October 1, 2018

How to Identify Your Company's Champions

Differentiation and value creation are tenets that should inform more than your business model. If you want to build a team of high performers, these ideals should also be applied to how you identify the champions within your organization. Are you applying forward thinking to how you select KPI's, but still using outdated employee evaluations? Are you measuring performance based on generic goals or metrics that are often irrelevant within a month? Are your innovation goals reflected in your practices?

A "value first" ethos can help you create a culture that is inclusive of diverse voices, recognizing the members of your team that offer substantiated ideas and deliver quantifiable results. To meet the demands of a global economy, you need a team made of leaders that easily adapt to change, demonstrate initiative, and work in the spirit of collaboration. When looking for the high achievers in your company, ask yourself these 5 questions:

1. Who champions your mission but challenges your thinking?

For many organizations, your customer base is reflected in your workforce. Why not champion diversity of thought? Be open to the transformative impact of fresh perspectives and unique approaches to driving customer and brand value. Harnessing constructive ideas could be the key to staving off irrelevance or lack of differentiation. Celebrate those associates who constructively challenge business as usual.

Encourage the associates that apply evolutionary thinking to problem solving. A mark of leadership is knowing when to abandon efforts that have a diminishing probability of success and instead adapting your approach to create desired results. Ask yourself, who on your team makes the best use of increasing levels of autonomy? Who is demonstrating skills and capability beyond expectations to get the job done?

2. Who are the early adopters?

Industry disruptors and an ever-changing competitive landscape can directionally impact your business. Your champions should demonstrate that they are malleable and fluid to change. They aren't espoused to the basic requirements of a job description. They rise to the demands of a role. Your champions aren't just the go-to problem solvers, they also encourage their direct reports and their peers to adapt to change. The early adopters that will grow and evolve with your organization are often those seeking to expand their own skills - either through personally sought or company-led training.

3. Who is delivering value?

Working hard is an unequivocal ingredient of success. However, hard work has to result in tangible benefits to achieve and sustain success. While being the first to arrive and the last to leave is an appreciated and commendable effort, creating value supersedes working long hours without quantifiable results. Establish clear metrics of success for each team and team member, and work with them to set realistic goals that align to business requirements. Examine internal processes and standing meetings to ensure they have clearly defined outputs, and are in line with the goals set for each team member. By defining clear objectives - and regularly monitoring progress and providing feedback - you'll not only set your teams up for success, but enable your high performers to understand and demonstrate the value they create for the company at large.

4. Who repeatedly displays professional maturity?

Office politics can be a common hurdle and navigating perceived threats can take a toll on productivity and morale. Take note of your associates that demonstrate professional maturity and only display emotional contributions that add value. If you want to cultivate a thriving workforce, recognize and reward the associates that display a willingness to collaborate towards the success of the organization - not just personal or departmental success. Leadership teams should set the tone for the organization by displaying healthy discourse with an overarching goal of reaching consensus. Leadership's example will permeate your organization.

5. Who demonstrates initiative and seeks professional development?

Healthy competition and accountability can be a fantastic byproduct of encouraging an entrepreneurial spirit among your teams. When seeking status updates, are you taking note of those that can speak to the value produced and not just the effort behind the work they or their teams have completed? Equally important to establishing an ownership mentality is sharing credit where appropriate and congratulating peers when success is achieved. Are you observing who balances sharing praise and taking accountability? Lastly, seeking help may seem counter to taking initiative but it can be a demonstration of wisdom and discretion. Raising your hand after exhausting all other avenues to solve a problem can be a more valuable use of time and resources.

Final Word

Create the culture you want by objectively identifying and celebrating your top performers and greatest company champions. If you don't see enough of the above attributes being demonstrated across your teams, or your organization requires strict methods of employee evaluation, use these tips as a point of reference for training and promoting the capabilities most useful to your organization. Nurture the leadership qualities of your champions. Even if they aren't leaders in title just yet, they are influencers and will play a pivotal role in sustaining the company culture you're working to cultivate.

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