One of the many joys of leadership is the opportunity it presents to build a team. So far in my career I’ve done this twice. The first time was in 2014 when I was working at Yahoo and a reorg resulted in all the company’s sourcers reporting into me. Now that I’m at Indeed I have a new opportunity, but this time I’m building a team from scratch — and on a large scale.
How large? Put it this way: The mission of my team is to find, attract and activate a diverse group of job seekers from around the world to support Indeed’s growth. Today, we support all of Indeed’s 24 offices located in 12 different countries. We are a globally distributed team of 18 and continuing to grow.
When I started this job in March 2016, the team only had six members and had only recently hired its first sourcer 18 months earlier. Going global with a new team is a big challenge, and I’ve learned that success is dependent on your ability to listen, educate, attract and develop or (as I like to put it) to L.E.A.D. Let’s take a closer look at what this means in practice — and how you could apply these principles to building a team.
Listen: The importance of actively listening
Listen to everybody: your customers, partners and team members. You need to understand the current state of your recruiting process, plus the potential roadblocks, pitfalls, and challenges. It takes time and you may not always get the answers you want to hear, but it’s essential. Take it from someone who’s been there: I’ve stepped on a few land mines myself by not actively listening or asking the difficult questions!
And don’t rely just on internal partners you’ll be directly supporting, such as recruiting. Go outside your comfort zone. Talk to the business leaders that your team supports, talk to the job seekers they recruit, and talk to the employees they interact with, including hiring managers. Talk to people until they beg you to stop! (Well, OK — maybe you don’t need to go that far but don’t settle for silence.)
One question I ask everybody is: “How can sourcing support you in achieving your goals?” It makes people think, and it gets straight to the core of what we’re here to do. The insights you gather will be critical for you to determine the scalable processes you’ll build, how you’ll design the team structure, what performance goals you’ll establish and, ultimately, the vision you’ll create for your team.
Educate: Continuously build awareness
Lines get blurred, preconceptions are formed, and blind spots carried over from past experiences can make it hard to see what’s happening now. So here’s the thing: If you don’t share your story then other people will define what it is that you do. Part of your responsibility is to educate partners, peers and hiring teams on the capabilities of your team.
Education outside of your immediate talent acquisition or recruiting department needs to be continuous and regularly refreshed to help demonstrate the value you add to the overall recruiting process. Don’t wait for a formal invitation — jump in there and take the initiative! Over the last year, I’ve seized every opportunity and manufactured a few of my own to share my team’s story of “How Sourcing Works.”
I include everything we do outside of normal talent pipelining — including the training we deliver, the competitive intelligence we gather, the tools we build for recruiters and our focus on diversity sourcing initiatives. As a result of this outreach and program of education, awareness of what we can do for the company has grown. I now have senior leaders telling me directly: “I need the sourcing team.”
Attract: Build a very special kind of team
Remember this: You are not just building another ordinary team — you are striving to create an extraordinary team that will need to break through the conventional mold.
One book that I personally have found useful for tackling this challenge is “Virtuoso Teams: The Extraordinary Stories of Extraordinary Teams.” One of the lessons the authors learned from the seven transformational teams they studied was that the most effective leaders recruited and attracted the very best talent and never settled for what was just available.
Yes, sometimes it’s more convenient (and it’s certainly quicker) to make the easy hire. But ask yourself: If I do that, will I achieve my long term goal of building an extraordinary team and reap the results it will bring?
Think holistically about your team dynamics, complimentary talents, and understand what it takes to be wildly successful not only in the job but also across the company. You should be raising your team’s average with every hire.
Develop: Unlock your employees’ potential
To amplify and unleash the talents of your team, you need to have a ‘strengths based coaching’ approach and an obsessive focus on continuous improvement. Your ability to know your team and their collective unique talents is essential to helping them unlock their potential.
There are numerous different approaches to helping your team identify their talents. One tool that I personally find useful for doing this is StrengthsFinder. I have each employee complete a strengths assessment, which provides me with a snapshot of the unique abilities to be found across my team.
As part of their goals, I have each employee focus on an action item aligned to helping them continue to maximize that strength. This helps increase employee engagement, drives career development conversations and helps me to unlock their potential.
Building a team like this from scratch is a very rare opportunity. The last year has been one of the proudest and most exhilarating moments in my career. It’s also been immensely rewarding to see the work of my team continue to drive Indeed’s mission — "We help people get jobs" — forward across the globe.
Although many of the foundational pieces and social infrastructure to support this global team are now in place, our work is far from finished. Indeed is still growing and I constantly remind myself to seize the opportunity to L.E.A.D. (listen, educate, attract and develop) to help push the team to achieve great things this year.
If you’re building a team, consider applying these principles too (they’ve certainly worked for me). But even as you’re listening, educating, attracting, and developing, I want to remind you to never forget this: Enjoy the opportunity!