By John Matthews, founder and president, Gray Cat Enterprises.
Over my career – both in the corporate world and on my own – I have had the privilege of working with some fantastic and talented people. In most cases, I have learned more from them, than they probably learned from me. Surrounding yourself with talented people enables all ships to rise – the company, the employees and yourself.
While developing an impressive team does not happen overnight, it is critical for the manager of that team to set the stage and let people excel in their roles. The manager’s role, in my opinion, isn’t to do the job of your team, but rather create an environment that enables each member to contribute to the overall success of the team. I am in the belief that clearly the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Before a team can best be constructed though, several areas need to be addressed in advance:
Know Your Management Style: One of the most important abilities of a manager is to know their own management style. Knowing how you manage others will often dictate the personalities of the people you hire. I have always lived by the philosophy that when I hire, I look for two qualities: Smarts and Passion. Hiring the smartest people enables your team to constantly challenge the status quo and combining that with a passion for excellence, fosters a team environment that is second-to-none. The key to success in that scenario, though, resides with the confidence and willingness of the manager to encourage continual strength of the team. Not all managers are that confident and insecure managers are a “governor” to the upside of the team.
Know Your People: Not every team and team member is built the same way. It is critical for the manager to understand each of the personalities on the team and manage the group through the myriad of personalities. In some cases, it can become evident to the manager that the reason the team is faltering, is not due to talent, but rather misguided talent. One gauge of personality types is through Myers-Briggs testing, which essentially “classifies” personalities through a number of metrics:
- How people interact with others: Extraverted (E) or Introverted (I)
- How the team members process information: Sensing (S) or through Intuition (I)
- How they make decisions: Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
- How employees deal with the outside world: Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)
Combine these attributes together and your team members can fall into one of sixteen classifications. Understanding what makes each employee tick is critical for a manager to maximize productivity out of each of the employees and ultimately the team overall.
Hire People Smarter Than You: A progressive manager will look beyond their own capacities and hire brilliant people to work on the team. The higher the echelon of the team (i.e., more senior), the more technical experts are required to fulfill the roles on the team. The manager becomes less of a content-driver and more of an administrator/coach helping the entire team guide their way through the corporate bureaucracy that permeates most organizations. Once the team is in place, the manager is charged with holding each of the team members accountable for delivering on their respective content.
Communicate Vision, Goals, Expectations and Time Lines: Once the team is in place, weaving together a well thought through strategic business plan is mission number one for the manager. The strategic plan should outline the vision, communicate goals, create expectations and choreograph the deliverables in a timely fashion. Every successful team has a effective leader at its helm that can outline the strategic plan and yet simultaneously hold their team accountable for its tactical execution. This strategic plan should encapsulate many aspects of the organization (i.e., for ideas of the scope of the strategic plan, read “48 Questions To Ask Your Future Employer”).
Know The End Game: Hiring smart and passionate people ensure that the company expectations will be met while excelling the upside of both the manager and high growth employees. The old adage clearly applies here – you are only as strong as your weakest link. Constantly re-evaluating the talent pool of the team is not only a good practice, but should be expected of its management. While it would be optimal if all employees shared in the growth and upside of a progressive team, the truth of the matter is that sometimes the complexity of the job outgrows the employee. While the reality of constantly upgrading the talent pool of the team can be disheartening to the existing staff, it is the only way to ensure that the team is appropriately calibrated for the task at hand.
Leading a talented team requires the manager to be extremely confident in their leadership skills and a promoter of competitive collaboration. That may seem like an oxymoron but if the manager can foster a peer-driven, collaborative team made up of smart and passionate thinkers, the upside of the team can be endless. Sometimes the best role of the manager is to hire smart and passionate people…and get the heck out of the way!
John Matthews is the founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises, Inc., a strategic planning and marketing services firm that specializes in helping businesses grow in the restaurant, convenience and general retail industries. With more than 25 years of senior-level experience in retail and a speaker at retail-group events throughout the U.S., Matthews has recently written two step-by-step manuals, Local Store Marketing Manual for Retailers and Grand Opening Manual for Retailers, which are available at www.graycatenterprises.com.