The following is a guest piece by CEO David Mattson.
Over the years, we’ve worked with a lot of CEOs and others in senior leadership positions, and I’m often asked what the very best corporate leaders have in common when building their teams. The answer is simple: Great leaders are always recruiting for tomorrow, rather than just for today.
Let me explain what I mean by that. Mediocre or poor leaders recruit only when there’s an unexpected, immediate opening that they must quickly fill. They’re basically in damage control mode, focused only on the short term. But when the emergency of that sudden vacancy passes, they once again put recruiting aside.
Superior leaders, by contrast, are always in recruiting mode, and always thinking in the long term about the talent they need to attract and retain. They constantly ask themselves whether a new business contact could make a contribution at their organization. They never stop looking for people who can help them achieve their vision for where the company will be in three, four or five years in the future.
Great leaders also know the difference between “willing” and “able.” They look objectively at their current staff, and identify what the specific talent requirements are going to be – not just for today, but for the company’s next level of growth. They ascertain all the organization’s talent gaps, and then they look closely at the existing team.
What they usually discover is that some people on the payroll are able to help them close those gaps, but unwilling to do so. These team members present extremely limited growth potential within the company and may even present a cultural mismatch.
People who are willing but unable to fill the talent gaps present a much different challenge. Great leaders know they have a responsibility to provide these people with the tools they need to build their skills and experience so they can make a contribution toward the company’s success.
Some employees, when supported over time via a personalized learning and development plan, will grow dramatically and be able to help close the talent gap; others won’t. The key is to identify which is which, and to find the best way to utilize and grow the internal talent.
When we take into account our current staff’s potential for growth, though, we typically find that there are still major gaps we need to fill to move our organization where it needs to be within three to five years. And that’s where the “always be recruiting” mindset really applies.
To be a truly successful leader, you need great people. And to get great people, you need to constantly focus on building your talent bench. Whenever you meet a talented, highly motivated person who looks like a good match with your organization’s culture and its major goals, you need to be prepared to start the networking, recruiting, and interviewing processes … and to involve others in your organization in that process.
Great leaders know that an organization’s talent pool is everything. They also know that the interview process is a key element in the sales cycle for leaders. They manage a continuous pipeline of high-quality recruitment discussions. As a result, they build deep, broad networks of potential employees and allies who are both willing and able to help them move forward the organization’s long-term goals.
These leaders not only create a competitive edge for their organization over time – they also reduce their own stress levels, because they have plenty of “back-up talent” in place. That means that the departure of a key contributor isn’t necessarily a crisis that threatens the whole organization, but an opportunity to hire a new star with the potential to shine.
David Mattson is the CEO and President of Sandler Training, an international training and consulting organization headquartered in the North America. His most recent book is “The Road to Excellence: 6 Leadership Strategies to Build a Bulletproof Business”.