How to Attract and Assemble Top Talent

How to Assemble the Perfect Executive Team

What Makes a Real Business?

You write for years before you call yourself a writer. You play music for thousands of hours before you call yourself a musician. So, what does it take for a startup to be called a “real business?” Is about funding? Awareness?

One definition from Inc. – and one that speaks to just how many moving parts it takes to reach sustained success – is when a company’s founder no longer relies exclusively on his or her own skills to manage the business. It’s the point when a CEO can truly delegate a task without worry. (Or, at least not too much worry.)

Faster Alone, Farther Together

In the beginning, it’s natural for founders to want to drive everything themselves. After all, they hold all the knowledge, and it’s the most cost-effective way to get something done right now. The problem is that all those right now’s add up quickly, with the founder’s time getting stretched thinner and thinner. With even less time to train, they take on even more work. It’s a harsh cycle. And though this phrase is most likely hanging on a poster in an HR office, it’s true: you go faster alone, but farther together.

How Do You Build the Perfect Team?

CEOs can set a perfect strategy, but if they don’t hire the right team, it will languish on the whiteboard. These days, there are endless tools for searching for talent. Some of them are human-led, some of them are not.

Social media call-outs, job aggregators, and head hunters are all fine, they just tend to either cast the widest net possible or go off of LinkedIn presence alone. As we all know, who we are online is not always the truest representation of who we are at work. Mass-market ads tend to attract exactly that – the mass market. It’s people who are viewing your brand with a view-master instead of a microscope. Instead of endlessly searching, investing in your brand can do the work for you, magnetically drawing in people who are already predisposed to be a good culture fit.

Use Your Brand to Draw the Right People In

Your brand is the best foundation for assembling the perfect team. There are the obvious touchpoints, like crafting a strong employer brand, utilizing eye-catching design, and producing copy that cuts through the clutter. But then there are those other essentials, like cementing your big picture mission and vision for the company.

David Finkel, co-author of “Scale: Seven Proven Principles to Grow Your Business and Get Your Life Back” says, “You need to regularly reinforce your vision with your team. Take every opportunity to bring it up in meetings, in conversation, and in the normal course of your business. When you see an opportunity to highlight how a recent event or action at the company is in direct alignment with that vision, don’t miss a chance to point it out.”

Doing this not only creates alignment and purpose for the employees you have already assembled, it also acts as a beacon for the people you are trying to recruit. When you get down to what really motivates people to perform well, it isn’t money – it’s purpose. Turn your vision and mission into a North Star to attract and retain top talent.

Start Asking the Right Questions

Marco Zappacosta is the CEO and Founder of Thumbtack, a company which helps you find local professionals for pretty much anything. So it goes without saying that he’s thought deeply about the process of finding the perfect fit.

In an interview with First Round, he talks about how he’s built a track for interviews with top talent. There are loads of great tips, like constraining your job description to the two or three key attributes you’re looking for instead of a giant laundry skill of skills. Most importantly, he discusses the difference between skill and fit. “A misevaluation of fit, much more than talent, is usually the reason hires don’t work out,” he says.

To assess fit, Zappacosta splits what is typically one interview with the CEO into two or three sessions, which grants more time and perspective to align on values, ambition, leadership, and team building. Here are some of the open questions he asks, each driving toward a different cultural touchpoint.

  • What would you want to have happen to the business?
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?
  • What failure are you most proud of?

Use Design Thinking to Build and Coalesce Your Team

Once you have two or three members, how do you go about ensuring they work together well? For those unfamiliar, design thinking is an ideology that asserts a hands-on, user-centric approach to problem-solving leads to innovation, and innovation leads to differentiation and a competitive advantage. Most of the time, this thinking is used as a system for creating a product or piece of creative, but the same process can be used to assemble strong, well-balanced teams.

As outlined by the Nielsen Norman Group, world leaders in research-based user experience, design thinking develops three significant components of common ground in teams:

Building a shared vocabulary. As they say, teams can only move as quickly as they can successfully communicate. The collaborative nature of design thinking alleviates this friction by involving all team members from the very beginning in a workshop-based approach. When teams have a shared vocabulary, the focus can move from what? to how?

Having tangible artifacts. Like good writing, a key principle of design thinking is “show, don’t tell.” Tangible artifacts like empathy maps, journey maps, storyboards, and wireframes do more than get good ideas following. They help visualize complex ideas, build group cohesion, and provide a physical dictionary for the team’s shared vocabulary. Not only are you speaking the same language, but you can also point to something physical.

Establishing a trust-based team culture. The nice thing about design thinking is that by relying on cross-disciplinary and cross-hierarchical participation, it’s inherently democratic. It balances each participant’s contribution so that all ideas are weighed equally, supporting divergent, idiosyncratic thinking.

Save Your Top Brains for Big Idea Thinking

So, you’ve found your team and established a system for getting them to work well together. What’s the worst thing you can possibly do? Bog them down with low-level tasks that don’t take advantage of their strengths.

According to McKinsey & Company, only 38% of the people surveyed said their teams focused on work that truly benefited from a top-team perspective. Only 35% said their top teams allocated the right amounts of time among the various topics they considered important, such as strategy and people.

You built a super team to do super things. If your ultimate goal is to build an organization that changes markets, changes people’s lives, and stands the test of time, your team needs the time to make that dream a reality.

Emotive Brand is a brand strategy and design agency in Oakland, California.

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