How to Hire and Keep the Top Talent on Your Team: 6 Steps
No one doubts the impact of great leaders to an organization’s overall success. The challenge seems to be finding them, growing them, cloning them, and keeping them. Miss any of these steps and your organization eventually sees gaps in its bench strength.
1. Fine-tune your interviewing process
Far too many hiring managers “do their own thing” when it comes to interviewing and, worse, make apples-to-oranges comparison between applicants because of their free-wheeling style of recruiting, assessing, interviewing, and analyzing. To make the best hires, turn hiring top talent into a process like any other and take advantage of available tools: psychometric testing, personality tests, executive assessments, and ethics/values tests that screen for leadership qualities, core values, and judgment.
Rather than “gut instinct,” the best predictor of future performance is past behavior. When all the testing is complete, focus on structured interviews that allow you to compare answers accurately.
2. Offer your leaders autonomy
A CEO colleague emailed me and a few other colleagues to say she’d soon have an opening for a new EVP position. One line in the attached job description intrigued me: “Unlimited vacation time.” Later when we talked, she explained her policy for senior leaders: “My executive team and I agree on their goals for the year. They know what results they’re responsible to achieve. As long as they deliver, I don’t care how many vacation days they take.” So far, it’s working for this very profitable company.
Giving people a great deal of freedom and power over their projects and tasks demonstrates your confidence in them—and in turn inspires confidence in themselves, independence, and accountability. This flexibility can apply to setting their own goals, prioritizing their projects or tasks, determining their work hours, and deciding how often and if they need to come into an actual office building.
Progress and results equal freedom and flexibility—or lack thereof.
3. Assign stretch goals that challenge their thinking
People believe and “buy into” what they help create. That includes goals, projects, new products, services, and cost-cutting measures. Ask them for their best thinking and their idea of the “gold standard.” Then step out of the way, and challenge them to achieve the standards they’ve expressed are worthwhile and doable.
4. Set up formal coaching programs and informal mentoring moments
Rarely does a candidate come to you with all the leadership skills to rise to the top ranks of the organization. No matter how bright, even if just changing industries, employees know they need to learn new things, and they want to join teams who invest in their career growth. Without adding to your already overloaded schedule as a manager, consider the coaching opportunity as a moment of conversation, not a mound of paperwork.
Example: “Melody, I’m about to phone our overseas contact to finalize the Avaton contract. Why don’t you step into my office so you’re familiar with this deal? Then you and I can discuss why we’re offering these terms in our negotiations as we walk over to lunch.” With such an invitation, Melody will understand that you’ve just invested in her negotiation skills.
5. Prevent micromanagement before it happens
Managers who refuse to take the above four steps risk falling into the trap of becoming micromanagers. That is, they fear hiring confident, competent leaders so they “go with their gut” and hire someone who makes them feel comfortable. They offer very little autonomy, fearing things may “get out of control.” Then because people may fail, they fear to assign stretch assignments. They either micromanage the tough jobs themselves or prefer to depend on the same people to do the same projects until their star performers burn out from boredom and leave.
When these micromanagers keep control of everything, they have little or no time to coach or mentor. As a result, star performers exit to “better” jobs elsewhere. To prevent this revolving door in their department, micromanagers need to become aware of the self-defeating habit to hover.
6. Highlight leadership communication for promotion
Despite how frequently “communication” pops up as a leadership skill, as a missing ingredient in customer relationships, as a necessary tool for smooth operations across functional lines—real communication gets little emphasis in most organizations.
―Until there’s a billion-dollar lawsuit over a miscommunication
―Until the retention problem soars
―Until there’s a tragic accident with massive casualties because of poorly communicated instructions
―Until a poorly worded email released to the public creates a PR crisis
The essence of leadership is communication: Casting a vision, inspiring, coaching, speaking, writing, running effective meetings, listening, and giving performance feedback. Leaders who want to advance in their career expect to learn from great role models and need feedback on their growth in these areas. Highlight and promote accordingly.