By: Vanessa Merit Nornberg
When you’re hiring for smarts and out-of-the-box thinking, you’ll want to encourage these innovators to take your business to the next level. This often means giving their role plenty of flexibility.
Each time a job announcement gets posted for my company, I get excited about the candidates we will have a chance to meet. This doesn’t mean I start thinking: “Wow, I can’t wait to meet another applicant who is able to make 100 calls per day, uses Photoshop well, or masters Excel.” No–I start imagining all the ways in which this new team member will change my company.
Will she know how to do something we don’t already do? Will she have that amazing owner-like mentality that drives her not just to ask questions but to try to answer them herself? Will she buy into the Metal Mafia vision, but also bring some perspective of her own to make our vision even richer? But making this type of hiring strategy pay off also means allowing flexibility in the role the candidate will play once hired. Here’s what I do as a manager.
Encourage thinking outside of the box. Even the smartest employees sometimes hesitate to share their ideas, often unsure of how both the idea and that they chose to share it will be received by management. When a new hire recently came to me in her third week on the job and told me she needed to speak to me, I was surprised when she started the conversation by saying: “I was listening in the sales meeting and I had an idea I wanted to share, but I am not sure if it is OK to share it since I have not been here long.”
I listened as she laid out why our company needed to be on Instagram (we weren’t), how she could get it setup (something I had no time to do), and how doing so could ultimately help our customers (she was right). It was early in our training process to allow her to take on additional responsibilities, but I could see she was passionate about the idea, so I gave her some ground rules and let her give it a shot.
The results have been amazing, and her idea helped the company to do more for our customers, but also sped up her integration with the rest of the sales team. I can’t wait to see what other parts of our company she decides to get involved with.
Watch for aptitude beyond the job description. Sometimes you find out that the person you hired thinking she would be good for a particular job is actually even better at something else. Don’t be afraid to shift them into the area where more of his intellect can be put to use. Smart people like to learn, and they like to use as many of their talents simultaneously as possible.
My husband, who is also a business owner, just began training a new business-development specialist for his company. The funny thing is that she started out as a business analyst intern and shifted into project management, where she was great at putting together the right teams to make projects happen seamlessly. My husband saw her true spark, however, when she put all the analysis and follow-up skills together and started identifying sales opportunities. Had he not paid attention, she might never have made the move to a position that lets her use all her talents.
Always reward initiative, even when it fails. Not all stretches an employee tries to make are successful. Smart people are especially susceptible to feeling failure is a reason to stop trying.
A friend of mine who is very gifted at sales tried attracting new business for the company she worked for by sending out fairly pricey sample kits to potential customers. When a customer did not return one of the boxes, and the company had to take the loss on it, her boss didn’t quash the idea or punish her for the loss. He congratulated her efforts, and asked her to think of a way to protect the company from box-loss in the future.
By doing so, he let her know it was safe to try new things, even when there was risk involved. She went on to become the national sales director.
The old adage is true: A mind is a terrible thing to waste. If you get lucky enough to hire someone with a great mind, take care to help them unleash it rather than reining it in.
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