Growing a team in a dynamic or uncertain environment can feel like the ultimate balancing act. You’re not only hiring for technical skills and competencies but for the soft, interpersonal skills that will build camaraderie, trust, and resilience within your teams. This is especially true when you’re growing fast, and every new hire is an investment in the growth and potential of your organization.
The sweet spot is finding the intersection between individuals who elevate your teams but can also execute, deliver on your company’s mission, and exemplify its values. That’s why a growth-focused but people-first approach to hiring and leadership is critical.
Developing a hiring philosophy that centers growth
As a hiring manager, your first instinct will always be to seek out motivated and capable people to fill crucial roles. But anticipating the future needs of high-growth teams should factor in as much as the business’ current and immediate needs. That’s why hiring for the future is less about looking into a crystal ball and more about envisioning the type of organization you want to help build.
In the past, I’ve seen the impact that hiring for immediacy and making the wrong choice can have on even the most productive teams. In these scenarios, it can take time to recalibrate, a significant challenge when the business is moving fast.
Developing a hiring philosophy helps you hone in and focus on finding talent with the traits and essential skills your organization will need for the current moment and beyond. Unsure where to start? Here are some of the ways I prioritize growth when hiring in a fast-moving environment.
Identify skills gaps and hire for them
Hiring for skills that are underrepresented within the organization is critical for growth. Look within your leadership team and beyond. You may find that there are missing skills that you know are essential to the business's success. Identify these skills and begin mapping out how best to leverage and hire for them.
Hire people who are smarter than you
I’m a firm believer that being the smartest person in a room means you’re probably in the wrong room. Hiring people who are smarter than you is how you get leverage and ensure you are growing and learning too.
There isn’t one single type of intelligence you should be looking for, either. For example, you may recognize that someone with niche, in-depth knowledge and expertise in a particular area could drive the key innovation your company needs to be competitive. You may also realize that hiring a brilliant storyteller will help you turn abstract data points into persuasive campaigns that deliver long-term value. It’s all about recognizing those talents and strengths.
Find people who elevate your teams
There’s often an irresistible urge to look for “rock stars” whose entire raison d'etre is to catapult the business to untold heights. As important as these rock stars can be, hiring the people who elevate those around them is also a wise long-term investment.
Employees that elevate a team are often generous with their knowledge and experience, compassionate in their communication and delivery, and able to hear and internalize other perspectives. These are important traits on teams where feedback and continuous learning are crucial to success.
Hire for the future
In business, it is common that market events and trends will outpace you. In this case, you need to pivot and excel in ambiguity. Anticipating what your business will need to be competitive in the future requires a learner’s mindset and a willingness to understand what’s evolving and changing in the market. This way, you’ll be able to hire ahead of these needs and get out in front of the trends that are shaping the market.
Knowing your operating principles
Excelling in a high-growth environment is not just about who you hire. It’s also about how you lead. Knowing your operating principles and sharing this blueprint with your teams early on sets the tone for how you interact with others, enabling them to ramp quicker and focus on the substance.
One of my operating principles is integrity. If I make a mistake, I own the mistake and expect team members to do the same. Accountability is also one of my important principles. I am explicit that if you sign up for a goal or commit to an initiative, I expect you to follow through and proactively provide updates. If something goes awry, I expect you to communicate outwardly as soon as you know and bring along a plan of action for course correction.
Consider your own operating principles. What behaviors and values do you expect and appreciate in a working relationship? Perhaps you value kindness in communication or proactive conflict resolution. When you share these expectations, do you find that there is an improvement in your teams' working dynamic?
Make it a point to identify and share your operating principles with those you lead or collaborate with. This opens up huge potential and clarity in how you work and manage roadblocks.
Knowing when to be prescriptive
Even with the most capable team, there may still be times you’ll need to be prescriptive as a leader. This increased involvement may be necessary in order to align priorities, reshift resources, or remove roadblocks.
But for natural delegators, it can be difficult to know when exactly to step in and how to prevent your teams from experiencing a loss of confidence. That’s why knowing when to be prescriptive is an art and not a science.
I address this by being transparent about why I’m getting involved. This level-setting is essential for the team to get their heads around the engagement and rally toward what needs to be accomplished.
I can remember a time when I was asked to engage on an initiative that, from the outside, appeared to need some course-correcting. I was confident in the leader managing it, but time sensitivity and differences in working styles meant that becoming actively engaged was the fastest way to get back on track.
From there, I spoke with this leader and shared context and a proposal for how I would engage. She expressed her feelings and thoughts on my approach, and together we refined our engagement model and clarified what role she would lean into and what role I would lean into. We also had clear success criteria and an agreement that I would step out once we achieved a particular milestone (impact-driven, not date-driven).
Leaders cannot be afraid or hesitate to jump in when and where required. Having a pulse on how your teams execute and offering guidance if bottlenecks are apparent will empower them to operate more efficiently and recognize ways to continuously improve.
Leading with a growth mindset in a fast-paced environment is about looking ahead at the future and being clear about your own expectations and operating principles. Empower high-performing teams by developing a growth-focused hiring philosophy, sharing your operating principles early on, and knowing when and how to step in and remove barriers.
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