Leading leaders Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2010
David Glass believes in two things that are essential to building leaders in any business: developing trust and allowing collaboration.

It’s how Glass, as co-founder and president, has helped to build LHP Inc. from a start-up to a software and IT solutions company with 200 employees and $13 million in 2009 revenue.

“I try to find very strong talent and put [them] in a position of empowerment, so I’ll set high-level objectives and a vision, and for the most part, I’ll get out of their way and let them figure out how to get it done,” Glass says. “I only step in when there is some issue or they’re not hitting their targets or if a manager just can’t perform.”

To find the people who can help lead his business, Glass has placed an emphasis on not just the skill sets of current and prospective employees but getting to know the person, as well.

Smart Business spoke with Glass about how you can identify and develop future leaders at your business.

Start with the interview process. Evaluating capabilities is one of the core things our company does. Our expertise is in evaluating people. You develop that expertise typically through years of hiring people, bringing people in and identifying their skill sets. You also need to understand the customer’s needs for a particular person or define for yourself what that is — what are the key attributes that are going to make an individual successful? — and [then] doing our best to identify those attributes. A lot of times, we try to be a little less formal because sometimes you can see key characteristics about people when you can just get them into a comfortable state where they can open up about who they are and what is important to them.

You can bring that out by having different people participate in the interview process. In some cases, it is going to be a structured set of questions for an interview, but we’d also have a setting where we get together for lunch with the person, where it’s not about the task at hand but more about what is your life like and what is important to you. You want to see what they gravitate toward in terms of what they like to talk about. But you do want to vary it so that you have both the formal and informal elements there. You don’t want it to be all one way or all the other.

Get to know your future leaders. How you prepare someone to take a manager’s role depends on the individual and what their needs are. You connect with them personally, and you just evaluate as you go. Sometimes you start off with something small and just gradually increase their level of responsibility, see how they do. As you evaluate their capabilities, you see how far they can go, or you see if they have some development needs and training, and we’ve leveraged outside business consultants that either have experience running a business at the level you want to be at in the future. There are many different types of consultants you can use.

It’s just leveraging the expertise of a number of people to help the organization grow. That’s what we really try to do. You need to have a clear definition of roles and responsibilities, along with targets, and specifically evaluating an individual’s capabilities, then finding specific initiatives that help them grow their skills where they need to. That’s where the outside expertise can come into play.

Measure them. We have a balanced scorecard process where we define the overall company goals and roll that into individual scorecards. That way, they know exactly what their goals and objectives are, what their measurements are, and how that ties into the company goals. We have annual reviews of those objectives, along with monthly or quarterly type of meetings to review progress as each person goes along. You don’t want to get too far down the road to the point that you’re getting off track. You want to make sure that everyone is on track as they go, and then help them reach their goals as they need help.

Define your culture. We’ve gone through an effort as a management team to define our culture and document it. That is something that an individual can refer to as they come in. But the other piece is just really one-on-one contact, depending on the level of the individuals coming in. You have initial discussions with individuals as they come in, centering on what is important at the company and helping to guide them if they, for some reason, do something that is outside of what we like to see. But you need to create an environment that is clear, through examples of others, on culture and the type of culture you want to have.

The bottom line here is that culture starts with the top-level executives. You have to define what is important to you first. Based on the way those individuals execute day to day, that is going to give the rest of the company a huge indicator as to how they’re expected to run and conduct themselves each day. But in addition, going back to the collaboration piece, you need to get everybody communicating on what is important to them. That helps bring everybody together on what type of culture is going to drive business growth, what is going to make for a very good work environment for the employees and what is going to help you deliver on the overall objectives of the business.

How to reach: LHP Inc., (812) 373-0880 or www.lhpcompanies.com