It was in 2011 when I went with a small group for a trip to Kenya. Aside from spending some time on safari we also wanted to do a trek on one of the local mountains. We were told that Kilimanjaro is too “touristy” and you can’t enjoy the landscape because of the huge amount of people all around you, so we opted for the second biggest mountain, Mt Kenya.
And it was a good decision. During our three days trek, we met only one other group and otherwise had the mountain for ourselves. It was a different Afrika. With its three highest peaks of Batian (5.199 meters above sea level), Nelion (5.188m) and Point Lenana (4.985m) it is a majestic mountain. And nature is something you just don’t associate with Afrika. The type of habitat found on Mount Kenya is called an Afro-alpine zone, and it is beautiful.
Mornings on the mountain were cold but magnificent. A light ice cover on our tents quickly melted as the sun raised and the blue sky framed the surreal beauty of the place. You don’t have that type of mornings in Europe.
We started our trek from the Old Moses Hut (3.300 meters above sea level), and since we had to take with us all our equipment, tents, water and food for several days, we decided to use the services of local guides and porters.
These were experienced veterans who knew the mountain well and were used to carrying heavy loads up and down. Except for my porter. He was the youngest from the group and was a last-minute replacement of a more experienced person.
The leader of the group asked me if I don’t mind the newbie would carry my bag and then asked the other porters if there is someone who will take this new young man under their wing. He waited until one person raised his hand and said he would take care of him.
The success of the young man and my satisfaction as a customer was now the responsibility of the more senior person who committed that he is going to ensure that things work out well.
It was an interesting thing to watch and it was something I didn’t expect. Over the next three days, I could observe how this commitment worked in real life. The senior person would always check whether the younger guy has everything in place before we left the camp, he would wait if he saw the younger man struggle and is staying behind. He showed that he cares.
It was clear that he took it as his responsibility to make sure the youngster makes it and is successful on his first trip.
So what does this mean for your hiring practices and the way you lead teams?
It starts with hiring. In many businesses, there is a constant pressure to hire fast. However, unless you want to hire mediocre people, you need to ask the hiring team a very simple question. “Is there someone who is excited by this candidate and would bet their reputation on his or her success? Is there anyone on the team who will help them succeed?” If there is no response, no enthusiasm, then this probably isn’t the person you want to hire.
Possibly you have a team of people who don’t care which is an even bigger problem you need to solve fast. If you do have a good team and yet no one feels strong enough about the candidate to be willing to pledge his or her effort to make this person integrated with the team and successful there is little point of hiring them. They will be alone, and they will fail.
And then comes the onboarding. The first impressions a new employee gets with the company are really important. Everyone knows it, and everyone admits that when he or she joined it made a difference if they felt welcomed. And yet, very few companies and very few leaders give the onboarding the attention and effort it deserves.
Have you ever talked to a new employee and heard something like, “this is my second week with the company, and I didn’t talk to my boss yet. He or she is really busy.” I have heard this type of statement over my years as a coach and a mentor so many times I can’t even count them.
Many managers feel that it is acceptable to delegate onboarding of new people to others. They let HR do it, or someone from the team or they come up with an elaborate buddy program or peer mentorship as an excuse for not doing the work themselves.
The first days and weeks are critically important in bonding the new employee with the company. If no one is willing to commit to making the new person successful, chances are they won’t last long. They may see the company as being fine, but not special. They may see it only as yet another job, but they won’t fall in love. They won’t become fans.
And you do want to have fans of the company on your team if you want to retain them. There are too many other cool companies out there with great brands, cool sounding names, and fancy offices that can lure your people away. But not your fans. Fans will be more loyal, stay longer, care more, and help you and the company to achieve its mission.
After you successfully onboarded your people you still need to make sure they build good relationships with the rest of the team and the company. More formalized buddy program, mentoring program, peer to peer coaching and similar activities can help with this task in several ways.
They are helpful to let the people learn and grow. They are helpful to keep people learning from each other and build trust in others. Ultimately, they will lead to people building strong bonds with the team and will get a feeling of belonging.
If people feel that someone cares about them, and if they care about others on the team, they are less likely to leave just because someone offers them a bit more money. The heart won’t let them leave a team where everyone cares about their success. The emotions will win over the cool calculations most of the time.
So next time you are interviewing candidates, onboarding new employees, or have a conversation about retention ask yourself and the team a simple question, “do we care enough about the company, the team, and about each other that we are willing to commit to making each other successful? Are we willing to raise a hand and commit?”
What are your tips and tricks for onboarding new people. Do you have some sort of buddy program or peer to peer mentoring to make sure new people get not only the technical education to be able to do their jobs, but also the love so they feel welcomed and valued?
Photo: geralt / Pixabay.com
I’m gathering material for a book about introversion, leadership and successful careers, and I would love to hear from you! If you are an introvert, who has a successful career and/or who moved to a leadership role, I would like to ask you to share your experience with me. I prepared a couple of short survey’s that will make it easy for you: Strengths of successful introverts (What strengths introverts have that can help them be successful?); Blueprint of a successful career (What is required for a successful career?); Strategies for introverted leaders (As an introverted leader what strategies do you use to lead and manage others effectively?)