The MPW Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: What’s the most difficult part of being a leader? is written by Mary Godwin, vice president of operations at Qumulo.
The most difficult part of being a leader boils down to the very fundamental requirement of actually assuming the leadership of a team. This is especially true if you’re replacing an unsuccessful leader at a new company, as you’ll likely be challenged to“fix” a sub-optimal team.
I’ve encountered this situation on several occasions over the course of my career. The most challenging one took place after an entire overhaul of the executive management team of the company that I was joining. I was part of the new regime that was assuming control in order to get the company back on track. To say I was an unwelcome arrival to the team that I was to manage is an understatement. Every interaction was like hitting a brick wall. It was virtually impossible to get any detailed or accurate information from the team. The first couple of months were a miserable experience for me.
See also: The Secret to Becoming a Better Manager
I’d like to say that I was able to call on super coaching powers to turn the team around, but that wasn’t the case. Over a couple of months, I figured out who the talented folks were and made them my “staff.” I let everyone else go. That may seem harsh. At the time, even I thought I was being extreme, but the funny part was that the folks who did remain at the company were happy that the poor performers were gone. With the old guard out of the way, the team was able to flourish—and the best part was that we actually started to have fun. The team that my staff and I built “out of the ashes” was one of the best teams that I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Taking the decisive action was hard, but totally worth it in the long run.
After going through the trauma of replacing team members, the last thing that you want to do is repeat the cycle. The goal is to have a lasting team that can adapt to whatever directions the company needs to take. Holding out for the right candidates may take longer, but it will help you to break the cycle of creating sub-optimal teams.
Mass restructuring of a team is a tough leadership challenge, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to go through the experience because of the lessons learned and the indelible impressions that have remained. I hope that as the future unfolds, I’ll have the good sense to follow our company value and always hire a team of people who I am proud to know.