Episode 80: How to Hire Team Members That Fit Your Firm

Over the past few episodes we’ve charted the course for growing a creative practice. And we’ve considered growth in the light of the goal most creative entrepreneurs have to remain involved in creative work as you build your business. While this is a common goal, it’s not a common outcome. Without a carefully planned hiring process, the path of least resistance will lead you away from creativity, requiring you to become a business manager instead. But even when you do have a plan to keep yourself in the creative driver’s seat—how can you find the right people to fill your carefully designed roles?

Are you ready to take the struggle out of finding new clients?

Hiring is a scary and risky process. Making a bad hire wastes time and money, and has negative effects on your entire team, not to mention on your client relationships. And if we make a bad hire, we tend to wait too long to fix it. We hope, if we give it time, that things will change. We avoid the unpleasant experience of firing someone. And so we fall prey to the “sunk cost” fallacy and fail to cut our losses.

There’s no way to entirely avoid the risk of bad hires, but there are some helpful processes and tools that can significantly lower that risk. Of course there’s the basics, good interview questions, involving more than one person in the process, and following up with references. But once you’ve cleared those hurdles, there are still some very important qualities you need to look for in a candidate, especially those temperament qualities we’ve covered in the past few episodes. Screening for temperament fit is where the DiSC profile comes in.

I’ve been using DiSC for decades in my hiring process. I prefer it because of its limited focus on assessing a candidate’s work style and professional motivation, rather than broadly accessing their overall personalities. This focus makes it quite accurate and relevant to both hiring and managing employees in their roles.

The four dimensions of the profile make up the acronym “DISC.” “D” measures a person’s dominance, or assertiveness. “I” measures influence, or how a person interacts with others, something of an introvert/extrovert scale. “S” measures stability, or how a person relates to structures, processes, and systems. A high “S” likes to know exactly what is expected, and thrives in structured and predictable environments, a low S prefers flexibility and might feel constrained by structure. And “C” measures conscientiousness, or how detailed oriented a person is in their work. If you’re hiring a programmer, for example, you would definitely want to see a high “C” on their profile.

The various combinations of lows and highs on these four dimensions create a set of sixteen overall personality types which include classifications such as Achiever, Perfectionist, Persuader, Practitioner, Specialist, and so forth.

While there are no absolutes in using profiles like this, there are some good and dependable rules of thumb, with certain classifications and dimensions, for particular roles you’ll need to fill. For example, when your profile ought to minimally have a mid-level “D” dimension if not higher. A low “D” is not typically associated with entrepreneurship. If it’s too low you’ll have a very hard time making tough decisions, and dealing with the inevitable conflicts involved with running a business.

For your other key roles, assuming you want to build a firm where you retain a creative role, you’ll probably want to find creatives that have a somewhat higher “S” dimension since you’ll want team members that will adapt to, and comply with your systems. And since they’ll be sharing the client service role, a low “I” might be a red flag.

When it comes to the account manager role you definitely want to look for a higher “I” but also a mid to high “C” so that they can both relate to clients, but also be sufficiently detail oriented to manage project schedules effectively.

And of course for the new business role, look for a relatively high “D” coupled with a mid to high “I” as the relational dynamics of building trust is so important to selling.

There are other ways the DISC profile can help you not only find good team members, but also manage them in their roles. If you’d like to learn more about DISC check out The Essential DISC Training Workbook available on Amazon.

Until next week: don’t let the business of creativity overwhelm your creative business.