The foundation of an extraordinary team
I am sure we all agree, times are a bit challenging right now. Many of us are being faced with dilemmas and situations that we never imagined nor rehearsed. How will some companies or teams survive, who will fold, and who will thrive?
Survive: you will “make it through”. Your product or team will take some hits but you will keep moving forward, not overly inspired, maybe a bit bruised but still functioning at a mediocre level.
Fold: Didn't make the cut. The tension, change, anger, and resentment got the best of you and the doors closed.
Thrive The same challenges but you leveraged your tenacity, gritty, and flexibility. You trusted innovation and the character and skill of your team. You saw an opportunity when others saw failure. You chose to see the positive because that is the leader you are.
You held a strong vision but not a tight reign.
Yes, this past year has been extreme in many ways, but if you think that adversity and challenges will not come again, you are wrong. Sustainability, longevity, and excellence are not momentary, it is the foundation in which you have invested.
Success is in the people that you have hired and the principles you uphold. This is the long game and too many focus on the acute problem rather than addressing the fundamental structure which can weather even the darkest of days.
In the classic book, Good to Great by Jim Collins, he outlines the 5 framework concepts which differentiate great companies. This is an amazing book and one you should all read, but I want to highlight the second concept: “First Who… Then What”. Collins notes we typically think great leaders set a wonderful vision and then find people to follow. That is not what his research found, “...instead they first got the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats- and then they figured out where to drive it.” He goes on to say, “if you begin with “who” rather than “what” you can more easily adapt to a changing world.”
So here we are, in a changing world… Did you have the right people? If not, why not?
I am amazed at how often I work with leaders who recognize the dysfunction but are unwilling to critically look at the individuals and adjust responsibilities or ask them to “leave the bus”. Remember, your team is not a dinner party, you may not want to socialize with each of them but, you do recognize and prioritize their unique perspective and skills. This is an opportunity to leverage multiple strengths that together drive change and fill the gaps. Lencioni notes “conflict is the pursuit of truth”, shifting to this perspective may free the fear.
Hold your team and yourself accountable for greatness.
Excellent Leaders are courageous, humble, and focus more on the health and wellbeing of their team than their personal discomfort. Be honest with your team's foundational health. Ask for insight and support and choose to lead by example rather than words.
My Challenge to You:
Take an inventory of your leadership team. Do you have the right people in the right place? The people who can challenge vision, are trusted to share honestly, and provide unique insight and skill?
Where are your weakest areas and what needs to be done?
How will you develop the skill and confidence to uphold your commitment?
What is the cost of NOT following your conviction?