I had a coach that would always quote John Wooden, “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” The statement made a lot of sense to me in sports – you needed to move quickly but not make mistakes. Be fast enough to outmaneuver the competition, but not do anything reckless that would result in a fumble or cost us an interception. You want to make the moves that will help you win and avoid the errors that cost you the game.
But the part of the statement that I think people often miss is that the best way to be quick without making mistakes is to be prepared.
No one is quite sure what is in store for us this year. Slowdown? Probably. Recession? Maybe. The only thing we know for sure is that we don’t know anything for sure. So what do you do during this uncertain time? How can you adjust your strategy to be ready for whatever’s coming?
Whatever is coming our way, you want to be able to react quickly. You also want the changes you make to your workforce to be strategic, not reactionary. Take advantage of the opportunities you have to reevaluate your organizational structure and make changes that align to both your short- and long-term goals.
Focus on Talent
“Choose the best people.” It seems like it should be a simple, obvious thing to do, but when it comes to evaluating people, it’s easy to be pulled in the wrong direction. Managers tend to evaluate employees from one of two extremes: either a completely emotional approach based on personal feelings, or one based only on performance numbers. Both can be deceptive. As a manager, you must find a way to objectively examine your team while making sure their metrics tell the whole story.
And it’s not only about their individual performance; you have to look at how everyone works together as a team. You may have a top performer who is toxic and a middle-of-the-road performer who is stellar with team dynamics and customer relationships.
Here are the three metrics we use to evaluate who our best team members are.
Attitude is first for a reason: it’s the key foundational trait for every employee. Employees must have the right attitude to support their culture.
Ask these questions to uncover truths about attitude:
- Is this someone people want to be around? We put a lot of weight in the simple questions: Is this someone we want to have a cup of coffee with? Is the employee chosen for projects? Do people want this person to be part of their team? Is the employee constantly being pulled away and being relied on for projects and initiatives outside of his or her normal job duties? People like good people – and it can be evident in collaboration with others.
- Is this someone whose effort and commitment are obvious? This one is often easier to measure, as it involves hitting deadlines, being trustworthy, responsible, accountable, and doing a little more than is expected.
- Is this someone who fits into our culture? This may be hard to define on paper, but you’ll definitely know it when you see it. This is someone who embodies our values and encourages others to be their best selves on the job. It’s more than compliance; it’s embracing how we do things, how we treat our customers – and each other.
Key performance indicators are frequently part of any employee evaluation, but managers need to validate that the numbers tell the whole story. Delve a little deeper to make sure you are understanding how you define “good” as it relates to performance. Is it the system, the market, or the individual that’s responsible for the numbers? Performance numbers can be disguised by systems and markets, especially in good economic times.
Someone who has landed in a well-developed market may appear to be doing much better than another staff member who is breaking into new territory. It’s important to get a feel for their relative performance. Ask this question: considering where they started, how much progress have they made? Have they done well with what they’ve been given?
Our favorite area to explore is future-based, rather than based in the past. Who, on your current team, would you bet on to take on a bigger or more complex role in the next 2-5 years?
Ask these questions to help you decide on who you believe will be indispensable to your team’s future:
- Is this someone who has a thirst for success, growing and learning?
- Is this someone who puts the team above self?
- Is this someone who meets challenges with effort and grit?
- Is this someone who has been getting better over the past year? (As opposed to treading water or actually declining)
Take a look at each of these areas and evaluate your employees on a scale of 1 to 3, with 3 being the best. (We like to keep our scales small because it doesn’t allow us to dither in the middle between “pretty good” and “mediocre.”.) Total up the three areas and see who has the highest numbers. Those are your winners – the people who will embrace the challenge of a soft market but also be ready to catch the first wave of opportunity.
Fourth Quarter Rally: Blog Series on Strategies for Winning During Confusing Times
Our current blog series, Fourth Quarter Rally: Winning During Confusing Times, will examine what is happening in the marketplace and how you capitalize on growth while preparing for a recession. We’ll be bringing you people strategies for both “Thrive” and “Survive” modes and ways to get back in touch with your core values and use them as guideposts for good times and not-so-good times.
We will also talk a little tough about the realities ahead because success is a good deodorant. When things get tough, you will soon know if there is anything rotten that needs to be addressed. Our advice is to do those assessments now while things are good. Take advantage of the fourth quarter to continue to win while ensuring your team is the right one with the right talent to play the game well when times get harder.
About the Author:
Rich Thompson, CEO of XPG Recruit, is an expert on staffing, human resources, training and leadership development. He is also a former All-Big Ten football player for the University of Wisconsin. XPG Recruit provides recruiting for staffing companies. The XPG Recruit Athlete division places former athletes into business careers and works closely with universities through its sister company, Podium X.