Entrepreneurs – Look at the People Around You

Posted: July 1, 2012 by Tom Heuer in Leadership, People

Years ago, I left the friendly confines of a Big 4 consulting firm to become a senior executive at a publicly traded financial services company.  I actually expected smooth sailing.  In consulting, I had been involved in some difficult assignments with emerging businesses.  It was the learning years of my career.  I had experienced first hand how businesses grow and become successful.  And so, why would it be any different in this new role?

I was prepared for a cultural adjustment and for operating a business instead of a consulting practice.  What surprised me and threw me off stride was the talent gap and the employee’s questionable commitment to working hard.  I knew success would only happen by having the right people in the right spots.  The company was not ready to “go on offense” because the skills were not in place.  The opportunity was in front of us, yet we lacked the skilled players to execute the strategy.

Every day, entrepreneurs are confronted with the “talent issue.”  Employees at start-ups are asked to do more with less.  This operating approach requires highly motivated, skilled people willing to work harder for a possibility at the end of the rainbow.  Look around.  How does your team stack-up?  Are you confident that they have the stuff to make the entrepreneurial endeavor successful?  Lofty goals require top talent.  Look at your people.  Can they do it?  Or are you playing defense because the offense hasn’t drafted very well and shown up to play?

The Five Questions Every Entrepreneur Needs to Ask about their Talent?

You may often ask yourself – “How do I assess whether I have the right players on the team?”  Spend some time observing and looking around for the evidence.   As you are looking around, consider the following questions:

  • Are you coming up short in the critical skill areas?

Are your financial professionals providing a thorough analysis of your numbers?  Has your marketing staff been diligent in introducing products that your customers need?  Can your HR professionals recruit and attract top talent into your company?  Do your employees have the skills to deliver on your promises and their commitments?

Assess your current level of talent.  Do it now!  Set clear expectations and provide the needed resources.  If you still come up short, make the tough talent decisions and move on.  You must have the critical skills on your team to scale the mountain top.

  • Do they have your same commitment to achieve the goals?

Are you listening to the chatter around the office?  What are you hearing?  Are people talking about the company and its goals?  Do you hear the vision being shared?  Are people catching the fever?  Is there a high level of enthusiasm and excitement about the goals?  It is the stride.  Look at the staff’s stride.  Can you see their purpose?  If not, what does your stride look like?

If you are all in, find out why some staff lack the same commitment.  The entrepreneur can play a leadership role in modeling enthusiasm and passion by the way you carry yourself, your words and your actions.

  • Are they able to build relationships internally and externally?

Look around.  Are your people good at developing relationships?  Are your people good at going outside the team to build partnerships? Is relationship building an activity your employees gravitate to?  Are they developing alliances for the overall success of the team and the company?

Every entrepreneur needs to take time out and get to know their people.  It is your responsibility to understand your people in order to respond effectively to different situations.

  • Do your People have enough passion to challenge you?

Is your point-of-view ever challenged?  Are other options presented to you?  Or have you surrounded yourself with “yes people?”  Is it possible that you need to be more open to disagreement and alternative opinions?  Integrity and ethical issues are often avoided if senior management fosters an environment where communications are straightforward and candid.

Remember, entrepreneurs, there is value in having your people present options to you.  This is how  new ideas emerge in your company.

  • Is there any cynicism on your teams?

Do some people “check their brain at the company entrance” because they will not have to use them while at work?  Or do your employees believe in their work and its contribution to society?  Are they telling other people about their work and promoting the business to their friends?  From an attitudinal perspective, are these the people you want to climb Mt. Everest with?  Can you count on them to support you during difficult times?

In companies today, the cynics are winning.  It takes at least four upbeat employees to counter one cynic.  Entrepreneurs owe it to their customers, employees and investors to hire upbeat talent.

Entrepreneurs – The Call To Action

Every entrepreneur needs to know if you have a team that is able to stretch.  Work through these five questions.  Be honest in your assessments.  Then, be prepared to take action.  The results will speak words about your leadership.  You will not regret this hard work.  You will find yourself eventually surrounded by your future leaders.

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