The Right People in the Right Places on Your Team

Frequently, writings about business and leadership deal with making sure you can attract the right people for your team and get them in the right position where they can maximize effectiveness.  I have heard many analogies comparing a company to a sports team, a bus, or a military squadron.  Any one of these can apply.  The ultimate goal is to win.  If you have your star lineman playing quarterback, you will have some problems with peak efficiencies.  If you have a wide receiver blocking at left tackle, you also open up your backfield to all sorts of heck from very large defensive linemen bent on destruction.

Often, the leader can get so involved in the day-to-day operations of an organization that he misses gaining an insightful overview of his staff and potential players.  This will lead to mediocre performance as players are overlooked because of what is perceived as their talents or placed in positions that they are not very effective in.  This blog will look at some of the common mistakes.

The first is when people in leadership positions are there just because of their longevity in the organization or in the industry.  Yes, I do believe that the gray-haired of us can coach excellence in those younger on the team.  But, sometimes, one has achieved longevity because all the talented people above him/her have left.  Companies that have these people in leadership may also be dominated by strategies that resulted in successes in the middle of the last century, but are completely irrelevant today.  This requires the leader to evaluate their contribution.

The converse of the first mistake is to grossly underestimate people who have not been in the company or industry for a long time, but who have good leadership skills, other business experience, or education.  These folks catch on to the corporate systems like a fish to water.  They also bring a wealth of knowledge to the company with a different perspective than those who are already entrenched.  These new ideas can be used to help the company grow.  Without those with an outside view, you may get the same results as we do with government, when we only elect career politicians with no outside real world experiences. 

A problem with those who enter the organization with little experience is that there is a tendency to look at those people as if they are still in that beginning place, even after years have passed with the company.  Leaders can fall into the trap of looking at how people were, not how they are today, or most importantly, where they can be in the future.  Vision is essential for good leadership and people development.

The majority of our staff had no experience in commercial lending before joining our team.  The technical knowledge only accounts for 10-20% of their success.  The rest comes from a constant thirst for learning, attitude, and critical thinking skills.  I would select someone who can think well with no technical knowledge over someone with all the industry knowledge, but who cannot go outside of their limited experience.  Our firm is better because of the varied background of the high thinking people on our team.

Another issue is when you have a right team member in the wrong position.  One bank I worked at had a gentlemen who led commercial construction management.  He had little construction knowledge and managed projects from an excel spreadsheet.  When something went outside of the boundaries of his sheet, he drove the customers and commercial lenders crazy.  The bank’s leadership was able to assess his talents and moved him to a position managing commercial collections, where he excelled. 

Certainly, a leader is required to challenge traditional methods of thinking when assessing the talents and abilities of his team.  But, ignoring some of the folks who on the surface may not have the typical characteristics that is considered necessary by conventional wisdom, is the same as missing the hall of famer who was drafted in the late rounds or the star who was not drafted as all.  Sometimes, these people, can make the largest difference in your company.