While you are in the process of building or upgrading your executive leadership team, there’s a lot to take into account, from experience to personality. And even when you already have great team members, how can you help them perform their best to lead your company toward revenue growth and staying on mission?
Here are a few things to keep in mind when hiring or promoting to executive positions:
1. Choose leaders to complement your own strengths and weaknesses.
As a leader and business owner, you have specific skills and areas where you excel, as well as areas where you don’t. Knowing these things about yourself can help you choose employees to fill in the gaps where you lack expertise or simply don’t want to spend your energy in that aspect of the business. For example, if your talent is working with numbers and finding vision for the business, but you aren’t particularly talented at transferring that vision to others, you may want to hire or promote someone with great charisma and interpersonal skills to help you inspire your team and share your vision. If you’re someone with a lot of ideas but are not great at keeping track of them and making sure the best ideas strategically turn into revenue opportunities, it may be helpful to find someone detail-oriented to help implement and monitor new projects.
If you’re not confident in your understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses, a good place to start may be a strengths assessment. You can also ask close, trusted friends, and close family members where they think you shine. An executive coach or trusted online assessments can provide this valuable information, which allows you to put this data into action.
2. Hire collaborators.
As you build your executive leadership team, it’s important to look for people who are strongly motivated to collaborate. These people have strong interpersonal skills and work well with others. They’re happy to celebrate each other’s wins, step up to support others, and do things outside of their job description. While this is extremely important when considering individuals for your leadership team, it’s also important when hiring any team member. Individuals who are self-focused, ego-centric, and not motivated to collaborate will only drag other great collaborators, and ultimately your business, down.
Choose individuals who are life-long learners; motivated to continue growing and learning. Hire and promote with growth in mind, thinking of how a person can grow rather than limiting yourself by only looking at what they’ve achieved in the past. Skills and business tactics can be taught, and those with character and integrity will grow with the role you assign to them. That combination will lead to a more productive expansion of your company and will allow you to trust the motives of the team members working together.
3. Define your most important work and delegate everything else.
As the CEO or team leader, your position is the most critical and visible in your business. Yet there are many tasks in your daily work that take you away from the most important part of your work—whatever you do that only you as CEO can accomplish. These tasks should be those action items that ultimately result in the most growth and profit for your business. Once you identify what these most important tasks are, begin assigning all your additional tasks to your team members. While this will likely require some training, it will eventually free you up to spend much more time on what you care about most and what will help your company reach its potential. CEOs are often so busy they fail to teach, and they get caught up in the doing-rather-than-delegating, cycle which often limits growth in your company.
If you’re someone who has played many roles in your company, especially if you’ve built the business yourself, it can be incredibly difficult to let go of your control over some tasks. Learning to trust others and collaborate with your leadership team are some of the most valuable skills you can gain as an entrepreneur.
4. Learn your team’s strengths and weaknesses, then adapt roles as needed.
So many businesses limit their team’s effectiveness by not allowing individuals to excel in what they do best. If you have hired well, a team member’s true skills will likely go beyond their job description. My motto is to hire the best talent, then get out of their way! As a leader, you’ll likely see areas where team members excel beyond their current roles. If you’re willing to adjust roles and job descriptions to place these team members where they do their best work, you can improve collaboration and take advantage of the best resource available to you—your team.
You can apply the same idea to weaknesses, as well. While in many cases you may be able to encourage growth in areas where team members are struggling, if you have someone else who fills a gap in skills, make adjustments to allow that person to do their best. You’ll end up with customized roles that play off of your employees’ individual skills, which makes employees feel valued, and team members will work harder and stay longer as they are allowed to take on new challenges.
5. Teach leadership skills.
No matter how talented the individuals you hire or promote are, there are always opportunities to learn and develop as effective leaders. Life-long learners will value opportunities to expand their leadership skills. It’s important to consistently model and teach leadership to foster a collaborative environment. Many leaders will quickly turn into managers, taking a more directive leadership style rather than a collaborative one—this is also known as “top-down” management. It can hinder collaboration and reduce morale. Teach your leadership team to coach and mentor their team members rather than manage from above. When leaders empower their teams to make decisions and take responsibility for their roles, it encourages team members to become more invested in their jobs, think creatively, and work together to reach better outcomes. If team members feel micromanaged, resentment can build, and they’ll become less likely to do their best work, find solutions to problems on their own, or go beyond the basic expectations of their job description. Remember that satisfied employees create satisfied clients.
6. Foster a collaborative rather than competitive environment.
Many companies like to boast that they have a “fun” or “healthy” competitive atmosphere. The truth is that competition is counter-productive in a collaborative environment. It encourages individuals to focus on themselves rather than on their team or the company mission as a whole. It can even encourage negative or sabotaging behavior. Competition destroys trust, which is vital to collaborate well.
A healthy work environment is based on trust and teamwork. While some companies encourage competition in an effort to get team members to work harder, it is ultimately less effective than teamwork. To encourage collaboration, celebrate the achievements of both individuals and teams. Focus incentives on teams and on the company’s success rather than pitting teams or individuals against each other. If you currently have a competitive work culture in your business, this may take some time and effort to change, however, the results of creating a collaborative work environment are worth the effort.
7. Every team member should be a leader.
The best way to create a truly collaborative work environment is to have a team where every member is a leader. Operations run most smoothly when team members are empowered to solve problems at the level they arise, as well as to think creatively and employ their best problem solving strategies.
Having a business that’s full of leaders will make the jobs of your executive leadership team much easier. It’s important for leaders to listen at every level—from the bottom to the top. When making decisions about any particular role or project, the people who work on that project or in that role are the ones who know the most about it and are likely able to develop the best solutions.
By hiring people who are oriented toward learning and growth and fostering a collaborative work environment, you can create a strong executive leadership team and a company full of leaders empowered to make good decisions and solve problems without your help. A collaborative leadership environment will help free up your time to do what you do best, so you can focus on your strengths and growing your business revenue.