Building the Team Is the Main Thing Every Time
For most people, there is one “main thing” — that if done regularly, repeatedly, and consistently — will lead to disproportionate successful results.
But what is that elusive “main thing”? And how do we figure it out?
For me, it all comes down to food. Permit me to explain with a realization that struck me a few years ago.
The Ingredients Make the Meal
For many years, I would go to restaurants and wonder how certain meals could just be incredible. I would search for recipes and try to replicate them at home. In most cases, I felt disappointment when my home-cooked meals did not match the meals that I experienced.
What was different? How could my food not match the meals that I loved? I kept asking myself these questions as the recipes were not matching my expectations.
I double-checked the process that I followed. I had followed the recipes exactly — to the ounce. There was no human error involved. When the recipe called for salt, I measured precisely and added salt. When the recipe called for pepper, I pulled pepper out of my pantry and added the exact measurement.
But one day, I accidentally discovered a small store in Northern Michigan that only sold spices. I was intrigued, not because of the store, but because a local had asked me if I had been there yet. Apparently, it was a must-visit attraction in the small, but cozy town. The man, a friend, told me I absolutely had to try a certain spice called the “Miracle Blend.”
I could not disappoint a friend.
I went to the store and looked around. I was not sure what to expect or what I would purchase. Based on the name alone, I grabbed some Miracle Blend and a few other spices like Malabar Island Pepper and Lemon Pepper.
Without belaboring the point, I believe these particular spices from this small store in Northern Michigan are the best spices I have ever tasted. At this point, I believe they are the best spices in the world. THE BEST.
I started using these spices in my cooking. Let me just say that the Miracle Blend is aptly named. It makes you believe in a higher power it is so incredible. Miracles happen daily in Northern Michigan. And in my home now as well.
And here is what I learned. It is not the recipe that makes the meal, but the ingredients. Better ingredients can lead to better meals. Certainly a recipe is necessary. And a better recipe will make a difference, as well as a talented chef. But without the component parts, the meal may still be mediocre.
And as I thought about this magic of the Miracle Blend and the other spices, I realized that I needed better ingredients in many areas of my life. I needed better advisors. I needed better information to base my decisions on. Most importantly, I needed a better me. I needed to improve, otherwise the plan and strategies that I was following could end up mediocre.
In short, the ingredients can make the meal. Miracles can happen, if you start with the miracle blend.
How Do You Get the Right People on the Bus?
“We expected that good-to-great leaders would begin by setting a new vision and strategy. We found instead that they first got the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats — and then they figured out where to drive it. The old adage ‘People are your most important asset’ turns out to be wrong. People are not your most important asset. The right people are.”
— Jim Collins
I learned my “main thing” needed to be to build the team of people around me — so that my team had the best “ingredients”.
The book Good to Great lists getting the right people in the right seats as one of the foundational aspects of moving from good to great. I love the concept. It absolutely makes sense. But how do I do that? The practical explanation has always seemed harder than accepting the principle as truth.
In his book Traction, Gino Wickman provides a process for operating an entrepreneurial organization. One step in the process is what he calls “putting the right people in the right seats,” pulled from Jim Collins’ book. Wickman provides a simple and practical solution for figuring out the two steps: (1) find the right people, and (2) determine when the right people are in the right seat.
I want to share Wickman’s method because it is simple, practical, and powerful.
Finding the Right People
Wickman suggests that the best way to find the right people is to make sure that each person shares the same core values as you and your organization.
Of course, this requires you to first know what your core values are. Wickman also provides a practical process for determining core values in his book. However, it makes perfect sense that you can’t know whether someone is a great fit for an organization until you know what the organization cares about.
Once you know your core values, then you can analyze whether each team member shares each core value. It is simple as yes, sometimes, or no.
If someone initially starts off matching all of the core values, but later strays, then you need to move swiftly to make course corrections. Find the right people and keep them. Furthermore, removing the wrong people makes sure that you always have the right people.
Finding the Right Seat
Most organization that I have been involved with stop after they find the right person. They celebrate when they have a great person who fits in with the culture, people, and mission.
But Wickman pushes farther. It is not enough to have the right person — the person has to sit in the right seat.
How do you put the right person in the right seat?
Again, Wickman’s answer is grounded in practicality. Here is what he suggests: First, determine all of the right seats. Second, determine the responsibilities of each seat. Then finally, ask if the right person understands the role, wants the role, and has the capacity to act in the role.
Putting the right people in the right seats implies an initial, important question: what seats do we even have?
This is where I have personally made the most mistakes. Finding good people is not enough. The art of being an entrepreneur requires the ability to determine what seats are needed before putting people into those seats.
Using the Best Spices to Create the Perfect Meal
Just like finding the best ingredients makes the best meal, finding the right people for the team creates the best team.
Why would you fill a team with anything less?
This realization guides most of my activities now for two reasons.
- The right people make my life and professional activities infinitely better.
- The wrong people create chaos in my life and destroy any ability to have freedom, margin, or choices.
Therefore, for me, building the team is the main thing every time.
Below I give you a brief summary of the ways in which I “build my team”.
I mainly apply the principles above to three areas.
- Internally. Am I surrounded by the right people? If I am a part of any organization, then I need to know that the people around me are the right people and also have the right skills that complement my own.
- Personal advisors. The only way that I can focus on my own future is to have advisors around me that understand and are experts in the areas in which I do not have expertise. Being in business, I need a great tax advisor, a great accountant, a great banker, a great insurance agent, and even great lawyers (even though I am one, there are many areas of the law — too many to be an expert in all). I also need great advisors and operators in other areas: film production, property management, financial planning, operations, social media, marketing, and many others.
- Organizations that I advise. Many times, I am just one advisor to an organization. In fact, if I am the only advisor, I often demand that the organization seek other advisors that I can work with. There is danger in just having one advisor for all areas. I constantly tell business owners and management teams that they need to have multiple advisors. Then empower those advisors to work together.
In short, I have learned that one of the most important jobs of a leader is to build teams. This is especially true for entrepreneurs.
I have failed countless times because I tried to do too much myself.
And I have also failed because I relied on advice that was provided by the wrong person or in the wrong seat.
Better ingredients make a better meal.
Now I know that building the team is the main thing, every time.