Don't Waste Your Time Trying to Hire a 'Tom Brady.' Here's a Better Way to Build a Winning Team

By Mattson Newell (@MattsonNewell), Client Relationship Partner at Partners In Leadership and expert and author on Breakthrough Communications, Global Human Resources, and Talent Development.

It’s easy to look at the dynasty that the New England Patriots have built and fall into the trap of trying to hire a Tom Brady. That surely, once you have that superstar in place, it will lead to championships, glory, and bonuses for everyone.

Not everyone remembers that before Brady was the superstar he is today, the sixth-round draft pick who was in a battle to even make the team. From there he was coached and developed. He learned to seize opportunities as they presented themselves. As they say, leaders are made, not born. The same can be said for superstars, too.

Instead of throwing your resources into hiring a superstar for your business, here’s a better way to build a winning team.

1. Develop the right people

The development trap that many leaders fall into is looking for whoever has the best results in the company and then plugging them into a leadership position or development track.

When a very successful SVP of Sales left a Fortune 500 organization, who do you think they tabbed to replace him? That’s right, the person with the highest sales numbers the year before.

You can guess what happened next. The former sales superstar who was excellent at selling and working with clients, struggled in his new SVP role working internally and overseeing the sales team. Within six months he was out the door and the leader was again looking for a new SVP.

Top producers do not always translate into our top leaders. When deciding who the right person is to develop as a leader in your organization, consider the whole person instead of just focusing on numbers and results.

2.  Develop the right plan

Many organizations only put a plan in place to develop their people when they find out a leader is headed out the door. Unfortunately, that is too late.

Succession planning and leadership development should be a constant, thriving, evolving part of your organization at all times, not just when a leader is leaving. It is important to put systems and processes in place to identify, develop, and build bench strength.

Jim Skinner, former CEO of McDonald’s, was known to tell managers: “Give me the names of two people who could succeed you.” This was one way he worked to manage succession planning.

3. Develop the right skills

In a survey conducted by Partners In Leadership, which involved more than 40,000 people from small start-ups to Fortune 50 organizations, over half of those surveyed said that their stated 2020 goal was either an aggressive stretch or a crazy stretch.

But stretch goals are attainable: the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl in 2014 even though they were only two years removed from going 7-9.

What is key is that your team has the skills necessary to achieve a stretch goal. If your current players don’t have what it takes to win, set them up for success by identifying what skills they need. Then provide the right learning opportunities to develop their talent for sustainable results.

By instilling an empowered, continuous learning culture, you’ll be able to maintain a motivated, performance-oriented workforce that isn’t afraid to stretch outside their comfort zone.

Creating Results and Shaping Change

True, it is much less expensive to develop your good people than to go out and try to hire the already-established superstars. But there are more benefits to developing employees than upfront cost-savings.

Employee research consistently shows that career development opportunities are a leading indicator of employee engagement. In a recent study on employee retention, the most important aspect of a company’s reward and recognition program was employee development opportunities.

Having worked with thousands of employees in high-potential programs over the years, we have seen the impact engaged employees have on their companies–both immediately and long after their development, as they move on to significant leadership roles in their organizations.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you need to hire the next ‘Tom Brady.’ Instead, look for the current ‘Tom Brady(s)’ on your team and develop them. Who knows, they might turn out to be your next superstars!

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