Do you have the right people on the team?


Choosing the right team is critical to your business’s success.

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and Built to Last has written extensively about “getting the right people on the bus and in the right seat.”

But as Detroit plunges into the winter freeze, I’m reminded that the lesson of team member compatibility is perhaps best illustrated by the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton, the great explorer who put together a team of 27 men to sail to the South Pole.

Apparently, Shackleton was well aware of the old adage: Hire for attitude and train for aptitude.

As author Caroline Alexander notes in her terrific book, The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition, the old sea captain knew the importance of hiring people who would fit in with the rest of the crew. Alexander writes:

“The general peace that prevailed on the Endurance had not come about by accident and owed something to the manner in which Shackleton had selected the men in the first place. When James presented himself for his interview, the great explorer had bewildered him by asking not about his suitability for a major polar expedition, or details of his scientific work — but whether he could sing.”

In fact, there wasn’t an incident of genuine friction during the long, troubled voyage. Not a single man died during the adventure despite bouts of frostbite, scurvy, hunger, and numerous other life-threatening dangers.

I personally noted the importance of team member integration a few years ago when I was fortunate to be selected to go on a Rotary Group Study Exchange to Africa. I spent a lot of energy trying to be the best candidate until it became clear to me that the organizers were looking for the best team.

When I speak to leadership teams at various companies, it’s almost always immediately apparent which people are holding back the team. Sometimes those individuals should be on another bus, but more often, they just need to be in a different seat.

Here’s hoping you can use the New Year to make such well-needed adjustments for your business.

What’s your biggest challenge when getting a team player to “change seats?”