We have all heard the somewhat depersonalizing term “human capital.’ In fact, it’s a commonly used term whenever there are discussions concerning business strategy. There is a good reason this term is utilized, and that is because people themselves are absolutely invaluable assets in today’s corporate and business climate. When the people at the very top of your organization are progressing full steam ahead to achieve your business goals, you often have little choice as to whether you will trust the large numbers of people that work below you to get the job done. Yet, trust in human capital is highly undervalued quality in many organizations today.
A recently released Harvard Business survey indicated that a scant 32% of global leaders believe that their teams possess the required skill set to meet their company’s goals. If you think about it that is a stupendously small level of confidence in one’s human capital. It’s almost disheartening. If a leader cannot reliably trust their employees to enact their business vision, then they are in a tough place indeed.
Whether developing or scaling your organization, the types of people you choose to hire, the qualities they embody, and the specific skills and previous experience they bring to the table are all incredibly important factors to consider. Your employees are absolutely critical when it comes to making your company everything you’ve dreamed it to be. It is your people who will cheer you on as you issue your rallying cry. They are the individuals who will embody your businesses goals and dreams. They are the ones who will make the coffee in the breakroom, and like it or not, it is they who will charge unflinchingly into the many challenges and hurdles you will undoubtedly face as your business grows.
Yet, how do you assemble a team with staying power? How can you be sure that your crack team will not only be there when you are a small start-up but will also mature and grow just as your company grows and evolves even years down the road?
It Begins with Humility
The first step to the process is actually quite simple: Seek out individuals who demonstrate humility. But let’s expound on the concept. If you’re a burgeoning entrepreneur, it pays to reflect on a myriad of websites, books, and literature when constructing your ideal team. One of the life-changing books on leadership would be The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni. In it, he describes the necessity for this quality when it comes to working well as a team, explicitly referencing the famous author C.S. Lewis as an example. Lewis believed that true humility isn’t really thinking less of yourself, instead it is something more akin to thinking of yourself less. I couldn’t agree more. This is precisely the sort of thing I look for when assembling a team that will be with me for the long haul. It is a rare quality that doesn’t come quickly to individuals who are often focused, driven, and successful, and yet it might just be more important than any of these other traits when taken individually. It all comes down to ego, and the ability to subsume your own opinions and selfish desires when appropriate to move the ball forward for the good of the company. It is the very heart of what being a Team Player is all about. Most importantly, when individuals within your organization embody the quality of humility, infighting and turf wars all but disappear, allowing you to advance your company vision rapidly.
Yeah, You’ve Got Skills–but How About Experience?
Gathering a team that reflects your core values is one thing, but what’s more important in a new team member: Skills or Experience? Are they mutually exclusive? I don’t believe that is correct, let me tell you why. As a company leader, I’m going to assume that by the time an applicant ends up sitting in front of me they already possess ‘the skills.’ In fact, one’s skills are like a bunch of assembled raw ingredients. Now that we’ve gotten them together let’s see how you cook a steak chef!
Concerning experience, however, we have to be a bit more chary-eyed, specifically in instances where we are considering someone for a senior role. Let’s be frank, you can’t place value on a veteran team with a proven track record of generating results. It is the foundation of a good business. But when tackling novel problems, and unforeseen circumstances there’s something to be said for a fresh set of eyes. These new folks are absolutely invaluable early on when the emphasis is on scaling and developing your new company. Later, when your company has hit its stride, and you’ve reached that next stage of growth, it pays to have a mix of old and new on the team. It’s then that you will truly benefit from both the innovative, cutting-edge minds, as well as the scrappy, battle-worn team players that will keep the engine of progress steaming away. It is always a balancing act, maintaining the young-bloods in check while allowing the ‘old hands’ the time and resources needed to execute your decisions effectively. Yet through focus and attention, you will undoubtedly create incredible teams that utilize both new skills as well as proven methods.
Circumstances and Situations Change
So now that you’ve managed to assemble an expert team of people who embody humility, possess complementary skillsets, and represent a combination of young blood and old veterans, you will encounter an even greater dilemma. Who was right for the company then, might not be who is right for the company now. Times, situations and circumstances change. The team members who were invaluable to your company in start-up mode, might not flourish once the company begins to build structures and procedures. Some employees might find it difficult to adapt. Determining exactly who might be a perfect fit for your company at different stages of development is absolutely vital to your success and the long-term viability of your business, particularly in an environment that thrives on growth and expansion. Your employees and teams must be able to adjust as your company evolves.
One example can be drawn from the ‘dot com’ boom. At the beginning of the boom, numerous top-level executives from major companies left their positions to join a whole host of start-ups that seemed to have tremendous potential to succeed. These guys were honestly like fish-out-of-water. They had an incredibly difficult time adjusting to the open, blue-sky environments present at many of these start-ups. They truly craved the stolid procedures and methods of the past, the places where they were actually flourishing. To guard against this, you need to make sure to hire team members who are flexible, and who are willing to adapt and change gears as the organization does so. You also need employees who are courageous enough to admit when the company is no longer the best place for them to flourish. If they can’t then you need the leadership to realize it for them.
In the end, your organization is composed of human capital—people. They must be developed and regarded as valuable assets, no less than any other aspect of your organization. Finding the right mixture of leadership, humility, skills, experience, and adaptability can be pretty tricky, but when executed wisely, it can provide the formula for an amazingly successful team.