Building a team, finding and retaining key people is hard. Over the years, I have done it well at times and have also spectacularly failed.

Here are somethings I learnt along the way.

👀Find the outliers + reward performance

Your best players are often already in the team. Identifying them and then building them further is your job. I have made the mistake early on when I over-compensated a new hire, overlooking someone. If the new hire does not work out – you are at a double loss. Reward performance not just titles or CVs.

Ask the key question

I read this framework many years ago and it always worked for me. Ask yourself this: ‘Knowing what I know about this team member today – would I hire them again.’ If the answer is a resounding ‘yes’ – then do all you can to keep them. If it is a resounding ‘no way’ – then you let them go (nicely). If you are unsure then observe closely till you can decide, but don’t stay on the fence too long.

❤️ It is personal

Once you have found your key people, no amount of money or ESOPs can make up for lack of empathy or the human touch. Of course optimize to give the best possible compensation. In good times it is easy. But when times are difficult – it comes down to the relationship. As a leader, nurture a genuine connection to build teams that last

🏆Show and tell

Actions speak louder than words. If you say or think that someone is important – but it does not reflect in your actions then it is an own goal. It costs nothing to call or to send an encouraging or supportive message – or simply ask how it’s going. It ends up costing you even more if you don’t make those meaningful gestures

🚫It is never only transactional

If the depth of your connection to key people is transactional – they will never go the extra mile for you. The next, better offer that comes will break them away. Hedge your bets. Add that human touch. No amount of HR intervention can substitute it

👉🏼Have their back

Your key team should depend on you 100%. They should know that when they come to you with a challenge, you will work with them. If that trust does not exist or if they feel scared that you will undercut them – then it is a doomed partnership. In moments of crisis, I try intentionally to focus on solution not blame

😇 Honesty + Vunerability

Your team should know where they stand with you – without having to second-guess. If it is a question then rectify ASAP. By the same token, letting people in matters. As a leader – they need to see you as a whole person. If you are always stoic or putting up a front – you are making it hard for them to connect
Play the long game
This was the hardest for me. In the begining I took each exit personally. But then, over the years people who left, came back. We call them boomerangs internally. Build the right culture, nurture relationships & keep the door open always

😄Have fun

If you enjoy what you do it shows. Let off steam as a team. It pays off in the long run!