“What do you want to learn?”
I was training a large group of managers in Kansas City during the 2015 World Series, and I started the day with that simple question. A guy wearing his Royals jersey and baseball cap had a quick, unequivocal answer: “I want you to teach me how to be like Ned Yost.”
OK. If you are from KC, you get this. Our love for the boys in blue runs deep, like so deep a discussion of the 2014 wildcard game still makes grown men cry. But I especially love the Royals because they represent what a team can do when they believe unreservedly in a common goal.
We’re talking baseball, so let’s go to some stats: In 2014 the Royals became the first team in the history of baseball to sweep their way into the World Series; a year later they became the only team ever to win 3 World Series games after trailing in the 8th inning or later. You don’t ever count Ned Yost’s Royals out. You say you want to be like Ned Yost? You’re really saying, I want to learn how to manage a rockstar team.
I’ve got good news for you: Great managers can be made…with the right training. But often not enough emphasis is placed on learning how to manage others (startup community, I’m looking at you). It takes more than snacks and standing desks to retain great talent. Knowing how to hire and retain a great team is just as important knowing how to sell or pitch a 1.5M round.
So here are my 7 top tips for startups wanting to recruit and retain a 2015 Royals-caliber team:
You’ve got to stand for something…or you’ll hire anything
You need a vision, mission and values statement. The concept may seem soft, but it is essential for team building because it is your roadmap for where you are going and how you are going to get there. It defines what you do, why you do what you do and how you do it. If you can’t articulate these three things, how can you determine who to hire?
Don’t hire a-holes
Don’t hire based on job skills alone. You can find the best coder in the world, but if he’s an a-hole he won’t be a good fit. Most likely you will end up firing him or he will be more trouble than he is worth. Your values can help define what a “fit” candidate looks like.
Be intentional with building your company culture
Sure, some culture will grow organically. Nevertheless, you need to make sure you are creating a culture that aligns with your values (see above).
Create an interview guide
I can’t tell you how many people have said to me, “I hire with my gut.” Don’t do that. You need to have a defined hiring plan. Create an interview guide. Take the person on a tour of your building. Share with her your expectations. Heck, ask the candidate to solve a current problem troubling your business. Your gut is there to digest food, not make business decisions. (Exception: Your gut is telling you the candidate is an a-hole.)
Know what you want your new team member to do
In other words, have a game plan for what your new hire is going to do on day one. You may know exactly what you want this to look like in your mind, but unless your new hire is a mind reader, it’s useless. I’ve heard so many startup founders say, “I want to hire a go-getter.” That’s fine. But be ready to tell them what you need them to go get—or they’ll end up wasting part of the 1.5M round you just raised.
Be consistent with feedback
This is where management can stop being fun and becomes work. It’s also hard because sometimes you have to deliver a hard message. But keep this in mind: Most people don’t wake up in the morning and think, “I want to be the worst employee ever.” Your team wants the feedback—even the feedback that’s hard to give. Learn to give feedback, and make sure to give it often.
Learn to manage people
Your startup may be super awesome. You may be super awesome. But managing people is a skill. It takes practice. It doesn’t matter how much an employee likes you or your company; they won’t stay if you suck at managing. Read books, get a coach, find a mentor. Do whatever is necessary to become the best boss ever.
Your company will thrive or die at the hands of your team. It’s that simple. When it comes time to build your team, don’t you think you owe it to yourself, and your business to build the best team ever? Be intentional. Be a Ned Yost. Build a a team that will make history, your history.
Marianne Worthington is the founder of Work Warrior LLC, a company that helps small business owners build wildly successful teams. Marianne teaches business owners how empower their employees to do more, so they can focus on what they love to do…build their businesses. When she is not busy being a pseudo-superhero team builder you can find Marianne running around in the Lincoln startup world working on her new project Revo, a one-stop shop for social entrepreneurs with a vision to change the their communities using smart business models.