Managing and Developing Our People

By Chuck Violand

February 29, 2016

Just when we think we’re home free because we’ve fulfilled our role as recruiter and brought some truly talented people on board, we learn that’s only half the job. It’s also our responsibility to provide those talented people with the guidance and opportunities they need to develop in their roles.

You may be tempted to cry “Foul!” because this sounds a lot like setting expectations, monitoring performance, and holding people accountable. After all, didn’t you hire top performers, in large part, with the expectation that they would be able to hold themselves accountable?

In football, as in business, great teams are built with talented players. But even the most talented players only achieve greatness through development and coaching. In this regard, your role as CEO is very much like that of a head football coach. Rather than being a player on the field, your job is to recruit top talent. You must then lead, guide, and mentor them to be the best they can and achieve greatness for themselves and the team.

You won’t see a head coach strapping on pads and a helmet to fill in a position on the field, and we shouldn’t be climbing into the truck, grabbing a wand, and filling in for one of our techs. While this may help in the short-term, doing so could inadvertently cause us to restrict our company’s growth.

Shifting from doing it ourselves to helping others can be very challenging for owners who are typically impatient, hyperactive, take-charge “doers” (and these are some of our more endearing qualities!). Making the shift even more difficult is the fact that most entrepreneurs don’t especially enjoy managing others; we are usually thrust into that role by the demands of our growing businesses. But, if we want our businesses to continue to grow, we need to embrace our role as coach, developing and encouraging our players from the sidelines rather than taking the field ourselves.

Once we have players on our team, our job as the visionary of our company becomes even more important. Our job in developing our top talent begins with ensuring that they are in jobs well-suited to their strengths and needs, that we give them opportunities for gratifying work, and that they share in the organization’s success. Then we have to be sure we’re calling the right plays that will continue to lead our team forward. When we stop looking ahead, our people may start to question what the future of the company looks like. We need to be sure they realize that, in a small business, it’s not about climbing to arbitrary job levels or positions; it’s about climbing together to ever-higher levels of personal achievement, job satisfaction, and company performance.

Fulfilling the “head coach” role of managing and developing our talented players is one that begins with the hiring of our first employee but doesn’t end there. As our companies grow, we must continue to develop ourselves in our role as well. Great teams are built with talented players, but calling the right plays and developing these talented players still requires a talented coach.