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Home · Blog · Featured : Building a scarily successful team: The art of hiring people better than you


“It’s hard to be an eagle when you’re surrounded by turkeys”.

You have great goals and a vision for how you want your business to be.  You invest in your own personal and leadership development and are constantly looking to improve your personal effectiveness as an influencer and decision maker.  Yet you’re concerned that the team you have isn’t able to help you to make the dream a reality.

Well, as a coach I believe that most people can be developed, and a good leader will never blame their team (like a good tradie never blames his tools).  As the leader, it’s your job to engage the team in your vision and work with them to develop their skills so that they can become a significant contributor.  These efforts are usually rewarded in the longer term, even though at times the short-term pain can be intense.

But when it’s time to recruit, whether to replace an exiting teamster or due to business growth, I’d suggest that the best leaders seek to hire people who are better than them; A+ players.  It’s truly a test of your confidence as a leader.  Macintosh used to have a saying, “A player hire A players; B players hire C players” meaning that if you need to hire someone who will make you feel superior then obviously the quality of your recruiting diminishes.  And then when those C players start hiring D players – well it’s never going to be a positive story, is it?  But why hire another A when there are A+ players out there?  A+ players can be scary for leaders if they feel they need to stay ahead of their team, rather than the visionist and good shepherd.

So as others before me have suggested, if you’re an A player then recruit A+ people for the long-term benefit of your business.  Here are some ideas how to identify A+ players from the marketplace:

  1. Get really specific about the job description – what exactly will this position be responsible for?  What skills and knowledge are essential for someone to be able to do the role?  Can these skills be developed on the job, or is there a certain level of previous experience necessary?
  2. Define the personal competencies you want – make a list of important competencies the employee will need to demonstrate in order to fit with the organisational culture, the team dynamics, and the demands of the role itself.  For an A+ player I’d suggest that the top of the list will be “self-directed”.  You’re looking for someone who can create their own ideas/goals and implement them, not someone who needs constant hand-holding.  Get a picture in your mind of how an A+ player would behave in this position and make a full list.
  3. Look for passionate people – you want to hire someone who truly loves the industry you operate in, or the product/service you sell.  Their passion is infectious – to their team, their suppliers and their customers. All the education and experience in the world doesn’t matter if they don’t love it.
  4. Don’t get caught up with qualifications alone – let’s face it, early in your career a qualification gives you the edge.  After 10 years of industry experience it may not be as relevant whether one candidate has a degree and another one doesn’t.  Focus on your notes from points 1 to 3 above in identifying an A+ player, the qualifications are only one (small) part of the picture.
  5. Hard-nosed shortlisting and in-depth interviewing – Now that you have a great list of what you want you need to be uncompromising about your shortlisting process.  Only move to the interview stage with those applicants who appear to meet all your criteria.  If there are points on your list that you can’t identify from their letter of application and resume, I recommend a brief telephone interview to cover off on those points alone.  Then proceed to a face-to-face interview and have at least two people on the “panel”, preferably the direct manager for the position and someone senior from another team who will need to work with this person at the very least.  In the interview, ask every candidate the same questions and take extensive notes.  Really get into the applicants psyche as much as you can – how much responsibility did they have in their career successes and how much did they take for when things went wrong? 
  6. Check independent references – so many leaders tend to trust their intuition about applicants and fail to get independent confirmation.  Let’s face it, in the genuine desire to put their best foot forward it’s not in the applicant’s interests you talk with you about their personal weaknesses or past failures in a totally open and honest way.  That’s the natural dynamic of an interview process.  You can’t truly know whether this person is an A+ player unless you talk to previous managers (not co-workers).  You need to be able to back up all your knowledge about this person with at least 2 independent sources.  
  7. Offer a complete package – the A+ players have their pick of jobs, so many leaders make the mistake of throwing more money at them.  Since these people have the pick of employers all keen to pay them well, consider the whole package that will appeal.  Reward for performance (bonuses, weekend away with partner, etc), development opportunities within the organisation, training/qualifications you will pay for, flexible working hours, discounted gym membership, monthly creative time (like Google’s 20% time).  Work out what you can offer and what the person would value that will make them want to work with you now and will help them stick with you into the future.

So remember, the biggest difference between the A+ players isn’t in their experience and qualifications – it’s the kind of person they are. Look for people who scare you in how inspired, motivated and action-oriented they are, and challenge yourself to become the type of leader who harnesses and builds on their talent and enthusiasm.

If you would like assistance in preparing to recuit A+ players for your team, sstart by completing your details on the “Contact Us” page.

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