If all goes well, your company will grow.
And as it grows, it’s important to have (and keep) the right people on the bus. Identifying your best people doesn’t just involve raw productivity metrics . It should also take into account the soft skills that will predict future leaders.
You need a system in place that pinpoints and nurtures the top performers who will one day lead the growth areas of your company, who have been in the trenches with you from the start, and who can help realize your vision.
To help you find and retain the people who have what it takes to one day step into a more pronounced role, we’ve identified five things to look for on a daily basis.
Monitor the Team Under Stress
A young startup is a hotbed for stress. Tight deadlines, limited staff, and slim resources mean everyone is expected to do just a little bit more than their job description. Some people will show the stress as productivity dips and moods sour, and others will self-select out of it entirely. Look for the people who can handle the stress – the people with healthy work-life boundaries, a clear understanding of their personal strengths and limits, and the ability to take a step back and analyze a situation before reacting.
Even before moving into management, the ability act decisively is a clear indicator of leadership potential.
Look for the Self-Motivated Performers
Every office needs people who will take what’s requested of them and complete it quickly and according to the precise specifications provided. Your top performers will take it one step further – these are the people with a stack of books on their desk, a side project open in the background, and fresh ideas at every meeting. They think like owners – recognizing the implications of a certain set of learnings and recommending what they would do next.
They look for the people in the company with more knowledge than them and leverage relationships to get things done.
Watch and Ask After Personal Interactions
How do each of your employees handle personal interactions – not just with their colleagues, but with vendors, supervisors, and customers? Being an extrovert is far from a requirement for leadership, but people skills are a must.
Your top performers will leverage their social network when they have a problem that can’t be solved internally. They will show aptitude at deflating tense situations, and their colleagues will look to them in times of stress or uncertainty as a rock and a bellwether of how they should respond.
These are people who understand the value of personal relationships and work towards nurturing the right ones in their professional career.
Accommodate Those Eager to Keep Learning
When a busy workload demands 50-60-hour weeks from your team, it’s easy to de-prioritize requests for professional development time. Conferences, self-guided projects, and other tasks outside of “core-work” projects can seem distracting, but they are some of your best indicators of someone’s ambition.
Google famously encourages its employees to spend up to 20% of their work weeks engaged in new projects. Not only does this encourage creativity, independent learning and skills development; it helps to identify people who are primed to grow beyond the box of their job description.
Recognize and Track Quality on a Daily Basis
This is the easy one.
Someone can be a social butterfly with brilliant ideas, but if they can’t execute on their ideas it will be difficult to guide them to a position of leadership.
More than just “doing a good job”, though, look for people who take pride in their work – employees who agonize over getting things right.
That doesn’t necessarily mean perfectionists who are paralyzed at the thought of ever truly “completing a project”, but you want someone who thinks like an owner, not just another clock puncher there for a paycheck.
Building Your Leadership Team of the Future
No single one of these traits is a must-have when identifying top performers for future leadership roles. Rather, think of them as guideposts – signals to look for as you prepare your future talent bench.
Those signals help to identify people early who show raw potential but are not yet ready for the leap to managing others. In doing so, you can invest in them with hands-on training, mentorship and coaching to accelerate their development cycle and ready them for the future position they will hold in your company.
Download our eBook with 6 tips for improving retention of your top performing engineers. In it, you’ll learn which factors have the greatest influence on retention, how to build a culture that fits your company’s values, and encourage people to stay for the long haul.