Building And Retaining The Best Team

Building And Retaining The Best Team

Few things are more nuanced, complicated and squarely in the category of “art” versus “science” than acquiring and retaining the best talent. Seth Weissman, EVP, General Counsel and Secretary of SolarCity has been passionately championing the tools required to build the best team possible. This is particularly impressive given Weissman’s commitment to diversity and championing the hiring and promotion of minorities and women. Weissman was name the Silicon Valley Business Journal 2015 Corporate Counsel of the Year — Diversity Champion. Having started at Solar City over eight years ago as its first full-time lawyer, Weissman now manages a team of over 60 employees, and shares the secrets to his success.

Hiring

  • There are three indicators of whether someone is the right hire for your team: intelligence quotient (IQ), emotional quotient (EQ), and fit. All three matter, but in Weissman’s opinion most lawyers and law firms focus too much on IQ and leave EQ and fit out. After a certain point, IQ is worthless if you can’t harness all of that brain power in a constructive way making you effective with clients and coworkers.
  • The single biggest classic mistake is to hire yourself. Everyone has their strengths and challenges and you don’t want to hire people who merely mirror yours. As Weissman says, “I don’t want to manage myself. The single most important thing I look for is someone who has different strengths and challenges so they complement mine.”
  • To figure out your strengths and challenges, turn to those closest to you. Your significant other, close friends, and trusted colleagues are likely better at identifying them than you are. They don’t have blind spots when it comes to who you are.
  • Make a conscious effort to look for diverse candidates. “We all have implicit biases, and most of them set us up to look for what’s familiar. Since nothing is more familiar than ourselves, if you want diversity, it’s not just going to happen organically. You have to make an effort to explicitly look for it,” Weissman explains.
  • While interviewing, ask every candidate as many of the same questions as possible to avoid implicit bias. Weissman suggests focusing on EQ-related skills like whether a candidate can understand themselves, is present, able to read those around her or him and, just as importantly, can quickly adapt behaviors to any given situation.
  • Really connect with your candidates without merely going over their past job history. Find out who they are as people. “This may mean learning that they have unique hobbies, stories from their childhood or things they are passionate about that have nothing to do with work. These are often-times the kinds of stories that really help you understand what makes someone tick and whether they’ll fit in with your team,” Weissman explains.
  • Weissman looks for these key fit indicators: humor, humility, and resilience. You should determine what yours are based on what is working in your company now or what has worked for you in the past when leading teams.
  • So what are Weissman’s favorite interview questions?What, in your mind, is the difference between wisdom and intelligence?
    • Would you say you’re wiser than your peers?
    • Do you rely more on your intelligence or wisdom?
    • What in your life, that’s not on your resume, has made you who you are today?

Retaining 

  • Repeat and stay consistent. Whatever the most important messages are, repeat them often to make sure everyone on your team actually hears and internalizes them.
  • Your team needs to feel that all your success really depends on theirs. From a practical perspective, “You need to share the joy and take the blame. Always. My job is to make my team members’ lives better. At the end of the day, I need them more than they need me,” says Weissman.
  • Drop the old notion that everyone is replaceable. Nobody wants to feel disposable. As Weissman explains, “I truly and from the heart value every one of my team members, and I hope they always know that. I don’t operate from the perspective that I can just swap someone out. I’m invested in their long-term success whether at SolarCity or somewhere else and that makes them more likely to stay with me and continue to develop. I’ve only had four attorneys leave in my time at SolarCity and all went to take bigger roles. This is something I’m very proud of.”
  • Work with an executive coach and hire the same executive coach for key members of your team. Though it may impact the budget, it’s worth the investment to create a safe space where your team can have the most difficult conversations. This is particularly true for team members that may not feel as comfortable telling you directly what they need to grow and/or feel valued, and a coach gives them the opportunity to practice that conversation first. “The reality is there are some things I simply can’t help someone with. I have a coach work with all my direct reports to identify growth areas and to supplement the areas where I am not able to provide the tools necessary for growth. This works because we have a complete vow of confidentiality between the coach and the team member, and because the process is designed as an investment in my people. I can’t stress enough how great the results of this process have been. Not only does my team feel invested in the process, but the executive coach can help me be a better leader by letting me know what I need to do to help each person meet their goals and develop to their full potential,” Weissman adds.

With enough practice, dedication, and commitment to investing the requisite time, anyone can master Weissman’s tips for finding, developing and retaining the best talent. In case you’re still not sold, Weissman summarizes it best: “I am most proud of the team we have built. They trust each other, they support each other and they care about each other as teammates should. There is nothing more powerful than a committed and energized team and I’m humbled by the trust and faith the women and men of the legal department have placed in me. I am forever in their debt.”

This article was originally published by Above the Law.

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