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Win With Who You Got

My high school football coach was very knowledgeable of the game. His teaching helped me become disciplined in my position. Once I started coaching, I remembered his philosophies and used them to make my players and teams better. Our high school league was very competitive. We had great teams with much Division 1 level talent. Players from other school districts wanted to play with us and although these players were equally as talented, Coach would never recruit from outside the neighborhoods associated with our school district. I asked him why he never recruited and he replied, "I will win with what I got."

Training employees is a lot like coaching. Every company wants the best talent, but with the market so competitive, it is difficult to find people who have the skillsets necessary to make your team productive, efficient, and high-performing. Sometimes you may have to take what is available and "coach them up." This means making an investment in development, training, and critical thinking components so your team will know how to get the job done. You may be in a leadership or management position and ask yourself, "how in the world did I get this group of people?" You probably inherited them. Many companies do not know how to properly evaluate talent and hire the first available person to fill a need. Such hires are made out of desperation and impatience.

In addition, the hires don't have the needed skillsets or experi

ence and are never properly trained on how to do their assignments. They try their best, but are not suited for the work they need to perform. This frustrates leadership and management who don't have the time to train. They rely upon their team members to do an excellent job when they aren't suited to perform at a high level in that assignment. This causes a waste of time and resources, not to mention, these employees soon realize they don't like what they do. They do it because the outcome (pay check) is a means to an end. They don't resign because they don't believe they have options, or they are comfortable getting paid to do little or nothing.

Great leaders know how to win with what they have. This process is painful and agonizing many days, but if leaders have the patience, they can mold mediocre talent into stars. Here are some ways to win with what you got.

  1. Do an assessment of the skillsets and personality types of your team. Discover their strengths, weaknesses, and give them assignments based on their strengths.

  2. Set a standard. Many employees come from cultures where there was no standard. They were allowed to do as they please. Establish a core value system for your department and expect your team to abide by it.

  3. Do not allow excuses. Hold your team members accountable for their performance. Do not reward mediocrity. Expect excellence.

  4. Remove dead weight. A difficult decision is to release an employee who just can't get it done. Don't be afraid to make this decision if it makes your team stronger.

  5. Challenge your team. Some people need to know they are needed to strive. Stress their importance to the department and build their self-esteem. People who feel valued usually rise to the occasion.

  6. Care about your team personally. Some people do not know how to separate their personal from the professional. Provide a space for them to talk about their private lives. Be empathetic. Showing care always reduces chaos.

  7. Build a high-performing culture. This begins with the example of leadership. Your team will go where you go. Set an example of integrity and character and you will always have the respect of your employees.

In the four years I played high school football, we won division and league titles, and competed in the state playoffs. Many players were awarded scholarships to play football in college and a few played professionally. Coach Bernard Sims passed away a few years ago but those who played for him remember how he took young men from the neighborhood and taught them the game of football without compromising his values or integrity. He taught how to win by investing in our talent and ability, taking us from good to great.

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