Can you build and lead teams?  

That is a common question in most interviews, especially those that use the behavior and values approach to sorting out candidates.  Since employees are an organization’s most important and valuable asset, I think that question is spot on.

leadWhen it is framed in that manner, interviewers are focusing on only half, and the least expensive part, of the equation.

I believe the key word in that question is not team, but lead.  Too often, lead the team really means to manage the team, producing a good work product on schedule and under budget.  But leadership is so much more and when you have turnover in your expensive asset base there is probably more management (control) and less leadership (inspiration).

Employee turnover is one of an organization’s biggest unreported/unrecognized expenses.  Every day, in businesses across America, people are hired and people resign.  Some that probably should not have been hired in the first place, get the sack.  This cycle keeps human resources busy and it is very expensive.  It all adds up.

I have written in this space on more than occasion that building a team is like getting married.   On the front end  there is excitement and great expectation leading up to the “I do” on both sides — the employer and the prospective employee.   But in marriage, like building a team at work, it is easier to get married than to stay married. On the expense side, very few people contemplate the cost of a divorce when approaching the altar.

Organizations attract talented people with a vision for the work — with expectations of innovation, success and a rewarding  experience.  The wooing is the easy part.  But it is really tough to sustain the passion and the commitment to work when that work turns mundane but necessary.

For the Baby Boomer and Gen X, those age cohorts that still control the majority of management slots in businesses across America, the tricks to leadership, which by definition includes effective communication, face some startling challenges as the Millennials begin to assume their rightful place at the table.  Millennials have a different set of motivators and satisfiers and the secret to leading teams going forward will, not doubt, be significantly different.  Understanding those factors will be critical to successful management of human capital going forward.

It is fashionable today for essayists to conjure convenient, easy lists of the best of this or that, or the hundreds of variations of five easy ways to hire the best, eight keys to reducing turnover, the four best traits for leading a team… You get the point.

Instead of falling into that trap, I want to hear from you.  I would like to know your secrets to leading and sustaining the team that was so costly to build.  Comment on this post or email us at