How to Strengthen Your Weak Link

I saw this picture the other day and thought it was such a great illustration of the old saying, “You’re only as strong as your weakest link.” We typically think of this quote in a negative way in regards to how a weak link can hurt the team. While that is often true, there are some situations when a weak link is a good thing to have in your organization. It doesn’t have to be negative as long as it’s part of your plan.

Growing companies are constantly adjusting their chain by adding links. In fact, every time we make a new hire, we add a weak link. Let’s face it. A new employee is not immediately productive; therefore, they start out as a weak link. It’s expected, and it’s acceptable for the short-term. It is the leader’s job to make sure the “weak link” is not a long-term condition.

We need to make sure we do our best to help a new teammate gain strength in the chain by doing the right things with them. Here are two of the most effective ways I’ve found to get a new employee up to speed as quickly as possible.

1. Make a Good “First Day” Impression.

This first tip sounds like I’m talking to the new hire, but I’m talking to leaders! How many times have you arrived to work Monday morning only to realize, “Oops! Forgot the new guy (or gal) was starting today!” I imagine this one has happened to the best of us at one time or another.

Why we start people on Monday is crazy to me. Starting someone on the first day of  the work week or the first day of a payroll period should not be our motivation. What’s best for a great first-day impression is what should drive us. I like Tuesday or Wednesday starts. It gets the Monday chaos behind us and gives us time to take care of any last-minute needs. This first day impression is critical and sets a standard.

2. Create a “First Two Weeks” Plan.

Discipline yourself to write out the first two weeks of training. Cover every minute. What will the person do during their first hour on their first day? Involve various teammates in this plan so that everyone gets the chance to start developing a relationship with the new person. I suggest you include  the following activities in the first two weeks:

•  Building/department tour and introductions (after all the HR paperwork stuff)
•  Time with their direct supervisor to go over their schedule for next two (or more) weeks
•  Have the new person spend about 15 – 30 minutes with every teammate their work will touch
•  Allow some time alone to either read company material or organize their notes
•  Time to observe teammates serving in similar roles
•  Time with their leader’s leader. This sets the stage that the big boss is available and cares about being with their people. This is a great time to reinforce vision.
•  Over the two week period, the new hire can progress from observation, to working with a coach present, to working alone and providing frequent updates, to working alone with appropriate updates.

What’s Leadership Got to Do with It?

Okay, so what does this topic have to do with leadership? Remember, becoming a teammate is much more than doing work for the company. There is a “belonging” and a feeling “in” emotion that is important for new employees. So get them involved immediately in elements that help bond a team.

We had a new employee start last week at The John Maxwell Company. On his third day of work he was included in a leadership lunch and learn. Immediately wrapping new teammates into a growth plan sends a firm message that we expect and care about their growth as a leader. It’s this combination of both leader growth and job skills growth that moves teammates out of the position of a weak link.

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  • Cashlie says:

    Question Coach,
    (this may have already been a post, I don’t think it has though)

    I’m in the process of acquiring a team that I will be the “leader” of, their manager. The first person to be on my new team is a person that I’ve been a colleague with the past 6 months. A person that has really helped me transition into my new company, a person that I’ve been able to vent to, and talk with about work and personal life. Since I’m going to be over her, I’ve been trying to slowly transition myself to be more of her “leader” and not just a good work buddy. Meaning venting less, encouraging more, and giving more help and advice to. It’s hard though. How do you go from buddy to leader, while still keeping a good and open relationship?

    • Linda Sasser says:

      Cashlie, first let me say, CONGRATULATIONS!!! I know you must be excited about this new season of responsibility! This is a great question. I addressed a similar question titled, “Can we all just be friends?” It’s in the archives under REALity questions.

      Your friendship is about to go to a new level. I would sit down and have an honest conversation with our friend. The friendship doesn’t have to stop but she will need to honor the fact that you are now responsible for other teammates performance. The great news is you have a relationship. Start with that and move towards teaching her leadership and helping her get better at her job.

      I’d like to challenge ALL OF US with your quote, “…venting less, encouraging more, and giving more help and advice…”

      Giving encouragement is huge in leadership! Stay after it, be consistent, keep encouraging so that when you have to be firm and have a crucial conversation, and you will, it will be on a foundation of encouragement.

      I would love to hear about your progress. Please toss me some REALity questions as you grow.

  • Laurie Brown says:

    Awesome material Linda……………thank you for sharing your leadership! We get so caught up in doing whats right that we don’t do always do the right things. I hope that makes sense! Happy Birthday………Run Baby Run.