It is the double-edged sword—your company is growing, but your leadership team is not yet in place, forcing you to take your eyes off the demands of the company to build a team that can meet those demands.
To help ensure everyone’s vision is aligned, companies need to be future facing at all times and have a clear vision for the organization. That vision will determine the precise role new leaders will play and whether responsibilities of others on the leadership team need to shift.
A rapid-growth environment demands quick decisions but companies must assess gaps between needed resources and available resources. This requires a deep dive into overall strategies, access to capital and especially, people, including new and current leaders and key employees. Take a critical, honest look at each key person and ask, “If they were not currently in that job, would you hire them today?”
In a climate of accelerating change, it’s not so much where you are, but where are you going. An apt analogy came from Wayne Gretzky, the leading scorer in the National Hockey League, who famously said, “Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it is.”
Understand where you’re going and create a plan for what you’ll need when you get there. This requires comprehensive business analysis and strategic planning that includes measurable objectives and SWOT analysis (strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats). A good plan will help leaders anticipate the impact of changes in financial markets, customer preferences, competitor initiatives and technology. It will also highlight possible gaps in the leadership team and the skills and personality attributes needed to attain future goals.
Build or Buy?
So how do you attract the right leaders? Build them or buy them?
Build the right leaders. Developing the right leaders internally under the leadership team’s watchful eye is always the best option. If you have previously hired well, you can nurture the potential of employees to grow within the framework of your company’s operations and direction and in sync with the changing business and industry. If they are well trained, mentored and challenged, you can take them where you will need them to go. You can monitor their progress, adjust their direction and groom them for growth. Then, when you need to fill a key role, you’ll know the candidates best suited for the promotion.
As proven assets, the risk of their failing or leaving is minimized and they’re up to speed and ready to go.
However, don’t rush an internal candidate into an unanticipated void. An unprepared individual who is quickly pushed through on-the-job training might create another unanticipated void and be costly to your business.
Buy the right leaders. Finding the right leaders takes an investment of time and money. Today’s employment market is competitive, so hiring the right people to help lead your company can be challenging. More than likely, these individuals are gainfully employed and may not be considering a change. The upside is you may find the leader who can be plugged in and immediately move the business forward. Finding individuals who align with the future direction of the company and fit the culture may require external expert assistance.
Develop a Plan
To effectively recruit the “best fit” leader or rebuild an existing team during a rapid growth phase, have an updated business plan that can be used to assess prospective candidates. The plan should not just include business objectives; it should also assess culture. The greatest likelihood of a failed placement will be rooted in the new hire’s mismatch with the company’s culture and team chemistry.
A business plan will determine the essential knowledge, skills and track record needed in a leadership hire. Investing in developing and retaining a bench of internal candidates, molded to succeed in a changing business climate, will make the choice even easier.
Once you have established your leadership team, let them shine. Encourage your team to take the lead and allow them to come up with next great idea. Support them and celebrate their accomplishments. By involving your leadership team in the growth process and giving them a voice in planning, problem solving and leading, you will continue to grow your company.
Kelley Small is a principal with Standish Executive Search, a New England-based firm that helps organizations define management roles and find talent. Visit standishsearch.com.