What holds organizations back from truly optimizing their business offering? During times of economic struggle, the experts will point to the stock market, psychological business environment and numbers. The answer to what truly optimizes your offering, however, must be sought internally. Many entrepreneurs and executives alike spend endless hours examining how they can bring their organization to a new level of profitability and service. Outpacing the competition will always require a multifaceted approach. However, outpacing and winning market share may not simply be a matter of who grabs a hold of the highest volume of transactions in a category; business success is a marathon. Creating the strongest stride possible over the long-haul is often the key to consistent performance. This stride is not made by a single person; it is a collective effort. To optimize one’s business offering, focus and time need to be directed toward optimizing the individual strengths of the team.
Organizations that are driven by their professionals’ skill-sets are people businesses. Individual practitioners within, for example, services firms drive the success of their organization and often deeply impact their clients’ establishments. In the services business, the people are simply the most critical asset and offering. When growing an organization, the process is seemingly straight forward: recruit, assess, retain and forward professional development across the board. To build a quality services firm, comprised of leading practitioners, evaluation and a drive to harness individual’s skill-sets and motivation is key.
According to analysis conducted by the Harvard Business Review in 2002, 87 percent of internal business conflicts are due to a lack of interpersonal communication skills, not because of a lack of professional skills and competencies of the parties involved. Refining communications skills is central to avoiding time consuming conflicts and keeping everyone on the same page. Additionally, a perceived lack of performance is often a result of not communicating the corporate vision effectively. If expectations are not set and tools to perform are not provided, practitioners are positioned to fail.
This is exacerbated by another problem: a lack of self-awareness by the professional and/or prospective candidate. It’s difficult to assess someone in the course of an hour long interview, particularly because they are doing what we’re told to do: “put that best foot forward.” Low self-awareness and a lack of communicated vision result in less motivation and a less cohesive team. Smaller organizations and services firms are keenly aware of the effect a negative communications cycle can have on their firm. In an environment with ten to 20 professionals, a strong, positive culture impacts every level of the organization.
To be a truly effective manager, there is a lot to be gained by understanding appreciating the value of individual styles. A manager needs to leverage each of its professional’s assets. Often managers need assistance through formalized assessment tools to help understand individual strengths, styles and motivations. The end goal is not to modify behavior, but understand where that individual’s strengths reside. Frequently the manager or executive charged with building the organization from the ground up has a very different approach in comparison to their team members. Knowing this as a manager, and looking for complements vs. redundancies, can spur an organization forward.
While employing tools at any stage of the game is productive, starting with each new hire can be of great value. In the services business, a single individual may be leading the transaction and consultative service to the client organization. However, any experienced executive and entrepreneur is aware that a dynamic organization is never just the person leading a transaction; the relationship with your business community and the impression of your organization is a communal effort. Also, few of your core transactions are truly led from start to finish by a single individual. Every relationship or situation is better solved through a certain degree of collaboration. If you are strategically building a team, new members should be a strong complement to the specific team they will support or lead.
With this in mind, having the individual interview with the entire organization is an important and revealing exercise. Not only are you looking for a professional who can “mesh” with the team, you are looking for a professional who is prepared from the beginning to interact with the team and leverage its capabilities. This may seem a bit unusual to a senior manager in particular. Hopefully, as the manager and decision-maker you’ve hired individuals, at all levels, whose opinion is meaningful to the entire organization. Those with experience are keenly aware that fully vested employees consistently contribute to a winning environment. During the interview process with the entire team the applicant has the opportunity to become fully aware of your culture. If it is a consistent culture, the message of your firm will be repeated in some form by each member. Thus, you and the applicant gain a better understanding of one another.
Two forces are at play for managers when they review prospective employees: job seekers are not always aware of their strengths and weaknesses and companies are frequently driven to select a “type” vs. exploring the needs of their organization further. To be a leading organization in the services business depends on the capabilities, strengths and skill-sets of its professionals. Thinking outside of your own mindset, by employing assessment tools and listening to everyone in your existing team, will help curb a tendency to seek out a single kind of person. Diverse styles and motivations will add value to your organization. Taking the time to strategically create a solid team, which in the services business is money, is one of the most valuable investments you can make in your organization.
Michael Kennedy is the founder and president of Commercial Texas, a leading Austin-based commercial real estate services firm dedicated to providing clients with experienced and strategic real estate guidance.
Victor Levi is currently CEO for Insights Learning & Development-Austin, an organizational development and learning company with offices in over 33 countries.