Stars vs. Constellations – 3 Steps to Building Solid High-performing Teams

Stars vs. Constellations – 3 steps to building solid high performing teamsAnyone who has spent considerable time in early stage startups and fast growing scalable businesses will tell you that sustainable growth companies are built by teams of shining constellations rather than just several bright stars. A team of people that is able to feed off each other and grow together will beat any company comprised of individual stars (otherwise known as A players, rockstars, ninjas, etc). All the stars in your constellation should have an unquestionable drive to serve their team first and have the confidence that others are doing the same for them.

It all starts with recruiting. Many successes and disasters start with recruiting. Recruiting is the most important job for any real leader in the company. If you have to outsource your recruiting – you are a lazy fool! Get your butt out of the office, meet people, help people, connect people, and tell them about the problems you are solving.  Networking will help you have a full funnel of talent no “superstar” recruiter is capable of finding! Only when you have 50+ employees do you need an internal recruiter to help move the talent systematically through the funnel, but remember, the top of the funnel is still all you, baby!

The second step is all about the right placement of the stars in your constellation. No matter what bullshit motivational book you may have read, people do not change. Yes, people do evolve, and yes, those not capable of evolution should never become a part of your team, but for Pete’s sake, do not confuse skill evolution with personality change. Attempts to change who a person is don’t work in dating (ever heard of the term “project boyfriend”?) or in the workplace. Hire people for what they are capable of and stop jamming square pegs into round holes. Nobody will give you medals for turning a finance geek into a mediocre user experience practitioner.

The third step is to minimize “toxicity” and take advantage of learning from your inevitable failures. An agile and derivative methodology excels at this. Divide and conquer, but don’t forget to learn. Incremental improvement and fast learning methodologies are fantastic for every functional area of the business (yes, even for boring bookkeeping). When properly practiced, they will keep you from squandering resources on dead-end projects, prevent you from making large stumbles, and lead to addictive progress.

In my next article, I will address one of the hardest execution problems in building bright constellations – compensation structure. We need a lot more innovation in this area because profit shares, commissions, and good ‘ol bonuses just don’t cut it.  Until then, I look forward to discussing the subject of this article as usual, in person, via Twitter, or e-mail.

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