Hiring and scaling your team can be daunting. Very few things are worse than sinking a ton of resources into making a hire and discovering shortly afterward that it was the wrong hire.
Bad hires can be extremely costly in terms of time, money, resources, and—less obviously—team morale.
Having made many mistakes in scaling and building a team myself, I can tell you that one of the most important things in making the right hire is to evaluate fit over skill.
That may seem counterintuitive, but skills can be learned—whereas fit cannot be taught. The right fit includes having the right attitude, dedication, motivation, and belief in the company mission; that way, when they join the team, they learn skills and adapt quickly.
Besides hiring for attitude and fit, do the following four things.
1. Create an effective job description
The reality is, you don't need more people. You need the right people.
A proper job description can repel the wrong people and attract only those who fit your criteria.
For example, if I were to hire an account manager for my agency business, I wouldn't want someone who believes that the customer is always right. That kind of person would want the clients to like them, in which case what usually ends up happening is that a client can ask for more and the account manager would give in. That can lead to over-servicing; eventually, your profitability per client would go down.
When planning your job description, think about the words that would attract the right person. Think about it from the candidate's point of view, specifically from the perspective of why they would be dissatisfied with their current role and why yours is the fit for them.
You actually want job candidates to look at your job description and tell themselves, "This is perfect!" or "Well, this doesn't appeal to me at all."
2. Hire slow. Fire fast. (Seriously.)
Interview for fit and take time to decide based on attitude and potential. You can offer a probationary period and use the "Show Me, Tell Me" model to train them. It's a highly effective teaching method that activates different parts of the brain.
With this model, you show new hires what you're doing so that they are able to emulate you, then you tell them, which gives hires the opportunity to learn by information alone. But don't simply just tell them what to do; tell them why you're doing it this way.
The final step of "Show Me, Tell Me" is to reverse the roles and have them show and tell you what they've learned, using hypothetical scenarios that indicate they've really solidified their knowledge.
They do the work you need them to while you assess their performance and ability to adapt.
A few questions to ask yourself: Are they eager to dive in day one? Does the person raise the team? Do clients rave about them?
If doing so is necessary, let them go. Don't be afraid to fire fast, or else you could hurt your current team of high performers.
3. Delegate outcomes, not tasks
Nobody likes to simply check off a list of to-do items. When onboarding team members, don't tell them exactly what to do; tell them what you want to experience as an end result.
An effective way to do that is to tell your team member, "My dream is to have…" and be explicit with certain expectations of the person. For example, if you would like them to make minor decisions on their own and come to you with only very specific issues, you might say, "My dream is to wake up to a weekly report that tells me what's been done, what's in the works, and what you need from me (and why) to help make your job easier."
In such a scenario, the team member is accountable together with you, the leader. That's why it's important to emphasize a culture of collaboration and co-creation—and why it's important to find the right fit for such an environment.
4. Set a precedent for what is considered outstanding performance
It would be delusional of us to think that just because we've found the right person in the right role that person will stick around forever. Though we can hope so, it's important to be realistic. That means documenting team processes so that you're able to repeat complex routine operations after people leave.
That is one step in creating systems, but it also upholds accountability—in the sense of delineating what you expect out of your hired team members.
Documenting processes for each crucial role, especially as you need to hire people (or replace them), helps ensure you are able to implement what works and scale itwith some consistency. It also means you avoid relying entirely on one or a few people on the team.
Proper documentation goes beyond writing down what is being done day-to-day. Here are a few tips to help you create "playbooks," such as standard operating procedures (SOPs):
- Keep all writing short.
- Replace written documentation with flowcharts to illustrate processes.
- Use short checklists to support the process.
- Make it easier to follow by using icons and graphics.
- Layer processes into sub-steps, if necessary.
Encourage your team to write documentation in-house. Creating it themselves helps ensure they actually, proactively follow procedures.
* * *
Every manager has made a poor hiring decision and wondered
- Am I a bad person?
- Am I doing this wrong?
- I've never been a manager before, I just need more hands to help out. What do I do?
In the end, you want people who aren't afraid of rolling up their sleeves. If they can't do that, don't try to change them; that attempt is not likely to get long-term results.
But when you hire the right person with the right attitude, you'll know: That person will have a positive effect on the entire team and raise everyone's performance level.
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