If you are a new business owner or entrepreneur, you are likely to be creative and willing to take a risk, and you probably assume that most potential team members have the same mindset. Unfortunately, the reality is that not everyone has that mindset, and one of your toughest jobs is to find the right hires to make your business a success.
In these days of rapid change, the pandemic, and worldwide competition, you need to make sure your entire team is customer-focused, innovative, and always looking around the corner for the next big thing. From my own experience hiring and managing people in large companies as well as small, here are the key characteristics to seek and nurture in new team members:
Look for people who exude energy and passion. It’s really not that hard to recognize when potential team members come alive when describing their skills, accomplishments, and aspirations. After joining, these are the ones who are always looking to expand their domain, are willing to tackle new challenges, and are not afraid to suggest improvements.
Beware of perennial critics and lone wolves. Every successful business is a collaboration of people with complementary skills, who are willing and excited to work together. You don’t need team members with a highly specialized focus, who tend to be critical of the needs of others, or would prefer to be isolated from most business issues.
On the other hand, that doesn’t mean that you should not provide critical feedback to team members. People who are anxious to improve, or reluctant to take an initiative, really need your direct guidance and coaching to learn what they need to do.
The right people will recognize the big picture. These are the ones who are not afraid to ask the “why” question, as well as “how,” even when there may not be any easy answers. One of the most successful strategies for new startups today is to lead with their “higher purpose,” such as a focus on the environment or helping the disadvantaged.
Recent articles report that companies where everyone is focused on the big picture can increase their returns by up to 400 percent. That level of impact is enough reason for you to spend the time up front, and along the way, to select the right people.
Find folks who are customer-centric and sensitive to competition. This means always looking outside the company first, rather than inside, and being willing to challenge the assumption that things have “always been done this way.” Listening to customers requires your help in rewarding rather than penalizing that activity, and being the role model to follow.
As an example, customer-centric may mean interacting on social media, or actively taking the customer’s position in a dispute, rather than the company position. It always means people not being defensive when addressing competitor activity or initiatives.
Find people who enjoy being problem solvers. Anyone can do a job when everything runs perfectly, but that rarely happens in any business. Real problem solvers just make it look like everything is working, and you as the owner are not forced to close all problems yourself. Your best people will solve their problems better and quicker than you can.
They have the specialized skills you hired them for, and are usually much closer to all the details and ramifications. Thus, it is important that you don’t become part of the problem by micromanaging these people or jumping in with your own biased solution.
Pay special attention to people who show leadership. You desperately need people on your team who can be the next leaders, may eventually replace you, and are willing to push for the innovations that can keep your business ahead of competitors. Look for accomplishments in prior roles, and a willingness to accept coaching and mentoring.
Remember that agility, innovation, and customer-focus are at the heart of every successful business today. Hopefully, you already embody these attributes, so your primary mission must be to extend your impact by surrounding yourself with passionate and creative team members.
Together, your team will win in the marketplace, and make this world a better place for all of us.
*** First published on Inc.com on 03/26/2021 ***