Putting together an all-star executive team isn't easy. Especially if you have a tendency to micro-manage, or find it hard to rescind control. A lot of great leaders agree that the key to success is in "hiring the best people, then getting out of their way and letting them do their jobs." Easier said than done, in many cases.
It's a common mistake for leaders to be "seagull managers." If you're not familiar with the term, just imagine laying out a beautiful picnic at the beach and being spotted by an overzealous seagull who swoops in and out periodically, leaving a trail of chaos in its wake. These kinds of leaders don't really trust their team, so in an effort to make sure things are running smoothly - they often become a hindrance to the process!
I know, I know. It's difficult to let go sometimes, but if you want your business to grow, you must build a well-oiled dream team. This isn't solely done by hiring the best and brightest employees (and getting out of their way). It's a bit more strategic than that.
So where do we begin?
By seeking diverse thinkers.
As much as we may secretly (or vehemently) disagree; no one person is capable of every task when it comes to running a successful business. We need other teammates with different skill sets to complete the puzzle. That's why it's crucial for leaders to find diverse, executive team members who don't all think the same way. You need real problem solvers who are savvy, emotionally intelligent, and not afraid to push back. This is the kind of diversity that will allow you to build a business that stands the test of time - like Mars.
Mars is an indisputably iconic company. But what a lot of people don't know about this confectionery giant is that they've been repeatedly included in the World's Best Multinational Workplaces by Great Place to Work - and most of their employees have been with them for decades. One of the reasons they've been able to achieve this is through their diverse upper management team.
I recently sat down with Mars' North American President, Tracey Massey, to discuss how to build a strong executive team. The first piece of advice that came out of her mouth was the importance of diversity. By having a well-rounded upper management, you can tackle a problem from all angles to find the best solution. Here's what else she said:
Learning Agility Is a Must
Massey believes that one of the most important attributes of great team members "is people who are willing to learn." The business landscape evolves rapidly and if you want to stay at the top of your game, you'll need a team capable of learning in real time. It's also important to share what you've learned with the rest of your team. This empowers each member with knowledge and leads to a better informed ideation across the board.
Executives Need to Know How to Actually Work
Whether you run a bootstrap startup or a well-known multinational like Mars, your executive team needs to know how to roll up their sleeves and work. If an executive is so far removed from the daily workings of a company, then there's a big problem. Rather than sitting in an ivory tower and strategizing - they need to truly understand the challenges of the greater team, so that they can come up with real solutions. And that means being in the trenches!
People Developers are Executive MVPs
The ability to develop people should be shared by the most valuable executive team members. "If your leadership team develops their people, (those people) see how great that is and they develop theirs," Massey explains. "Then all of a sudden, you have a developing, learning culture across the business."
Trust Is a Must
Your executive team members have to trust each other on a variety of levels. They must have one another's backs at all times and be able to trust that each member has the team's best interest at heart. They also need to be able to tell each other the truth, without fear of rejection. "Not all ideas are good ideas," Massey says. "You want a team that will be able to say that's not the best idea."
Building an all-star executive team is about keeping the bigger picture in mind and realizing that you can't do everything on your own. With the right team at the helm, you'll reach your business goals together and share a collective vision of your company's future. Understand what you need from your team members, make sure they have a strong work ethic, and let them do their jobs. As Mars demonstrates, choosing well is the key to business success and longevity.