Sometimes, being a CEO is a lot like being a major-league coach. That means you need the right mix of playmakers in your locker room. Here's how I do it.
Any sports-franchise owner will tell you that just because a certain set of players got you to a certain level of success, your team still has weaknesses. Without some adjustments, you probably won't make it to the big winner's circle anytime soon.
The same goes for business leaders. The leadership team that got you to $10 million probably won't be the team to get you to $50 million. Doug Tatum talked about this in his book No Mans Land: Companies too Big to be Small and too Small to be Big. True, you might have some of the same key players from those early winning teams. However, to get to that next level and the tickertape parade that goes with it, you're going to need to add some playmakers to the locker room. And that comes with a big elephant of an issue:
Locker. Room. Chemistry.
As coach—I mean CEO—getting the chemistry right is my responsibility. From integrating run-'n'-gun style players into the already tight-knit team to redefining what success means for everyone—it all comes down to me. These are the four things I have on my clipboard to help make sure my roster is playing nice and we all have a much better chance at winning that ring:
Create a Hybrid Game Plan
We know that we aren't a company that's going to sell our services at the cost of our culture. We also realize that we have opportunities to focus on moving into the open spots in the market where in the past we may have been content in playing at a certain level. That's why I look to find the right mix of existing team members and new talent. I wasn't shy about adding new members of the team that had a “sales” focus and could help get our company to the next level. But that didn't necessarily jive with a very deliberate culture with longstanding traditions. So how would I balance the opportunity for growth and those that felt we should do things the way they've always been done? I realized that the answer was somewhere in-between. We needed a balance of keeping and respecting some of the old and embracing and accepting some of the new.
The Coach is the Chief Reminder Officer
Bringing in new players can create the opportunity to strive for the next level of success, but I have to keep people informed of expectations and how our system is run. Just like a coach that calls out directions in mid-play and encourages a team to "play our game," I need to call out directions and reminders as our team plays its game. There are certain behaviors and processes I define as "non-negotiable," which include adherence to our core values. That also includes making sure our new team members are integrating into our team's culture. It doesn't matter how good of a player someone is if they don't get what unites the rest of your team. I need to remind them. Often.
Take the Temperature of the Locker Room
I can't expect to put a game plan up on the wall and have my team follow it blindly. If I don't know what they're thinking and feeling, I can't adjust my plan accordingly. Evolving the team is a definite adjustment, and sometimes, emotions run high. All are big-hearted and well-intentioned people, but egos can get in the way. We have frequent crucial conversations and I have a monthly all-day meeting with our leadership team to find out the temperature in the room and see where I can improve how the game plan is being communicated. It might hurt to hear when things aren't going great, but it gives us the best chance to retool and go at it better the next time out. If you don't have a cohesive team, it doesn't matter what your product is or who the players are.
Ask Yourself: Do I Have the Right Players in the Game?
I remember a number of years ago feeling like I had just the right team in place. Within two years, they were almost all gone. Let's be honest: this work is never done, and getting the right people in the right seats is the most important part of our job (especially for someone like me whose talent ran out a while ago). I am on a constant search for winners. But just because someone is a great player, doesn't mean they are the right player for our team. It's tough, but I've let go of certain folks go who were all-stars by traditional measures, but who just didn't fit into the fabric of our championship plan. Don't risk poisoning your locker room by keeping a talented-but-underutilized, or ill-fitting, player around.
Building a championship team requires more than just having a bunch of all-stars on paper. (See also Miami Heat) Bring the right mix of players together and get them bought into your system and you'll find yourself enjoying some re-DIRK-ulous success.