You've hired people you know are untapped wells of talent. But that was the easy part. Now, you need to make sure those wells can produce for you well into the future. That's a far more complicated job. It's also one of Clint Kisker's specialties. The President and Co-founder of Madison Wells Media, the company that gave us Hell or High Water and Million Dollar Quartet, gave Inc. his best secrets for developing those on your team.
1. Encourage persistence.
From the psychological perspective, Kisker says, talented people--and companies as a whole-- often are held back by soul-crushing defeats. Those experiences eat away at self-confidence and make it harder for people to take good risks. Give your team chances to try again after a loss and let them know you're not defining them by one-time failures.
2. Hone the ability to paint a more positive picture.
"Logistically speaking," Kisker says, "folks' resources vary, so not everyone's climb is defined the same way. [...] We've found that it takes a certain ability to reframe whatever has happened and press ahead with new learnings. [That] ability is innate to an extent, but also learned and appreciated through experience."
3. Focus on your culture and listen to both partners and employees.
Workers' goals and skills will change over time, and you need to be able to keep supporting your team as this happens. Kisker says that, when you look at the current atmosphere within your company and pay attention to what partners and employees are saying, you can be more responsive to people who might want a new role. He adds that leaders need to understand that they are obligated to mentor younger people on the team. Do this well and people will feel challenged and fulfilled enough that they won't feel like they need to leave.
4. Fire ideas at workers--and then accept just as many back.
It's normal if what you envision for a worker is different than what they envision for themselves. But you have to balance the goals. The only way to do that is to communicate in a positive, highly collaborative way.
"We demand and depend on the fierce exchange of ideas and concepts, both to thrive creatively and to grow as a business," Kisker points out. "We hire the best people we can find and we want to hear what they have to say--even, or maybe especially, when it means we have to defend our ideas of the best way ahead. In the end, we did our job as leaders if the best idea won."
5. Demand that people learn from their mistakes.
People are going to fall on their faces sometimes. That's absolutely OK, according to Kisker. But if people don't take something from their errors and apply it to the future, they won't grow.
6. Get people to make decisions quickly but thoughtfully.
Kisker says that crisp, thoughtful decision making ensures that individuals and teams can keep moving, even if a mistake gets made along the way. Be willing to get out of the way and give people the space they need to make choices for themselves.
7. Start a program.
Kisker has worked with his colleagues to create the Emerging Talent program. Formal talent development programs like these within your business can give your workers a Command Central to go to when they have specific needs and goals. Programs can offer specific software, funding, enrollment in community education opportunities, mentorship opportunities and more, just as a start.
8. Give the little things.
Depending on your size, you might be able to afford pricey stuff to help employees out. But spending a ton isn't always necessary. It's about showing appreciation, showing talent they're heard and valued, not dumping stuff. "We've found that doing relatively inexpensive things, such as paying for subscriptions for mindfulness meditation apps, and even free things like investing time into sitting with them to clearly lay out goals and what we expect of them, and also importantly what our responsibility is to help them, has tended to make people feel like they have the resources they need to feel supported."
Kisker points out that there are a myriad of external resources--e.g., podcasts, books--that people can tap to really figure out what they want and can do. Using those resources and then gradually moving toward goals, rather than simply leaving, can help when a person feels like they're not getting enough support. But if you make a focused effort to foster the talent you have, you often can eliminate conflicts between the goals and values of the individual and goals and values of your company. The happiness and satisfaction your team feels will motivate them and contribute to where your company is going. Productivity, reduced turnover-related costs and a stronger culture are all positive side effects. So don't make your talent do it all alone. Give them a hand!