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It's important to have regular conversations with your key employees to take your organisation to the next level.
One of your A-Players has just resigned. You only recruited them a year ago, and they’ve exceeded your expectations. But this has come entirely out of the blue. It’s a big surprise, and you can’t escape a feeling of huge disappointment.
I’m here to ask you why. Why didn’t you know this might happen? Did you miss an opportunity to develop them? Did you ask them if they were happy? As a manager, it’s your job to know these things.
Ultimately, if people leave your organisation without warning, it’s worse for everyone. Far better to know, have a plan and manage their exit. Then you can minimise the impact on customers and the rest of the team.
Our advice? Frank, open and regular discussion with all employees about their future. Let’s delve into why.
I heard an observation the other day that correlates higher salaries with longer-term planning. People who are paid an hourly rate often fixate on that and end up stuck in that kind of job. But if you expect to earn more money, you need a longer-term vision and a plan to get there.
By having regular conversations with staff about their future, you’re encouraging a sense of ambition. I decided early on in my career that I wanted to run a company. My plan? To be a Managing Director by the time I was 45. I moved from job to job, learning and growing. Each role taught me something new, and once I’d learned everything I needed to, I moved on again. I had a 25-year vision but got there early, achieving Managing Director in my mid-thirties.
It’s your job as an employer to open up regular conversations about the future. But it’s not your job to make it happen. This has to come from the employees themselves. There needs to be ownership.
I was with a client the other day, and members of the leadership team said, ‘The company’s not doing enough for me in terms of my career planning.’ This kind of thinking makes my blood boil! Why do they need the company to plan their career? I asked them, ‘What’s your 25-year plan?’ They looked at me like I was mad!
A 25-year horizon works because it’s 100 quarters. You only have to change 1% of your current knowledge/skills in a quarter for it to change 100% over 25 years. It’s like anything in life. You don’t just turn up at the starting line and expect to run a marathon. You need a training plan to get fit.
You’re trying to avoid a victim mentality here. That sense of, ‘Why aren’t YOU doing this for ME?’ Motivation is an internal thing. And it’s one of the hallmarks of A-Players. They have innate motivation, and they don’t blame other people. They get on with stuff. This is what you want in all your employees.
In a high-performing team, everyone needs to understand what they bring and where they have gaps in knowledge or expertise. It’s this self-awareness that will encourage them to plan for their future.
Talk to them openly about how long they’re planning to stay with you. How can you plug the gaps in their knowledge or skills? Perhaps a tour of duty? This is a two to four-year chunk of time that you explicitly hire people for. Not a contract as such, but a time-limited period with a specific goal. I’ve written an entire blog on this topic as it can be so valuable.
Data from McKinsey shows that A-Players are up to ten times more productive than B-Players. That’s a lot! So increasing the percentage of A-Players in your company makes sound business sense.
I would rather have someone amazing for 12 months than mediocre for five years. Get used to the idea that people with high ability may not hang around for long. I knew six months before our Accountability Coach, Carlos, left us. He’d been with Monkhouse & Company for two years and learned everything he needed to, including English. His vision was bigger than working for us, and we discussed this openly. Nobody fell out. Because we advertised his availability to our clients, he was snapped up by Smartsourcing and now works for them in the Philippines.
In some of the more mature organisations we coach, the idea of A-Players is embedded, and it’s not a secret who they are. Everyone knows. The C-Players have left or have been sacked, along with the Toxic A-Players. The business is working actively with B-Players to map out what they need to do and where they need to go. They might only be able to become A-Players if they leave and gain experience elsewhere. And they need this self-awareness.
With B-Players, it’s not a case of firing them because they’re not up to scratch. It’s about saying, as an organisation, that you’re working towards all of your employees being A-Players. And it may be that a different organisation is a better fit, enabling them to reach that A-Player status. Perhaps their commute is too long, or they’re not in the right role. You want them to reach their potential, even if that happens in a different company.
I firmly believe that the role of a manager is to make themselves redundant. This often perplexes people but think about it for a moment. In a business that’s growing fast, as many of our clients are, new opportunities are constantly being created. Freeing yourself by developing your team will mean you can move on and develop yourself.
Last week, we were working with a company currently at 50 people. In a couple of years, they’ll be at 100. Soon there’ll be another layer of management. The people currently at the top will need to develop and grow to retain that position. And that means they need their team to be doing the jobs they’re doing today.
Every Executive team member should have weekly 1:1s with their functional groups to talk about future progression. Where are their gaps in knowledge? How can their team develop and grow? If it’s not happening at an Executive level, it won’t be happening further down.
Create these opportunities for internal mobility. Talk to people about their aspirations. Sure, not everyone wants to be a manager. But everyone wants to be on top of their game. How can they hone their craft? What do they need to learn? What training do they think they need?
Something I write about in my new book, ‘Mind Your F**king Business’ is trial runs at management. From an organisational perspective, it’s good to create opportunities for people to ‘try out’ management roles to see if they fit. Don’t change job titles or give more money at first. Make it clear that it’s a temporary posting so that you don’t lose the employee if it doesn’t work out.
Dominic Monkhouse is a proven architect of business growth with a demonstrable track record. As managing director, he scaled two UK technology companies from zero revenue to £30 million in five years. Since 2014, Dominic has worked as a CEO and executive team coach, helping ambitious CEOs and their leadership teams reach their full potential and achieve sustainable growth. He is the host of “The Melting Pot with Dominic Monkhouse” where he talks with some extraordinary thought leaders, fellow business authors, and CEOs to absorb their wisdom. Dominic is the author of F**K PLAN B: How to scale your technology business faster and achieve plan A, an exciting blueprint for cultural change and business transformation.
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