Most people want to win. It’s human nature to be competitive and hungry to achieve more than the status quo. As leaders, we often make the mistake of believing that we should have our thumb on every section of our company for it to be successful, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. When you fill your team with individuals who have the motivation and desire to exceed expectations, you’re opening your organization up to unforeseen growth opportunities. The best part is that you don’t have to create these high performers yourself — they are already out there. You just have to cultivate them.
Cultivating high performers starts before those individuals are even on your team. During the hiring process, doing several dozen background checks and evaluating people’s credit scores is not your top priority. Those things should happen, but more importantly, remember that you can learn a lot from picking up the phone and checking references.
When you do, don’t ask how many words per minute the person can type. Dig a little deeper, and focus on evaluating the person’s true potential by asking the reference questions like:
- If you were hiring this person, where would you put them in your organization?
- What would you need to do to ensure this person thrives?
- How would you drive them to be successful?
Answers to these questions can help you gain valuable insight into the person’s ability to be a high performer in your workspace.
With this in mind, it’s arguably just as important to involve the team they’ll be working with in the interview process. Oftentimes, executives or hiring managers handle the interview, then try to interject someone into a team without knowing whether they’ll be a good match. Rather than forcing a puzzle piece to fit, set yourself up for success from the get-go by including one or two members from the team to meet the candidate and decide if they’ll be a beneficial addition to the group.
Not only is this useful to the team as a whole, but it also helps the interviewee feel more at ease within the interview, especially because they’re meeting the people they’ll be working with. At the end of the interview, a good hiring manager will take into consideration every person’s feedback; if an overwhelming group of individuals says the candidate isn’t a good fit, then they’re not the right fit.
Don’t be a micromanager
If you want high performers to meet their potential — and stick around — let them do their jobs. Micromanagement is a growth killer.
Your role as a leader of the organization is to lead: create vision, establish KPIs, drive productivity. It is not to keep a watchful eye on everyone’s daily activities. If you feel the need to do a daily check-in with an established worker, the bottom line is that you hired the wrong person. High performers won’t need much leadership to excel.
Once you’ve established clear expectations for each employee, everybody knows what they need to do and should have the freedom to do it. Then, measure their success on results, not on whether they’re everyone’s favorite colleague. Every single million-dollar salesperson I’ve had on my team wasn’t someone the rest of the office wanted to grab a beer with after work. That’s OK!
High performers are those who can self-internalize and self-manage, meaning their managers won’t need hourly play-by-plays of the work they’re doing; their results will speak for themselves. Numbers don’t lie, so it’s important to provide your team with the resources they need to be successful, then get out of the way and let them do the work they were hired to do.
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Success on multiple levels
There’s an old story in the business world that is as relevant now as it ever was before. A CEO says to his CFO, “We have to spend our money on training our people better.”
“Absolutely not,” says the CFO, “We can’t afford it. And what if we train them and they leave?”
“Yeah, but what if we don’t train them, and they stay?”
Entrepreneurs, especially in start-ups, are often hesitant to invest money into education because they’re worried about wasting time and funds on employees who may ultimately leave the company. However, this type of mentality is detrimental to any organization. At the end of the day, you’ll wind up hurting your company more if team members stay but are uneducated.
High performers want to win, but to do that, you have to set them up with the tools and resources needed to be able to win. Every single position should have a measurable KPI for success — and on top of that, even higher goals and growth opportunities. Start with minimum role expectations, then provide higher markers that aren’t necessarily required. Given two measurable goals, people will naturally want to hit that upper goal. It’s in our nature as competitors. Use the ego — which we all have — to your advantage.
That doesn’t mean we sit back and hope our employees will figure out how to reach top-tier goals on their own. Continued education is extremely important for all roles and levels of your organization. If someone wants to start off in client services and end up as a manager of that team, there should be a curriculum for them to achieve those aspirations. If another employee wants to move to finance, give them opportunities to take relevant courses and prove their eagerness to advance.
Cultivate, don’t create
Ultimately, high performers mean high results. In the startup world especially, entrepreneurs simply don’t have the time to manage every single project at a micro-level. The people you hire and the way you educate and motivate them are key to long-term success. The question is, are you willing to do what it takes to achieve that?
Do your due diligence and let your team in on the hiring process. Set clear expectations, give them tiered goals, and provide the resources to accomplish them. Most of all, if you hire the right person, you just need to get out of the way and let them do their damn job.