I’ll be the first to admit that when God was considering what innate talents and abilities he was going to arrange in my DNA or lay bare in my future environment, math was low on the list. While mathematics may be a cultural acquisition, many scientific studies suggest some of us are born with at least some math skills hardwired into our brains. I like to say that my left brain is stunted, and my right brain is on steroids. But that is not quite right either.
The left brain is called the digital brain; it’s ideal for reading, writing, and doing computations. So, for me, two out of three is good. Research shows the left brain helps with logic, linear thinking, facts, thinking in words, sequencing, and math. There’s that math again.
The right brain is more visual and intuitive, and it’s often thought of as the analog brain. It is more creative and less organized than its twin. If you are right-brained, you have lots of imagination and intuition, and you can more easily enjoy the arts, feel the rhythm, sense non-verbal cues, visualize, and even daydream.
The last one got me a lot of low grades in citizenship class. But my right brain was at the helm to help me be a leader, run a company, read a prospect, assist with a design or vision, and close on millions of dollars worth of sales during my career.
Thus, the two sides of our brain are different. Does that mean we have a dominant brain, like we favor our right or left hand?
Magnetic resonance imaging of volunteers has shown no proof that this theory is correct. The networks on one side are not generally stronger than the networks on the other side. Both sides function differently, but they work together and complement each other. There is synergy using both sides of your brain. 2+2 can equal 10. Or sometimes five, or better yet, 32, like with Albert Einstein.
As the son of a coach, I often visualize in the form of sports. Whether it is for fostering teamwork, practicing for improvement, being or teaching others to be competitive, having perseverance, or going for a winning sale, I translate the sign and graphics industry into sports categories automatically.
The deep end of the talent pool
Whether you are building a world-class sports team or your local sign shop of five, your talent pool is one of the primary foundations for success.
What exactly is a talent pool? It is a database that holds the profiles of all the people that are interested in your organization. It can be made up of people that have not applied yet, but they are following the company in the meantime (this is why social media is so important). Or it is those who applied in the past but didn’t get a job. They might not have had the right expertise, or it was not ideal timing, but they did match your company culture. And it’s the people already employed on your team.
A talent pool can be a safety net where you can search through qualified candidates quickly so you do not have to launch a long or expensive recruiting process. So, you are a coach and a scout.
It can also help your brand as you share what you are doing in the workplace with your talent pool. It can get them excited about your company and it might even get them to lead others to be in your talent pool.
Sometimes your best solutions are your current employees. You already know these people, what they are capable of, and if they fit in your culture. Make sure you help these people see a career path even if your company is small now. Employees want to be valued and appreciated and know they have a future.
How do you leverage results with your internal talent pool? When I think of a talent pool, an easy metaphor has always been water sports.
In popular watersports, there are swimmers, divers, rowers, sailors, surfers, rafters, water skiers, and many other kinds of athletes. Each one of these participants has some of all of the others’ basic abilities (for example, they know how to tread water), yet each has their own specialized and individual talents and skill sets.
As their coach, you have to determine whether you face a shallow talent pool or a deep one. You must look at your talent pool constantly. Regularly browse through it; that will help you be prepared when you’ve got a position opening up by making it a habit to think of your pool first.
Here is a nugget: don’t ever forget about former employees. Regardless of why they left (legal reasons notwithstanding), they may now be the best candidate to fill a position. Do not let your ego get in the way of success. If you do, you might win the first turn but lose the race. After all, your goal is to make the best decisions that positively impact the day you sell your business.
Research shows that professionals who are encouraged to use their unique strengths are six times more likely to perform better in the workplace. Yet many managers believe their role is to delegate tasks rather than motivate their team members to leverage and develop their strengths.
On that note, what are the core fundamentals for coaching your internal talent pool?
Assess your existing talent. Identify the key strengths and competencies of each employee. Use personality profiles and testing. Retest your employees over time; things can change. In this era of social media, most of your employees have accessible personal and professional profiles out there to review.
Ask questions, listen, observe, and be direct with employees during performance reviews. Your goal is to develop self-aware employees who know what they are good at and what they need to work on to be better. Look for patterns and make notes on each employee. Competition is a great motivator for showcasing strengths and weaknesses. And it can be fun.
Identify what energizes an employee. What are their interests and passions? What did they do when they were young? What do they do for fun when they are not at work? Connect with your employees and be genuinely interested in their lives!
Define how each employee’s strengths add value. What if you supercharged those attributes? Define action steps that help then amplify their strengths. Outline and provide the support needed to ensure success. If you want valuable outcomes at work, give your employees a reason to put their strengths on steroids. It is easier to build on a strength than work tirelessly on a weakness.
Fixation on a weakness is never helpful. It is a recipe for burnout. If it does not get in the way of success, let it go. But do not neglect a process if a weakness is inhibiting or slowing progress. That would be a disservice to your employee. But use caution when reviewing weaknesses. Reframe them as developmental opportunities and create a plan. Give the employee needed resources and support for growth. Be a mentor and motivate accordingly.
So how do we get 2+2= 10 or 32? What causes synergy? Synergy can arise when two persons with different complementary skills cooperate. It creates a combined effect that is greater than the sum of its separate parts. Synergy builds trust through collaboration and co-creation. Trust can lay the groundwork for innovation.
Leverage your employees as individuals and as a team. Put a diver with a swimmer. Pair a rower with a surfer. Use their complementing strengths to make them unstoppable. Synergy creates better results and effects; it can generate better solutions to problems, and it helps organizations to achieve their mission and vision.
So how do you promote synergy in your business? Creating a company vision, mission statement, and list of core values and targets is a great way to start. Begin with the end in mind. Your employees need a sense of purpose as to why they come to work every day, whether it’s at a shop or their home office at the dining table.
Steps toward synergy
Putting the right people in clear and responsible roles minimizes the risk of overlap or work gaps. Goals create challenges. Trying and stressful situations often forge a team, and when they emerge, they come out closer and with stronger relationships. Whether you do great or not so well, always review what everyone did right and wrong and improve for the future.
Good team synergy takes leaders and followers. They must co-exist. When less people try to lead and more become good followers (willing to be led and listen and cooperate with others), the tasks at hand can be completed much more efficiently and effectively.
When all employees on the teamwork with trust, compassion, and respect, each person will give their best. Synergy comes when everybody pulls their own weight. When you trust others for support and forget about your own fears, the team can gain momentum and achieve success.
Synergy is a constant process, and it must be managed. Your team is the crew of a ship on a journey that you embark upon together, and everyone must row and work to reach your destination. But it is not a destination that you arrive at and just halt. It is a process of teamwork. Managing and resolving relationship conflicts is not like fixing a broken skiff. It requires practice, experience, time, patience, and commitment. Being a coach is important, but you must also help create order where these great relationships are the key ingredient in creating harmony.
With the current volatility and instability in the marketplace, how can your company expand their talent pool right now?
Improve your recruitment and application process. Reduce the application process to five minutes or less. Sixty percent of Gen Z applicants (who will soon make up 30 percent of the workforce) will not spend more than 15 minutes filling out an application.
Be flexible with terms of employment. Allow remote or hybrid work, offer flexible hours, or experiment with job-sharing, ride sharing, etc. What worked for you – or for you dad – won’t necessarily work in today’s world!
Offer competitive benefits and pay. Get creative. If you want to grow your talent pool, you must offer great compensation packages. It will help you attract and retain talent. And it’s not just about salary, either. Work from home stipends, equity in the company, longer or unlimited vacation time, and other perks are what new job seekers are looking for from a prospective employer. Make these benefits clear on your social media, website, company handbook, job application, etc.
Encourage referrals. Turn your existing employees into recruiters by giving them incentives for helping to fill open positions. Most companies say that referrals are their top source for new hires.
Offer professional development opportunities. Allow employees to seek out their own education with online providers, or offer workshops, training, and certifications. This will expand employees’ skills and make your organization attractive to top talent.
Showcase your company culture. You want your customers to be brand advocates, but you also want your employees to be brand advocates. What your employees say about your company on social media can be your best endorsement opportunity (or your worst nightmare). You want your talent pool to know that your shop is a great place to work.
Partner with educational institutions. Team up with colleges, universities, and trade schools. Provide internships, co-op programs, and other ways students can learn about our narrow vertical market sector. In return, your firm will be top-of-mind for new talent as students graduate or tell their friends and family.
Utilize social media. Almost five billion people use social media in the world today. You must use social media to build demand for your organization, for your talent pool, and for your prospective customers. Share content often. It can set you apart from your competitors.
Here is to your talent pools and new synergy; may they all give you a winning calculation.