So here’s what I think and you aren’t going to like it. There sure is a lot of talk about collaboration and driving towards a common goal, which is nice, in theory. But hold on a second and just think about your childhood.
If you had siblings, did you wander around your house, embracing each other in big group hugs? Well if you did, kudos to you. I am guessing that for most of us there was competition at the family dinner table. Who had better grades, who was the teacher’s favourite, who snagged the hottest date. And best of all: who was mom or dad’s favourite? Come on, admit it, they had favourites. As much as we seek to create harmony, Darwin was right; there is a process of natural selection even within families.
A highly functioning team must translate into a balanced team. So what do we mean by that?
Now over to the playground: Did you truly play nice in the sandbox? There usually was a spot where the popular kids hung out and another location for the less than snazzy kids. I was one of those less than snazzy kids. The popular kids seemed to have it all, and to my knowledge, made no discernible effort to embrace us. How fair was that? Didn’t we have thoughts, ideas, something to contribute? There was divisiveness and who could blame them? Why would they be motivated to create a sense of collective? They believed they had it all.
Our corporate context also breeds stars. Career advancement, title, pay scales, bonuses, and global assignments all reinforce a culture around why and how individuals get rewarded. There is a set of rules around navigating successfully. Influencing and impacting others is important, as is supporting a team environment. Although high-functioning teams are rewarded, prized employees know when they are positioned for greatness. They are put on a list and in some shape or form told they are destined to go far.
As an entrepreneur, the good news is that you do have greater latitude in building a team environment. You can be more measured and thoughtful as you build your bench. If you do it right it isn’t only about hiring for subject matter expertise or technical skill set. Isn’t it also about who will fit within your culture? Let’s assume all team members reflect your company’s values.
It’s kind of like a jigsaw puzzle. I am currently advising a telecommunications startup with their talent-planning requirements. It’s a complex process that determines how various strengths and personalities must come into play. A highly functioning team must translate into a balanced team. So what do we mean by that? There are many buckets. Of course you need the right mix of execution, strategic thinking, planning, driving, business development skills, relationship management skills, etc. Additionally, you need to sort out communication and interpersonal styles. If you look at each role as a functional role or hire exclusively for subject matter expertise, you will breed a silo environment, or promote a culture where the leader is the star, or foster lots of potentially unhealthy behaviours.
Most organizations feel pressure and urgency to hire and fill positions quickly. There is a rush to meet consumer demands, maintain inventory, establish distribution channels, be the first to market, etc. However, cultivating a highly functioning team involves more than filling roles. It requires a talent planning process with the lens to understand that it isn’t only the CEO who influences team innovation, creativity and healthy debate. If this were true, our parents, teachers, and camp counselors would be able to foster easy synergies. The key difference is you now get to choose the types of leaders that work well together based upon your business needs. Do it right and you have the best definition of family I know: a healthy respect for differences and the promotion of diversity of thought with the end goal of establishing a collective enterprise. Who says you can’t choose your family?