Before You Cast Vision
To build winning teams you need to ask WHO before WHAT. Jim Collins expresses this idea by saying that before you drive the bus or determine where it is going you need to have the right people on the bus. The apostle Paul put it this way:
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. 2 Timothy 2:2
A multiplying leader (one who builds an influence legacy) always thinks about WHO then WHAT. This seems to fly in the face of what we think effective leaders do. Many assume that great leaders start the journey by announcing to the people where they are going—setting a new direction or by articulating a fresh vision. No so. They make sure the right people are on the bus before they begin the journey—first the people, then direction. The strategic reason for this is that the very nature of multiplying influence can only occur through others. This is why Jesus focused the majority of his efforts to expand the kingdom of God through training other disciples. The leader who succeeds through others has an expanding potential. If the main burden of leadership decision-making is not all on the shoulders of one or few people, the potential to multiply scales. This is the only leadership strategy that will launch an ongoing legacy of influence.
Why the WHO First?
Reason # 1: The right people can handle today’s ever-changing conditions, which requires nimbleness and flexibility. If people have boarded the bus because of the direction it is going and a few miles down the road it needs to change direction, they will look for the next stop off the bus.
Reason # 2: The right people can navigate through times of uncertainty or chaos. You need the right people who can perform as a team no matter what comes next.
Reason # 3: The right people do not need to be tightly managed or fired up. With the right people you will spend much less time on management and motivation and more time on outcome improvement.
Reason # 4: The right people attract more right people, which creates a better environment to recruit and retain quality performers. When you are gone, there will be people who can carry on a legacy of influence.
Another way to put this in perspective is to imagine that if you have the right direction but the wrong people, there is not much that will occur except dysfunction.
What Does This Mean?
1. Recruit for character over experience. Look for people without egos who were willing to work hard. Whenever the Bible gives qualifications for what leaders should look like, the overwhelming emphasis is placed on character. (Acts 6: 3, 1 Timothy 3:1-11, Titus 1:7-9) A person of character and drive can gain experience. If someone is not truly motivated, does not fit the culture of your team, or has character issues which need to be confronted, then the toll on morale and performance is quite high. If someone is not willing to put in the time and work hard, they will drain valuable energy and waste time. In contrast, people with good character bring increasing positive returns on the investment of time and training.
2. Prioritize people over problems. When confronted with any problem or opportunity, shift the decision from a “what” question (What should we do?) into a “who” decision (Who would be the right person to take responsibility for this?). The right people in the right position can come up with the right solutions.
3. Invest in training over managing. The more you train people, the less you will have to manage them. They will be equipped with the skills and competencies to make solid and strategic decisions and solve problems on their own. More importantly, they will be in a place to train the next tier or generation of leaders. This is even more important today because of the rapid changes our society is experiencing; the bus you are driving now is not the same one that you will need to drive in five years. You will need to equip your team with new tools, processes and skills so they can adapt to changing times.
It is important to point out that sometimes you may have the right person on the bus, but they are in the wrong seat. It is essential to have the right people but you need them in the right position. This means: 1) everyone knows their role, 2) everyone knows how they are performing in it, 3) everyone knows where they are going (and what it will take to get there).
The emphasis of having the right people was clearly understood by Paul when he instructed his younger protégé, Timothy:
What degree is your time spent in investing in the training of others?
What would be the benefits of investing more in the training of your team?
What process do you have in place to consistently invest and train?