Half the game is won when you choose your team, says Mark McGough. When he came on as president and CEO of Pentadyne Power Corp. in May 2006, the struggling power systems manufacturer was in desperate need of a few star players.
To find them, McGough first looked for underused talent within the company. He then let his staff vet external prospects through a series of interviews.
“If the candidate is confident enough in their abilities, they’ll welcome the chance to meet those people,” he says. “In the process, I also got the buy-in of the people that were interviewing the new candidate, even though some of them would have liked to have that job.”
Pentadyne now features an all-star lineup of 70 high-energy employees who have led the company from 2006 revenue of $4.2 million to 2007 revenue of $9.8 million.
Smart Business spoke with McGough about how to pick the best players when choosing your team.
Q. How do you find a great team?
I can remember back in the ’80s, you got leaders (who) come in and essentially devastate a management organization in favor of their own insiders.
In a turnaround situation, there’re always (members) of the existing staff that are kind of diamonds in the rough. Maybe they’re in the wrong position. Maybe they just need the right coaching.
When you choose your team, it’s very important that you find people within the existing organization and provide leadership opportunities for those folks.
That sends out an important message to the rest of the staff that this isn’t going to be a private circle of the old colleagues that the new CEO brings in to run the business.
Q. How do you find those diamonds in the rough?
Do this just the same way as if they were external people. Interview them. Look at the resume talent. It’s truly no different than recruiting externally because they’re new to you, and they’ve got talent to offer.
I don’t pay attention to exactly where they are on the organizational chart. It’s not something that you need to look just one layer down. Sometimes, you need to look two and three layers down in the organization to find that underutilized talent that can be a key part of your business going forward.
When you do that, and you’re successful, every person gets the message that if they perform, no matter where they’re at in the organization, there’s a great career opportunity for them through your leadership.
Q. Did you actually interview existing employees to see how and where they will fit within the company?
You have to screen to some extent with your gut because there’s not enough time in a day to go through a highly methodical process to figure out who you want to take a closer look at.
There’s a lot you can learn by talking to the staff. There’s no substitute for one-on-one lunches, private conversations and just getting a sense of who the leaders are within the organization.
You can be in a group setting and find that the folks who contribute the most are the leaders in the organization. You might be startled at what their management role is in the organization.
Sometimes, the best leaders are two or three layers down the organization. Those are kind of the rising stars that I look to identify. They’ve got the high energy; they’re decisive. He or she’s got a commanding presence with the rest of the organization or parts of the organization.
When it seems like those things are true, that’s when I take a closer look. I usually come up with 10 or 12 people that I want to take a closer look at within the organization and pull from that the next generation of leaders for the business.
Q. How do you gauge chemistry with your rising stars?
Look inside yourself. When you’re finished with an interaction with that person, whether it’s a one-on-one meeting or you went to lunch together or you just had a hallway conversation, ask yourself after that’s over, did you enjoy that? Are you looking forward to the next time you’re interacting with that person?
I don’t believe in elaborate testing and personality profiles. I’ve gone though the MMPI [Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory] thing and done the personality tests, but I don’t think you can map out a personality so precisely.
You really have to go with that sense that you get after a few interactions with those people. Is that someone you’re going to enjoy working with? If you’ve got strong reservations, that’s probably a yellow flag.
Q. What is the benefit of focusing on this chemistry?
It’s all measured in results. You get that established, you get a great team in place, and if you’ve chosen them with the right skill sets, they’re going to do a great job producing results for the shareholders and board members that we’re all working for.
HOW TO REACH: Pentadyne Power Corp., (818) 350-0370 or www.pentadyne.com