So you’re building a team.

So you’re building a team at your company and want the best folks out there. As the hiring manager, you feel the pressure and the pain. Past hiring mistakes quickly flash before your eyes. You see flashbacks of late nights and weekends you and your team worked because you were understaffed and just could not hire fast enough. A shiver runs through your spine.

Do you want to put a quick end to the pain and hire someone quickly, if they are not a great match? Someone is better than no one right? Hmmm, I do not think so. How do you build high performing teams? How do you retain the team that you built?

The first thing to do is, to hire the right people.

Do not compromise. Do not settle. Hire the right people. Who are the right people? And how do you avoid waiting years for the right candidates to show up? Look for potential, look for willingness to learn and a demonstrated ability to learn things to be successful at a job, look for examples of initiative taken etc etc. Ask the candidates about the best projects they’ve executed and ask about what made them the best. Ask candidates what were the worst projects they worked on and what made them so bad?

Ok. You’ve hired super stars. Can you keep them though?

Keeping high performing employees engaged and motivated is an art. High performers will have high expectations. Do you have a clear path for them to grow through and has that been communicated clearly to them? Do you have regular 1:1 meetings or other types of frequent feedback sessions with them? If you wait a year or months before asking someone how they are doing or what problems they are facing, the first time you hear about those issues will be in their exit interview. Talk to your team often, get to know them, understand their motivations and expectations, assign them to projects that match those expectations whenever possible.

But they did so well on the interview. What happened after they came on


Some folks do really well on interviews. It may be that they have really good skills in one area but we’ve been giving them projects that require other skills that they do not possess. Or it may be that they just interview really well and we did not dig deep enough. The right thing to do there is to try and find out what really is the case. If its a matter of finding the right fit for them, in a different project, act quickly and do that. If its a matter of having a tough conversation with them and helping them with a performance improvement plan, so be it, do that quickly as well. The worst thing you can do when you have a problem is, nothing.

Impact based role definitions and evaluations

How do you define a role? Do you say just list all the projects or types of work you want folks filling the role to do and leave it at that? Have you thought about creating impact linked roles that help every employee understand the impact their work is expected to have on the company? I personally feel that it is highly motivating to see how my work makes the company better, helps grow our user base or in some other way, moves the needle.

Reward excellence

You have some high performers on your team. You help one of them reach the next level in his career path. You help another get that key role in another department. You help yet another land that architect role everyone is eying and that’s a great match for him. People are watching how you treat your best. If they know that they can go places by performing well on your team, guess what? There will always be people who will want to work on your team. This will also motivate the not so high performers to do better. If everyone knows that good work is noticed and rewarded, it really makes a difference.

The High potential leader

I’m reading this book called ‘The High potential leader’. Its got some good ideas. I’ll take notes via this blog and work some of those into my/my team’s work routine. Per chapter 3 of this book, the formula for building successful and high performing teams is,

People Quality + Job Fit + Collaboration = Team Performance

The key things are,

  • Identify your team’s strengths
  • Build on their strengths
  • Make necessary changes quickly
  • Look for opportunities to collaborate across organizational boundaries
  • Lead the dialogue (keep it pointed towards positive results)
  • Make your meetings effective
  • Be a social architect
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