Many factors have brought Proven Recruiting to this moment in time: from being named in 2009-2013 the sixth fastest growing staffing agency in the US, to closing several of our offices, to recent expansions, we’ve experienced our share of highs and lows. What started as just seven employees and one ambitious goal – “to provide our clients with on demand delivery of the best and brightest talent, and present our candidates with career choices that positively impact their lives” – has since developed into one of the leading recruiting agencies in Southern California.
Yet what defines us should not be reduced to external factors; what defines us is how we’ve bounced back from setbacks, how we’ve learned from mistakes, and how we continue to grow and thrive in a competitive market. You could say that we’re especially resilient – but it’s more than that. Critical to our continued success – and to our near indomitable resilience – has been identifying and nurturing Leadership Skills in our growing team.
Below, I’ve listed my top 10 tips for building, fostering, and maintaining a strong Leadership Team. I’ve tried to adequately explain what has worked for me as a Co-Founder of Proven Recruiting, paying due to the ways in which we’ve chosen to select our leaders, the processes we’ve put in place to support them, and the effort we continually devote to bolstering and uplifting a culture of winning behavior:
1. Identify leaders
It seems obvious. Yet it requires, at its core, a careful consideration of what being a leader truly means. To earn the title of “leader,” does a person necessarily have to possess former experience in a leadership position? Or is it a way of managing situations and people, an approach to delegating work and prioritizing pressing tasks? I choose to see leadership as a state of mind, rather than a level of experience. Which brings me to my following point:
2. Hire for capability, not experience
At Proven, hiring leaders means hiring for capability – not experience. The majority of our employees have never before worked in recruiting; the majority of our managers have never held prior management positions. Our focus is always on matching the right skills, not the right professional background, with our needs.
We prioritize candidates who can point to specific examples in their past where they acted and thought like leaders, regardless of their technical title or field of experience. And then we develop them with a series of integrated training, development, and mentor programs. These programs are designed to provide them with appropriate context and, where necessary, the specific skills needed to enhance their innate leadership abilities.
Enlisting employees who share an understanding of your business and how you see it developing is paramount. By bringing together a variety of workers from an array of professional and personal backgrounds, we’ve been able to promote a level of diversity and creativity firmly rooted in a strong sense of common understanding.
3. Focus on Process
Once the theoretical groundwork has been lain for your company – who you are; what you want to solve; what you value – putting processes and support systems into place help to ensure long term growth. At this point you may be faced with managing a delicate balance; how to encourage and bolster a positive company culture while simultaneously setting hard boundaries and high expectations. It’s a fine line to walk but it’s essential to success.
These processes are largely centered around consistency and standards. Everything from amount of hours worked, to sales made, to rules of engagement, are included under this heading. Without such processes in place, it’d be impossible to measure improvement and identify areas that require extra attention.
4. Work on the business Vs. in the business
It’s tempting to get caught up in the details, especially when you’re personally invested in the future of a company. But it’s important to remember that for a business to succeed, it needs people looking to the future; people who are able to take a step back and consider the bigger picture.
Training leaders to appropriately delegate their tasks is crucial; at Proven, we empower our Leadership Team to hire and train strong, capable employees, and in so doing ensure that they have the mental resources necessary to keep the business growing beyond itself.
5. Help the strong
This one’s going to be a little controversial.
If you see someone struggling in their job, and you have the resources to help them succeed, then by all means you can – and should – devote time and energy to assisting them. We never turn down an opportunity to help our employees in their professional development, and there’s a non-negligible chance that the person will turn out to be a great asset to your company.
But when resources are short, you have to pick and choose your future leaders. It’s important to focus on those people who will help your business grow and thrive. Invest in the people who will likely be the future of your company.
6. Build a legacy
Following my last comment, it’s vital to identify and endorse those people that will best support your business moving forward. At some point, the business has to be self-sustaining, and you want to make sure that when that day comes, the right leaders are in place. At Proven Recruiting, our goal has always been to build a business that outlasts the involvement of the Co-Founders. We never anticipated realizing all of our objectives within the framework of a 3, 5, or even a 10 tier business plan.
7. Emphasize communication
Surprisingly, the largest single complaint people have about decisions is not regarding the decision’s content – rather, it’s the fact that they were not included in the decision-making process, or that they don’t understand the thinking behind the conclusion. Be open and honest with your Leadership Team about decisions, and encourage them to do the same. A Leadership Team founded on transparency and communication will have a much greater chance of success. Moreover, you and your team of leaders will earn the trust and respect of co-workers as you work to come to decisions collaboratively.
8. Set expectations
Everyone should know how they’re measuring up. Much of today’s office-bound conflicts can be traced to a lack of clear goals and expectations. If you’ve put the right processes in place (see above #3), then your Leadership Team will have a much smoother time navigating this aspect of their work.
Still, even with the best processes in place, not every expectation can be covered in a broad-based policy. The leaders you’ve chosen should be taught to adapt their standards and expectations when appropriate, and to set new expectations when they see issues arising.
9. Leverage resources
No matter the size of your company, you likely have access to a variety of people possessing an array of different skillsets. Teach your Leadership Team – and remember to follow this advice yourself – to leverage the resources of each other. No one can do everything, and thankfully, you probably don’t have to. Your Leadership Team should focus on what they’re good at, and offload work that isn’t in their wheelhouse to more knowledgeable employees. This is something I have always struggled with personally, but the impact of smart delegation cannot be overestimated.
10. Foster a culture of winning behavior
This one can be tricky and, like most items on the list, goes back to hiring the right people. Ultimately, every business is just that – a business. And though we do our very best to ensure the happiness and fulfillment of our team members, we need to maintain a clear focus on winning behavior.
Again, this is not something you should impose on your leaders or workers. At Proven, we don’t want anyone to feel they need to change themselves in order to fit our culture. Instead, we try to hire people who already embody our core values and personify the motivated spirit we work to promote.
About the author:
Co-Founder, Proven Recruiting
Ingram is a founding member of Proven Recruiting, and his staffing industry experience spans 23 years and 2 continents. He ran his own recruiting business in London between 1988 and 1996, and prior to founding Proven Recruiting, Ingram was a Group President for one of the largest professional staffing companies in the world. Renowned for building great teams and developing some of the highest preforming associates in the business, his teams won 6 major awards in 6 years for overall performance and customer service. Ingram graduated from London University with a degree in Economics and spent 4 years as an Accountant with a large UK firm of Chartered Accountants. Ingram is active in the community and is involved with several local charities and non-profit groups.