, but check in continually to see how they’re doing and to find out their status and what they need.
- Hard times reveal true character—how you respond is what people will remember most.
- Mentors always need mentoring.
- And, finally, your employee’s job is one part of a larger life, and that life requires passion, purpose, and the ability to provide.
Your final moment to master, is this: stand up for your responsibility to yourself, to your business, and to the people you lead, and become the type of leader that makes people say “I love it here.” You have the tools and the ability to become this rare and influential mentor, and there is truly nothing in your way.
It’s not about being the best in the world… it’s about being the best for the world.