A good friend of mine was appointed to a board position for a charity. At the time he joined the board, two other members left due to term limits. These folks were replaced by two gentlemen who each represented small fund-raisers that was held annually for the charity. The new members and my friend settled into their new roles.
Within six months, the board had turned to a complete state of incompetence. One of the new members, who was an absolute rock star with the yearly gala that he ran, made everything about his annual fund raiser which provided about 10% of the annual revenue. The other gentlemen spent most of his time fighting any new idea that came before the board since it was unfamiliar with how things were run in the past. Others on the board ran with their own ideas and promoted those to the extent that no unifying mission could be executed by the board.
The problem began with the two new individuals who were allowed into the leadership group, not because of their ability to add to the team mission but because they successfully ran a fund raiser or had history with the charity. This shows how you must watch the door because if you allow the wrong person into the room, it is very hard to get them to exit.
The first step to watching the door is to speak up on the front end. When you are afraid that a new potential team member will not work out and you can speak up, do so. If you don’t speak up on the front end, you do not have a right to complain on the back side. My friend knew the gent who was encased in the past. He should have trusted his gut when it came to his analysis of people. Watching the door involves courage.
Next, pick leaders and not representatives for to get into the room. Remember you want a leaders on the team that work together toward common goals and not a just a house of representatives. Have you ever been part of a group charged with oversight on an organization that had leaders made up totally of representatives? Representatives tend to break into their own silo to serve their own constituency, instead of the good of the organization.
People should be let into the room because they fit the needs of the team. You may have absolute stars that you are bringing in who may be just like people you already have in the group. A baseball team does not win with a full roster of 25 great first baseman and no other infielders, outfields, or pitchers! So, how do you determine who will be a good fit for the team.
First, consider character. Avoid people with poor character, or who are untrustworthy. Also, how well does the candidate work with others? They will need to pull together as part of a team. How flexible are they? Moving for the good of an organization may require the ability to change when change is needed. Can they do that?
Next, does the potential leader have philosophical unity with the organization? All need to understand their role and execute in that direction. If you want to form a restaurant that can provide an excellent five-course dinner, you don’t hire three bakers who can produce the best desserts. What about the rest of the meal? The philosophy and core value need to be the same. There needs to also be a passion for unity.
Lastly, consider what personality or roles you need now in the group when figuring if you need to allow someone new in the door. If you have a lot of high performers who are very vocal and highly execute on the mission, perhaps you need a quiet person who is a high-level thinker and can plan efficiently. If your team needs someone who is great in Excel to complete analysis, consider a spreadsheet expert. If you need new ideas that are outside of your industry to reach new folks, consider a skilled outsider to enter the room.
Much pain can be avoided on the team for months and years ahead if the door is guarded and admittance is allowed in a well-thought and strategic way. Allowing the wrong person in can cause a tremendous amount of problems.