Business runs on people. One of the hardest parts of being a leader is deciding who stays and who goes. This is particularly true when you take over a new business, and inherit a new team filled with unknown quantities. A good leader must identify who is worthy and who needs to be escorted off the bus.
These are not always easy decisions, but YPO member Cuan Chelin knows how to pick ‘em, as they say. Chelin is the founder and CEO of Super-Brands Holdings, a leading investment group in South Africa. Super-Brands currently owns Toy Kingdom, Handicaps Network Africa, and Sporting Bet, South Africa’s largest online sports betting business. They have also grown other successful companies in sectors such as consumer electronics, home appliances, and leisurewear. Chelin believes in empowering his employees, so he has learned to recognize talent and isolate problems.
Chelin believes “People, people, people - then strategy & execution.” Here are the questions he asks to identify potential and eliminate trouble:
1. Do they smile?
It may not be the most obvious question, but it’s among the most important. “No seriously,” Chelin says, “a leader needs to be personable and someone we can get along with.” Their attitude will influence others. “This person is going to build a successful team, motivate them, and share and communicate a vision. They need to likeable, respectable, inspiring, and raise the energy level in the room,” he explains. Even subtle cues like body language send strong signals, so the vibe better be a good one.
2. How are they with customers?
You can tell a lot about a person’s character by how they treat other people. This is especially important when dealing with customers, the lifeblood of your business. Chelin wants to know, “Do they truly care about the customer and solving their problems? Do they listen? When did they last personally talk to a customer, solicit feedback, and question why they value us?” It doesn’t stop there. Chelin also wants to know, “What did they do with that feedback?” Chelin looks for win-win situations, explaining, “We believe in long term relationships and have learned through experience that the best deals really are those where both parties come out ahead.” Plus, if they don’t deal well with customers, they probably won’t deal well with colleagues, either.
3. Can they put their ego aside and learn?
Like me, Chelin is blunt. “I don’t hold back,” he says. “If I can’t speak candidly with you, we are going to have a problem.” Feedback is an opportunity to improve, and employees need to embrace it, not take it defensively. Chelin looks for employees with a desire to learn more. He explains, “For example, does technology excite them, and do they embrace it? Something like this tells me a lot about their attitude and their willingness to learn and adapt.” Those with sensitive egos will struggle, he says, because, “We like smart people. But we like it even better when you’re smart enough to hire people even smarter than you.” Make sure the culture fit is right.
4. Do they have a vision of the future?
Chelin has grown several businesses, and has learned that businesses require different types of leaders at different stages of their lifecycles. He shares, “Those who navigate the start-up phase might not be right for the scaling phase, no matter how successful they were in the prior stage.” Chelin also looks for employees who share his vision for the company’s future. He examines, “Are they really thinking about the future? Not just this month’s sales numbers or next month’s targets. Do they have a view of what the industry will be in 10 years? Are they are actively positioning the business and building for that future?” Leaders rely on employees to shape the company’s future, so everyone needs to be headed in the same direction.
5. Would I hire them anyway?
For Chelin, this is the most important question of all. He asks, “Can I honestly say that if this person were not already in this position, we would hunt them down for the job?” He goes on, “We want the best. Is this person really it?” If the answer is no, that’s it. Make the change now, before you invest time and money in the wrong person.
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