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My Greatest Lessons in
Hiring & Firing

What I’ve Learned About Building
a Happy, Effective Team

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How do you recognize when a team member is needing more training or when they are simply not a great fit? How can you ensure you’re surrounded by the right people?

— Genine Howard

This is an excellent question Genine and to be perfectly honest, one I’m still trying to figure out myself. I’m by no means an expert in this area, but in my commitment to being a better leader I’ve reflected a lot on my past successes and mistakes and I’m happy to share what I’ve learned thus far.

First of all let me say that if your hires never quite seem to work out as well as you thought they would, you are definitely not alone. What I’m realizing is that few of us entrepreneurs have been trained in how to hire really well. And I don’t even mean just women entrepreneurs like us—across the board studies show that 70% of people are not engaged at work, so we can cut ourselves some slack.

“First of all let me say that if your hires never quite seem to work out as well as you thought they would, you are definitely not alone.”

Often what happens is we’ll post our recruiting ads when we need someone three weeks ago. We don’t give ourselves time to reach a lot of potential candidates and end up interviewing only a few people. We find someone quickly who claims to be super organized, detail-oriented, timely, responsible— a total A-player. (Who isn’t in a job interview?) They’d love the job and they’re confident they can do it.

So we feel relieved that someone is finally going to deal with all of that work that’s piling up and press go. Then fairly quickly, something doesn’t seem quite right. Apparently you have different definitions of what “attention to detail” really means. Suddenly this person who could totally anticipate your needs isn’t even showing up to work on time.

We start to doubt ourselves. Maybe we need to explain things better. We just hired this person…didn’t it feel right? Didn’t they seem so great? The thing is—maybe they are great…for someone else. You wouldn’t marry someone after one date and you do not know enough to hire someone after one interview.

What I’m learning is key to bringing on the right employees is setting up an effective hiring process. Just like dating, you and the prospective team member need to go through several experiences together to know that you’re on the same wavelength and have the same standards. I’ve found that it’s important to have multiple interviews with different team members and to give them an assignment or task to complete. You may want to consult astrology or personality tests as well.

So much of the frustration between a team member and a visionary can be in trying to make someone into something they’re not. At the same time I have seen people turn around with training, becoming much happier in their position and doing way better in their job. What’s worked for me in the past is setting up clear expectations and structures to make sure those expectations are being met—protocols and project management systems where people are checking tasks off lists and adhering to certain guidelines.

So how do you know when to keep trying and when to call it? There’s no one-size-fits all answer. Ultimately it comes down to what you as the leader are available for and unavailable for. No relationship is perfect and we all put up with a certain amount of work to see eye-to-eye with people—in our marriages, in our friendships, with our team members and with our colleagues. You have to know what’s truly important to you as a leader and what your limits are for having the same conversation again and again.

“What I’m learning is key to bringing on the right employees is setting up an effective hiring process.”

For example, I know that for me timeliness is really important. Recently I hired a team of interns and on their first day, one of them emailed our coordinator saying she’d be ten minutes late for our 9am meeting. I said, I don’t want to be interrupted, have her come at 10. When she walked in at 10:38, I knew it wasn’t going to be a good fit. I can handle someone being late on the first day—but not twice in the same two hours.

I let the intern go on the spot, but I did not make her wrong for it. As I told her, there are plenty of creative work environments where people come and go as they please and I know she’ll be a great intern somewhere else. But because I’m clear on the company culture I want to create here at Divine Living, I felt confident that it was time to call it based on that alone.

So when you’re frustrated and feel like you don’t have energy for training or trying to change someone, do the kind thing to yourself and the other person and let them go. If you do however want to give them another chance, the best advice I can give is to be slow to judge.

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Everyone has their own unique perspective on the world and thinks and learns in different ways. If an employee does something that has you go, “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?” Then the best way to address it is not to come down on them, but to approach them with curiosity and an open mind and actually find out what they were thinking.

That way you’ll determine: were they just being lazy and slacking off? Were they working on something else they thought was higher priority? Did they think that a certain way of doing something was going to produce a better result?

If you want to bring someone around to your way of thinking, you won’t be able to do so just by telling them they did something wrong. You have to get down to the why and explain your own why. Why is this important to you? Why do you do things this way or that way at your company? It’s only through a deeper discussion that you can both open up to a new level of understanding and alignment.

As you’ll learn next week, leadership is one of the big things I’m currently working on to get to the next level in my own business—so you can all look forward to a lot more stories on how to hire, manage and grow an effective, engaged and happy team. Until then I leave you with my four greatest lessons thus far: know your limits, stand by your values, be slow to judge and even slower to hire.

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