5 simple processes. Do them well – or even just do them all adequately – and within a year you will have a high performing team that will be on its way to being one of the best.
Recruit – find people with passion, curiosity and a hunger to learn about your business. Find people who will add strengths and personality to the existing team. Do not employ clones. Have a reputation such that there is a queue of talent waiting to join your team – because this is where the action is. This is where people do great work and where people develop reputations and careers.
Develop – Take every opportunity to actively develop your people – knowledge, skill and commitment. Provide weekly one to ones. Provide feedback (both affirming and adjusting) by the bucketful. Delegate to them opportunities that will lead to their growth – and free up your time. Help each team member to improve their skills and their commitment and inspiration in a way that leads to improved performance. Provide coaching to all team members every week that will help them to improve their performance.
Improve – make sure that every team member is clear about their role and how to manage the tensions within it. Make sure that they have a few clear objectives some of them smart – but all of them wow! (A wow objective is one where when you achieve it you will just want to say ‘Wow!’) Review objectives regularly in the 121s and shape them according to the dynamics of the business. Keep score. Use targets. Make it clear that improvement is an expectation of everyone. Use feedback, coaching and 121s to help people to improve. If they fail to improve then consider whether you are playing to their strengths. Ultimately a team member who consistently fails to perform better has to be let go.
Retain – hold on to your best people long enough – but not too long! If you are doing a great job as a manager then your staff will perform while they are with you – but may over the course of a few years outgrow your team. Celebrate their successes. Celebrate your success. Help them move onwards and upwards – knowing that you have a succession plan in place. Carry out monthly litmus tests on all of your team to gauge how likely they are to leave in the near future and the risk that this carries. Have a clear understanding of who you need to retain and who you would like to see being successful somewhere else. Provide your team with the very best place in which to do their best work – in which to achieve their objectives (and yours).
Release – Release good people who have outgrown your team. If you can no longer provide them development opportunities then encourage them to move on. Help them. Work equally hard with the high performers and the under-achievers. Use the same management processes applied with equal diligence. Agree objectives, provide feedback, coach and use 121s. Document the process! If people fail to improve – after you have given them all the support that you can – talk to an HR specialist. Show them your documentation – 121s, feedback, coaching. Seek their advice about moving the under performing staff into ‘special measures’. Invite the under performing staff member to a meeting to discuss their performance and their failure to improve. Remind them of the investment that you have made in their success. Let them know that if their performance does not improve – you will terminate their employment. Coach them some more. Give them another 3 months (minimum) of your full commitment to help them to make it. If they don’t – then fire them. Acknowledge your failure as a manager. Sleep soundly knowing that you did everything you could to help them to succeed and that the process that resulted in their dismissal was fair, ethical and professional.
Reflect on these 5 processes.
How well are you doing as a manager in each of them. Give yourself a percentage score on how well you think you are doing in each. 100% would mean that you really can’t see any opportunity for improvement. 0% would indicate that you really could not think of any way in which things could be worse.
Sketch out a simple graph like the one shown below. What one thing can you do in the next week that will make things better?
Repeat the exercise often. Discuss your conclusions with your peers, your team and with HR. Start to do the hard work of pursuing excellence.