What Kind of Team do You Lead?

“An idea can turn into dust or magic, depending on the talent that rubs against it.” — Bill Bernbach

The caliber of the team putting the idea into action is just as important as the idea itself. I have friends in the event world who have brilliant designs, but can’t get a team to install the thing how they see it in their heads. I’ve worked with hospitality leaders who ooze customer service themselves, but can’t find the right kind of people to fill the front desk or concierge kiosk. I have worked with incredibly talented chefs who surround themselves with sycophants who may take orders well, but couldn’t run the kitchen to give Chef a peaceful day off. Unless you are going to do every thing to get your product out the door, you’re going to have to rely on the skills of others.

Many leaders choose the wrong kind of people to be on their teams. What I see mostly are people picking people like them. They see someone like themselves and think, Well, I’m pretty successful and she’s like me, so there’s a chance I can train them to do the work like me. Maybe. But probably not. And anyway, you want people on your team who complement you. The team already has you, why does it need more.

Another fallacy I see quite a bit is a leader who won’t surround herself with people who are super talented in other areas. Call it an ego trip, say the spotlight isn’t big enough, blame it on the talent pool. I happen to believe it’s because leaders don’t really know that to look for in a team member. Whatever the reason, too many teams are stacked with people who simply do not have the skills or experience to work on a high-performing team. They cap out at algebra when you’re trying to do calculus.

The last, most common issue I see is that too many teams are choc-a-block full of mediocrity. I once saw a meme saying, You can’t do epic shit with basic people. So true. But what are you doing to let go of mediocrity and replace it with talent? If you settle for what you know, you’ll never make room for the truly excellent.

The most successful teams with the most talent are filled with people who bring complete skillsets, a history of being on high-performance teams, and diverse perspectives on how to get good work done. If you’re not seeing the kinds of results you want from your organization, check your team to see if they round you out with what you really need — not what you think you want.