Continuing in a series of posts that touch on 10 challenges for you to consider as you embrace a 2012 that is more productive for yourself, as well as for those around you. As I do so, I am borrowing from a book I read last year, The First 90 Days: Critical Success Stories for New Leaders by Michael Watkins.

Read previous challenge articles:
First Challenge – Promote yourself

Second Challenge – Accelerate Your Learning

Third Challenge – Match Strategy to Situation

Fourth Challenge – Secure Early Wins

Fifth Challenge – Negotiate Success

Sixth Challenge – Achieve Alignment

Seventh Challenge – Build Your Team

If we are running our agencies (or even a book of business) the way we should, then our business model and value proposition has to evolve and change over time. As the model and proposition change, obviously the talents and skills required for successful execution have to change and evolve as well. While ensuring you have the right individuals in place, it is only part of the answer.

As you rebuild your team, keep the following in mind.

Keeping the existing team too long – As you set your new Vision, it is critical that you commit to the execution of that Vision completely. Don't allow the willingness or abilities (or rather lack of either) of your team determine the degree to which you can successfully execute. While you have the responsibility to provide any training and education to fill the gaps that exist, once you realize that you have team members who are not capable or willing to grow, they have to go (at the very least to another role for which they are well suited).

Not holding on to the good people – When you shake the tree in an attempt to release the bad apples, be sure you aren't going to inadvertently lose some you want to keep. Change, but its very nature, is disruptive. Also by its very nature, it tests people's confidence. Never assume your best performer's confidence is automatically higher than anyone else's. Look for opportunities to reinforce your confidence in your top performers, let them know you recognize and appreciate their capabilities, and help them clearly see how they fit into the changing picture.

Focusing on "how" before "why" is understood – As the one with the clear Vision, it is easy to fall into the trap of believing everyone understands why the Vision is critical. That is not the case. You can never explain why changes are necessary in too much detail and you can never tell that story too many times. Once you help your team understand the "why" behind your Vision, you will be shocked at how quickly and efficiently they are able to execute on the "how".

Align your processes and reward system – Be sure that your compensation program and all relevant processes and procedures are designed to produce the results needed to achieve your new Vision.

Acceleration Checklist as suggested in The First 90 Days (paraphrased in places)

  1. What are your criteria for assessing the performance of members of your team? How do your current people stack up against these criteria?
  2. What personnel changes do you need to make? Which change are urgent and which can wait? How will you create backups and options?
  3. What process will you put in place to make the high-priority changes? What can you do to preserve the dignity of the people affected?
  4. What help will you need with the restructuring process, and where are you going to find it?
  5. Do you need to amend existing incentives and measures? Does your team have incentives to produce the desired results?
  6. How do you want your team to operate and behave? What roles do you need them to play?

I often times see agencies wait way too long to terminate employees who obviously are no longer a fit. I get that it's a hard thing to do, but don't fool yourself into believing you are taking care of your people by waiting. Waiting too long destroys your leadership credibility and weakens the team. That's not fair to anyone, including the individual you are trying to protect.

 

Photo by Deana Hunter.