Four Keys To Hiring A Great Team

written by Erica Quam


One of the hardest parts of being a leader is the hiring process.  Coaches are not trained to hire, fire, and manage others.

Your hiring process is something you can proactively work on and fine tune throughout the season - not just when a job is open. This approach will save you a ton of time and stress in the moment.

Here are 3 mistakes I see coaches make during the hiring process:

1. Not getting clear on what you need

Too many coaches hire the first person who comes along rather than take the time to get clear on what you need.

You change and grow over time. The person who was on your staff at the beginning of your career may not be who you need now.

Coaches love to hire other coaches who are just like them. Yet, you may need someone who will offer a different perspective and unique skillset.

Take some time to get clear on what qualities you most need right now - in this season of your coaching career.

2. Settling, Doubts, & Limiting Beliefs

Coaches sometimes doubt the person they're looking for actually exists.

Most of the time these doubts exist because you haven't put time and energy recruiting the right person for the job.

Believe that the ideal person exists. Then get creative!

There are tons of ways to attract the right person for your unique program.

It's recruiting. You recruit student-athletes. You need to recruit assistant coaches as well!

  • What makes you stand out? What's a coach going to get from working with you?

  • What unique opportunities exist at your institution or in your area? (recreation that's close by, tuition waivers, certificate programs, free or affordable housing)

  • What have other coaches at your school done that's been effective to attract and retain staff?

Reach out. Share these answers with other coaches. Talk with coaches who may have student-athletes who want to go into coaching. Let your coaches association know that you're hiring and who would be a good fit for your position.

3. Hiring Your Clone

Someone wired to be great at building relationships with recruits is not the same person to determine the line-by-line detail of your budget. 

As a coach, you're expected to do a lot of different types of work. You're expected to do it all and do it all well. Yet, there are certain things you're just not ever going to be wired to do.  Some things you'll struggle with, you'll procrastinate, and they'll drain away your time and energy. (You may even be hard on yourself because you're not good at it.)

When you hire staff, you need to be honest about what you're good at and what you're not good at. Then delegate the projects you're not great at (and drain your energy) to get them off your plate.

If you end up hiring someone who is just like you...then you off-load a bunch of stuff onto them that they're not good at...don't expect them to be a superhero and just figure it out.

Figure out the strengths of each person you are thinking about hiring. In the long run, it’s important that both of you can make sure your needs are met.

Here are 4 Keys To Hiring

1st Key: Begin by defining the role

  • List out the specific skills and abilities this person needs to have

  • What will they actually do?

  • What does it look like when projects and tasks are A) done and B) done well

Defining the role is an important step before you start the process. It's also something that's really hard to get clear on when you're a coach down, the season is starting, and hiring is urgent.

Create this now - when you have your staff in place. Then tweak, adapt, and revise as you learn and grow in your role as a coach. Think of it as your program's operation manual. For each category you can begin by writing the phrase, "This is how it works."

Okay…so I know you're going to resist this. I can hear your excuses and reasons for not spending time on this now. "I've got way too much on my plate to think about something I don't even need to do right now."

When you feel overwhelmed it's sometimes because you've made a project too big in your head or you've put things off for too long.

If you're really struggling with this one, break out your dry erase marker, put a big sticky note up on the wall, or start with a blank page in your journal.

Then, write down everything you do.

Don’t even worry about what isn’t getting done right now.

Write everything down.

Start to look at the themes and begin to circle the things that someone else could do. 

The fastest way out of overwhelm is to break things down into simple, do-able steps.

2nd Key: Get curious about how each person operates in the world.

Write down specific qualities you appreciate. Here are some examples to get you thinking...

  • steady

  • great at follow through

  • calm presence 

  • a thinker, not a feeler

  • creates systems and order

  • works from checklists

  • thinks in systems and how things work 

  • focuses on measurable results

If you just had to fire someone, you’ll probably find it helpful to write down the qualities that didn't work for you. Having staff who aren't a great fit can be the most valuable way to teach you what you want and need.

3rd Key: Create a list of behavioral-based interview questions

Try to avoid yes or no questions. Limit your questions that call for their judgements or opinions.

The best questions are behavioral-based and get people talking about how they do what they do.

Q: How are your organizational skills?

A: "My organizational skills are great! I'm super organized."

Q: Describe the process you go through to get organized for the recruiting season?

A: First, I start with a database and make sure it includes...(they go on to describe a long detailed system)

Taking time to get clear on these questions now will save you loads of time in the end. 

4th Key: Clarify expectations

Coaches are great at coming up WITH expectations. 

Coaches are NOT great at communicating these expectations to others. You keep them in your head and assume everyone else should know what they are and understand why you're so frustrated when your expectations aren't being met.

  1. Write down your expectations: Get them out of your head and onto paper.

  2. Communicate what these are to other people: Do this early and often.

  3. Find out other people's expectations: See if they match what you're able to do.

My challenge to you

If you're sitting back reading this breathing a sigh of relief because you're retaining your staff and don't have an opening right challenge to you is to see what you can take from this article and apply it to your current situation. Be proactive. Create a hiring system you can come back to when you need it the most.

What would you tell another coach about hiring staff? Add one of your best practices in the comments below.