The success of any business relies on a number of key elements, and one of the most recognised and documented traits of a successful business relates to the recognition of the talent it employs. However, to employ and maximise talented people, the culture within the business has to be right.
As a business coach dealing with a diverse range of businesses I come across and indeed mentor individuals who have an abundance of talent, and sometimes that talent hasn’t been explored to its full potential. I read an article recently that was published on The Entrepreneur website that somewhere in the region of 30-40 percent of incumbent talent within businesses is not being used. If this is a true reflection of British business, imagine how much more productive and profitable our businesses could be if we maximised this talent.
So, what can we do as business owners to create the right culture and infrastructure that will nurture talent and indeed attract new talented individuals to us?
Getting very close to a business in my coaching role helps me to understand the potential from a unique position. This could be financial savings, opportunities to increase prices, or changes in infrastructure that have a positive effect on the bottom line. However, one that very much resonates with me and is common within every business I work with is untapped talent. I see incredibly astute individuals who either need a loosening of the managerial leash or purely conscious recognition of what they can actually do.
Now imagine if that 30-40 percent of untapped talent was let lose. What percentage gains could you experience in relation to turnover and profit? What are you missing out on currently?
Leadership is nurtured via positive culture
The culture within a business is absolutely crucial to its success. It is about recognising the individual contribution to the culture from each member of the team, but importantly the culture of the company has to be led and established at senior management level.
Natural leaders, or the kind of individual who could take full control with absolute confidence can be quite a rare commodity, but until you create the culture that nurtures the leaders you could be missing a very important opportunity. You may also find that you have more leaders waiting to be given that opportunity to lead than you may currently realise.
Starting from the beginning
The potential of your team members starts from the day you hire them. If you hire people that only want a good job and don’t express their ambitions at the interview stage, you will inevitably hire someone who may be able to do the job, but won’t look at making positive improvements that will benefit the company in the long term. Seeking out ambition is a crucial part of the interview process. You learn more about the person sitting in front of you by challenging their beliefs and ambitions, or asking them how they could become an important part of your business. At this very point you are consciously connecting to that person that you want to tap into that ambition and explore how far they can go within your business.
If you have recruited diligently the person in front of you can certainly do the job you want them to do, but I would suggest interviewing for the RIGHT employee isn’t a box ticking exercise. What really matters is what else can they do, what do they want to become, where do they see themselves in the future, and what other talents do they have which could be important to your business. It is about hiring talented team members, not order takers. A talented team member will grow your business, whereas an order taker just processes what is put in front of them.
Delegation – do it in stages
So now you have hired that new member of the team, you now want to maximise what they can do for your business as quickly as possible. One warning is not to delegate to quickly, but allow the person to settle into the role they have been employed to do, and make sure they have a complete grasp of that set of responsibilities. Delegating too quickly can be difficult even with an employee who has initiative in abundance. They will find it daunting, and you could see an initial breakdown of their confidence which can be difficult to reverse. A great suggestion is to get them to shadow someone who is competent in their role or similar. They will learn quickly and adopt the competency of that experienced employee. If you get someone who might be less than competent to teach others, those habits and attitudes will be difficult to break. The best teaching others to become the best is a great way to nurture that new member of the team.
Build up their responsibilities
The word responsibility is important, and you should never delegate tasks, it should be responsibilities. Tasks relate to the job description, not the potential of the individual. Rather than assigning work to someone, look at giving them the responsibility of something more substantial, turning tasks into an important responsibility. You could ask them to carry out the task, but also look for their feedback on how they could possibly make that task more efficient. Could there be systems or processes they could adopt to create further efficiency. Confident, ambitious people want to impress, so allow them to do so and invariably they will succeed. Remember, that success will have a positive influence on your business.
So now you have an employee who is very pleased with their contribution, and you have praised them accordingly, what is next?
Duplicating the process is next… “OK, I am very impressed with the improvements you have made, can you also look at this important task as well. See what you can do to make further improvements?”
At this point you have a winning culture with that new member of the team. They want to impress, and they want to succeed. They love the appreciation you give to their efforts. Incredibly positive, and encouraging that initiative is probably the most important trait of a successful manager or business owner.
Now let us multiply this scenario by the size of your team
Imagine now you have a thriving company of people who want to achieve and make improvements in their own roles within the business. They want to impress you, and get the recognition of their achievements. Would this make a positive impact on your business?
A few points to remember:
- That new member might have a manager, and it will be important for you not to undermine their position, so include the manager right from the start. Tell him or her that you would like them to lead your plan for improvements, and your thoughts on how this can improve the operations within that part of the business. Your manager must completely buy into it, but see the results from the team as his or her success as well.
- Don’t task everyone at the same time. Improvements normally mean changes, or indeed investment into new technology for example. Changes have to be affordable. You don’t want to be saying, sorry great idea but we cannot afford it. So, look at each section of your business in sequence, starting with the areas you feel need most attention.
- Accept mistakes – No matter how good someone is at their job, they may not have your knowledge and expertise. Mistakes will happen, but increased responsibility and desire to succeed will limit any mistakes. The important aspect is to learn and move on
- Blame culture – Probably the most damaging trait for any business. As soon as you have blame creeping into your business culture, you will have a significant problem that severely effects morale and confidence. It is not about blame, it is about solutions
- People do things differently – No you cannot do it that way, I have always done it this way is a very common negative comment from senior management. People are different and will look at tasks differently, but if the results are the same, or could even be better, give that individual the wings to try it their way – they might surprise you
- Never stop giving your team members the autonomy to find those improvements in your business model. It is not a challenge to your capabilities or methods, it is someone who wants to demonstrate how important they are to you and your business. Indeed, it is a gift to your business
Let me set you a challenge
There is no time like the present to start making improvements in the culture of your business, recognizing the level of talent you can tap into and watching how they can have immediate effects on your bottom line. So, let us get started, and here is a process to help you.
- First of all, write down all the names of the people in your business. If you have several departments or just a few employees it doesn’t matter. With several departments use a separate sheet and create a management flow chart. If it is just you and each of your employees is ultimately answerable to yourself, just use the one sheet with yourself heading up that department.
- Then List each employees name with all of the tasks they do within your business, numbering each of the tasks in list form under each name.
- Now study each task, and start a separate list of where you believe improvements can be made, prioritizing in order of importance.
- Next to each of the tasks, list the people who need to be involved if changes are to be made. Managers at the top working downwards.
- At this point you now have something you want to improve in your business, you have listed all those involved, and you are now ready to take some action. Call in your manager first, and explain what is required, creating responsibility within that person to manage the process. Then call in the team and let the manager take the lead.
The talents of your team will really come to fore if you let them lead. There is no place for ego in a successful business, and allowing people to create a sense of self-worth and accomplishment is exactly what is needed to lead onto increased success. Marginal gains can be had right across any business, and a simple example is tasking your accounts team with improving cash flow. It could be instigating a supplier agreement to extend payment periods, or/and the reverse by introducing client incentives to pay early. That is just one example that many successful businesses have explored, adopted and seen the benefits from.
My advice to any business owner is to really take the time to develop those talents, and build a culture that will maximise the success of your business. In my humble opinion, there isn’t a business around today that cannot afford not to!
If you need help developing your team, and putting in place the tools to build that positive culture, get in touch and we can start your business on the path to greater success.