As a leading technology company, recruiting and retaining the best and brightest is crucial. One of the characteristics of this type of professional is that he or she usually has high standards when it comes to selecting an employer. And rightfully so. In order to become (and equally important, stay) an employer of choice for top talent, we have made it a priority at the highest level in our organization to create an atmosphere and working environment that is inspiring, energetic and challenging.
Once you have these high-potentials on board, one of the goals of a corporate leader should be – in my view – to get the most out of them. That means not only to let each one of them thrive, but to make sure that the potential of all these people combined is bigger than the sum of their individual talent, experience and skills.
One of the instruments to really unlock individual potential and building great teams is frequent and intense debate and discussion. Colleagues should feel an urge to challenge each other and question hypothesis. Please note that the quality of this interaction is crucial in order to make it effective. Here are some ground rules that work for us.
First of all, the key objective should never be to win a debate or discussion but to clarify facts and to improve reasoning. This can only be achieved when participants act decent and polite. This may sound a little obvious, but unfortunately it’s not. There are a lot of companies in which an argument can be won just by being loud, arrogant or even intimidating. It’s the kind of behavior you should not allow in a company. There should never be room for bullies, period.
Furthermore, and this is also a responsibility of senior management, is that people should feel free and safe to speak their minds. If being honest means there is a risk of repercussions, the chance of a fruitful debate is very small. Also, it should never be the hierarchical role of a person that counts, only the quality of his or her arguments.
A third basic rule is that every discussion should have a clear objective. What is the problem we want to solve? Why do we have this meeting? What targets do we have? Who should we invite to the table? A simple checklist that ensures you a discussion does not become a useless, time consuming chat session. Every discussion should contribute one way or the other, but they’re never meant as cozy catch-ups.
And last but not least: make sure that every participant shares the same strategic guiding principles, has access to the same basic information and is equally prepared. Evidently there can be differences in terms of seniority, skillset, experience et cetera – that can even be an advantage – but everyone present should have the ammunition to actively participate.
Frequent and qualitative discussion between ambitious professionals is one of the key drivers of a successful company. If you encourage people to build on each other’s ideas and experience, true magic can happen.
Ruben Wegman, CEO
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