Are You Setting Your Team Up For Success…or Failure?

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A friend of mine recently asked me if I could sit in on keyboards with his band for an upcoming gig. I have the night available, so I said sure. A few nights ago I went to a rehearsal so I could meet the other guys in the band and get a feel for the music.

It could have gone better.

Motivational Speaker Bill Stainton

Not the band I’m sitting in with.

Oh, it wasn’t bad, mind you. But it could have gone better. They didn’t show me a set list or any organized chord charts. Instead, they simply started calling out songs—songs that they’d been playing together for months—and launching into them. Now, I’m an okay keyboardist, and with a chord chart and a basic knowledge of the song, I can fake my way through pretty much anything. But I’m not good enough to just jump in cold on a song I’ve never heard before, figure out the key and the chords, and come up with a professional keyboard part while the song is being played. I know there are musicians who can do this; I’m not one of them.

Without the tools I needed, and some acknowledgment that this was my first time hearing many of these songs and playing with this band, I wasn’t being set up for success. Instead, I felt like I was being set up for failure.

What About You?

Are you, as a leader, making the same mistake with the newer members of your team? In short, are you setting them up for success, or are you setting them up for failure?

I suggest that if you’re not setting them up for success—consciously, and with a plan—you are by default setting them up for failure. That’s not fair to them, and it’s not good leadership.

You’ve no doubt invested a lot of time, money, and energy to find the right person to bring into the team. So why wouldn’t you do everything you can to ensure their success? This means having a plan in place—a sequence that you can take them through to get their feet wet and bring them up to speed. Simply tossing them into the deep end and turning your back is rarely effective.

A Failure on Day One

The very first job I was tasked with on my very first day of work at my first TV station was to set up “wraps” for the co-hosts of the local magazine show. “Wraps” are simply the intro and outro segments that the co-hosts record in the field (meaning “not in the studio;” they aren’t literally standing in a field). You know, the “That was a great story, wasn’t it? Up next…” part. The location of these wraps normally tied in with one or both of the adjacent stories. Simple, right? The only problem is, none of this was explained to me. My boss, the producer, simply tossed a show format on my desk, said, “Set ’em up,” went into his office, and shut the door.

I sat there for nearly an hour. I didn’t know what a “wrap” was, and I didn’t know how to “set ’em up.” All I knew was that I was failing.

Eventually, I summoned up the courage to knock on his door and admit that I had no idea what it was that he wanted me to do. Rather than firing me, he took a few minuts to explain it to me, and I got it. That was all I needed. An explanation. A roadmap. The chord charts.

Yes, you want your new team members to have initiative, and to come to you with questions. But why not give them a head start by proactively answering the questions you know they’re going to have? Why not give them the tools that will set them up for success?

By the way, my friend and I got together—just the two of us—a couple of nights ago and came up with the chord charts I need. It’s going to be a great gig!


Why not give them the tools that will set them up for #success? #producingresults Share on X

About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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