MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How do you build a strong team? is written by Donna Wiederkehr, CMO of Dentsu Aegis Network.
In our company we have a favorite saying that is repeated often: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” It’s an important reminder that building a team to transform your business should be the top priority for every leader. However, in today’s competitive marketplace, finding, hiring and keeping the best employees is not easy. So how can today’s business leaders create a powerful team and keep them? Here are a few suggestions:
Opposites attract success
For many organizations, “cultural fit” is an important part of the hiring criteria. For us in the marketing industry, that means we look for people who are entrepreneurial, intrepid, collaborative and ambitious. We need to seek out those who thrive in times of change. But we also look for – and value – a real diversity of thought, experiences and points of view. Cultural fit should not be shorthand for sameness.
In an industry changing as quickly as ours, actively seeking out potential team members with different points of view helps ensure we aren’t creating corporate blind spots. A diverse team will see a business challenge through different lenses, and better account for all possible outcomes, opportunities and consequences. Even the best-intentioned managers can inadvertently surround themselves with a team that seemingly gels well, but is ultimately too similar to drive true innovation. While liked-minded people feel inspired because they are aligned or seem to finish each other’s thoughts, they are likely sharing some of the same blind spots.
Have a clear vision
Strong teams understand the vision for the company, as well as how their work directly contributes to achieving it. Over-communicate with your team to ensure they are clear on what the short-term goals are and how they align with longer-term goals for the company as a whole. Provide feedback and coach in real time to help your team understand what’s working well, and quickly fix what’s not in the context of broader business objectives. This is much more effective than a review once or twice a year as it empowers your team to constantly evolve and it promotes their professional development.
Set the bar high
In my experience, this piece of advice is two-fold. First, seek out ideas from all levels of your organization, understanding that the best ideas may not come from those with several years of experience. Intentionally look to bring in diverse thinking. Employees right out of college might be in a position to help solve a business problem based on their fresh perspective and could prove to be more effective than that of a seasoned executive.
For example, there is an intern on our team who is just entering her junior year in college and I’m constantly impressed by what she brings to our team and her ability to problem solve. Second, set a high bar and support your team to reach it. By expecting and celebrating brilliance at all levels, you help your people learn and stretch outside of their comfort zones, an important skill at every level of your career. Hold yourself to the same standards.
Understand what motivates your team
Adaptive leadership is all about understanding that each member of your team can view success differently. One person may want to get on the fast track to a VP title; another wants to learn new skills and ultimately transition to a different department; and someone else may be concerned with making meaningful contributions to the business, but still having the flexibility to eat dinner with his family every night. Take the time to understand what drives each of your team members, and do your best to align their daily work and longer-term contributions accordingly.
Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: How do you build a strong team?
Don’t be afraid to hire your replacement at work by Melissa Puls, CMO of Progress Software.
Why diversity needs to go beyond race and gender by Laura Cox Kaplan, regulatory affairs and public policy leader at PwC.
Talent alone won’t make your business successful by Sharon Price John, CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop.
The right (and wrong) time to embrace teamwork in the office by Barbara Dyer, president and CEO of The Hitachi Foundation.
How horses taught this CEO to be a better leader by Gay Gaddis, CEO and founder of T3.
Why this CEO thinks making mistakes is admirable by Kristen Hamilton, CEO and co-founder at Koru.
How managers can stay connected to their team by Linda Addison, U.S. managing partner at Norton Rose Fulbright.
The difference between a great leader and a good one by Kerry Healey, president of Babson College.
The easiest way to reduce employee turnover by Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn.
3 misconceptions about leading a successful team by Samantha Dwinell, vice president of talent management at Texas Instruments.
How to build a strong team without micromanaging by Sally Blount, Dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
Here’s the secret to getting better employees by Julia Hartz, co-founder and president of Eventbrite.