The art of building a team that can deliver meaningful change to your business.
One of the biggest challenges and most important aspects of driving a successful business, is creating the right high performing and highly functional leadership team. This is never easy and so there are some critical elements and considerations every leader should think about when building their ‘A Team’.
1. Be very clear on the end goal – As leader, it is your accountability to be very clear on what type of team you are creating and how this will work for the organisation. The shape and make up of the team, as well as the skills and qualities you want the collective unit to be known for, are a reflection of your influence. Think carefully about the reputation you want the team to have and what you want to be known for inside and outside the business. You will be the person who will recruit into the team, filling the skills and knowledge gaps, enabling your team to fulfill your vision and ultimately create the teams legacy.
2. Be clear on collective beliefs and values – What, in terms of culture, delivery and ambition will you absolutely not compromise on? Make sure you know what they are. Be clear on how you will articulate them and how they should be embedded into the team/ business. Recruit to these values and make sure that your team share similar beliefs about what is important.
3. Mix of skills – Identify the knowledge, experience, skills and technical capabilities that will be required to make the team work at its best. Do this by understanding the real challenges the business faces and look for people who have solved similar problems for other organisations. Work with an expert to scope the roles and skillsets you need so that you can recruit a balance of commercial, people, financial and operational experience.
4. Diversity – Challenge for challenge sake is never helpful, nor a productive use of intellectual capacity. However, a diverse range of opinions and beliefs based on different experiences, will open new conversations, challenge the status quo and lead to better outcomes. Make sure you have enough diversity to allow for an evolution in your collective thought processes and decision making.
5. Hire for passion and attitude – Knowledge is only power once applied to the task or situation at hand. It’s no good having knowledgeable or experienced people who don’t actively play their part in driving the business forward. Equally, hiring motivated people who don’t have the capacity to learn the nuances of your business, won’t deliver the results you want. On balance though, I’d take a person with passion and ambition but with less knowledge, over an unmotivated, industry experienced candidate every time. Passion and attitude when combined with capacity and capability to learn, is the ultimate goal here.
6. Communication – It sounds obvious, but open and frank communication is critical in creating a high performance team. A team that can communicate formally and informally about all aspects of business is one that is far more likely to be successful. Outlaw any personal agendas, focus on the common good, set stretching goals and ensure that all know how their contribution assists colleagues. Identify potential areas of conflict and work them through before they become issues… as the leader, this is YOUR accountability.
7. Constantly Train and Educate – This one is summed up by an overused old adage, but one that still rings true…
Finance Director asks CEO “What happens if we train our people and they leave?”... CEO replies “What happens if we don’t train them and they stay?”
No one is EVER the finished article and there is always room to grow. Very often, even some very experienced professionals also need reminding of some of the basics of leadership and evolving market dynamics or trends. It’s good to make sure your team are constantly developing themselves individually and as a collective. Plan this with the group, as well as talking to the team one by one to help weed out any specific or individual needs or aspirations.
8. Measure performance – Measuring performance and progress is a culture, not a process. Make sure this is something that becomes part of the heartbeat of the business and team dynamic. Be open, honest and take action to address performance issues and celebrate successes.
9. Trust - Trust is absolutely critical. In fact, it’s arguably the single most important part of high performing teams. Steve Jobs said it best; ‘It makes no sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do’. To really embrace this philosophy, the leader and the team must implicitly trust each other and their judgement; based on their knowledge, experience, and commitment to the collective goals. Hire people who are better than you (and others in the team) at a specific discipline and then get out of their way!
Leading a business is never easy… but finding the right people and building them into a high performing team will make the challenge that much easier. It wont happen over night and will require a huge investment of time and effort on behalf of the leader… but the rewards will be there in spades, for those who successfully navigate the challenge.