Looking at the whole and not just the role

Welcome back to part three of the “Balance Series.”Read Part I: How can you be courageous so you can be brave? and Part II: Do you practice organizational empathy?

I’m not sure if my first exposure to the concept of talent balanced teams was an accident or if it was just the first time I was mature enough to notice what was going on. Either way, it totally changed the way I thought about building leadership teams.

Back in the early 2000’s while I was at CNET Networks (soon to become CBS Interactive), I was part of the team that supported the sizable and complex sales organization. I was partnered with the Client Services lead Stacey DeLarios and the Ad Technology lead Adrian D’Souza.

If you ask me how life is today, I generally say “crazy, but good crazy.” However, that period with Stacey and Adrian was genuinely bizarre. It was the beginning of the tech bubble explosion and we were just as impacted as our friends. What it meant for us, however, was this weird combination of almost annual (and terribly painful) layoff rounds, accompanied with this continued acquisition of new brands and companies into the portfolio.

During this period Stacey, Adrian and I leaned on each other in a way that I’d never experienced before. It wasn’t planned or even discussed, but we had this immediate and mutual respect for our individual talents. Not only that, but we sought each other out to work through problems that weren’t necessarily in our “lane” of responsibilities but were in our “lane” of unique talents.

We were in the thick of it at the time and didn’t recognize how this mix of gender, personality, talent, culture, skills, style (I could go on) actually worked better for us as a team. It was when Adrian left several years later, Stacey and I noticed the hole. It was never quite the same again.

I took this experience to my next role at Pandora. I, fortunately, inherited an incredibly talented leadership team. However, the company was in epic growth mode and adding to the team, disrupting the balance, was inevitable. With this early understanding of talent balance, I looked at both what a candidate could bring to the table AND how it meshed with the rest of the team. I looked at what the whole needed as much as the role.

Now I’m not going to say I got it right every time! I learned that creating balanced teams doesn’t always mean they’ll get along. I learned that sometimes you just don’t get it right. Early on I was surprised when leaders didn’t see the benefit of difference within the team, and, therefore, they didn’t they well work together. Not my finest moment. But we all learn, right? A couple of bumps and bruises later, I learned and they learned how to see and work with others talents. I believe we all turned out to be a better organization, a better product, and a better team in the process. It was because they, as a whole, were better. Man, I’m still proud of each and every one of them. Amazing time in my life.

Funnily enough, I had lunch with Stacey just the other day. We’re still friends all these years later. I asked her if it was just me, or was this “balance” idea something she recognized as well. “We were more than three people together,” she agreed, much to my relief.  Isn’t that what we’re always looking for in a team?  

Next time in part 4 of this series: Where do you start with this whole “balance” concept? Well, it needs to start with you. Do you know yourself?

Be Curious: What We’re Reading

We are voracious readers at The Amplify Lab. We’ve chosen a couple of articles that really opened our eyes to some new and amazing ideas and made us think outside the box, beyond our knowledge sphere.

6 Ways to Ask for Advice Without the Dreaded 'Can I Pick Your Brain?' by Kate Rockwood in Inc. How you handle your request makes all the difference.

You Are Your Best Investment. Entrepreneur.[Autoplay video] ARO Metal Stamping President Erica Wiegel knows that getting involved in professional groups could benefit your personal career but your business as well.

Do You Know What You're Great at Doing?

Do you practice Organizational Empathy?