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Great Leaders are Good at One Thing

Great leaders are good at one thing; Building capable teams. That's it!

I will never understand why those magical "The skills best leaders have" lists don't include building teams when this is where leaders fail most of the time. You can be the best at your job and you can have those "life-changing" skills but if you can't build teams you will fail, period.

You see many versions of this failure:

  • Leaders want everyone to have the same competency. How is that going to help? The competency framework is designed for teams. Pick the best talent and use their competence differently and for different things.

  • Hire wrong. Hiring for the task only is going to get you to fail. You must consider the team, the challenges, and the circumstances you bring the person into. I can be the best sales leader if my hands are tight by the leadership. In this case, maybe you don't need the best but you need someone who follows instructions otherwise you will have that position looking like a revolving door. People will leave because the best people don't follow instructions. They carve the best way forward using their competence, experience, and information available.

  • Wide competence gaps among the team members. This will destroy your team immediately.

  • Hire superstars but they kill each other. Hiring highly competent people will cause many problems if you don't pay attention. Watch here.

  • Leaders are scared to treat and reward people differently based on their contribution, performance, competence, and motivation. They want to be "nice" and fair but fail to understand that fair means different. Fair means treating people differently because we are all very different. As for being nice, well, what do we even mean by this? My cup of tea in the afternoon is nice. Nice has become indecisive, non-confrontational, keeping low-performers etc. That's not nice, that's called poor leadership. I will write about it tomorrow.

  • Leaders cannot jell the team together because they don't know how. They organise stupid team-building sessions that everyone hates but that's not building a team. You build teams based on capability, competence, potential, strengths, personality traits, characters etc. Those elements are crucial for success, yet leaders overlook those elements. It is not easy because we have not been trained to look at a group of people this way. If you don't start with the, "Who are my A - B - C players?" you are not building a team, you are just messing about. Sometimes I see leaders putting people in positions that without looking at the performance of the person I know he or she is the wrong person. Can we please start training leaders on how to build teams????

  • Leaders have their favourites. Now, parents have their favourite child and there is not much we can do about it. However, whether it is your favourite child or employee, you cannot show it! People pick up on things very quickly and when you favour one to others you are demolishing the team. Fair means no favourites. My strong team players used to get cocky because I treated them differently which sometimes resulted in them snitching on the lower performers. My reaction was always the same, "Thanks for picking up on this mistake, can you please go and train that person for me?"

  • Allowing gossip, ganging up on others, and going behind each other's back. As a leader, you CANNOT afford to have someone delivering intel to you. I know you like that because you think this is the way you know what's happening on your team. You don't! You are just destroying your team. You cannot allow gossip and grassing up. When your employee comes to you to complain about the other you cut it short and call for a discussion, meeting or whatever is appropriate to address the problem together.

Building teams has many elements and it can be very hard sometimes. Not teaching leaders and managers how to do this almost guarantees failure. To some, a very few, it comes naturally. To most of us, we must learn it and it takes decades.

Exciting news! My second book, "Blind Leading the Disengaged - From Kindergarten to Employee Experience," is dropping in April! It's a treasure trove of solutions and cool ideas to shake up your people management game. But before we get there, let's chat about where we're at now—The Corporate Kindergarten, as I spilt the beans in my first book. Check it out, and let's transform your workplace from a daycare to an awesome employee experience hub!:

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