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Why Leaders Fail to Design a Great Team: Obstacle #1: Leaders Don't Go Above and Beyond...

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

Despite the value of developing a strong team, many businesses and individual leaders have trouble reaching this objective. Why?

Let's examine the first of three of the most typical obstacles:

Obstacle #1 – Leaders Don't Go Above and Beyond What They Believe is Necessary:

Most leaders do not take pleasure in the process of recruitment, and this dissatisfaction can have serious repercussions if it is not addressed. When recruiting is seen as a required but undesirable activity, the result is typically a reactive approach to the process. They tend to wait until they have a staffing vacancy before they start scrambling to find a candidate, and when they do so, they frequently do not have sufficient time or resources to do it efficiently. This strategy, which is reactive, might result in an increased workload, additional stress, and, eventually, the employment of someone who is not a good fit for the firm or who does not possess the abilities necessary to accomplish the position effectively.

The mindset that viewing recruitment as a necessary evil can limit opportunities. Recruiting is an essential process for any organization. If recruiting is perceived as a duty rather than a chance to bring in new talent and views, then the focus will be on filling the gap rather than evaluating new ideas and methods. Recruiting can be seen as an opportunity to bring in new talent and perspectives. Leaders who have a vision of a stronger future team and who view recruiting as an opportunity are much more likely to be aggressive and innovative in their search for candidates. This is because they see recruiting as an opportunity to build a better team.

The Law of Least Resistance:

The Law of Least Resistance states that energy, actions, or individuals tend to follow the path that requires the least effort, offers the least resistance, or provides immediate gratification. It is a principle observed in physics, psychology, social sciences, and business practices. It explains behaviors and outcomes in different systems.

The law of least resistance isn't always a bad thing. It aids in preventing us from squandering more time and effort than is required. The issue arises when we fail to recognize those instances in which the right or correct course of action is the least evident one and may call for a more comprehensive or assertive approach.

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” Mat 7:13 (NIV)

Leaders often tend to focus too much on taking the "broad road" and attempting to address every pressing issue that comes to mind at the time. Leaders may struggle to locate or carve out the time to fill vacancies, compromising their standards by taking on any "warm body" who applies. Underperformers may be employed because of this strategy, which will have a detrimental influence on the team's productivity and morale.

The Consequences of the Law of Least Resistance:

When leaders wait until they have a staffing gap before beginning to recruit, they are already at a disadvantage. Recruiting doesn’t feel urgent, until it’s too late. They hire “just enough” to maintain their minimum staffing requirements to avoid major disruption.

Additionally, leaders who are reactive in their recruiting approach may not be able to attract the best candidates. The most qualified candidates may already be employed, and they are not actively seeking a new position. Therefore, the organization may end up hiring someone who is not the best fit for the job simply because they are available and willing to accept the position.

If I am trying to build a kingdom of quality people that go above and beyond what is expected of them, I won't have much luck attracting this type of person if I'm not the person that is willing to go above and beyond to find someone like that. If I'm following the law of least resistance, doing as little as I must instead of as much as I can in my recruiting process, and hoping that I'll get a person that has a better work ethic than me, I'm fooling myself. Over time your team will reflect your values, good or bad.

The Paradigm Shift:

Early on in my 20s in my first general management position I had yet to learn this lesson. I remember having a meeting with my area supervisor. I was complaining about the quality of some of my team members and struggling to get decent applications. I recall making some excuses for the store’s underperformance and feeling a bit helpless and frustrated. He said to me “What are you going to do about it?”. I paused and thought to myself and replied “Well, I can't make anybody show up on time and do the right thing. I am just not getting any good applicants. What am I supposed to do?”. He just looked at me and once again said “So, what are YOU going to do about it?”. It was during that meeting that it hit me. If I was going to have a better staff, it was up to me to make that happen.

In the following weeks I thought through the quality of staff I wanted to have. Then I brainstormed about where I might find people to add to my team, that would be reliable and dependable to a higher degree than some of my current staff. My store was in the lower economic part of town and was mostly employed by locals from the surrounding area. Many were fine workers with great individual potential to flourish, but they were influenced primarily by a looming underperforming culture, resistant to giving maximum effort toward any cause deemed as skeptical. There was a disconnect of trust. Like crabs in a bucket, their culture was holding them back from gaining their freedom to soar and meet their greatest potential. This can happen to any team anywhere when left to the influence of tribal bias in the absence of hope and leadership. Our work culture needed an infusion of people with fresh perspectives and a more diverse approach towards building a united team. I had a choice, I could keep working in my current stagnant culture, or do something about it.

I decided I would put up flyers on bulletin boards in the college cross the street, and a nearby high school. I spoke to a guidance counselor at the high school and the head of the culinary arts department at the local community college. I created a pipeline of communication that would eventually pay off. I found that a more diverse mix of people from the surrounding area as well as locals was an optimal combination for a team. We need to have team members that come from other work cultures to challenge our sometimes-stagnant culture. In addition, no one connects to our customers on the level of those social butterflies already in their network of relationships.

I was determined to break the code and build my kingdom of diverse empowered leaders. Over the next year or so, I found myself with a great team of four leaders surrounding me that would all eventually become General Managers of their own stores.

Overcoming the Law of Resistance:

Over the next year I was able to attract several quality employees and with that leverage I began to recruit from within through the networks of higher quality people I already had. I utilized our employee recruitment incentive program. I asked my assistant managers to help me with interviews and gave them the freedom to hire without my approval. Together we divided the load and got after it. We were all on a mission. It took several months but the quality of my team seriously increased primarily due to my proactive and assertive approach. Success doesn’t happen by accident.

Disrupting Procrastination Using the 24/48 Rule:

My company implements what we call the 24/48 rule. When we receive a viable resume or application, we make sure we contact them directly within 24 hours. Then we try to establish and interview with them within 48 hours if possible. Many leaders sit on applications until they have enough free time to look at them. Many times, the candidate has already accepted another offer within a day or two, or at least the better candidates. And we wonder why so many candidates don’t return our calls or show up for interviews.

The Law of Least Resistance exacerbates the issue, as leaders may opt for quick solutions rather than investing in finding the best candidates. Inertia and living in the moment can put us in a frozen state leading us to procrastination. It’s not something we prefer to think about, so we don’t.

A necessary paradigm shift is crucial. Leaders must personally commit to going above and beyond, actively seeking diverse talents. The shared story illustrates the power of taking responsibility for team building and shifting from a reactive to a proactive mindset.

Overcoming the Law of Resistance involves strategic planning, like reaching out to various communities and institutions to create a pipeline of potential candidates. The 24/48 Rule emphasizes the importance of timely communication in securing top candidates before they accept other offers.

Building a strong team requires leaders to embrace a proactive mindset, break free from least resistance, and invest the necessary time and effort to attract and retain the best talent. It's a transformative process yielding long-term benefits for both the leader and the team.

Joel Smith

Business Coach, Author and Entrepreneur

This article is a section out of the book Team Design: Building Great Teams By Attracting the Right People. Download the Free PDF version.

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