Throughout my tenure of managing people, I have come to conclude that most employees' business motivations change very little from the time that you hire them to the time they leave your organization. If they are smart and aggressive, they will always be that way. However, if they have a bad attitude, are always looking for short cuts or are generally unmotivated, this too rarely changes. So the question is how do you ensure that you find and nurture talent to ultimately grow into excellent leaders? Our simple process is as follows:
Some people say you must start from the top to have excellent leadership. I maintain that you need one or two smart people at the top to set the pace and guide the philosophy of the organization, but more importantly you need smart, young people from which to grow your organization over time. I tend to agree with Microsoft's hiring philosophy: "hire smart people and they will figure it out."
When hiring recent graduates, it's far less important what they studied in college than how well they did. A high GPA translates to somebody who is good at applying his or her intellect to any subject matter, and this would likely carry over to produce similar results in the workplace. Furthermore, students who balanced a busy college life (i.e., Greek system involvement, student government, organizations and clubs or athletics) with academics should be considered because it shows the individual understands the value of time and the importance of managing it.
My entire organization will tell you that my mantra is "tell me what you think," because if you don't I will hire someone who does. Clients hire consultants and service organizations to help guide and direct them. Thus, you need to learn at a young professional age that sharing your point of view is a good thing as it will guide you throughout your career. As such, confidence runs in tandem with POV, because one without the other is difficult to achieve.
In sports you will often hear the statement, "You play like you practice." I believe the same holds true in the workplace. If you are not prepared to address questions, solve problems and give input in your daily life, how are you going to perform when the stakes are higher in front of a client? At Formula, we reinforce that attendance at a meeting necessitates participation, whether that meeting is in person or by phone. We also ask our people to stand when presenting internally so they get comfortable prior to pitching to clients.
One of the best ways to grow leaders is to foster an environment of open communication so every person at every level has a voice. Any organization that wants to engage its people must encourage free thinking and sharing of opinions in order to ensure that employees feel empowered and like valuable contributors to the company. Believing all good ideas come from the top is a formula for disaster and middle manager inertia.
The single biggest way to hold on to your best people is to give them an opportunity to succeed by being front and center in a pitch, leading a program or project, or driving an important initiative for your organization. The more you provide young executives with challenging situations, the greater the chances are that they will rise to the occasion.
Employers are always looking for loyalty from their talented team members and are incredibly disappointed when an individual decides to take their skills elsewhere. In most cases, those individuals leave because they have either stagnated, feel under-appreciated, under paid or frankly feel like they have stopped getting the same commitment from their employer that is expected from them. Thus, once you have grown and nurtured the talent, you must continue to challenge them and validate them and show them some loyalty in return.
I have long believed that it is easier to find good clients than it is to find good employees. Therefore, when you have one that is young and hungry, you must do everything in your power to engage them in your business and help them grow into future leaders. This will ensure that your organization doesn't become the triple A farm team for some other major league team willing to give them the opportunity.