If you own a small business that is essentially you, and you want it to grow beyond what it is, then what I’m going to talk about here is going to really matter at some point in the future. If your business is larger with people in it then this really matters now.
What you need to do – whether this will apply at some point in the future or applies now – is spot and nurture your best people. Sounds obvious right? But all too often businesses lose good people they really didn’t need to and can’t afford to.
Your good people really are, and will be, amongst your best assets and will make all the difference to the future success of your business so it’s worth making the effort to find your best people and to nurture them. Here’s why…
Your business won’t achieve all it can with only you in it and neither will it if you hire people who are at best mediocre and who do no more than is required or at worst have the wrong attitude.
The people you employ and even outsource to can have a huge impact on your business. They’re bound to; good people will free up your time to focus on growing your business and on keeping it on course, whilst bad people will drag you back into your business as you correct the hash they’ve made of the task. Or worse, they do that and create new problems for you to resolve and they can even lose you business.
Because good people are so important, you need to spot them and nurture them.
Large companies are full of mediocre people who are hired or promoted by people who themselves are mediocre. They don’t want to hire someone who may be more talented than they are – they don’t want to risk being outshone by this person and their true mediocrity revealed.
They also hire people they like – people they can have a drink with, play golf with – people who like what they like and who think how they think.
These mediocre people do their job but show no initiative or creativity. They rarely come forward with new ideas that could improve the way the business runs or potentially increase sales.
They also do the bare minimum. They do what their job requires them to do and no more. They won’t work late to meet a deadline if they’re not paid overtime. They won’t help others, they won’t volunteer for anything, they won’t be flexible and they won’t do anything outside of their remit unless told to.
And they are unproductive. A survey of office workers found that on average they were productive for only 2 ½ hours in an 8-hour day. Hundreds and thousands of hours are wasted through a lack of productivity.
But potentially worse than these mediocre people, are those who have a bad attitude.
Your attitude is your cornerstone attribute. It is possibly the single biggest influence when it comes to how you think and how you behave. Those with a bad attitude will care little for the company and care only about themselves.
They are likely to be mediocre and do just enough but they are also the people who can disrupt, bully and make life difficult for peers and their bosses. These people can cause real damage.
The best leaders and managers hire the best people that the job needs. They don’t care if this person can do this job better than they can, in fact they want them to so that they can focus on what they need to do knowing that they can leave this person to get on with their job and do it well.
Those with the right attitude will care about what they’re doing and about those around them. It doesn’t matter at what level of the business they are at, they will do their best and if they see a better way, will come forward with new ideas.
Imagine a diagram of spots where each spot represents an employee of a large corporation. The higher up the diagram the spot is located the higher up the person is in the company and there are thousands of spots in the diagram.
Each spot is coloured according to that person’s talent, personality, uniqueness – their attributes and skills. What would you see? In most corporations you would see, mostly shades of the same colour – let’s say grey. These are your average, mediocre people who do just enough.
Amongst this mass of grey you would of course see bright spots of various colours. These are the talented people who have the right attitude and standout. A few of these bright spots will have made it against the odds and hold high positions. Some would come in around the middle but most would come in at the bottom.
And it’s these bright spots at the bottom that you want to hang on to but which disappear the quickest. The problem is that these potential stars are invisible to anyone above their immediate manager and if this manager is mediocre and just gets by then they will feel threatened if they see sparks of talent beyond their own and will do what they can to suppress it.
These talented people are hired for the particular skill that the job requires rather than for any other attributes or skills that you would look for in people higher up the ladder, such as leadership, initiative, drive and determination, communication and so on.
But these people are the future leaders in the business who could make huge positive differences, beyond anything mediocre people will. Companies need to be better at spotting them and nurturing them because all to often they get frustrated and leave and all that potential is lost.
A client I work with employs around 300 people. Spread throughout this company is a number of bright, colourful spots of talent. For example, Tyler is a young person in her early 20s who works in the administration team. When I first met her I thought she was quiet, didn’t smile much and I knew nothing about her attitude or her skills.
I’ve been working with the owner of this business on a regular basis. She needed to be able to step away from her business and it work without her so that she could focus on creating and implementing a growth strategy. I wrote a case study post about how we first needed to systemise her business better so that she could do just that.
Tyler, who worked on reception and carried out general admin duties, was going to be involved in creating and documenting the process flows that managers were tasked to identify.
I showed Tyler how to create, document and index these process flows and asked her to create hardcopy manuals for each department. I showed Tyler once – that was all it took. She didn’t say much and didn’t ask many questions and so I had to ask if she got it, which she said she did.
Not knowing her particularly well and not getting much back, I had to accept that she did but I just didn’t know. Well, she did get it and just got on and did it efficiently and without fuss.
Since then Tyler has taken on more responsibilities including completing audit tools and keeping them up-to-date. In the care industry you have to present a huge amount of information to standards authorities like CQC and its vital that this information is accurate, up-to-date and readily available.
Tyler rarely needs showing more than once – she gets it, has an attention to detail and a standard of work that is beyond many who have been working far longer than she has and who hold more senior positions. She has the right attitude, shows initiative and she cares. Because of this, Tyler has also become involved in the financial side of the business with regards to things like invoicing.
Companies need the Tylers of this world, but all too often they lose them to others, including competitors, who benefit instead.
Look at your people at all levels of your business and make sure that you spot the talented ones. Make sure that you bring out the best in them and that you give them the opportunities and career path to grow.
It’s people like Tyler that allow you as business owners to step away and be the leaders you want to be and that your business needs you to be.
Richard Branson said his success came from surrounding himself with talented people. He also said, “Train people well enough so that they can leave, treat them well enough so that they don’t want to.”
How do you spot and bring out the best in your talented people?