The MPW Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career? is by Kristen Hamilton, co-founder and CEO of Koru.
I love chocolate. But when it comes to nutrition, I’ve learned the hard way — you are what you eat. It’s no different when you’re building a team — you are who you hire. No matter how brilliant you are at what you do, it’s the people on your team who help you succeed. I’ve experienced this time and again, both as a leader in a global enterprise and as an entrepreneur launching a startup. Your people will take you across the finish line. You can’t do it alone. So how do you attract and build a strong team with a diversity of perspectives that drives performance and innovation? You start by creating the right environment — a culture worthy of the high-performing team you want working with you.
Building a performance culture
I don’t believe performance cultures happen by accident. In my experience, if you’re not intentional about building and maintaining a performance culture, you won’t. Your company culture is a reflection of your company identity, and ultimately, who your leaders are. To build an authentic culture, start by solidifying your identity as a company. At Koru, we spent a lot of time on this. My cofounder and I wanted our company to attract people who believe in the same principles we do — things like be your best self and have the courage to fail fast and cheap. But defining the culture you want is only the first step. A company culture is only as good as the people living it every day. So when you start hiring to build that team, it’s not enough to hire people who can do the job. You need to hire people who will thrive in your unique culture.
Hiring for a performance culture
We work with a lot of employers. Sometimes the very large companies — those that recruit on college campuses — have taken the approach of identifying “core” schools they recruit from and enforcing a minimum GPA. While efficient, this approach works completely counter to the goal of increasing performance and building intentional culture. Employers are wasting millions by competing on only a handful of campuses for the same candidates, narrowing their applicant pool not just by volume, but also by diversity. The good news is that big data has (finally) come to HR in the form of people analytics. We can now analyze what makes a top performer and use predictive modeling to screen for look-alikes. This allows employers to efficiently identify those most likely to succeed in their culture from a huge pipeline of applicants.
Nurturing a performance culture
Maintaining a performance culture is not as simple as measuring goals. In fact, depending on the culture you’ve built and the team you’ve attracted, measuring progress toward goals may not even be part of it. Go back and look at those principles you created. What does your company value? One of our principles is anything is possible, but not everything is possible. So we have regular check-ins with our team on our vision. Are we staying focused? Are we continuing to work in service of something greater than the tasks we complete each day? But we also check on how full our workloads are, because not everything is possible. We want our team to take time to have fun and do the things they love. Building a winning team is hard. Developing and maintaining a performance culture can be even harder. My experience suggests there’s no substitute for an intentional culture that’s an authentic reflection of your company, starting with you, the leaders.