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In this series of articles our Org Psych, Virginia Henningsen, takes you through real-life (anonymised of course) examples of personalities you are likely to encounter when recruiting for your startup/scaleup and the tips and approaches you can apply to bring out their best. Yes, there are also pitfalls to look out for and some people you might want to avoid at all costs!

Over to Virginia…

Just hired someone who you know has potential? They are not the 100% perfect fit for the role, but maybe they will be, with time? No one’s perfect – even our high performers need the right management to enable them to succeed, but what is the ‘right’ management?

Maybe you’ve hired or are thinking of hiring someone like James?

Find below my suggestions for James, he was assessed by me as an aspiring senior level manager with a strong learning orientation, well developed interpersonal and leadership skills, and the ability to consult, collaborate and listen to others and seek advice. James is highly motivated, achievement-oriented, persistent and driven with a good level of self-awareness and insight.  So what does he need to succeed?

Firstly he needs the right environment – and that’s actually easier than it sounds. It’s really his manager that can help him succeed by creating this:

  • He needs clarity of objectives and expectations, and then the autonomy and freedom to make decisions with broad parameters to operate within. 
  • He needs open, direct and timely communication on key issues as they come to hand including negative feedback. Negative feedback is just information to him, that helps him improve his work performance, so never delay giving feedback.
  • He needs to be consulted for his views and opinions, so invite him into meetings, ask for his opinion on things and confide in him. He wants to feel important by being involved.
  • He has the capacity to be entrepreneurial, and can improvise and innovate and should be encouraged to showcase these competencies to feel energized at work. Look out for a tendency (that most of us have!) to focus on the important and urgent business issues, and encourage him to take regular time to dedicate to important yet non-urgent business issues.

Secondly, he needs a little bit of support to enable him to bridge the gap as he steps up to a more senior level role. Some easy things his new manager can do are:

  • Provide him with advanced warning of topics for discussion in group meetings so he can adequately prepare beforehand. It may be best not to ask him to respond impromptu on complex issues, rather give him some time to think and prepare his views before presenting them.
  • Especially early on in the role, encourage James to take some extra time when needing to become familiar with novel things, and keep encouraging him to generate more than one argument or one solution, rather than stopping at first answers.
  • Provide him with kudos and recognition to keep his motivation and self-confidence high, and to encourage him to not second guess himself. 
  • He may need you to champion him and be an ambassador for him, especially in the early stages, to accelerate his connections and influence with others.   Talk him up to the people he needs to have good relationships with. James is not a self-promoter!

Lastly, watch out for these tendencies and be there to provide some ideas to support him:

  • With a strong work ethic and hands-on approach, at times James may fall into being an operator (he is likely to have an excellent service delivery ethic) and implementer. As he furthers his career, he may need to ensure that he recruits and develops a strong team so he can delegate and use his resources to free him up for the more conceptual and strategic elements of an executive role. 
  • Encourage him to commit to dedicating a good proportion of his week to developing a vision and driving strategy through other people. He should have the capability to do this and he is likely to set a fast pace, leading by example. 
  • By reallocating the way he manages his time, James can ensure he has the time for the more analytical and innovative aspects of this role and the higher level executive thinking processes.
  • Provide some hands-on direction to coach him to allocate time each week to work on forward thinking, planning and more strategic work activities. Success in this area may further boost James’ self-confidence and subsequently his work performance.

You can find Virginia on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/virginia-henningsen-4b05232/ 

She’s like our very own Wendy Rhoades from the hit tv show Billions. Well, at least in terms of her role in helping Founders get the best out of their startup’s most important asset – their people.  She’s actually nothing like the character!