5 Tips for Hiring a Team
(and Common Mistakes to Avoid!)
by Connie Vanderzanden
Expansion and hiring seem to be top of my mind for my clients right now.
Whether it’s the relief that 2020 is over and the hope that 2021 will be better, or the simple truth that they’re tired of being the bottleneck in their own business, leveraging themselves out of the day-to-day is a priority. What’s not always clear is how to make it happen.
For the purposes of this article, my definition of hiring means full or part-time team members under an employment relationship or it could mean bringing on a subcontractor. Mindset, onboarding, and interaction are the same. This post is not going to cover the topic of “which is better” or “what’s the difference”. You can definitely schedule a conversation with me on that topic or ask your tax pro or attorney for more information specific to your state and needs.
Connie’s Tip: With more businesses forced to have team members work from home and (at the time of this writing), no real end in sight for the possibility of going back to the office, paying attention to where your team members are working from is something to look into. For example, employees working from home in a different state may require the employer to now file as a business in that state. Different states have different sick time and paid leave requirements, not to mention minimum hourly rates. My recommendation is to schedule time with an HR specialist or attorney to discuss how these new working conditions may affect your business. Plus if you haven’t updated that employee manual, now is the time, especially to pick-up COVID related items and work from home requirements!
Here’s a typical conversation I’ve been having with clients lately. Maybe you can relate?
Client: Connie, I need to hire <practice manager, chief of staff, COO, insert your own need here>. I just don’t have the time and I need help.
Connie: Great. Have you identified the tasks, when they will need to perform the tasks, how best to interact with you, and success measurements?
Client: Not really, I just know that I need to hire.
Connie: Okay. How about a starting wage? Have you looked to see what that might be?
Connie: Not a problem, we can come up with that. How about ……
As you can see, it’s easy to identify there’s a need. The rest - how to hire, what to pay them, how to onboard, how to measure their success, what time commitment is required - usually doesn’t show up until we have already committed to the idea and jumped in with both feet.
OR for some of us, me included, not having all the answers stopped me cold from moving forward.
Where are you on your hiring adventure?
- Is this your first time?
- Tried it out a bit in the past but had a couple of hiccups?
- Perhaps your team didn’t meet a deadline or the request you made was never completed. You have or are losing trust with them.
- Or, it just doesn’t seem like the team is on the same page, and the team’s priorities are not in alignment.
If this is your first time, I am going to suggest you have a long conversation with a business coach or mentor who can walk you through the thought process and suggested steps for making your first hire.
For those that have hired before and perhaps the result wasn’t exactly what you imagined, I am going to share a few things I have learned over the years that go beyond the basics of how/what/who.
While we each jumped into entrepreneurship for a variety of reasons, most likely yours evolved around one thing: Freedom to do it the way you want it to be done, and the ability to choose what to do with the money you create.
Am I right?
Ready for the hard truth? Since you want it done your way, more than likely you aren’t looking to build a team comprised of fellow entrepreneurs, even though you secretly just want your team to show up that way. Hiring a team made up of entrepreneurs means that you are able and willing to give up control. How much control are you REALLY willing to let go of?
More than likely though, what you and your business needs most is a team of do-ers and organizers who will each have different strengths, values, and communication skills. Not everyone will talk or think as you do. Hiring a team requires that you as the CEO up your leadership and communication skills.
Your team is looking for YOU to provide two key things: consistency and structure!
Are you ready to up your game?
Team members thrive on consistency.
Here are a few ways you can create and foster an environment of consistency in your business:
- Hold regular weekly meetings;
- Develop (with the team’s help!) written processes where tasks don’t change;
- If your team includes subcontractors or virtual assistants, look to hire those with other clients in your industry or who specialize in a specific niche related to the support you need;
- Let your team know when you are available and how to reach you, like using Slack or set day(s) and time(s) that you are available to them;
- Provide feedback - good and bad - in a timely fashion.
I know this is one area I had problems with. Changing from solopreneur to working with a team, there were times when I didn’t want to show up.
Connie’s Tip: When this happens, and all you want to do is hide under the covers, your energy core is low and self-care is a requirement. Get some time on your calendar to recharge, pronto!
The team operates more smoothly when there is structure - which is something you may not have had as a solopreneur.
- Identify when you need them to be available. Working with a remote team? You don’t make yourself available based on their availability, you hire based on them being available for YOU!
- Job descriptions may seem old-fashioned, and they are, but they’re still helpful. Now a single team member, depending on their strengths, may do a little bit of everything. Crafting a basic description will help everyone get started.
- Establish goals, deadlines, and expectations that work with your schedule AND spend time getting buy-in from the team. This allows you, as the leader, to set boundaries, and give your team members ways to measure how they are doing, perhaps even winning.
Connie’s Tip: As new team members are hired, make one of their responsibilities to keep their job descriptions/task lists up-to-date based on what they do. This is a living breathing document that consistently shifts as the business does.
Don’t let the team work in a vacuum.
As the leader, the team is looking for you to provide them with feedback and create a team environment. Letting them work in a bubble is unfair to them and it will stall out your business growth plans.
I admit it’s not always fun or easy to be a leader. But if we wanted “easy”, we would still be working for someone else! Again, if you find yourself “hiding” from your team, you are not fully resourced or there is an issue you are hoping just goes away on its own. To step into leadership requires that you take care of yourself AND have those uncomfortable conversations. By “hiding” from the problem, rather than taking action, all you are going to do is waste resources.
- Does the problem revolve around a task? Start first with what IS working and then what is not being addressed? Does the team member have the training to do it? Is it a task that falls in their top strengths?
- Is it a communication problem, as in there isn’t enough communication or holy shit, they talk way too much? Have you given them the best times and practices to follow when communicating with you?
- How about timing? Are they taking too long? Did you give them time expectations?
- Quality of the project? Did you work in a check-in or review process with the task? Do you have to be the one to review it?
Perfectionism is a Characteristic of White Supremacy Culture
Let that shit go. We are all human beings, flawed and imperfect. We will not show up 100% of the time and do the work without errors. As leaders, it is irrational for us to hold that high standard.
What can you do instead? You can develop a culture of appreciation, taking personal responsibility, and focusing on what was learned, what can be improved.
Be aware that you are co-creating with the team, beta testing processes and tools, and finding out what works for YOU and what doesn’t. As the LEADER it is your responsibility to train and to talk to them.
There were many times when I chose to just do it myself, claiming that I didn’t have the time or, more importantly, the energy, to “deal with it.” Then I wanted to FIRE them ALL and go back to the comfort of working by MYSELF!
Of course, this is the polar opposite of why I hired a team in the first place. I was done DOING it ALL and I knew that ultimately, having a team to support me was going to help me leverage my time.
Amp up the gratitude and connection with your team!
They are not machines that simply do their thing. They are people. Taking time to connect with them on a social basis goes a long way in creating trust and building loyalty.
It’s your business. Your team desires to support your bigger vision. As their leader, it’s your job to remember and embrace their differences. Just go into that growth with eyes wide open, a lot of patience, and firm boundaries.
Growing a team is a big step for any business! Not only is there structure and consistency required, but it will also take resources - money and time. If you are getting stuck on any of these areas, let’s schedule a conversation!
Shout-out to these teachers, mentors, and resources that I turn to on this subject.
Book: Strengths-Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie
Book: Dealing with People You Can’t Stand, by Dr. Rich Brinkman and Dr. Rick Krischner
Book: We Need to Talk: Your Guide to Challenging Business Conversations by Andrea J. Lee
Book: Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux
Coaches: Tina Forsyth and Monica Shah