3 Ways to Kill a Dream Team

Last Updated Nov 17, 2008 4:28 PM EST

2174935053_55d9e5e7cc_m.jpgIn the wake of the 2008 Presidential election, much is being made of Barack Obama's decision-making process as he assembles his Cabinet and fills other key posts. There are lessons here for managers who are also trying to build functional and productive teams.

Jack and Suzy Welch note that the team-building process is fraught with pitfalls:

"(Obama's) biggest job -- with enormous implications -- is assembling the right team. And just like other new bosses, Obama will soon discover how wrong that process can go, and how easily. Long-time allies plead their cases. Powerful forces block certain candidates. Time pressure mounts. And then, one day, you look up and discover that your inner circle is not the A team you dreamed of, but an all-round compromise."
According to the Welches, there are three big mistakes to avoid when building your dream team.

1. Automatically rewarding loyalists. Payback to those who helped you rise is tempting. But adding someone to the team out of gratitude can lead to disaster, because loyalty doesn't necessarily mean they're the person best-qualified for the position. And if the candidate isn't the right person for the job, the whole team will suffer -- and you could set yourself up for an organizational chain reaction of underperformance.

2. Hiring people who need the work, or want the prestige of being on your team. Enthusiasm is appealing, but you need to look behind the eagerness to see if the candidate has a hidden agenda. If you think the candidate may be looking to resurrect a damaged career, advance a stalled one, or collect this position as another trophy, beware; they may not give you the honest feedback or contrary messages you're counting on them to provide. Why bite the hand that feeds them?

3. Focusing your attention on crisis hires. Almost every new leader inherits fires to extinguish, and it can be tempting to rush personnel into place without considering the longer view. A new boss must attend to the leadership positions that address his overarching and long-term priorities. Every hire you make sends a message, caution the Welches -- and that message is, "Here's how much I care."

As a leader, what's the biggest mistake you've ever made in assembling a team? How did you solve it? Share your experiences in our comments section.

(image by marcn via Flickr, CC 2.0)

  • CC Holland

    CC Holland is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a number of national magazines. Online, she was a columnist for AnchorDesk.com and writes regularly for Law.com and BNET. On the other side of the journalism desk, she's been a managing editor for ZDNet, CNet, and KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, where she earned an APTRA Best News Web Site award.