I often try to emphasize to executives and managers at all levels that you are only as good as the team you surround yourself with. You can be a brilliant, visionary and exceptionally innovative but if you surround yourself with a team that is below average, you will not be an effective leader. On the other hand, you can be nothing more than average but if the team around you is exceptionally competent, you will get the results of a superstar.

The first question that comes to mind simply stated is; who picked your team? If you inherited the team that surrounds you, your first priority is to figure out both the pluses and the minuses of each individual team member. Additionally it is your responsibility to make sure that every one of your team members clearly understands your expectations.

How Do I Know If I Have The Right Team?

If the team you surround yourself with has such a dramatic influence on your performance as a leader, I have to ask you; when was the last time you evaluated your team? If you have never done it formally, do it now. It would be very beneficial to evaluate your team performance and individual team members every three to four months.

A cohesive management team is the most important ingredient to your company’s success. The management team needs to function as a cohesive unit to maximize their accomplishments. Success of your management team can be defined by what they accomplish as a group. There must be a synergy within the team that creates unity and a clarity of direction that is in alignment with strategic initiatives.

Here are three simple yet direct questions to use to assess your team:

1. Do you have the right people on your team? Are they high quality people; people who can do a number of tasks; people who support your skills and negate your weaknesses? If you aren’t absolutely certain about every single team member, the chances are you have some team members that need further evaluation or you potentially need to replace them.

Individuals do not usually fail because of lack of education, experience, training or skills. They fail because their personality and behavior is not compatible to the behavioral requirements of their particular position. If employees are not suitable for their position or if they do not achieve their potential, the organization can fail or never achieve its potential. It certainly will never maximize effectiveness.

2. How can I be sure I have identified those people I must replace? A person may be highly talented but may not be the right fit for your team, i.e. your company. It’s time to be honest with yourself. If you hired this person and things just don’t click, admit your mistake and move on.

3. How do I help my team maximize their effectiveness and validate that I have them performing the right functions for the company? (To quote Jim Collins, author of Good to Great; “Are they in the right seat on the bus?”). You must match their talents to your company needs and your needs as their leader. When you have the right people in just the right seat they will flourish. Success breeds success.

Developing Your Team

Every business is a living breathing entity. It continues to evolve and go through change. In fact, as a leader you are responsible to create change. So your team must evolve at the same or greater pace as the company itself. Remember, every individual is different. We all have different personalities. And it’s our personality, more than anything in this world that will determine how successful we will be in our career and how content we will be in our personal life.

The quality of your team personnel is the single most important factor that determines whether you and the company are going to be successful, whether you will realize a satisfactory return on its investment, and whether it will maximize profitability.

It is a truism that well-qualified and competent people are always hard to find. Even when the economy is soft, such as we are experiencing now, truly good people are hard to find. Anything you can do to retain and enhance and develop these team members should be a top priority. Employee development is one of the most important aspects of building and maintaining a successful organization. Research proves when employees fail in their positions, more than 90 percent of the cases are directly attributed to some aspect of human behavior.

If you have the right team that is motivated and “in the right seats on your bus,” you are in a position to take on all challenges including that dreaded “R” word — recession.

Don’t make the mistake of cutting back on employee development and training because economic conditions are tough. It’s in times like these that it is even more important that we make sure we have the

right people in the right seats and we do everything possible to enhance their opportunity to maximize the effectiveness of the organization which, more importantly, will maximize profitability and growth.

Dr. Rick Johnson, wholesale distribution’s “Leadership Strategist”, is the founder of CEO Strategist LLC, a firm that helps clients create and maintain competitive advantage. He can be reached at rick@ceostrategist.com. For more information, including Rick’s monthly newsletter “The Howl,” visit www.ceostrategist.com.