Your business doesn’t run itself. The quality of your organization depends on the quality of your team, and a motivated, energized staff is the key to companywide success. You want “A Players,” those colleagues who contribute disproportionately to the advancement and profitability of the organization.
Economist and philosopher Vilfredo Pareto helped standardize statistical analysis of social activity, notably reflected in the Pareto Principle — that 80% of results are produced by 20% of the resources. In the same way, the A Players in your organization have a measurable impact on your bottom line.
The Pareto Principle is frequently applied in analyses of sales programs, but it applies to organizations in other ways too. If you can build a team of A Players around you, your job as a business leader or owner becomes much easier, as you do not have to deal with endless crises and can work more intentionally on developing the future strategy for your organization.
Finding Quality in Unexpected Places
So how do you find A Players for your team? A curious thing about A Players is that they can be found in the strangest of places. A few years ago, James was running a car dealership that was lacking in quality salespeople. He received a call from his wife while she was out shopping for strollers, and asked him to meet her at the store. “I want you to meet Louise. She has a great attitude and I think you’ll like her.”
Ten minutes later he was walking into the shop to meet Louise. She was well prepared and very professional, and she spent the next half an hour asking James and Louise lots of qualifying questions about their lifestyle. Once she had all the information she needed from them she launched into a brilliant sales demonstration of various products. She was impressive.
The couple spent over $1,000 in the shop that day and were thrilled with their interactions with Louise. James was particularly impressed by her enthusiasm, her energy, and her ability to listen intently to their needs, and that she was able to review this information for them when closing the sale. Too many sales people believe that their assignment is to talk to customers about a product, but good salesmanship is the ability to listen to customers in order to understand and address their needs.
A few days later James went back to that store and offered Louise a job. He was not sure that selling cars had been on her career plan, but to her credit she took a risk and joined the team the following month.
Initially, Louise struggled because she had no product knowledge, no customer base, and was the only woman on a sales team of 30 people. However, with steady support from James and the upper-level staff, and a combination of hard work and positive attitude, she began to flourish. By the end of the year she was the top sales person at the dealership.
When you are seeking A Players for your organization, don’t just look for skills and experience: start by looking for someone with a great attitude.
Here are seven tips to help you find your own A Players:
1. One-page plan. Have a simple, one-page plan ready to share with future employees. This plan will highlight what your organization has achieved during the past year, and your vision for the coming three to five years. “A Players” are motivated as much by being part of an organization that has clear goals and aspirations as they are by salary and benefits. They want to be part of an organization that has a purpose.
2. Think outside the box. Don’t look only in the same old places for new employees. Think about looking outside of your industry for people with the right attitude and a track record of success. You can always train talented people to develop the necessary skills and acquire the right product knowledge.
3. Telephone screening interview. Consider conducting a 15- to 20-minute telephone interview with potential candidates. This may save both parties a lot of time and expense before a more formal interview is arranged.
4. Personality profiles. Use DISC or another similar personality profiling tool to make sure that your candidate fits well in the role you are seeking to fill. Different fields require types of skills, such as high-influencing personalities or levels of compliance.
5. Watch the body language. Always have another person conduct an interview together with you. If possible, arrange for this colleague to ask the questions, so that you can concentrate on listening to the answers that the candidate gives, and also to observe his or her body language, to make sure that it is congruent with what the candidate says.
References and Referrals
6. References. Always insist on speaking to a former boss for a reference. Sometimes, what is said about the candidate is not as revealing as the way in which it is said, over the phone, that will alert you to potential problems. But, this also may provide you with clues to the positive aspects of the candidate. Written references are usually very brief and not very helpful.
7. Staff referral program. Have a program in place that rewards your current employees if they recommend someone for a position you want to fill. For example, offer a cash bonus to employees if their recommended candidate is hired, and another bonus if the candidate is still with you and performing well six months later. This has the additional benefit of ensuring that the new staff member has a mentor to look out for him or here during their initial months on the job.
Try some of these tips to see what works best for you and your organization. If you surround yourself with a team of A Players who have great attitudes, who are motivated by achievement and are strong in areas where you are weak, then your duties as a leader or business owner is made easier. You can concentrate on setting the future strategy for your organization while your team achieves amazing results.
Richard J. Bryan is a speaker, executive coach and author of Being Frank: Real Life Lessons to Grow Your Business and Yourself. Thanks to his experience as the fourth-generation CEO in a family-owned business, Bryan gained the knowledge needed to develop as an organizational leader. Applying his creative strategies, Richard helps businesses hire the right people, forge dynamic teams and increase profits. Visit www.richardjbryan.com for more information.