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How to Hire the Perfect People

"If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." --Al Gore

Successful leaders know that effective teams are composed of empowered and motivated individuals working toward the same goal. We want to build high-functioning, powerful teams that move forward harmoniously. The following leadership principles will show you how to start with the right individuals, and then lead them toward a shared vision.

Define Your Team
As women, we have a strong intuitive ability -- and there is no doubt it often serves us well -- but when it comes to making hiring decisions, intuition can sometimes backfire.

Hiring people because we like them or because they feel right carries potential for pain because it has little bearing on whether they are the right person for the job or they will fit into our existing team, and by the time we figure this out, the personal bond renders coaching or firing them unpleasant and difficult.

Nothing is as important as a well-planned map of your expected contribution from each team member:

1. Make an exhaustive list of the knowledge and skills (k and s) needed for your company to run and thrive. This should include everything from PR to sweeping the floors.

2. Begin by listing every job category and title. Then, list every k and s required for each. (If you expect your accountant to clean the bathroom when needed, list it!)

3. Determine which k and s, upon hiring, are must-haves versus nice-to-haves. Be realistic.

4. Decide what you are willing to teach and what you are not. (See the case for talent selection below.)

5. For must-have k and s that you are not willing to teach, devise a way for candidates to demonstrate mastery of it during interviews. If they can't, don't hire them -- no matter how much you like them!

Hire for Talent and Values
Your best candidate is not necessarily the person whose resume shows she or he performed the same job elsewhere. Think past "have they done it before?" to "do they have a natural talent?" Do they have the aptitude to achieve in this particular area? If they do, put them in a position to use and develop their talent, and you will have a high-performing employee.

Align your hiring to your company values. If your company values superb customer service, your employees must sincerely like people and value pleasing them. You can teach how to answer a phone or assemble widgets. You can't teach personal qualities and values. (Now, go back to your knowledge and skills list and revisit what you are willing to teach.)

Share Your Vision and Expectations
Studies consistently show one of the top three needs expressed by employees is feeling that they are contributing. Nothing does this better than clearly and consistently communicating the big picture, how each employee is expected to contribute, and the value of each contribution.

I once had an exasperated client tell me, "I just want someone who can keep my buckets clean! Why can't I find that?" My answer: Because no one wants to clean buckets. But a lot of people want to contribute to a successful company!

My client just hired 10 people for her exploding company. Her employee orientation went like this:

1. Company goals and values (using pictures of their gorgeous events and testimonials from happy customers)

2. Job responsibilities and expectations of each employee (emphasizing that each depends on the other)

3.How they will be rewarded individually and as a team (rewards do not necessarily need to be monetary)

Her team knows exactly where they are going, and that they must do it together. They also know that once they get there, there is personal satisfaction and external recognition.

Define Outcomes and Facilitate the Work
As a leader, your job is to set the outcomes and provide the team with the tools to get there. Is each team member properly trained? Do they have the materials, references, and environment to support them in achieving the expected results? Do they know how to get help from other team members before coming to you? Do they understand where they fit into the overall process?

Now, here's the hard part: Let your employees use their own style to deliver the result or outcome you want. Marcus Buckingham, author of the must-read book "First, Break All the Rules," tells us to standardize the end, but not the means. Learn to empower your team with freedom and responsibility. (Remember, you hired people with skills and talent who share your company's values!)

Establish predefined checkpoints for validating individual and team progress, reiterating goals, and communicating needed adjustments.

Reward Success
Employees -- no, people -- want recognition and praise. Don't you? Figure out what you can offer other than salary when goals are met. Consider career development, flexible work hours, appreciation certificates, opportunities to attend industry events, small gift cards, team lunches, letting everyone go home early. Create a process for employees to recognize one another and encourage them to do so: Post pictures of end results, share letters from satisfied customers, take employees to job sites.

These are all ways to show how much you value achievement. Do it privately and publicly, and remember -- a good leader will recognize both individual and team accomplishments.

Text by Bobbi Palmer

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