Tapping talent Featured

8:00pm EDT April 25, 2010

Wayne Schmidt is a results-oriented leader.

You might take that to mean he’s driven by business results — driving profits, new business and so forth. You’d be correct. But Schmidt, the principal and CEO of architectural firm Schmidt Associates, is driven by another type of result:

He wants every hire at his firm to result in an enabled, motivated and professionally fulfilled employee who can help drive growth at the firm, which generates $12 million in annual fees.

“If I serve your needs, you will allow me to lead,” Schmidt says. “We practice that as a core value of the firm, and internally that applies in that if staff sees me bringing in the work they want to work on, they’re being treated right and we’re results-oriented, they will have confidence in my leadership.”

Smart Business spoke with Schmidt about how you can find out what really motivates your employees and how you can use that information to better both the employee and your business.

Get to know your employees. There are ways to make it really complicated, but I’ve found the way to make it really simple: say you’re an employee. One of the things staff has to do before they’re hired, we want to know what their primary aim is. We want to know what their strengths are from a format we use called ‘predictive index.’ And I want to know what will make them successful. The question is, can we offer that here?

Once a person is hired, they go through an orientation program, during which we expect them to write goals. The staff is expected to set their own goals, because if we have people working from their strengths, they’re going to think about work on the way in each day, not just once they get here. So going back to servant leadership, if we hire the right people, motivate them and then stimulate that motivation toward results, they’ll become a leader in the firm, as well. Again, if I meet your needs, you’re going to allow me to lead.

We do career pathing twice a year, because it’s more about where their goals are and what they want to attain and achieve. Every staff person has a mentor, and we have an orientation program. Communication is the key here. As an example, I usually have lunch with a staff person once a year, in groups of eight or nine people, so they have an opportunity to ask me what they want to ask. You get the gist. There is a lot of communication.

Quantify strengths and weaknesses. It starts with the predictive index. It will identify strengths and weaknesses. We make sure people are in the right slot. As an example, you take a project manager and expect them to make marketing calls; they’re not going to make a marketing call. It will be a disaster, and it was when we did it. Now, we know that person is going to be more about management and leading. That person is going to be more about doing work instead of creating work. If we put people in a place where they have to create work, they wonder who they’re going to call. Now, a project manager gets up and thinks about how they’re going to get a project done successfully. So that’s how we make sure they’re in the right slot.

Then, as we meet with them and do the career pathing, they’re expected to make five personal goals and five professional goals. They don’t have to show the personal goals, but they do have to show the professional goals. We might tweak them a bit, but for the most part, they know what they need to do. We wish them well and ask how we can help.

To put people in the best position to succeed, you have to be intentional with your hiring, make sure you hire the right people and put them in the right positions. Then, you listen to them. What are their goals and aspirations? What are they expecting from the company and firm? What client will they work with? What will make them go home every night excited about coming in the next day?

Work as a team. We treat people as volunteers, not as employees. When you treat someone as a volunteer, you treat them differently than you would if they’re an employee. If they’re an employee, you’re telling them what to do. If they’re a volunteer, you’re asking them what needs to be done and how can you help. You show them respect, you care about them, you make sure they’re in the right spot. You put them in whatever position they need to be in order to achieve success. If they’re successful, everyone is successful.

You have to promote the idea of team within a business. That there is no ‘we’ and ‘they.’ We’re all ‘we,’ and we’re all pulling the wagon in the same direction. What motivates that staff person should be the same thing that motivates me.

Within two days of anybody being hired, we’re taking them through an orientation period, and it’s a 90-day orientation period where they’re given books to read, and probably by the second day, I’m meeting with them for half an hour to talk about firm values and what will create success for them. What will it look like to them and how can we help? I can explain servant leadership to them, and now I expect them to act that way, too. If they’re serving their peers, their peers will look to them for leadership, as well. One of the last things I tell them during orientation is that if you need me, you can stop me in the hall. Let my assistant know that you need a 15-minute meeting, I am available. And people do that. We have employees who come up, take 15 minutes and just talk about their career. The results have been fabulous.

How to reach: Schmidt Associates, (317) 263-6226 or www.schmidt-arch.com