Q: Why is it so hard to find great team members?
A: Because we’re asking the wrong questions.
Over many years of talking to successful professionals about their businesses, I’ve noticed a pattern. In the early stages of a career, the conversations are all about building the business. Success, however, brings a new set of challenges and new conversations. At that point the conversations turn to the team, often accompanied by deep sighs and wringing of hands.
The good news is that great leaders understand the critical importance of the team to the success of the business. With that in mind, they get to work and focus on structure, development and compensation . Despite that focus, there seems to be one issue that defeats us – finding the right people.
Based on the comments I hear, it would be easy to believe that skills and intelligence are in short supply among the general population. We know, of course, that isn’t the case. Finding good people isn’t actually that hard. Finding the right people for your business, however, is a very different challenge.
What defines the ‘right’ people?
It goes without saying (I hope) that the right team member has the right technical skills. It shouldn’t stretch our imaginations too far to create a baseline list of technical skills required to do a job well. The right team member also needs the right soft skills. This blinding flash of the obvious suggests that if a team member will be on the front line with clients, they should be friendly, caring and communicative.
The right skills get you a long way, but there’s more. A great team member not only does his or her job well, but is a reflection of your brand. As a result, the team needs to have the same passion and commitment about working with your clients as you. This is particularly important if you’re working with a defined target client or in a niche market. If you work with business owners and your team isn’t energized by business owners, you have a problem.
The greatest businesses don’t just hire for skills, they hire for fit – fit with your existing team, your culture and your clients. In our latest research , we identified a group of advisors we defined as Absolutely Engaged. They’re an elite group who not only run businesses that are growing but businesses that are wildly fulfilling. This is a group that formalizes the concept of ‘right fit’.
Start with Your Existing Team
Ensuring ‘right fit’ starts with your existing team. It’s a tough question to ask, but does everyone on your team share your passion for your ideal client? In a recent post I challenged you to define your target market in a way that was meaningful and authentic . This is a great exercise for your team as well.
Ask each team member to complete the following two sentences.
- At <insert name of your firm here> we work with clients who…..
- The reason we work with those clients is because…..
With this quick exercise you’ll get a clear read on whether your team can accurately describe your ideal target client. More than that, you’ll tap into whether they share your passion for working with that group of people. If the team doesn’t understand why you love to work with your target clients, you won’t succeed in building a business that attracts that target client.
The Missing Link
So what does all this mean when it comes to assessing new team members? It suggests that if we’re going to attract the right people we need to understand what constitutes a ‘good fit’ and change the questions we ask. However if we’re to recognize a good fit, we have to define it first. To that end, don’t do anything until you’ve done two things.
Involve the team
Great firms involve the team to understand what matters to them. By understanding what’s most important to the team you can ensure you’re supporting them in doing their best work. Your team will also provide critical insights into what kind of person will fit well on the team.
2. Articulate your culture
Great firms have intentionally designed the culture they want to create. If you haven’t formally articulated what defines your culture, it will be impossible to determine if someone is a good fit.
A good team member is like any other relationship. If you don’t know what you’re looking for (in a spouse, friend or partner) then anyone who meets the baseline criteria for skills will appear to be a good fit – until they aren’t. Take the time to understand what’s important to you and your clients and use that as a higher order filter for new team members. You’ll narrow the field of potential candidates, but increase the chances that they’ll be great.
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