Your employees bring much more than technical skills to the table. They bring a diverse spectrum of ideas and perspectives that can push you outside your comfort zone, where so much of entrepreneurial growth occurs.
“Working with people who challenge you, and from whom you can learn, will make you a better leader.” – James Kerr
As entrepreneurs, stepping into a leadership role is a pivotal challenge. It’s the point in our business when our success outgrows our own singular contribution—the long hours, persistence, and passion have paid off. We’re ready to step into the next stage by building a team and creating something bigger than ourselves.
What may have started as a solo endeavor, entirely dependent on our own skills, now rests on the shoulders of others as well.
What is the best way to become a great leader? What qualities should you look for when hiring team members? These questions are important because a great team is more than the sum of its parts. In fact, your employees bring much more than technical skills to the table. They bring a diverse spectrum of ideas and perspectives, and that is crucial to your success as a leader.
Great leaders recognize that they can only accomplish so much on their own—it takes a variety of ideas and skills to make a business successful. When I first started my business at age 24, I always recruited people that I knew I could coach and manage. My goal was to teach them the exact way that I learned the business. But I soon learned that one of the keys to effective leadership is a willingness to also surround yourself with people who have better or different skills and experience than you do.
And once I acknowledged that I didn’t know everything and hired individuals who broadened my perspective, things really took off.
Deliberately hire a variety of people
It’s easy to fall into the trap of complacency and hire people who share our background or skill set. It’s comfortable, we feel in-sync, and we’ll all agree on how to get things done. How simple!
The truth is, hiring carbon copies of yourself is a recipe for stagnation. We need people on our team who are entirely different from us, whether they come from unique life experience or just think differently.
These individuals are an important asset to any business because having folks who see things through a different lens offers a world of insight into your operations. We all have unique perspectives based on our past experiences, culture, biases, and training. It is so much harder to read the label of a jar from the inside—and new perspectives have broken me out of a bubble, helping me see the “label” from the outside.
Checking the entrepreneur ego
We’ve all experienced a leader who couldn’t see past their own ego. They’re the ones who steamroll over other people and resist new ideas or ignore them altogether. And while it’s easy to judge a bad boss from the employee side of the table, it’s surprisingly difficult to recognize our own ego when we’re in the leadership role.
I make a conscious effort to not let hubris get in the way of growth and collaboration, fostering an environment where new, fresh ideas are welcome. Let your team challenge you! And have the courage to be vulnerable. I’ve found that encouraging the team to have healthy conflict often quickly lets me know when there is a better solution.
As the business owner, I’ve found it helpful to always speak last during these types of meetings. This enables us to hear all the options before we have our say. Often, team members may be afraid to contradict the owner, and allowing them to speak first permits them to voice unbiased opinions and solutions. With time, I eventually understood that I was the person who was holding my company back; not just because I couldn’t delegate enough, but because everyone kept agreeing with anything I said. Give your team the space and comfort to constructively challenge you.
Opening up to ideas from unexpected sources
People are creatures of habit and if we’re not careful, our teams can fall into roles that stifle creativity and ingenuity. Whenever I notice people creating silos, I ask them to seek input and ideas from unexpected places.
Perhaps your shipping team has a novel product packaging idea. Even though that’s not their primary function in the business, this fresh perspective might be just what you need to reinvigorate a product line. Maybe your sales team wants to suggest a new marketing campaign based on their interaction with potential buyers. They aren’t marketing professionals, but their direct experience with customers is ideal for brainstorming ways to better reach your audience. Smart entrepreneurs capitalize on this diversity by leveraging the broader team’s experience. Level 10 meetings can help break these silos and allow all team members to have input on the direction of the company and other departments.
Take the South American financial firm elMejorTrato.com, for instance. The company created an entirely new line of business that generated $21.5 million in revenue based on a suggestion by an engineer, not a finance expert. “Alejandro Trecco realized that customers who were engaging them for a car loan would also be interested in contracting their car insurance through them, as well.”
In fact, new ideas and processes created by diverse employees can be so valuable that many companies put programs in place to encourage them. “American Airlines was able to engage nearly 3,500 7-person teams to come up with more than 1600 ideas that were adopted, resulting in more than $20 million in cost savings and revenue generating improvements.” Google famously proclaims that it budgets 20% of its employees’ time to side projects and innovation, and many people have heard the story of how the common Post-it note was invented. A 3M chemist tasked with creating “bigger, stronger, tougher adhesives” wound up making an innovative one that could peel apart easily—but he didn’t know what to do with it. It was only after a colleague suggested the glue might help keep bookmarks in place that the idea of applying it to paper was born.
Of course, most examples aren’t blockbuster business ideas. But employees with diverse perspectives and experiences may find a way to cut costs, market your products differently, improve a cumbersome process, or just solve an annoying IT issue. Good ideas can come from anyone in our team, and as leaders, we need to be open to considering them; identifying which can be game changers and which can’t.
Diverse employees make you better
When we choose our team members well, they will not only support our business with hard work and passion but push us to become better leaders. I can’t overestimate the positive impact of recruiting people who align with my company’s core values but have the diversity and life experience to challenge me and bring new perspectives to the table. Their input has made me a better entrepreneur—and a better person.
Empower your Leadership Team and improve efficiency, increase value, and foster collaboration to get better results. A professional Facilitator can ensure that all of your members are on the same page, so you can kick your business up a notch. Connect with The Profit Recipe to Achieve Traction.