You hired team leaders, or so you thought. You hired team self-starters who didn’t need constant hand-holding. At least you think you did.
So why do you feel like you hired a team of followers?
The execution of vision and strategy by team leaders can be a scary undertaking. That execution usually is fraught with assumptions on everyone’s part.
Does any one, or perhaps all, of the following scenarios sound familiar?
Scenario 1 – One of the pitfalls of being part of a cadre of team leaders, especially for startups, is when you collectively realize that the Founder really isn’t interested in anyone else leading – except for him or her. The CEO talks the team leaders talk fairly convincingly. In reality, team leaders are always in the shadow of that CEO, who second-guesses everyone’s decisions.
That scenario doesn’t make for a healthy, or sustainable, corporate culture.
Scenario 2 – Another pitfall in bringing team leaders into your enterprise is when the CEO realizes she hasn’t really hired leaders. You have brought on for-hire, self-employed experts. They regard themselves as plug-and-play additions to your startup or to your company. They regard themselves as hourly workers or your pay-per-gig workforce. That’s their business model. That is how they sustain themselves.
If you hire pay-per-gig specialists, and are asking them also to function as self-directed team leaders, your directives are misaligned with what motivates them.
Scenario 3 – Another stumbling block is when you, as the Founder or CEO, provide Command-Control directives to your team leaders. They have no clue what you are thinking of. They don’t understand your perspective at all. When your communication skills are poor, you assume your team leaders are clairvoyant.
Two can play that game. Rather than ask for clarification, your expert team leaders individually assume that they know what you meant. Rather than collaborate, your team leaders don’t communicate with each other, either. Their communication skills are as poor as yours are!
The net sum of any of these scenarios?
Before you hire team leaders for your startup, department, division or company, take a step back and think about what that looks like: to you and to them.
If your leadership style is risk-averse, and you prefer a command-control style, ultimately you will end up butting heads with true team leaders. Chances are you will end up hiring a team of followers, regardless of their job titles.
Hiring team leaders works best when there is a strong corporate culture of collaboration and communication. The best starting point in hiring team leaders is to work, first and foremost, on what your corporate culture really should look like.
Otherwise your endeavors to hire team leaders will only pay lip service to true leadership: theirs and yours.
Babette Ten Haken started out her career as a scientist. Early on, she was asked to bring clarity to the chaos of stalemated conversations between engineers, sales, IT, quality, legal and marketing folks. She focuses on building collaborative, innovative and profitable teams who are focused on excellence in the hand-off of strategy for execution. Her Playbook on leadership and business strategies, including tools, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon.com.