Dan has a management team. He meets with them every Monday to find out what’s going on in the company that he may not already know about. If you ask, you’ll find that they represent the major functional areas of Dan’s business: sales, marketing, technology, operations, customer support, HR and finance.
Sounds good so far, but ….
It feels to Dan as if the place is falling apart. He’s working harder than he’s ever worked before. Every time he solves one problem, there are three more to take its place. The entire company is looking to him to make all the decisions. Nothing happens if he doesn’t get involved.
Dan is understandably unhappy. He’s not only overwhelmed; he’s feeling out of control, a feeling no CEO likes to have.
Why isn’t the management team helping?
Let’s take a closer look at that management team.
Turns out, from a business skills and functional experience perspective, only two of Dan’s team members – the head of technology and the HR person – are truly qualified to be there. The rest were given their jobs for other reasons.
Only one team member has ever managed people before. No one has had any management or leadership training. They’ve never been held accountable for solving problems and delivering results. They rarely, if ever, come to Dan with solutions.
No wonder Dan doesn’t trust them or really listen to them. They don’t know what they’re doing!
How did this happen?
Dan made a common mistake. He assembled his management team with no strategic thinking. He put relationships over skills and experience.
The individuals on Dan’s management team are there because of who they are to Dan. The head of customer support is his sister. The head of finance was his first employee. The head of sales was his co-worker at a previous company. The head of operations is a family friend. And so on.
At first having these people around his management team table undoubtedly felt warm and fuzzy to Dan – until he actually needed to rely on them. Then he realized his mistake. Dan is building a business; not hosting a backyard barbeque.
While the story of Dan’s team is true, an accidental management team doesn’t have to be as dysfunctional as his is to be a problem. Maybe only one or two of your team’s members are weak or simply wrong; but those one or two will not only make your business vulnerable in their area of expertise, they’ll create resentment among the other members just by being there.
What do you do if you suspect you have an accidental management team?
Take. Action. Quickly.
Here are the steps we take with CEOs when we help them build high performance management teams.
1. Decide what you need. A stellar management team starts at the top. It must be built around your unique strengths and interests. Taking the time to really understand the skills and personalities you need on your team will get you started on the right track and keep you there.
2. Evaluate what you have. Time to set aside relationships and look at the team with a clear eye. I know, it’s easier said than done. But a good foundation is essential to building a good team. Take a look at skill sets and personalities as well as capacity for growth.
3. Provide training if possible. You may find that some of your team members are weak in certain important areas, but can be brought up to speed with some training or coaching. Often these trainable weaknesses are outside the area of functional expertise and more related to business or management knowledge.
4. Replace if necessary. When you find team members who are so wrong for the position they can’t be helped out of it, it’s your job to replace them – the sooner the better for you and your business. It may be uncomfortable, even painful; but the ability to hire and fire is one of the most important skills of any CEO.
You can’t build a great team with the wrong people on it. Great management teams are assembled strategically with much planning to identify and secure the right people. If you’re feeling out of control and/or overly stressed about running and growing your business, take a good look at your team. The answer is usually right there.