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Selecting Your Leaders – Top Team Building Tips
Remember the dodge ball games so many of us played in physical education classes? The teacher would pick two kids to be captains of the teams.
The captains would take turns picking who they wanted to be on their teams. First, they chose the best athletes; then they chose their friends. As they neared the end of the pickings, they tried to choose the best of the least until only one kid was left. The last kid picked always felt like a loser.
Now that we’re the leaders, we face similar choices. How do we assemble a winning team? Should we pick our friends out of loyalty? Should we choose the people who are best qualified?
Some have even chosen the least qualified because they mistakenly believe it is about ministering to job applicants. But to truly serve others, we have to have quality people. When choosing people for the team, remember the acrostic ASK. Unlike people who volunteer, ASK candidates are recruited because of their attitude, skills, and knowledge, the three things needed for players on a winning team.
Attitude. When we hire people with the right attitude, we can teach them to do anything. A good attitude can help a person conquer the most difficult circumstances. Employees with good attitudes work hard, are driven to reach goals, and continue to press on regardless of the roadblocks. People with bad attitudes are unmotivated, negative, and self-absorbed. No matter how talented they are, they never amount to much.
William James, a 19th-century psychologist and philosopher, said, “The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude.” People with good attitudes are teachable, correctable, and redirectable. Sales managers often say they want to hire someone who is “hungry.”
They aren’t talking about someone who needs to eat; they’re talking about someone who wants to get out there and sell, someone who is motivated. They’re describing an attitude.
Skill. If the church needs a piano player, the church needs someone with the skills to read music, keep time, and work with other musicians. But there must be a balance between attitude and skill.
Ginger Rae and Donna Lowe, human resource consultants,msaid, “We hire people for what they know and fire them for who they are.” Their skills are the what. Their attitude is the who. An eager teenager who can’t play but has a positive outlook won’t cut it on Sunday mornings. Likewise, who wants to worship to the sound of music made by a virtuoso player with a cranky attitude? Finding a balance is important.
Knowledge. The person who has a great attitude, superb skills, and also extensive knowledge is the ideal employee or team member. Those with skill and knowledge can fix what is broken and explain why it broke in the first place. But knowledge without skill is like a doctor who can make a diagnosis but doesn’t know how to treat the illness.
Candidates with the right balance of ASK need to be asked what they want to do. If they are forced into jobs that don’t suit their temperaments and passions, they won’t be fully productive.
People are most productive when they are passionate about what they are doing. Always try to put people into positions they care about. Of course, the only way to do so is to know them and understand their passions.
Know Your Team
After a team is recruited, spend time learning about them as individuals. Specifically, look at these four A’s:
Attitudes. This is who they are. Discover who they are by understanding their attitudes toward their jobs and the people around them.
Affinities. What do they like? Who do they like? Some team members may have an affinity for a previous leader. Knowing those alliances are still there can help current leaders to make a smooth transition.
Anxieties. What causes them stress? Who causes them stress? If a particular executive creates stress among employees, running interference can enable them to concentrate on their jobs. If a monthly report keeps them up at night, changing it to a quarterly report could make them more efficient.
Animosities. What is it and who is it they don’t like? Maybe a predecessor eliminated hour-long lunches in favor of leaving early; but if employees hate the new policy because the lunch hour is when they typically ran personal errands, a simple change could make them happier. Understanding their animosity allows us to make changes.
Leaders can only react to information if first they know about it. So take time to get to know your players.
Team Members Know
Team members know who is performing and who isn’t performing. If asked, they will provide assessments about which people are doing their jobs and those who are doing them exceptionally well. Often an under performing worker on a team causes unhealthy conflict. Understanding the situation from the perspective of other team members allows us to make informed decisions.
Team members also know who the toxic people are. They can name the person with the bad attitude, the one who is irritable all the time, and the one person who makes their lives miserable. Replacing these people with encouraging and inspiring team members can help the entire organization function better. In fact, they may help the team rise to a level they previously couldn’t reach.
Consider the fact that while John the Baptist was still in Elizabeth’s womb, he didn’t leap in the presence of ordinary people. It wasn’t until Mary came to visit with the miracle baby inside of her, that John leaped inside of Elizabeth’s womb. The moral of the story? People pregnant with good things can cause your team to leap and soar.
Consider this quote from Charlie Crystle, founder of Chili!Soft: The number one thing you need to understand about building a company is that mediocre people drag down excellent people-they are cancer and you need to cut them out as fast as possible. Don’t worry about creating holes in the company-excellent people are much more productive when mediocre people are removed from their environment. It isn’t that we don’t have enough people on the team,
according to Crystle; it’s that we have the wrong people on the team. If we ask our people, they will tell us who the problem is.
We can learn important insight from our employees all year long, but perhaps the best time is during their annual reviews. They can take this opportunity to give us feedback on how things are working, and we can take time to discuss their concerns. This is also the time we must decide whether to retain, retrain to reassign, or release a particular team member.
Always hire slowly, but fire quickly. Leaders often regret that they had not fired people the first time they thought about it, rather than letting a situation continue. I’ve never met anyone who said, “Gee, I wish I had let him stay a little longer.” Usually it is the opposite. “Wow, I am glad she’s gone. Wish I had done that sooner.” Why do we tolerate bad employees? The first time you seriously consider firing someone is the best time to do it.
Finally, the annual assessment is a chance for us to look over our team as a whole. Do we have the team we need to get the job done? Do we have the leaders we need to support us? The
leaders who got us here may not be the leaders we need to take advantage of upcoming opportunities. That’s why leadership selection is critical to the future.
Selecting Your Leaders
The most critical decision we make is selecting the leaders who will be on our team. When looking for leaders, there are two characteristics found in people who work for us. They either think and act like managers or they think and act like leaders. Leaders think about the future and then work back to the present as they decide what to do. They might say, “In the future we will need to do that, so we’d better begin with this today.” They focus on the big picture. They like innovative thinking and are often full of big ideas. They are excited by change and move quickly once they have identified new opportunities. Leaders are
willing to take risks. They are people and idea centered; and while they hope people like what they do, they don’t have to have personal approval to do their jobs.
Contrast this with a managerial attitude. Managers conceptualize plans by working from the past to the present. They might say things like, “This is how we’ve always done it.” They have a microperspective of situations and examine them as snapshots. They favor routine thinking and are protectors of the status quo. Unlike leaders, they emphasize how and when rather than what and why. Managers are controlling and directing, and they are threatened by change. When it occurs, they move slowly identifying obstacles in their way. They avoid risks, and their actions are limited to the available resources. They are plan and system centered, and they very much need the approval of those they work with and for.
When I refer to manager, I am not saying the word as a job title. People who have the job title of manager can act like leaders or managers. The biggest difference is that managers get the most out of themselves; leaders get the most out of others. That’s why good leaders are so critical. They will permeate every level of an organization. Whenever possible we should hire people with leadership characteristics.
In my book, Who’s Holding Your Ladder?: Selecting Your Leaders-Leadership’s Most Critical
Decision, I discussed the five key qualities needed. Leaders (or ladder holders) must be:
o Strong: They can handle instruction and correction.
o Attentive: They pay attention and learn quickly.
o Faithful: They believe in their leaders.
o Firm: Manipulative people cannot blow them about.
o Loyal: They don’t question their leader’s motivations just because they don’t like his method.
These qualities are important because the leaders selected will be holding the ladder. If they aren’t quality people who are good at what they do, the ladder will be shaking in the wind. We will never be able to climb to the top. But if they are superior ladder holders, we won’t fear climbing to the top and standing on the highest rung because we know they will keep the ladder from shaking.
Superior leaders don’t have to be reminded constantly. They are intentional in their approach to their work. They are faithful to the vision of the organization, and they are not looking around to see if there is anything better out there. They are building our organization, rather than building their résumé. But to get that kind of reliable performance, leaders must get training. Few people have ladder holders who are qualified and
trained. In most organizations, we have a lot of followers and a few leaders. That is why it is important to mentor and develop the potential in future leaders.
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