February 24, 2017 Chris Fuller

Chasing the Dream, Building Your Team (the Right Way)

All businesses want to “chase the dream” but, to be successful, you have to do it strategically by building your team. Don’t just name your goals and then hope your current team can achieve them. Instead, you have to first define:

  • What are you chasing?
  • What’s the existing skill set of your current team?
  • What’s the plan to maximize capabilities?

Once you’ve defined your goals, and identified current market conditions, it’s vital to strategically add the right people to the mix.

In my book, Iditarod Leadership, I talk about unleashing the power of the team. In the annual Iditarod race, for example, there are roles that must be performed, but who is positioned in each slot is completely and necessarily different. (BTW, Iditarod 2017 starts this next week! Keep an eye on the progress and leverage the race to talk with your team)

The goal is clear: Win the race. To make that possible, we have to define the roles that must be filled. In the example of the race, there are lots—from the musher and support team to a kennel of 100 dogs that is eventually narrowed to the final 16.

In business, it’s the same. While roles are standard responsibilities, each player’s individual strengths and weaknesses come into play. How do we make sure that the right person with the right knowledge is in the right seat, at the right time?

The race has variables that have to be considered when selecting a team. It’s vital that the team include dogs that have physical strength for bursts of speed, as well endurance for the long haul, but early on you have to also begin to measure the conditions. Is El Nino a factor? What are the weather patterns? How is the trail? This year, for the third time, they have moved the start to Fairbanks!

That’s such a key piece for us as leaders in building and running a professional team. Do you know the market conditions right now? How about the next phase? Is this a start-up, maintenance or ramp down?

One of the biggest challenges I see leaders experience is when the people on their team are not ready for a problem when the problem hits. That’s why advance preparation is so key to reaching goals the most efficient, effective way possible.

Are you launching a brand new office, like an Iditarod team blazing a fresh trail after new snow? That requires a strategy all its own. While consulting with a client who was masterminding a huge start-up operation, I found it was better to create a team from scratch—what we would essentially call a strike force. In that situation, you get in. You hit it. You hit it hard.

For the first three or four weeks, it’s go, Go, GO! They needed a ramp-up team, hard-charging lead dogs, to get it done, 20 hours a day, whatever it took—all in. Then they transitioned into the standard business phase and needed somebody else that could do the daily treadmill for about four to eight months. They needed the 8-to-5’ers and then, at least for this particular project, a ramp-down team.

What is your situation? Are you opening new offices? Expanding? Retracting? Moving from Europe to Asia? Asia to other emerging markets? Based on your answer, you can then decide, “What do I need?”

If you’re doing a startup, running 20 hours a day, you need to know if those trailbreakers are also your best picks for the next phase. They like to charge ahead and, if you give them the daily responsibilities, they’re going to burn out—or get bored. For that middle phase, you want the people that can be completely satisfied running daily operations and pursuing performance improvement of 2%-10%. Does that make sense?

That’s what I mean by putting the right team in the right spot for the right run, knowing what you need to do.

The vast majority of leaders already have their team established before evaluating. They approach their task by saying, “This is the team I have and this is what I need accomplished. How do I get that done with the team I have?”

When that’s the case, back up. There may either be ways that you can develop people on your team for the skill set needed ahead, add a different player (even temporarily) or trade a player out. What you don’t want to do is try to get the job done with people that can’t get you there. Remember:

“The team you inherit is not your fault, the team you have a year from now is, squarely, on you!”

Once you’ve taken into account each person’s strengths and weaknesses (including times they’ve been on “thin ice”—and recovered well or not), you can make informed decisions to meet needs.

Be prepared to chase the dream—but chase it strategically. As my mentor, John Maxwell has often said, “Teamwork makes the dream work!” That only happens with the right team.

For more on this topic, click the mic to check out the full podcast. Have a great week!

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