Much of the leadership industry is based on the idea of the leader as a hero. The speaking circuit is full of individuals sharing their inspirational stories. You can find endless books on the great leader heroes of history. This is misleading and unhelpful.
It is misleading because we struggle to copy them, not realising that the best leaders do not even try to do it all by themselves. They surround themselves with great people. The best leaders have the best teams. This then raises the question about what leaders really do? And if they have a great team, then what is the point of the leader? This is usually the problem most leaders struggle with. They know what the title is, but they don’t know what their role should be.
In these next few weeks, this article will seek to look at how you can attract and lead the team that will convert your idea into reality. This process is an art and it involves building your team by picking, recruiting, coaching, and motivating your team and managing their performance. However, your team members are not restricted to your direct reports alone, it includes a wider network of peers that you rely on but do not control. Hence, you must learn how to influence without power.
However, if you settle for an alternative team on your bench, you will struggle. Every setback will be a crisis; you will hear more excuses than you want; you will waste time settling disputes within the team;…
The right team is a dream team. It will turn mountains into molehills, it will turn crises into opportunities, and surprises may even turn out to be pleasant. However, if you settle for an alternative team on your bench, you will struggle. Every setback will be a crisis; you will hear more excuses than you want; you will waste time settling disputes within the team; and you will find yourself losing sleep every time a deadline looms. At this point you may quietly resent your team. But you can’t afford to do so because the ball stops with you. Attracting the right team is one of the most important tasks that any leader undertakes. The quality of your team sets the limit to what you can achieve.
There are a number of reasons why you may find yourself with an ineffective team. The team you inherit will be only as good as the leader you succeed. If you are lucky, you will be following in the footsteps of a great leader and you will inherit a great team. But instead of relying on the luck of the lottery, you can stack the odds in your favour by making sure you attract the right team.
First, you need to know what a right and effective team looks like. The right team will be a mix of three characteristics:
1. Right skills
2. Right style
3. Right values
Ideally, as a leader your focus is put on finding the right skills. This is dangerous. As a leader once put it: “I find that I hire most people for their skills, and fire most for their poor values.” Take some time to reflect and think about the people who cause the greatest challenges where you work. The chances are they do not have a problem with their skills, they have a problem with their values. Here is what you need to look for in each of the three characteristics.
Read also: Fixing the leadership deficit in Africa?
Skills are important, and there is much talk of the “talent hunt” or “war for talent.” Clearly, there are some deeply technical and specialist skills for which you must pay a premium. Anyone who has had to hire a law firm to deal with major litigation will understand just how expensive good technical talent can be. So, if you need technical talent, find the best and be ready to pay for it.
Interestingly, quality skills are becoming an essential commodity. You can find lots of people with different technology, communication, and accounting skills, and increasingly these are skills that can be outsourced. Other skills can be learned by team members in the course of their work. Unless you are in a situation where you need a specialist skill set that is in high demand, the chances are that you will have a choice between people with roughly comparable skill sets. So, you need a way of choosing between them.
The first, obvious, screen is to see what people have achieved with their skills. This leads to some equally obvious bear traps. Keep in mind that people tend to puff up their achievements. For example, in recent times when you scan through the LinkedIn profiles of people, I find they have all achieved extraordinary things, each person claims to have managed high-profile projects, built businesses, founded organisations, acquired different certifications, and volunteered for great causes. On the back of this, during the recruitment exercise, I hear them say they want to become a trainee, even though they appear to be well on the way to becoming a senior executive. Please run a proper background check and authenticate their references.
Please lookout for a continuation of this article.