5 Tips For Building a Strong Leadership Team
When laying the foundation for a powerful leadership team, it all starts with a business assessment and a self-assessment and these five tips.
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Laying the foundation for a powerful leadership team starts with a business assessment and a self-assessment. What does the business need to achieve, and how can our leadership teams get us there?
I tend to look at things globally, but while I can see things in a micro way to determine the next steps, I like to lean on my teams to dig down into the details as they come up with a knock-out marketing and sales strategy, stellar creative, rock-solid and accurate financials and innovative thinking that are all informed by five guiding tips.
1. Determine what goals and priorities the business needs to focus on
When determining the base needs of the business, you have to look at who's already on your team. Here's a good example. I have a person in a manager's seat right now, but I'm mentoring him to be a director because what I've identified in him are many of the key personality qualities that a leader and a leadership team need.
Intelligence is key. I refer not only to business intelligence but also to emotional intelligence. This includes understanding how to interact with people and the business requirements. They are two different things, but both are required of a leader. You need to be organized, and you need to have really good communication skills.
You also need to be able to say no. I want my leadership team to be strong enough to know the difference between what we should say yes to and what we should say no to because I'm relying on them to run their parts of the business and then report to me. Therefore, I need to have trust that they understand what it means to say no — and they can only know that if they understand the business as a complete operation.
For example, if there's a need for someone to jump in the warehouse and pack boxes, then so be it. The fact that my warehouse leader was packing orders on a Monday shows the rest of his team and me that he's not going to ask anyone to do something that he's not willing to do himself.
2. Never forget the importance of "right people, right seats."
Do they get it? Do they want it? Do they have the capacity to do it? And then there are measurables that give us an idea if they are meeting those criteria. We're a little obsessed about this, but it's important.
One thing that guides a strong leadership team foundation is the establishment of core values. What does the business stand for, and what are those values?
In our business, one of the things that we really believe in is customer relationships built on trust. Another one is minding the small details. Little things matter. This can be the little nuances of contract manufacturing or providing more service to our customers.
You want to go out and find a leadership team that lives the core values every minute of every day that they are in the building, hybrid or remote — because it is through their leadership, their belief in those values, and how they exemplify them that provides the blueprint of how an employee should act.
Remember that every employee, not just leaders, builds a company's reputation and goodwill.
3. Leaders should be able to pivot, make adjustments and change course
If you're going to be in business and think things are going to stay the same, you're not in the right field and should do something else. There's an excellent quote that I read recently from Jeff Bezos, where he said that "every day needs to be day one."
He said that day one is when you're entirely customer-obsessed and constantly looking to grow the business. On day one of a business, you're asking what we can do to wow our customers. How can we provide value? You never want to leave day one because, once it becomes day two, it's now on a path to stagnation.
I agree with that. Part of day one thinking is understanding that things change. It's being resilient enough to change course, evaluating things on the fly, knowing what's working and rapidly driving resources to what's working.
How do you bring the best out in your teams? In baseball, it's catchers that have a unique perspective. They're managing the pitcher and see the game from a perspective only they can see.
They're watching the game unfold in front of them. Nine innings, 162 games a year for 20 years, or however long they're behind the plate. They're great leaders in the sport because they understand the game at a level that other players can't.
I think that that's a big part of when you're looking to develop a quality leadership team. Those are the kind of skills that you want to see.
Be like a catcher.
4. Knowing that honest mistakes, smart risk and bold action are often needed
What I believe in is that you want to give people smart authority. You want to let them understand the guardrails within their sphere and encourage people to own things. You give people a chance to accept responsibility, take full responsibility for something and give them goals for what you want them to accomplish. Then set them free to go out and do it.
When they make mistakes, they learn something. It's through honest mistakes that real learning happens. We grow up in a culture where everything has to be mistake-free and perfect. In reality, however, the best and most successful entrepreneurs are founded out of risk. If you remove the risk from your business as you're operating it, how can you ever grow? How can you ever move to the next level?
You want to allow your team and leaders to grow and make what I call "smart mistakes" — honest mistakes that are not due to carelessness or recklessness. It's okay to make a mistake when you've gone through the process of making a good decision.
I also believe in "smart risk," — where you think more outside the box. Smart risk is, for example, taking a reasonable chance on a well-thought-out opportunity.
In marketing, there's the whole theory of test and rest. Try something, give it a time frame, and look at the results. Did it work? Yes, then throw more at it. If not, what did we learn, why didn't it work and what could we tweak?
5. Blending diverse talents can create a force multiplier effect
The best example that I can give is a hockey team. There are usually four lines on a hockey team, and traditionally, you have the top six that score. You have two lines of forwards that go out there, and their job is to generate offense and control the puck in the other team's zone. But if you have four lines like that, then who's playing defense?
So, you complement those lines with somebody who's maybe a bit more physical, somebody who likes to agitate. While you certainly need to score goals, you also need the passers, the players who keep the team spirits up, and the enforcers where necessary.
Same thing in business. You have to have a leadership team that's not an echo chamber. In echo chambers, there are no divergent views or solutions. When you look at things like marketing and sales, you want different opinions so you have the best chance to make a decision that helps the business move forward.
While values can be shared, talents should be unique. People should be able to work together and respect each other's aptitudes and viewpoints because I believe that creates a high tide in which all boats can float.
My feedback about our vice president of sales from her employees is that "She is the best manager I ever worked for because she empowers me to own things and do the best job I can."
That's what I call great leadership.