Cultivate co-pilots

Words of Wilson will teach you each month to better understand, develop and manage your most valuable resource – your people.

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It’s not uncommon for business owners to think about exit goals and personal needs as their companies mature. Regardless of what you plan to do when you’re ready, the most important thing is to do it on your own terms, plan your end game from the beginning and have a top team of co-pilots to help get you there.

Just as they do for you in the day-to-day running of your business, a solid executive or senior management team will help you sharpen your competitive edge and push growth and profitability that can leverage your position. If they are a trusted, high-performing group, they can help you run and scale your business without you having to be there all the time to make it work.

Some owners achieve a similar result by hiring a great “number 2.” However, for most CEOs, myself included, being able to rely on a great team of people who are smarter than you simply gives you more options. Consider:

1. How will your team measure the success of its performance?

Establish a list of expectations, actions and priorities. What are you willing to delegate and what accountability do you want associated with it? Work together on a strategic plan, broken down into annual and quarterly priorities. Each priority should have a clear direction, someone on point to drive it, a measurable result and a timeline for completion.

“Execution is just as important, if not more important, than strategy. There needs to be real discipline and accountability through improved communication.”
2. How does your team handle conflict or decisions?

Make sure your expectations for behaviors are clear to management. Use your strategic plan to memorialize what’s expected. Also, establish guidelines for the team to make decisions when there is conflict or lines are crossed.

3. What is your team culture?

Invest in behavioral assessment tools like DiSC or Myers Briggs. Map out how your team is living company values versus their work ethic, which quickly determines whether they are A, B or C players. Many of these tools can help your team understand how to communicate better with others in the company and give your culture a better rhythm.

4. What are your ideal behaviors?

If the assessment determines that you do not have all the right people, or the people you have do not model team behavior or are not open to learning, determine what is missing and develop a description of what’s needed to fill out the team. Create a development plan for the people who could become future executive team leaders. I favor a home-grown team if at all possible rather than what usually ends up being a trial-and-error process of finding people who fit. One exercise I have seen that works is identifying the top three to five employees in the company, listing out their traits, and forming company values that are centered around these three to five role models.

5. What does your team want to accomplish?

Make executive team goals measurable. Create an actionable list of positive impacts your team wants to have on your organization’s performance over the next one to three years that could include: improved collaboration, improved communication, being able to make better and higher quality decisions, fewer silos, less conflict, better interpersonal relationships. Execution is just as important, if not more important, than strategy. There needs to be real discipline and accountability through improved communication, a consistent meeting rhythm and working together as a team while trying to add to the company culture.

The ability of your leadership team to work well together as an ‘operating system’ can make or break your organization’s ultimate goal.

Bruce Wilson is principal of green industry consulting firm Bruce Wilson & Company.

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June 2018
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