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Equipped to Win

When I was in college, my older brother’s friend in a golf foursome advised me: “Russ, 90% of the people you will encounter in business are deadbeats. Wake up, show up and follow up, and you will have those 90% in your rearview mirror before your first good idea.” Forty years later, a Moneyball-like study by Gallup Analytics demonstrates that he may have been right.

According to Gallup’s research, 82% of the employees who are chosen to manage teams actually are the wrong fit for the role—and are the primary reason why only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work. I interpret these results to underscore the importance of the few well-equipped employees to inspire the many. The best leaders get the most out of their teams by aligning them in pursuit of a shared vision and by playing to their strengths.

Every employee plays an important role in the functionality and success of its organization. Moreover, an organization needs diversity of styles and patterns of thought: realists, idealists, pragmatists, analysts, controllers, nurturers, supporters, leaders, followers and synthetic thinkers. It is a leader’s responsibility to ensure that employees are aligned with jobs that make the best use of their talents. It’s equally important that every employee’s role provides a sense of purpose, gratification and fulfillment. If a manager is doing his job, then the employees see that they are part of something larger than their given duties and can feel involved in the broader organization.

Helping employees become invested in their work requires that managers refocus their attention on an applicant’s “fit” within the workplace and work team. “Fit” is an underrated factor in putting together a high-functioning team and talent base, and also can be the fastest way to pump fresh air into an individual’s professional life. “Fit” is a two-way street between the employer and the employee, and it should be at the top of every interviewer and interviewee’s priority list.

I try to put “fit” into practice by never giving up on an employee until he has failed at something that he loves. By structuring my teams this way, it has allowed the most important work of the enterprise to be tackled by employees who are passionate for their work and who also have the right skills. Knowing how people and their different skill sets fit within an organization is an art. As in football, forming and leading a team of employees require assembling and properly equipping all of the right components, with their unique and valuable capabilities, so that they can work in unison toward the goal line.

That is why, as we approach the holidays, I will be thankful for the people I work with, and for those I have worked with in the past. Their diversity of abilities, ideas and points of view has been integral to my good fortune and success.

A well-run organization, just like a well-run team, depends on everyone pulling in the same direction selflessly in pursuit of consequence, be it a purpose-driven vision or winning just one game. Regardless of whether or not you accept the Gallup findings, if you are blessed with natural-born leadership talents or if you have reached the corner office through working harder and longer than everyone else, please remember this: You have a responsibility to your teams to be of service, and to lead them with kindness, humility and grace.


Russ Signature

Russ Klein, CEO