Financial year 2015/16 is nearly behind us. I for one see the last financial year as a year of challenge and development. The challenge has been financially navigating through very tough times. Our business had relied on sectors that were in decline and we had invested heavily in new business lines and business line leaders. The development has meant that I have learnt more over the past 12 months than I ever had in a previous year; more about business, more about people and more about myself. Every year, May and June are my months for planning and budgeting and this year has been no different for me and my team at Optimum and every year the centrepiece of the plan is the financial budget and targets. However, I question whether this is the most important component of the plan. For me, the most important plan I do every year is a people plan.planning

My business, like most businesses, relies heavily on people. Quality people lead to quality results. When my people mix is not right, the results tend to suffer. Every year I evaluate my current team, my working capital, against my two major criteria; results and behaviours. Have they achieved their goals? If so, what led to that? If not, why not? Did they live and breathe behaviours of Optimum? Did they contribute in a positive manner to the overall team? Did they contribute positively to the brand? These questions are critically important to me when I evaluate individual performance and plan for a new year. When I have made assessments, the most important component of the people plan begins.

I look to always complement my existing team when I start a new year. Where are we deficient? What are the opportunities? Who is in my “red zone” and what is being done to manage their performance? Who is performing to expectation and how can we help them to exceed expectations next year? Is everyone clear about what is expected of them? Finally, have I got the mix right? Do we have enough of the right people with the personal traits that I need? Every year I plan for people with certain personal traits. These include:

  • Reliability – it is amazing how important “reliable” people are to a team. It really is. For me, reliability is about being able to know, predict and plan what you are going to get out of your team member. You know that they will always be punctual. You know they will always be prepared. You know that they will hit their target and they will usually be low maintenance. They will probably never innovate or change the direction of your business but they will never let you down. You always need a solid base of these people (they tend to be the best people to manage as well because they tend to be honest, courteous and respectful of the business).
  • Leadership – when I refer to leadership, I am not talking about a position on the organisational chart. I am speaking about somebody who can take the plan and execute it without hesitation. I like people who people like to be around; people with a certain gravitas. Leaders inspire others to follow them and they inspire others to greater levels of performance. You need to get a good blend of leaders into a team, however, they can be more confident to share their opinions and sometimes this can cause issues with regards to clarity of direction.
  • Humour and empathy – every team needs to have some fun and you always need someone to lift the morale of a team when things are tough. I have a real soft spot for people who come to work with a smile on their face and people who smile tend to always get people to smile back at them. People with a sense of humour tend to be empathetic as well; they tend to be good listeners and able to lift people when they are low.
  • X factor – yes, the X factor is my constant gamble. I always look for one or two people (any more than that and I would probably lose my greying hair) who can actively challenge the status quo and, more importantly, promote ideas and solutions that are not obvious. Those with the X factor have more depth than the “black hats” that De Bono promoted; they not only find fault in the status quo, they come to the table with ideas to improve. X factors tend to be easily distracted and hard to pin down on executing plans however if you ever need help to innovate or plan, they are the people you turn to.

I challenge readers of this blog to embrace the concept of a people plan this year when they are stressing about finalising their budget. Evaluate the current performance of your team against the criteria that is important to you and make plans based on this. Think about the behaviours you need and the behaviours that will complement your team. Most importantly, prepare to take a risk (and beware of those X factors).

Brad McMahon – Managing Director

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