Our team often works with leaders who have recently taken on critical leadership roles.  I try to keep up with them after they have gotten firmly established and often ask them a simple question after they have been in their role for about a year:

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Their responses are amazing in their consistency: all too often, they say,”I’d make sure I had the right team in place before I leaped into action.”

This never surprises me.  It’s not even that surprising to these leaders – they know the now-conventional advice about getting the right people on the bus (thanks, Jim Collins!).

So why do so many smart, experienced leaders still end up learning this one the hard way?  I wish I had the scientifically researched answer.  But here are my experience-based hunches:

  • People decisions are complicated
  • People decisions are nuanced
  • People decisions can be slow
  • People decisions usually involve conflict and disappointment

For these (and probably other) reasons, most people just put up with what they have.  But from the perspective of someone who often facilitates strategy development and implementation, I can tell you that getting the team right is job one for a leader.  Otherwise, everything – the quality of the plan, your confidence in its implementation, your willingness to give responsibility to your team, and ultimately your own reputation in the organization – is at risk.

What’s your hunch about why so many leaders move slowly on the people front?