ISSUE 43 ISSN 1712-468
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Team Is Everything

Recently I spoke to a colleague who worked as the event planner for a major music festival. The project was exciting and had the potential to create a lasting legacy for the music industry in Canada. The event worked, however, by the time it was over the entire team had imploded, it had lost serious money, and it is doubtful that there will be a second.

What happened?

In my work with organizations, large and small, I discovered something. In every case the founding entrepreneur faced the same challenge as a Google, Apple, and Facebook: even though they owned the idea and had the passion to pursue it, they didn't possess all the skills needed to make the idea actually happen so they had to assemble a team.

That means two choices:

  1. Reluctant to delegate they surround themselves with faithful aides. They're afraid to bring in truly smart, successful individuals as high-level managers. They settle for yes-men.
  2. Realize that they need to go out and hire people with greater experience than they had, people who wouldn't be afraid to debate with them, who were strong willed, self-reliant, and confident.

Of the two choices I can assure you that the second choice is the one that is vital for a company to prosper. Strong, creative people are a lot more stimulating to be around than yes-men. What can you learn from those who know less than you? They may massage your ego for a while and take orders easily, but they won't help you grow.

The reality though is most owners, managers, supervisors, settle for option #1 and then wonder why they don't move forward.

The first thing a leader needs in assembling a team is the following:

  • know what they are doing
  • communicate what they are doing
  • expect the team to add value to their behaviour and ideas

It is not your role to control your people, but rather it's to act as a catalyst that brings the pieces together. Yes, you have an overarching vision, but you are not autocratic in the realization of that vision. Your eyes are open to whatever results occur, not just planned goals.

"Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done."
Peter Drucker

Second, great teams are made of people who see the current reality as a fraction of what it could be. You are looking for people who believe they can change the world. When you build your team don't give in to the temptation of hiring people who are underemployed or unemployed just because you think that it is easy to hire them. Great people are usually contributing to important projects, are quite busy, if not unavailable. In fact, to get them on your team itself speaks to the merit of what you are working to accomplish.

With the music festival it became painfully obvious that the majority of people hired came with zero experience in running an event of this nature. They didn't have the ability to pull it off, but the leader wanted to "help them out".

Business is not charity it is about creating a team of leaders who want to change a culture and leave a legacy by creating a satisfied customer. To do that, you need people with the required ability and passion. I realize that in some professions education and experience are required; however, in many cases they are meaningless and should only play a small part in selecting your team. Did you know that most of the engineers who did the ground-breaking work of the Macintosh design didn't even graduate from college.

"Executives owe it to the organization and to their fellow workers not to tolerate nonperforming individuals in important jobs."
Peter Drucker

Third, you need to keep your team as small as possible. A great team requires a high-degree of single-mindedness, unity and unreasonable passion. Those three characteristics get watered down when the team gets too large. The team above was over 30 people and before long all it did was create little fiefdoms with everyone working on their own agenda, not the agenda of the festival. Did you know that the firm that coordinated the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver consisted of only 10 people?

Let me leave you with some advice from Jim Collins in Good to Great around team development.

A great company is first about who, then what. It is more important that we have the right people on the team than having a particular product or service. In time your company may need to change the direction it is going or the market it is serving. You want a team that wants to be together regardless of what you are doing.

To do this requires the following:

  • Be rigorous in your selection process
  • Invest substantial time in evaluating each candidate
  • When in doubt, don't bring the person on to the team
  • Make sure that you have 100% of the key seats filled with the right person
  • If you think there is a wrong "who" give them the benefit of the doubt, but put them in a new seat
  • If you have a wrong person be rigorous in dealing with it, but not ruthless—you want them to still have positive feelings about your organization
  • Autopsy your hiring mistakes so that you can learn for the future

Do you have the right team, here is a test: if you are out in your local mall and you see someone from your team, do you rush up to them, or do you turn away and go in the opposite direction.

The music festival team broke every single one of the above items and certainly couldn't pass the test and that is why they failed. You don't have the luxury of poor performing teams. Business is about results, and results can only be produced by a highly effective team.

CRG Consulting Resource Group has a number of incredible learning tools that can help bring amazing clarity to your team selection process. Don't do another thing until you take a look.

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