Let’s look at what not to do when you’ve taken on a new employee. My name is Melissa James and I’m CEO of The Tech Connection, where we help employers find diverse technical talent. I’m also a former recruiter for Google, and I’ve helped build teams from just one person up to 70,000 people.
Identify Your Skills and Weaknesses
What are some of the core leadership skills that are going to help balance out your duties? As founder, you’re really great with coming up with an awesome vision for where you want your company to go. It is super important for you to be aware of your strengths and your weaknesses. Some of my strengths are coming up with a vision, a strategy, thinking through complex problems, and finding short-term solutions to get through those problems.
What I don’t like and what I’m not really great at are the follow-up, and sometimes the execution. What that means is I want people who love following up, who love execution, and who are hyper-organized. That’s a great way and a great personality attribute that will help out our team greatly. Why? Because I know that if I’m doing one thing, they’re doing the next part and making sure that we’re executing all of our vision and all of our goals.
It’s super important for us as founders to think very strategically about the personality types that we bring onto our teams. You don’t want people that have a very similar personality type. You want someone who’s going to have a personality type that is complimentary to yours.
Set Your Employees Up for Success
Now you’ve gone through the rigorous interviewing process. I’m sure you had some really fun conversations with individuals and realized that hiring is actually kind of hard. Once you go through and find that person that you want to bring onto your team, it is super important from the beginning to make sure you set them up for success. What does that look like? It’s going back to that 30-, 60-, and 90-day plan and making sure that you reiterate it.
Once they’ve started working at the company, you two should sit down together and say, “Here’s a 30-day plan that we’re working on. These are the objectives that we’re looking to accomplish. These are the tasks we need to get done in order to get there.” Letting them know about their role and their part in completing this big, broad business vision will really help them understand the value that they bring to the team and how much you are depending on them to help get these products done efficiently and on time.
Regularly Check in with New Hires
So, as you set your 30-, 60-, and 90-day goals, you can’t just set it and forget it. That’s where most founders go wrong. You need to sit down and make sure that you have time to talk with your new hire about which things are going well and which things aren’t going the way that you thought. Why? Because we live in a very messy world. What we think might happen and what really happens, in reality, are sometimes two very different things, and there is no perfect solution for everything that we think might go on.
Make sure that you have a weekly phone call or a weekly meeting with your new hire to say, “What’s going well? What things aren’t going well? How can I best support you so that we can make sure that you’re still getting your projects done on time and you’re getting the results that we need to achieve?” Working with your team members on a weekly basis gives both of you an opportunity to share best practices, lessons learned, and the opportunity to make sure that you’re both still staying on top of your performance.
So now that you’ve set your strategy and goal for this particular team member, be sure to empower them. Everybody loves to hear when they’re doing great. That’s what’s going to make them want to continue to work at your company instead of looking across the way at somebody else’s. Tell them when they’ve done a great job. Appreciate them when they’ve worked extra hours, more than you thought it would take to get a project done.
You, as founder, set the leadership tone for your organization. It is so important for you to reinforce the passion that you have for your mission, express the appreciation that you have for your team members, and display the commitment that you have to make your business successful.
Find Common Ground
So, you have to hire. You guys have been working together for over 30 days. Maybe it might just be 60 days. But something’s gone wrong. Maybe they’re showing up late; perhaps they’re giving you more excuses than you might prefer. It’s easy when things are going well. But then, life hits. How do you have these conversations? Do you wait and not say anything? I think being late once or twice is okay. But three or four times? That might be a habit that you might want discuss. What’s really important is that when you have this conversation, it’s not about accusations; it’s about finding common ground and understanding through questions.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
When you’re in a particular situation where an employee isn’t performing the way that you would like, sit them down in a relaxed environment where it’s one-to-one and nobody else can hear, and you say, “I notice that you’ve been coming in a little bit later. What’s going on? Is there anything that we can do to help you? Our core hours are between 9 and 1, and I’d really love for you to be here between those hours. Is there anything I can do to help out or support you?”
You have no idea what might be going on in someone’s life. They might be having a difficult challenge at home, or perhaps they need to do drop-offs in the morning and you had no idea they had kids. These are all things that, as founder, you need to be very responsive to. You want to make sure that you’re having an open and honest conversation. Give your new hire the opportunity to bring this up to you, to have an open dialogue with you, and see if the two of you can come to a compromise on how best to handle this. Perhaps it’s just Mondays and Tuesdays that this person has drop-off for their kids. Could you tolerate them being late on Monday and Tuesday if they’re early on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday?
Having those conversations early, before the situation festers and gets too high or too frustrating for you, is very important. You want your employees to know that they can approach you and that you’ll approach them if there’s any challenges that are going on among the team.
About Melissa James
Melissa James is President and CEO of The Tech Connection, the premier marketplace for purpose driven, diverse technical talent. Her mission is to help people reach their highest potential by accelerating their individual pathway to success. She believes that every individual should live by one principle to ‘Be the CEO of You”. She not only inspires people to realize their full potential she connects them to high-performing companies that will accelerate their growth. She has a strong track record of building high performing teams for elite companies such as Google, Teradata, and local Boston businesses such as RA Capital, and Sample6.
At the root of her work is a passion for community service. On top of running her business, Melissa is the founder of the Black Tech Boston Meetup, a platform created to celebrate the impact of technology within African American communities. She previously served on the board for Youth Institute of Science and Technology and the Young Black Women’s Society. Melissa has been recognized as a “Woman on The Move” by Boston Business Journal. She has been featured in numerous news outlets such as the Improper Bostonian, Bay State Banner, Boston Herald, and Bloomberg Business.
She recently received the U.S. Presidential Service Award and the 2015 Pursuer award from the African Youth Excellence organization for her relentless commitment to the community. Melissa was born and raised in Boston, MA and graduated with honors from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.