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Mike O'Neill helps people find their sweet spot at Switch Featured

8:01pm EDT May 31, 2011
Mike O'Neill helps people find their sweet spot at Switch

Mike O’Neill does not consider himself to be a micromanager. But when he sees people at Switch: Liberate Your Brand, who are, it doesn’t make him uncomfortable.

“Micromanagers are great if you can line that skill set up with a need that you have in your organization,” says O’Neill, partner and CEO at the 100-employee experiential marketing agency. “In our organization, the people who tend to be more micromanaging among us tend to end up in the execution side of our organization and at the project level, not at the management level. It doesn’t work.”

The lesson here is that you need to give people a chance to succeed and find their sweet spot in your organization. Sometimes the person you have at your disposal just needs to find the right place to apply their talents.

“There are people that are in this organization who are very good, but they are the kinds of people who just seem to be wired where they have to have their hands in everything,” O’Neill says.

“How we’ve handled that is that person manages the project managers because the project manager has to keep track of a tremendous amount of detail and be very organized and really does have to be involved in all aspects of a project. The trick is to line those folks up with a position in the company where that’s a plus and not a negative.”

Get more people involved in personnel decisions such as making hires and awarding promotions to help discover where a person’s talents can best be put to use.

“Anytime we’re hiring someone or considering a significant promotion where we are going to put them in a leadership position, we tend to have them talk to a lot of people,” O’Neill says. “We’re interviewing right now for someone in business development. I’ll guess and say that person has probably met with eight different people from Switch.”

Whether it’s you that is doing the hiring or promoting, or someone else in your company, that second or third opinion can be crucial to putting a person in the right spot.

“I’ve hired people that I was convinced when I hired them, ‘Oh my God, this guy or this girl is just going to be a rock star,’” O’Neill says. “And it turns out they weren’t. And then I’ve settled for people that turned out to be great. You have to recognize it’s sort of a ‘one plus one has to equal three’ situation. The one dynamic that you don’t know is what they are going to be like working here. They worked some place else, they did a great job and they have a great track record. But every organization is just a little bit different.”

If you bring someone in and it’s clear they aren’t working in their present position, and can’t really seem to find another position that fits them, you need to move them right back out.

“You demonstrate to people that you’re serious about it,” O’Neill says.

But before you take that drastic step, make sure you’ve given that person an honest chance to succeed. If your decision is based less on performance and more on a personality conflict between you and the individual, it could lead to problems down the road.

“You have to manage the personal chemistry part of it and the needs of the business and find the balance between the two,” O’Neill says. “If I’m here picking on someone I don’t like and making it personal and never taking them seriously because for some reason, I don’t like them, people are going to look at that and go, ‘Oh, well, that’s our culture here. You’re either in the in crowd or you’re not.’”

How to reach: Switch: Liberate Your Brand, (314) 206-7700 or www.liberateyourbrand.com

Think before you speak

Mike O’Neill likes to tell a story about Winston Churchill and a long speech the famous British politician once delivered.

“His handlers came up to him afterward and said, ‘Boy, that was a really long speech,’” says O’Neill, partner and CEO at Switch: Liberate Your Brand. “And he said, ‘Yeah, I’m sorry I didn’t have enough time to prepare a short one.’ He meant it takes time to really focus things down and make those choices about what’s most important to talk about.”

When you’re looking to get your people engaged in some aspect of your business, you need to think before you speak.

“You have to be selective,” says the leader of the 100-employee experiential marketing agency. “You can’t have 10 priorities. If you have 10 priorities, you have no priorities. We try to really hone stuff down and say, ‘Here’s what we really want you to know and remember.’ We usually do that at the beginning of the year and then we get together at least once a quarter to update people on how the year is going.”

Pick things you want to focus on and then keep people informed about what’s happening in those areas.

“You’ve got to be really explicit about your objectives,” O’Neill says. “It’s getting everybody in the company feeling like they are working for the same company and going in the same direction.”