Surround an employee with highly motivated people and what happens? Their drive and performance increases. Surround an employee with less motivated people and what happens? Their drive and performance decreases.
Motivation is contagious. That was a key finding from a series of studies by researchers at the University of Rochester. We are influenced by and mimic the people in our environment. For better or for worse.
Two big surprises: 1) Workers were unaware of the influence that others had on their performance. 2) Inserting even a single highly motivated or less motivated individual in the workplace can impact the performance of others.
Hire, cultivate and reinforce highly motivated people. People who are driven to achieve. You’ll find it’s contagious.
You’re recruiting for a key position. You want to get the best person you can. Finally, you find a sure-fire candidate and bring him on-board with great expectations. And he fails.
Why? Because he didn’t mesh with the team. Because his traits, style or values somehow undermined his ability to get things done with and through people.
The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Success requires collaboration and cooperation. Recruit individuals but select team members. As a football coach I learned a valuable lesson that holds true in business much as it does in sport: The best players don’t necessarily make the best team. But the best team usually wins.
Successful leaders are smart enough to know that they’re not smart enough to know it all. And neither are their employees. So they surround themselves with a network of external resources who are vital to their success.
That was one of the main conclusions from The Breakthrough Company, by Keith McFarland. McFarland and his team looked at over 7000 fast-growing, mid-sized companies to determine which ones sustained strong growth, which ones stalled, and why.
Nine companies were identified as breakthrough companies. A common practice of those companies is that they regularly used external resources like advisory boards, customer councils, industry experts and consultants, and that they had high expectations of them.
Breakthrough companies are open to and value outside expertise. Non-breakthrough companies are more insular and don’t value outside partnerships as much.
Access the resources you need to access. It doesn’t matter if they’re not employees. What matters is if they can help you win.
What do you need from the emerging leaders on your team? Author and professor Howard Gardner has identified five minds that must be mastered to meet future demands:
The Disciplined Mind – mastery of an applied discipline (such as marketing) and the underpinnings of that discipline (such as psychology)
The Synthesizing Mind – the ability to organize and integrate extensive and varied information
The Creating Mind – the drive to ask “what if” questions, and take action to explore the possible
The Respectful Mind – understanding, appreciating and working effectively with diverse individuals
The Ethical Mind – a sense of obligation to act as a responsible worker, colleague and citizen
To successfully deal with increasingly complex environments and challenges, these are the minds you should test for and select for.
At some point, the realization smacks every entrepreneur in the face. For your business to continue to grow and thrive, it has to evolve beyond you.
The more your business depends on you the greater its exposure. Is the vision and roadmap locked in your head? Are you the sole keeper of key customer information? Do critical supplier relationships depend on you? Are you the brand? So if a bolt of lightning strikes you, what happens to the company?
Need more convincing? You’re not scalable. You can’t do it all. At some point your business will outgrow your capacity to do it all. And that’s good.
That’s why you need to extend your company’s leadership beyond you to a true leadership team. People with the right skills, traits and motives to oversee and transform the various aspects of the business. Yes, you’ll need to relinquish some control. Yes, they might not do things exactly as you would. And, yes, for some things they simply might not be as good as you. But you still can’t do it all. So find the best people you can, support them, develop them, and then let them help you win.
One of my favorite principles is converging evidence. The idea that when evidence from different sources points toward the same conclusion, you can be confident in that conclusion.
Take selecting a new hire. How confident are you with your selections? Ideally, you want converging evidence from different sources that tells you a candidate is a winner.
What you want is multiple interviews by people at different levels including a candidate’s prospective boss, peers and direct reports.
2) Role Plays
Effective when the position requires exceptional interpersonal skills, like in sales or customer service.
3) Job Simulations
If technical skills are important, give the candidate a chance to demonstrate them. Put a CFO candidate in a room with mock financial statements and have them come back with their assessment and recommendations. Have a welder weld. Assess their speed and quality.
4) Assessment Profiles
There are a number of well-established instruments that reveal things like a candidate’s work preferences, interpersonal style and values – things that may be hard to extract from an interview.
Generally not that helpful although if the right questions are asked (“If there was one thing you wish you had known about Joe when you hired him, what would that be?”) they can help to uncover red flags.
6) Online Searches
Almost everyone has left breadcrumbs on the web. Just be careful how you interpret all that personal information you come across.
7) Substance Abuse Testing
Certain positions inherently involve such a level of risk to others that pre-employment substance abuse testing is desirable.
8) Verify Credentials
Don’t set false barriers (see my June 4 blog), but if a position legitimately requires some type of degree or certification, obtain a valid copy of that document.
Many leaders are finding that despite the quantity of talent available in the marketplace, there is a shortage of quality. Applying the principle of converging evidence can help you find the nuggets in the stream.
I’m all for education. I should be, I have a PhD. But I’m not for organizations saying a degree is a hard-and-fast job requirement when it’s not.
The best boss I ever had was Arthur at FedEx. Arthur was focused, bright and committed. He had impeccable integrity. He gave his people direction and support, and then let them do their jobs. He recognized people’s successes and held them accountable if they weren’t successful. Arthur got results.
What Arthur didn’t have was a university degree.
My Dad was a great boss. His people loved him. He was a savvy businessman and outstanding communicator. He was motivated, dedicated, confident and successful. His was a classic front-line-employee-to-senior-executive story.
My Dad didn’t graduate from high school.
I’m not against education. I’m not saying it’s useless, I’m not saying it isn’t important. If I ever have to have brain surgery I’ll feel a lot better knowing the surgeon graduated from Med school.
What I am saying is don’t make education a false barrier for a job. Say that a degree is preferred. Say that it’s strongly preferred. But unless it’s an absolute necessity to capably execute a job, don’t make it one.
As unemployment remains high, employers are coming to grips with an uncomfortable paradox: There’s no shortage of people looking for work, but there is a shortage of top-tier talent. Whether it’s salespeople in Seattle, welders in Wisconsin or managers in Manhattan, it’s tough to find great people.
Yet many organizations are only mildly proactive when it comes to recruitment and selection. Job openings get posted on on-line sites. Or managers pass it off to the HR department.
Great organizations compete for talent. You compete to get and keep customers, why wouldn’t you do the same for employees? Make it an expectation of every manager. When you come across someone – a server in a restaurant, somebody selling to you – who just might be a good fit for your organization, give the person your business card, your 10-second pitch, and invite them to call you. If you know of someone in your industry who is a top performer then make them an offer they can’t refuse.
Have your employees do the word-of-mouth recruiting for you. How? By making your organization a great place to work. A place where people can achieve, be recognized, grow, be challenged, and have fun. Organizations that are great places to work attract great people.
If you’re committed to winning, then simply posting job openings isn’t going to cut it. Compete for talent.
Frank stared intently at me, wanting to see if after three years as a college football coach, assistant to him, I had discovered the secret. Having won two national championships as a head coach, it was clear that Frank had.
“No,” I replied, “I don’t know what the most important thing is to be a successful coach.” It felt like one of those landmark moments and I was ready to receive the pearl.
“Mike,” he said, his eyes narrowing as he leaned forward. “Get the studs. Get the people who can help you win. For all the time you spend coaching and coercing, your life is a thousand times easier if you get the people who can get the job done.”
Exactly as true in business as it is in sports. Get the right people, get the studs. You will save yourself inestimable time, effort and grief by getting the people who are capable and driven to get the job done.
And “stud” doesn’t necessarily mean the best individual performer. You define what stud means in terms of performance, collaboration, behavior and cultural fit. But once you do, go after the studs with a vengeance. Don’t just recruit. Compete for talent.
You can be the best coach in the world but without strong people you can’t win.
Get the studs.
Effective Leadership. Without it, an organization simply can't achieve and sustain success. With it, anything is possible. So what is the essence of effective leadership? Is there a simple answer?
Jack Welch - some guy who used to run GE - says there is. Effective leadership was a cornerstone of Welch's management philosophy and under his watch leadership development became a key to GE's success. What leadership qualities did Welch look for? Four "E's". Do you have energy? Do you energize others? Do you have the edge to make tough decisions? Can you execute? That's it. Four "E's".
See if it works for you. Rate each member of your leadership team as a leader. Then rate them on the four "E's." Now have each of them rate themselves as a leader and on each "E".
Do the ratings of the four "E's" correlate with perceived leadership effectiveness? Do your ratings largely align with their self-ratings? If so, the four "E's" may be a useful tool to assess leadership, spotlight developmental opportunities, and identify outright limitations.
If simple works, then keep it simple. Do you have the energy and edge to energize and execute?