“The team with the best players wins.”
It's true in sports, and it's true in business.
As a leader, there are lots of things you can and should be doing to build a strong business. I have had plenty to say on this over the years, but today I want to focus on one thing: attracting (and retaining) the best players to your team.
The best players have lots of choices
Let’s get something clear right away – top performers have lots of options.
The players who deliver results, demonstrate the right behaviors and work well with others are sought by hiring managers everywhere – in your organization and, of course, by your competitors. The question for you is: “How do you attract these players to your team and, once you get them, how do you keep them?”
What’s in it for…them?
Ask yourself this question: “What kind of team do I want to be a part of?”
Don’t overthink it. What comes to mind right away?
For most of us, it will include things like: working with a group that shares ideas openly, values transparency and is aligned around a common vision; a place where individuals are recognized for their contributions and have opportunities for growth and promotion. It will be a team where people have fun and where victories are celebrated.
If you’d look for these qualities when considering a move to another team or another employer, then why wouldn’t anyone else seek them when considering joining your team?
Are you the kind of boss that others want to work for?
As a manager, your reputation can have more impact on attracting the best players to your team than anything else going on at the corporate level. What do others say about you when you’re not around? Do they think you deal with people fairly, share the praise and credit, speak candidly and openly? Do you practice transparency? Does your team honestly believe that you have their best interests at heart?
The foundation of great leadership is all about putting the needs of others first. You have to fight to get your team the resources they need to do their jobs. You have to lobby for the raises and bonuses that your people deserve. And to be clear, this does not mean an equal share for everybody. It means that the people who really deliver get rewarded for their contributions. Transparency ensures that everyone knows where they stand. That’s what a true meritocracy is all about.
Most people (at least the kind of people you want on your team) are not seeking the easy path or a boss that settles for good enough. They’re looking for challenges. They want to be pushed to do more, to be their best, to reach their potential. They want to work for the kind of boss that will embrace these aspirations and who can create a work environment where they can flourish. They want to work for a boss they can trust and who has their back.
Finding purpose in work
Is money important? Of course, it is. But it takes more than just a fat paycheck to build a cohesive, high-performing team.
Winning teams are aligned around a shared vision of success. If you want to attract top performers to your team, you have to get them excited. There has to be a reason to come to work every day and give it your all. As the team leader, you have to be clear and passionate about why your team does what it does, how it contributes to the success of the larger organization AND how being a part of the team is good for them as individuals.
While you may have no control over the mission of the larger organization, there is nothing that prevents you from developing a team mission and (together with your team) defining the behaviors that support the mission. Aligning the team around the mission is one of the most powerful things a leader can do. It creates unity and purpose. So speak about it often. Use it to guide business decisions. Use it to engage the team.
Never promote on performance alone
As you attract high performers to your team, and as your business grows, there will be opportunities for promotion.
There should be nothing more exciting for a manager than seeing your people develop and get rewarded with new responsibilities and bigger paychecks. But as you consider who to promote, keep one thing in mind – never promote on the basis of performance if the individual does not demonstrate the behaviors that support the mission of the team.
While recognition for contributions against hard metrics (sales, cost reduction, growth, etc.) is easy, ignoring toxic behaviors that go against the behaviors your team believes in can tear the team apart. The moment you promote someone who delivers the numbers, but displays these behaviors, you undo everything you have been working toward in building a culture of trust.
Your top performers will get noticed
If you want to build the reputation that your team is the place to be, then you can't do that by being silent.
Talk about your team…a lot! Share stories about the rock stars you’ve got. Sing their praises. But be prepared because it won’t be long before one of your colleagues comes to you and says, “Hey, I’ve got an opportunity on my team that would be perfect for X, would you consider letting me have a conversation with them?”
When this happens, celebrate it.
Never, ever, EVER hold someone back from a promotion. But you have to have a succession plan. You need to be prepared to replace your key players quickly and without disruption to your business.
The good news is that if you’ve built a reputation that your team is the place to be, the place where people get promoted, the place where the boss is fighting for them, the place where they can find purpose and fulfillment at work, you’ll have them beating a path to your door and you’ll have your pick of the best of the best.
Your winning team
So ask yourself, “Is my team seen as the place to be?”
If not, then you’d better start making some changes. What are you waiting for?
People are dying to work for great leaders. They want to be part of an engaged and successful team. They want to have fun, learn, grow and be rewarded for their contributions. The only question is, will they find that in your team or will they have to look elsewhere?
About Jack Welch
Jack Welch is Executive Chairman of the Jack Welch Management Institute. Through its online MBA program, the Jack Welch Management Institute transforms the lives of its students by providing them with the tools to become better leaders, build great teams, and help their organizations win.