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I’ve been blessed to call Brook Lee a colleague now for nearly a decade. I met her when becoming the service manager for a 13-person firm in Savannah, GA, just a year after I sold my first MSP.  In the near five years that I was there, that company had grown to an incredible 25-person team. We started out with minimal processes and became a culture of process and documentation. During this growth, I got to experiment with many more processes and strategies to learn what worked and what didn’t work.

The Wobble

Hiring enough people to not only grow to 25 but get the right people on the bus (a reference from Good to Great) to begin with. In one of the later years, Brook and I counted over 5000 resumes we had reviewed, which formed the basis of our Hiring and Screening process and lead to dozens of team member onboardings which began our Employee Onboarding process. As a dispatcher at one point, and a member of our leadership team at another, Brook revealed to me an amazing analogy for a phenomenon that happens during team member onboarding – the wobble.

Learning to ride

The wobble is not a cool, trendy dance, that my resident teen would call “soooooooo last decade.” It’s what happens to a new team member if you were to liken their onboarding to teaching them how to ride a bike.  When they first join the team, you are showing them the ropes and going through tons of content. You are holding the bike steady for them while they sit on the seat, maybe they are even helping with some peddling. As the onboarding continues, you start to hover more than holding the bike giving the new rider (team member) a sense of confidence and the use of momentum as you push them along.  However, as you stop running behind the bike, as you begin to give your new team member some more independence, they begin to encounter a little turbulence.  Enter the wobble.

That front tire and the attached handlebars jerk and vacillate a little. PANIC! What’s a new rider to do? Do you slow down, hit the brakes, jerk on the handlebars, speed up, cry, or what? My belief as a father and mentor is that all you can do is encourage, coach, and let it happen, and one of only three outcomes will occur.

Cruise, course-correct, or crash

Outcome one: They correct themselves and ride off into the sunset. Sure, there is a lifetime of obstacles to navigate, but they did it! They know how to ride a bike! They know how to navigate your processes, take care of your clients, and fit into your culture. Good job!

Outcome two: Woah! That was scary and they come to a stop before anything bad can happen. This is not a success, but this is a recoverable stage. It’s time to coach some more, retrain, and let them try again.  Hiring is expensive, so it’s worth the extra effort to make sure they can get it. This is still business now, so we only have time and money for so many launches of the bike, but we need to give it every chance of success we can afford.

Outcome three: They are unable to correct, keep speeding along, and ultimately wind up in the ditch. Riding a bike, you might get banged and bruised, but it’s not terminal. With employment, however, this is the equivalent of getting fired, and frankly a failure of management.  Don’t take that wrongly. Failure happens, and it’s how we grow.  It’s how we developed into Eureka Process and refined our own Hiring & Screening process and shored up our Team Member Onboarding. If we lost someone to the ditch, we talked about it. We decided if we were improving our screening process or our team member’s onboarding process. RFIP – Read, Follow, Improve the Process. It’s in our Core Values: Continuous Improvement.

Identify the potholes

As a leader or a manager, it’s our job to prepare and watch out for the wobble. How do we arm our new members with everything they need (and nothing they DON’T need) to be prepared for it? The same way a pilot prepares for the 1000s of dangerous scenarios, that most never have to experience, we have to identify the potholes and teach our new team members how to navigate them. How do we do that? Well, besides all the hard work that goes into preparing and refining our team member onboarding process, I tell the story above. Expect the wobble, it will happen. It will have only three outcomes.  Knowing really is half the battle!

What are some wobbles you see with new team members in your business?  What have you done to prepare them for the expected wobble or known pothole? I really want to hear.