Working smarter

How a successful business leader gets the best from their employees

Rod Young, chairman at DC Strategy and former global CEO, Cartridge World, shares his insights on choosing and keeping the best people for your business. These learnings can be applied successfully to any business no matter how small or what industry you’re in.

Rod Young, former global CEO, Cartridge World and chairman at DC Strategy is considered to be one of the world’s leading franchise consultants with more than 30 years at the forefront of franchising, licensing and business development in Australia, Europe, China, South East Asia, India and the United States.

Rod is a versatile management professional with a broad range and depth of experience founding DC Strategy, the specialist franchise consulting, legal, recruiting and branding firm, which has been a key advisor to some of the world’s leading networks and brands.

You are well respected for your international business success, and reputation for developing a strong and loyal team. Do you have a particular philosophy towards how to attract employees and development?

It starts with hiring the right people. Whether recruiting for small business or large, I tend to hire people I feel I can work with, and I look for attitude, rather than skill. I need to be aligned and engaged with them from the outset, to be able to get the best out of them. You can’t have a successful organisation if you don’t have successful people. 

It’s important a prospective employee will be a good fit for your organisation. The relationship they have with their manager is important as well, because leadership is about human relationships, trust and commitment.

I’m not one who rushes to promote people, though I’m aware this doesn’t fit well in an environment where many young people want to start as managing director and work their way up from there. I want to see people doing the job they are hired to do and doing it reliably and well, so that I’m able to develop trust in their judgement.

It’s not just about being good at making decisions. I would much rather a person who has a number of options, but is not sure of the right decision, come to me with the problem and with what they think is the solution. This allows me to build trust in this individual, because it shows they have considered the issue thoughtfully and they’re willing to seek guidance.

My judgement isn’t only based on how they perform. I am also interested in what their peers say about them, what their clients say about them, and what management says about them. What have they done to assist their colleagues to do their job? When they don’t have a lot on, are they looking at how they can help out their colleagues? They are not just team leaders, but also team players.

The best I can do is encourage and create an environment where a leader or outstanding performer will rise above the others.

What are you looking for when you are employing people?

I look for good values, hence I always get them to tell me about their parents. I want to have an understanding of the degree of respect they have for their parents and the roles they played in their life.

I’m always on the lookout to hire people who can do a better job than I can. I give people responsibility and step aside to let them do their job.

My radar is always on for staff who have an ability to replace themselves in the organisation by developing and training their successors. For people who aren’t afraid to hire better people than themselves. For those with an ability to see the good in others and a willingness to recognise the success of others. 

I look for people whose actions speak so loudly I can’t hear a word they’re saying!

Is getting to know your people difficult given you operate more than one business and you are international?

Obviously, with more than one company and with bases around the world, I would be the first to admit that it’s just not possible to know all my staff individually. But people bubble up to the surface and make themselves known. And I encourage my five or six direct reports to keep me up to date.

People aren’t perfect. How do you handle them making mistakes?

I have a basic view that all people have good in them and I believe that one of my responsibilities is to make that good come out. I am tolerant of ‘one-offs’ or an error of judgement, and I think seriously about whether we’re likely to see that type of inappropriate action again. 

My decision as to whether to keep this person on staff will certainly be dependent on the issue and the impact on the victim. However, there are certain behaviours that are non-negotiable for me. These are dishonesty, bad language, lack of respect for others, laziness, a ‘victim’ mentality, rudeness, difficult to get on with, non-team players and a lack of integrity.

How do you identify and encourage your star performers?

Identifying star performers is intuitive for me. I look for a combination of attitude and skill. The recruitment profiling process is only part of the recruitment process. I also take into account a person’s hunger and motivation. And as we work together, I look at what motivates them, where their strengths and weaknesses lie, and where their propensity is to fault. I give them opportunities and encourage them to pursue activities in their areas of expertise and strength. 

I would rather staff come to me begging for forgiveness than asking for permission.

How do you assist staff with getting the desired outcome?

I try to avoid over-directing. I prefer to lead by tasking my staff with the outcomes I am seeking, rather than telling them how to do the task. They are asked to come to me with a plan. 

I find that this is much more fulfilling for the individual than over-directing or micromanaging. I would rather staff come to me begging for forgiveness than asking for permission.

Make sure your staff’s destiny and future is tied to the organisation.

If you encourage your people to take their own journey, how do you measure success?

Success is based on whether they’ve achieved the outcomes we wanted, in the time frames we wanted, to the budget we wanted.

Whenever I talk to staff, I don’t just focus on the job at hand, but I convey the bigger picture – our vision. It’s about where we’re going, what the business will look like in five to 10 years, and where the opportunities might lie. Rewarding employees isn’t just about bonuses – I want people to be motivated about the opportunities, without overpromising. 

Instead of simple incentive programs, I discuss with all my key staff my vision of having my people wanting to have a share and ownership of the business – so they understand that their destiny and future is tied to the organisation, and the pathway to this is their responsibility.


Rod’s five key pieces of advice

1. I’m always on the lookout to hire people who can do a better job than I can. I give people responsibility and then step aside to let them do their job.

2. I make sure that staff understand that the trajectory of their progression (in the business) is not in my hands, but in theirs. I encourage them to consider replacing themselves, so they can move up in the organisation.

3. I have learnt the only way you can get what you want is to help people get what they want. So I try and understand peoples’ hopes, dreams and desires. This philosophy is probably something I would recommend for small companies or companies just starting out.

4. I strive to put my ego into my back pocket and ensure the team is recognised for successes, rather than taking personal glory.

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Rather than my people saying: give me the opportunity and I will show you what I can do, I want them to show me what they can do. To become so valuable that being part of the business's future is an inevitable outcome. In this way, the shareholders will be keen to retain them.

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