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Aptitude, Attitude, Altitude

I was prompted to write this article off the back of recent experiences and conversations with some colleagues involving the need to assess the building of teams especially as it relates to leadership teams and senior managers.

This is probably not the best title for this article but the underlying principle holds true. As leaders and managers, we have a tendency to surround ourselves with certain people in our organizations rather than the organization we have in its entirety. We play favorites and exclude other team members who play an important role but may clash with our personality or style and therefore avoidance or neglect is often an easier path than investing the time to include them.

When we talk about optimum teams and management organizations we attempt to describe a group of individuals that have been selected to each contribute a specific set of skills and experience that together make up a well-run machine that results in executing against goals and objectives. Think of the last manager you’ve known that changed roles and/or went to a new company. Chances are high that this person hired former colleagues they left behind at the former company. Most of us have done this because we’ve developed relationships with people that we believe we can trust and we have also established a set of expectations that we believe can be transferred to the new company.

In many cases, managers plan for the new hires they will bring weeks or months in advance of taking on the new role even if they have yet to fully evaluate and assess the team they are inheriting or have indeed inherited. So, this brings us back to the title and the point of this article. The emphasis of building our teams should be more about the diversity of skills and experience that allow us the best chance of success and less about how much we like each other.

The adage; aptitude + attitude = altitude rings true. The characteristics of a great, unified team involve the right set of skills/competencies and experience coupled with the right attitude. In this context, attitude meaning the views, opinions, and beliefs one holds towards the team, the organization and it’s respective goals and objectives. It does not refer to whether the person on the team is our best mate or laughs at all our jokes. It also doesn’t mean that the attitude has to always be positive, just constructive.

It is much easier to hire someone on the basis of their skills and experience, e.g. their CV (resume) rather than their attitude simply because that is less visible and requires an investment of time and energy on our part to get to know the person. Some of the things we can do to ensure our teams work as best as possible include:

  • First, well-defined goals and objectives that are specific, for example;

  • Revenue growth of $X.XM that is defined by geography, service or product offering and maps back to how it will be fulfilled vs. just saying we need to grow by 30%

  • Second, well-defined roles and responsibilities that support the achievement of the goals

  • Clearly defined organizational needs (what roles do we need to do this?)

  • Detailed description for each role needed (what do we expect from each role?)

  • Organizational map (how will each role interact and what are the dependencies?)

  • Third, honest evaluation of each person that can make up the team

  • Assess candidates (internal, external, colleagues/friends) on the basis of meeting the defined goals and respective roles/responsibilities

  • Be willing to trust your instinct and take a risk – the best teams are not all A players

As always, one article can’t do justice to an entire topic and the dynamics around organizational design and execution go much deeper but the emphasis here was to bring awareness to us about the basic criteria we must remember when forming teams.

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