There comes a point in every successful entrepreneurial company at which the founder and CEO realizes, “I can’t keep doing this all by myself. I’m going to need some help.”
Hiring employees and delegating leadership responsibility can be extremely difficult for small-business owners, because it means trusting other people with your baby. It’s also a critical step in the long-term success of your business.
If you've ever created a five- or 10-year plan for your company, the topic of bringing in others to help run your business has probably been raised. The next question should be, “Are you looking for employees, or are you looking for leaders?”
If the job opening is limited in scope with no real opportunity for growth, then what you're looking for is a hard-working employee. On the other hand, if you view the position as a stepping stone to bigger and better plans within your business, you'll want to find someone with leadership skills or leadership potential. Here are five ways you can find and hire future leaders and keep them happy in your company.
1. Hire People With the Capacity to Lead
During the interview process, look at a candidate’s experience and work ethic. Do they challenge themselves at every level? Do they go the extra mile when trying to achieve their goals? Even without a title, do they take a leadership position on projects? Lastly, do they take the initiative on projects, or do they wait to be told what to do?
2. Test New Employees Early
Once you’ve hired a future leader, remove the bubble wrap and see what they can do. Give them an assignment and some direction. Assess their creativity, organizational skills and response to deadlines. These are all critical elements in future leaders. It's important that you evaluate them and ask, Did they embrace the challenge, or did they shy away from it? More importantly, did they exceed your expectations?
3. Seek Their Input
One of the biggest mistakes business owners make is not seeking input from their employees. If you've taken the time to put the right team in place, then you need to have confidence in their ability to have a measurable impact on your bottom line. Don’t be afraid to ask employees, “What would you do in this situation?” It’s not a sign of weakness on your part, but rather, it reinforces your confidence in your employees and their abilities to get the job done.
Earlier this year, I coached my daughter’s eighth grade travel basketball team. I had nine girls on the team, and all of them will probably play at least high school basketball. They exuded confidence and played so well together. In the third or fourth game of the season, we faced a tough opponent, and the game was tied going into the final quarter. I suggested a zone defense, but a few of my players disagreed. They said we could win by playing a man-to-man defense. I replied, “It’s your game to win or lose; I’m just along for the ride.” They played it their way, and they won. In future games, I sought their input when we called timeouts, and they were happy to provide me with it. It was like watching future women leaders in action. We wound up winning the league championship this year.
4. Delegate More Responsibility
Once your employees have proven themselves, task them with additional responsibilities. Let them own projects, and give them the latitude to make decisions on their own and work with outside partners, vendors and customers. They'll make mistakes; that’s part of the education process. But they'll hopefully learn from their errors and not make the same mistakes twice. Their growth will help your business thrive.
5. Keep Them Motivated
I often hear from business owners who are worried that, after they spend time and money teaching employees about their business, those employees will leave to go work for another company. My response? “Why would anyone leave your company?”
Employees leave companies for money, better growth opportunities, personal reasons and more. As a business owner, the best defense against employee turnover is a good offense. If you hire the right people and put together a solid team of positive people, seek their input, delegate responsibility to let them prove themselves and keep them motivated, then you should keep more people than you lose.
And that’s the best investment you can make in your business.
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