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What happens when you have a good team but not necessarily a strong team?

If you have ever had the joy (I do mean that both honestly and well …) of being part of a rep hockey team, you will know that a coach during spring tryouts casts a wide net of talent to come to the ice. It is then that he figures out a way to build a team with what he sees. For example, he can take the best skaters and figure he can teach the rest , he can try to actually fill specific positions (forwards, centre, defence etc) or he can build a team around a few superstars and hope they will carry the rest of the team.
Well, I have had the opportunity of seeing many versions of these strategies. That same coach after seeing a few summer/early fall exhibition games discovers for the first time what he/she has bargained for and quickly communicates to the parents that they can expect this to be a “building year” or I have seen coaches be so confident of their abilities and be so driven as to not realize that the talent they have gathered together may not have the skills necessary – once out of tryouts and faced with real on-ice pressure – to ever meet his or the parent’s expectations.
Funny enough the same happens in business. There is an HR concept in recruitment and selection called a “false positive” and a “false negative”. A false positive is a person (candidate) that interviews amazingly well – they look good on paper and all signs point to yes. Yet once the day to day grind of the job sets in, they fail to live up to expectations or they are not the right fit. There is also a false negative in which a candidate may get the job by default after the first choices were not available, and who was the best that turned out but not quite what you were looking for. This false negative, once in the game, could end up being a key player and was just too humble to sell his/her abilities or may have never had the opportunity or the right guidance to shine. Both these scenarios are somewhat easy to spot and remedy. In the existing worlds of rep hockey as well as business, both of these candidates represent a minority. You are filling a few new spots or supplementing specific talent. You still have the rest of the team to carry you through while you work on developing the new talent.
But what happens when an existing team, due to growth or new technology or a merger, finds themselves suddenly out of their league? The answer is that as a leader you better start developing a plan as soon as you recognize change is around the corner. Don’t forget that human talent in an organization is an asset. Although it may sound harsh it is an asset in the same vain as machinery, lines of credit, square footage etc… and for most organizations it is their biggest asset. You will know when the current press will reach its maximum output and cannot handle a third shift. The same is true with people. The ability of management to do a regular and objective evaluation of the growth potential of key players and be able to identify and nurture future leaders will ensure resources match plan and realistic expectations.
The principals of an organization must also evaluate their management team and start developing a formal or informal succession plan. An enterprise I know of is experiencing incredible growth and has identified and begun to prepare for a possible expansion of their management team twelve months into the future. If the current trends prevail, this will be unavoidable and a very good problem to have. There is currently no talent in house with the necessary qualifications, but there is talent in house that given the proper career mapping, personal investment, support and development will be able to grow into the position. I am very confident they will be able to promote from within if all the assumptions and variables align properly.
But when faced with extraordinary growth and multiple positions in need of development past-proactive work will save your day. When preparing/updating job descriptions it is very helpful to map out career progression for each position and try to identify the knowledge, skills and abilities to perform at the next level. You can then begin to incorporate any deficiencies into the goals and objectives for the current position which serves to plant the seed for future growth. Also, you will want to create a grid for each of the tasks that identify at what level each task is being performed at and the degree of ownership i.e.: a) Follows Directive and performs duties as instructed, b) identifies needs, researches and provides alternatives for implementation or c) Identifies needs, develops solutions, presents findings, Implements solutions, reports outcomes etc. This will help you identify how independently each position is functioning at and what is needed to move the position to the next level. Again making this part of the position’s goals and objectives.
Mentorship programs, continuing education subsidies, a policy of promoting from within will keep those team members eager to grow engaged – participating and letting you know with their actions that they are prepared to put in the necessary commitment and effort in preparing for that growth.
As for the aforementioned “building year” …….predicted from the result of an exhibition game that, due to the benevolence of the mercy rule, never saw the actual double digit scores of the visiting team to our single digit score ………eventually saw our team finish the season the following May – in believing each game was our final game during the playoffs – by winning the division championship and defeating our previous merciless visitors along the way. Not sure who was more surprised ….but pretty sure it didn’t matter.
With the proper planning, encouragement, work, strategy and positive actions any and all teams can work to their maximum potential and then some.

Carolina Billings

Carolina Billings

Carolina M. Billings is an executive with 15+ year’s leadership experience in the fields of Business Development, Human Resources and Finance. As CFO-CHRO of a multi-million business conglomerate, she performs a truly interdisciplinary role within a portfolio of diverse industries ranging from Supply Chain, Logistics & Distribution, Wealth Management, Furniture Import, Sales & Distribution as well as Interior Design. She champions leadership initiatives as well as empowering and coaching/mentoring others to lead. Developing a hybrid of Finance and Human Resources has enable her to become leading business partner. Her great ability to influence and engage others in the pursuit of goals and objectives makes her a true innovator and change agent. Carolina is currently pursuing her Masters in Interdisciplinary studies with Royal Roads University, She holds Graduate Certificates from Cornell University and Queen’s University in the fields of Change Management and Leadership. She is a Co-Active Professional coach currently doing her practicum towards Certification with ICF. She holds a CHRL designation and a High Honor’s HRM Graduate Certificate. Carolina is the founder of Big Fish Coaching a private practice specializing in personal leadership, career coaching, conflict resolutions and life change management.
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1 Comment » for What happens when you have a good team but not necessarily a strong team?
  1. I completely agree with the key concepts of your article Carolina – great job communicating and emphasizing the importance of strategically developing and investing in human resources!
    The only thing I’d add is part of the solution can often include a coach (which as I’m sure you’re aware is very different than a mentor). A great coach can truly help bring out the best in a person and unlock their full potential – for the benefit of both the individual and the organization. And the best part of all is that coaching works. According to the most recent study on the impact of coaching by the International Coaching Federation, the average ROI for companies who invest in coaching is 7.44 times.

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