December 7, 2021


Like business owners everywhere, I’m always thinking about how to get great performance out of my team. Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of different approaches, but nothing seems to have a higher return on investment than the fundamentals: Hire great people, help them grow, and keep them engaged.

Great organizations don’t happen by accident. They have to start with hiring great people who are well suited to their roles. Intelligence is important, but what I really love is a good attitude. I want to know that a new team member is hungry for success, willing to put in the time and effort to learn, and wants to be a team player.

Even if you find great people, that’s not enough. As any sports fan knows, a strong team will wipe the floor with a collection of stars. Building that kind of high performing team is an art, and it starts at the top. Leaders and managers who don’t make their teams feel valued and understood will quickly find that much of their hired talent is going to waste.

Any organization that wants sustained high performance needs to get good at examining its own blind spots. Big companies and complex bureaucracies have the hardest time with this, and they should consider seeking professional help. A lot of productivity is lost when employees disengage because they feel like cogs in the machine. I’m encouraged by the growing market for employee engagement surveys and services like human capital consulting. The trend toward listening to employees seems like a positive one.

At smaller companies, like Alliance, we have the advantage of being able to know all our colleagues. Regular check-ins to take the organization’s pulse are a key part of keeping our team engaged. I use one-on-one chats and small group discussions to look for problems early, before they can grow.

During these check-ins, I’m listening for signs that everybody knows what is expected of them and how their work serves our collective goals. Whenever it’s relevant, I like to share extra context around of work assignments — that really helps keep people engaged and motivated. And of course, it’s critical to make sure everybody feels recognized for their good work.

Somehow, many companies miss this stuff. They might not even realize it’s important. That’s a shame, because any company that fails to listen to employees and keep them happy is going to lose their best people to another company that’s more tuned-in. This matches what I’ve learned over the years: Investing in the job satisfaction and engagement of employees might be the highest ROI move a business owner can make.

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