One of the keys to your success as a business professional and leader is your ability to nurture relationships and select associates who have the attributes to help you build your career or lead a team, rather than people who will never challenge you or may be looking out only for themselves. I have concluded as a business advisor that the right people are better than the best strategy.
I found some excellent guidance on picking the right people, and fixing yourself, in a new book, “Burn the Boats,” by serial entrepreneur Matt Higgins. Matt is a recurring guest shark on TV’s Shark Tank for entrepreneurs, as well as a lecturer at the Harvard Business School.
His book is all about his teaming with the right people, as well as you unleashing your full potential by tossing backup plans overboard. He also recommends going all in on key business initiatives and new ventures, making failure not an option.
Finding the right people starts with understanding five key patterns that Matt and I both look for in every business professional. These patterns are potential derailers to success in all leadership and professional relationships:
- Rely too much on intellectual horsepower only. Some people have an abundance of raw intellect but are short on emotional intelligence. This may limit any ability to work with others, or interest in working on themselves, to adapt and accept change. To be a good leader, you have to be able to take feedback and effectively deliver feedback to others.In my own experience as an executive and consultant in business, I have long been convinced that emotional intelligence wins in leadership and long-term success over logical intelligence (IQ) every time. Look for emotional intelligence in every relationship.
- Being too deferential to potential disagreement. Of course, you always want people around you who listen, but also have the confidence to stand up for what they believe in, even if it causes a bit of conflict. You don’t need people who are so afraid of any disagreement that they never take a position on issues, or offer any innovative ideas.Some people hide under consensus decision-making as an avoidance of disagreement, arguing for more team participation and engagement. But, when you need innovation, or for complex issues, you often may need some disagreement to make the right decision.
- Unable to recognize or handle workplace politics. You also need people who have the interpersonal awareness to know how to deal with each individual in an organization and can predict how they will respond to different situations. That requires understanding what motivates you as well as them, and being able to capitalize on every motivation.I’m sure that you will agree that every office has politics, whether acknowledged or not. People who build constructive relationships with co-workers, outside constituents, and management will always be less impacted by politics and more successful in helping you.
- Not willing to share credit for successes at work. For some team members and associates, success is all about “I” rather than “we.” These associates or aspiring leaders will never gain the trust and following necessary to get the most from everyone for your success or the business. Listen carefully to their language during initial conversations.The toughest people to spot who are focused primarily on themselves are covert narcissists. Look for a quiet smugness or sense of superiority, including condescending stares, lack of eye contact, dismissive gestures, and overall inattentiveness. Be careful.
- Unwilling to show or admit any weaknesses. Some people try to hide their flaws by evading questions or pushing their own agenda instead of listening and responding to yours. Look for people who are honest and authentic with others, and not afraid to admit mistakes. We all have weaknesses and need people with complementary skills.Sometimes apparent weaknesses in others or yourself are blindspots that are not intentionally hidden. In this case, you will make the most progress by identifying the triggers and making a sincere effort to communicate or offer a fix to the challenge.
These tips are derived from the work of Dr. Laura Finfer and her Leadership Excellence Consulting, and validated by leadership experts around the world, as well as myself. Now is the time to review all your business relationships, as well as your own attributes, for changes and learning to facilitate your own growth and success, as well as that of your business.