To build the right team, try people-centered leadership.

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No single leader can create exceptional results on her own; in fact, a key to successful leadership is understanding that leading is often a team sport. One of the most crucial challenges is to develop an empowered and highly motivated team, capable of achieving extraordinary things even in the most challenging circumstances. Building a high-performing team requires getting several things right, including developing or hiring the best talent.

To build the leadership team that will support and carry out the company strategy, you need to create a team that complements the leader’s strengths and weaknesses. This requires understanding the short- and long-term strategy, assessing whether you have the right functional capabilities and experiences on the team, and whether the team is reflective of your customer base. Be clear eyed about the skills you have on the team now, what development opportunities are required, where you need to augment from outside, and what resources you have available to you to complete this task.

As you are building the team, you also must focus on the job of making sure that your leaders, with their respective skill sets, have a willingness to work as a team to accomplish the company’s goals. This includes helping those leaders build a broad enterprise view, in addition to leading their own specific area. This takes intentional effort and means providing those leaders with developmental assignments and experiences that help them build this skill.

Here are three areas you will need to succeed in to have a successful team.

Define reality and give hope

Leaders may find themselves leading an organization in trouble or one that needs fundamental change. When I joined Aetna, the company was losing $1 million a day. Picture putting one million dollars on your conference room table and setting it on fire every single day. Leaders were discouraged, employees were worried. You need to broadly define the reality of the situation, and then give people hope that there is a plan to get to a better place.

Defining reality requires that you fully understand the environment in which you’re operating (internally and externally) and are clear on that with your team. It sets the context for how you are setting expectations and means your goals will be more realistic.

Giving hope is about showing your workforce that you have the right plan and team in place to succeed. It’s about showing them that the hard work is worth it. This isn’t a one-time effort; it is about communicating a consistent message over and over, as well as regular updates on how the company is doing against the plan. You’ll be tired of the message before it is fully sinking in with your workforce. Don’t stop communicating.

Setting expectations; understanding obligations

The practice of being very clear on what your expectations are — whether it’s regarding performance, behavior, or results — will go a long way to keeping people focused and avoiding misunderstanding. Start with a few crystal-clear expectations that are simple and memorable and reinforce them with your team. Then engage them in helping communicate these expectations throughout the organization.

Leaders who have the privilege of sitting on any leadership team must learn that there are certain obligations they’ve signed up for: doing the work, delivering on expectations, making hard choices, committing to decisions and seeing them through. There are certainly benefits to being a senior leader, but there is a lot of work that is required.

When it comes to setting expectations, what I’ve learned over and over in my career: people would rather exceed your expectations than meet your demands.

Consideration for the person

Even in the toughest of circumstances, it is possible to put people first. It may mean a person can’t do a job at a certain point in their career. You must understand where a person is at any given point, what motivates them, and what is going on in their life. Doing this well requires active listening and probing for the reality beyond the answers you’re getting.

The team that you surround yourself with must commit to the work. You’ll have time for disagreement, including actively discussing the issues and hearing all sides, but once you commit to a decision, there needs to be unity in how you move forward. Sometimes you will be in the uncomfortable position of having to adjust your team. Consideration for the person will make this more manageable, but it’s rarely easy to let people go.

At the end of the day, building the right leadership team will make sure your company is delivering on or beyond expectations.