Leaders must recognize that the company can make only the best products if it has the best tools and people in place, said Scott Lenard, director of operations, Catallia Mexican Foods, Eagan, MN, during the Tortilla Industry Association’s Technical Conference in Anaheim, CA.

Recognizing that those in attendance were leaders in their companies or otherwise their employers would not have sent them to the conference, he outlined plans for “Building (and Keeping) a Strong Leadership Team.”

Mr. Lenard said companies need to honestly assess their existing teams, and he provided an example how a rising star can become falling star because the needs of a position change.

He talked about hiring practices and how companies should interview at least three people three times for these positions. He talked about the importance of hiring people with different skill sets so the leadership team’s members can complement one another.

Mr. Lenard also strongly recommended calling references, noting that it’s the best way to find out about what a potential employee has done in the past. If the reference seems reluctant to talk, he suggested building a rapport to see if you can probe a little deeper and asking if the candidate is eligible for rehire. “If the answer is no, then you may not have the right person,” he added.

Integrity is the best trait to hire for, Mr. Lenard added, noting that you can teach other things but not integrity. He provided an example where he threw some trash on the floor where two job candidates would walk by on their way to the final interview. One reached down, picked up the piece of trash and threw it away. “The guy who does the right thing when no one is watching is the one you want,” he added.

Also, don’t fill a position just because it’s empty. “Getting rid of a bad hire is much harder than starting the process over again,” Mr. Lenard noted.