Home > Leadership, The Monday Musings Column > you have what you’ve got: use it well and more will come

you have what you’ve got: use it well and more will come

This wasn’t written with the financial crisis in mind, but, in proof reading it, it could well have been. My thoughts were more on developing teams and, because teams are made up of them, individuals.

If you lived in that ideal world of fluffy bunnies and blue skies then you could always pick your own team. Fortunately, at least for me, we don’t live there. It wouldn’ be much fun anyway as there would be no challenges, and so back here in the real world we will, as leaders, have to make something of what we have.

Starting with ourselves, we begin with whatever latent talent we are born with and what our parents give us. Then teachers, peer groups, the media and others add to the mix and off we go to work. We’re constantly adding to what we started with and do have choices about what we take on and what we discard. We absorb knowledge, hone that with practice to gain experience and, perhaps, wisdom. How we use what we have is our choice; to do well is a choice and so is mediocrity. Doing well doesn’t mean getting to the top; there is that MLK quote about the street sweeper and, if that is your calling, doing it well.

When you get you first team it will be one that you inherit. It may well not even have been put together by your predecessor and just be the result of the way the company you work for operates its promotions. So what can you do? Well first, let everyone know what the goals are. At this stage they’re going to be handed down to you, but let everyone know that you’re signed up and committed. Then get to know your team, get to find out what makes them tick. Do the same with their people. Making personal contact is vital (at one time I could have named every one of my 350 strong workforce and I still can name most of them if I meet them in the street 20 years after moving on).

Help the team play to their strengths. Where someone is weak in one area you need to both coach them and get the rest of the team helping back them. It isn’t hard to get a team to the point where they will fight for each other. And don’t worry about having a mix in your team – would a soccer team buy the 11 best goalkeepers and send them out on Saturday? Would you field 15 running backs in the NFL? Top teams are made up of a mixture of skills and attitudes.

As time goes on you will lose someone. Probably the first to go will be the best because they will gain a promotion, but don’t worry about that. If fact the more often it happens the better, because you will get a reputation for running a team that people can progress from and the better people will want to come and work for you.

You will, of course, at some time have to deal with underperformance. There will be someone who, despite your best efforts at coaching and support, and in providing training, will just not make the grade. You have to deal with this using the process available within your company, and do it is a fair and timely manner. Ducking the issue just makes it worse for everyone, so do it right and do it when you have to.

Working well with what you have will develop you, your people and the business you work for. Your career will move forward as will the careers of those that you help. You have what you’ve got: Use it well and more will come.

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