Choose from the cream not the dregs

If you want the best, you have to recruit the best

In the drive to build and maintain a team of consultants, managers are often prepared to accept anyone in the hope that they will work out, but is this really the best way to think?

Over the years, I’ve had the chance to observe and discuss the way that many regional managers go about building and maintaining teams, and one thing that I see time and time again, is how damaging it can be to accept the wrong candidates for the job.

Although your team of consultants is a student acquisition machine, it serves another important function: it’s a training ground where you can nurture and shape the managers of tomorrow. In the big picture, an individual consultant’s ability to sign up members is far less important than his interpersonal skills, his management abilities, his ability to teach others how to recruit members, his karate skills, and most importantly of all, his ability to motivate those around and below him. There are many mangers who never achieved consistently spectacular recruitment numbers or activations, but who showed such strength in the other areas that they earned their right to manage a region.

Of course, such is the desire for new students, that managers become consumed by the need to build large teams at any cost. It’s common for managers to recruit from job centres, or in shopping centres, or even at garages, or outside sports clubs. It’s great that managers are inventive and determined in their bid to grow their teams, but all-too-often, teams seem to be recruited from the dregs of society, rather than the elite. By touting “no qualifications, no previous experience necessary” aspect, are you trying to appeal to those people who don’t have the education or training to get jobs anywhere else? Indeed, I know that a number of managers, when out searching shopping centres for potential candidates often target people who look as though they’re out of work.

Folks, there’s a reason why many of these people can’t get jobs, and it’s not for their motivation and competence and desire to obey authority! Of course, I’m generalising, but there is one inescapable truth – I have never, ever seen a person recruited from the bottom of the barrel, or even a job centre interview, who went on to become a manager. I expect that there are exceptions whom I don’t know about, but taking sensei Jason Smith’s team as a good example; I’ve known him for seven years, during which time he’s had perhaps 100 SDCs, and has produced four regional managers, all of whom are still running regions. Three of them were aged at least 30 and had well-paid professional jobs, .before quitting to go full-time with GKR. The fourth was young but relatively wealthy. All four were senseis before becoming SDCs.

Sensei Jason had perhaps a handful of very promising SDCs, and some total and utter losers over that time, but the majority were youngish, mediocre-ish, and simply giving something new a try.

So what was the big difference that turned these four into managers? Three things: passion, vision, and commitment.

Because they started as students, they had already gotten the karate bug, and knew how rewarding and enjoyable it was; making it easy for them to understand the personal benefits of teaching karate for a living. Then they moved on to become senseis, and they discovered the immense pleasure that comes from helping others, as well as enjoying the respect that instructors get shown. Were they sold on promises of income? No, most unlikely. Of course, they needed enough money to support their families and their future dreams, but in all four cases, it was the karate lifestyle that motivated them, not the money.

Because all four had stable lives (and were heads of their families) before becoming SDCs, they showed a level of commitment that is rare in off-the-street SDCs. They were so convinced of the benefits of becoming trainee managers, that they gave up careers and burned bridges – they made positive career choices, rather than drifting into karate by default.

All four were intelligent and had the imagination to visualise how great a career within GKR could be. How could candidates who have never even trained in karate feel that way?

So when you’re racking your brains for new SDCs, if you want to direct your efforts in the most profitable way, with the highest likelihood of developing them into future managers, look right under your noses, at the most enthusiastic and dedicated karate-lovers available – your senseis and students…

Only when you have exhausted that resource, should you look further afield, but even then, lift your sights from the gutter. Sure, the unemployable may represent an easy and limitless supply of candidates, but are these really the people that you want in your teams?

If you were a coach looking for a person to train up as an Olympic runner, would you go to the local athletics club and look at people who were already running, or would you go to the local pub and try to convince the fat and idle that they could do whatever they wanted if they only dared to dream? Why on earth would you want candidates whom you have to spend effort just to raise to the level of normal humanity, when you could be taking the gifted and raising them to become elite?

You are taught to interview candidates with the attitude that you are offering them something incredible, and it’s true – it is an unequalled career opportunity for those who are willing to take it and make the most of it. However, what kind of message does it send, when you are so desperate to recruit, that you’ll accept any person onto your team? What message does it send to your other team members, or to other potential candidates in the sensei or student group? Worse still, when you succeed in recruiting some of these no-hopers, they proceed to behave in your team, exactly how they have behaved in the past in their own lives; disrupting, undermining, and rebelling against your structure and leadership, and destroying your team in the process. I’ve seen at least three or four decent teams destroyed by one bad apple, and it’s heart-breaking.

You are not running a charity or a rehabilitation centre for layabouts, illiterates, and drop-outs – you are running a business, and it’s YOUR future at stake. Ask yourself, “Would I be friends with this person if I met him? Would I respect him? Could I ever imagine entrusting my business to his hands?”

If the answer is no, why would you trust them to be employees?

I realise that GKR is a can-do environment, where we all encourage people to strive for goals and realise potentials that they may never have dreamed possible. I realise that you may consider it a failure or may simply find it distasteful to fire disruptive or poorly performing SDCs, but you have to treat this business professionally and make the tough decisions if they need taking. We're martial artists - what does it say about our confidence if we don' even have the courage to dismiss those who need firing?!

You may feel as though you are giving underperformers a chance by sticking with them, but all you're doing is delaying the inevitable, and worse still, you're spending a disproportionate amount of your mental and emotional resources trying to make silk purses from sow's ears.

I know that some of you will have got where you are by sheer bullish hard-work, and you have my fullest respect for that, but just like karate, sometimes you have to work smarter, not harder. You need to start believing in yourself, and the career that you are offering people. You need to have the confidence to turn candidates away, and to recruit from the cream not the crud.