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  • Writer's pictureLaura De Veau

Building that Bench from the Inside Out

There are a variety of #deveauisms that I use with regularity. I encourage people to “marinate” on ideas. Rather than dwell on the letter of the rule or process, I want you to consider the “spirit” into which it is created. And I truly believe that teams aren’t built, they are “curated”. As part of that process of curating your team, a leader must consider their team in full and identify opportunities to “build their bench”.

In #deveauism #fortifyspeak I qualify the “building of an organization’s bench” to include several areas. Before digging into this, I want you to be mindful that I have had to make this work with no additional funds, no title changes, no major ‘formal’ organizational moves. This is about how the operation runs and how it maximizes itself. So, please don’t get hung up on strata and hierarchy - it’s about capacity building within the organization, and creating a team that has, as many "specialists" as it does "utility players".

First, as a leader, you need a clear number two, someone who is able to be your eyes, ears and stand-in when needed. They need to be capable of commanding a room in their own way - a presence that compliments and doesn’t replicate your own, but shows that you have built a team of experts, and they mean business. There should be no push back when the individual is representing you in a meeting - they know you, they know how you tick, they know your bias. If you prefer they not be in a decision making, but rather an informed messenger position, then let the individual know that going into the situation. However, if you feel that based on the nature of the meeting or event that your number two is ready for it - deputize them, and be public about it. There is nothing that speaks more highly about your number two than when you say in an email or a telephone call, “I am sending Jen to the meeting, she knows how I feel and I am comfortable with her making decisions and recommendations on my behalf.” Boom.

Second, consider where your organization has repetition in specific strengths and qualities, and then compare to where you have gaps. Determine who are your true “specialists” on staff and who, with proper coaching can move to a post where they rise to the rank of a “utility player”. Leaders need to send the message that being a “utility player” is an honor. Show the individuals on your team who are able to move nimbly, build a variety of skills and use forward thinking that you respect their skills and reward them with opportunities to run high profile events, projects or committees. Some make the argument that rewarding competency with more work is no reward, and to that I say - you are right. Leaders shouldn't be creating a pile of responsibility...they should be thinking of what tasks can be redeployed, like a pawn in chess getting to the backline and being upgraded to a Queen! Which brings us to the third area:

Elevate your “specialists” individual aptitudes. For those in your organization who are excellent at a narrow band of skills, get them the training and give them the encouragement to really become high level specialists. This is typically helpful in areas related to technology, compliance, systems and processes. These members of your teams become the point people for these areas, and as such they lead those initiatives.

It is very important that whenever anyone is placed into a role where they are responsible for the oversight of a committee, the implementation of a project, etc., they must carry themselves with the ability to listen, plan and follow-through. Regardless if they are a number two, a utility player or specialist. Do they all need to be robots or clones of you as the leader? Absolutely not. This is their opportunity to shine and to show their own abilities and competencies and where they build their organizational personality and reputation. Where leaders can elevate their team is to set specific expectations about what a project should look and feel like when it is complete. It is your bench and you need to build its brand as much as you build its capacity to produce work.

Need help in making this happen? Happy to do so. We will be addressing this in the #executivebriefing program - where we w

ill take it to the highest level of consideration. We can also work with your Direct Reports to create a strategic plan toward #buildingyourbench in a way that will help you create a most highly functioning and engaged team.


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