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Who is on the Leadership Team and what
qualifies them for the role?

Not everyone on the agency
staff or Board is a good candidate for membership on the Leadership Team,
although most people think they would make effective Team members. For this
reason, Team members are specifically recruited and not added on a volunteer
basis. People are invited to join the Team, not simply asked to sign up. Below
is a series of questions to use when screening potential Team members. As we
decide who to recruit, keep in mind we are not recruiting sales people or
cheerleaders. We are recruiting people who can establish meaningful, stable
connections with stakeholders and who can sustain those connections over the
long term. Sales people and agency cheerleaders may meet these requirements,
but their success with sales or cheerleading does not necessarily mean they
would be successful Leadership Team members. Similarly, a person’s position
from the Management Perspective does
not mean he (or she) would necessarily be an effective Leadership Team member.
Successful leadership connections require a specific set of skills not
distributed equally among those associated with the agency. – Here are the
questions, with comments about each.

  1. Is he (or she) culturally
    “Cultural Competence is
    the capacity to respond appropriately to the various cultural environments
    in which we may participate, enabling us to strengthen our relationships
    and accomplish our mutual purposes. Cultural competence is both a value
    and an essential set of skills in our mobile, fluid society.” (Homan,
    2008, p. 14)
  2. Does he treat people the way
    we want agency stakeholders to be treated?
    Agency staff members treat
    clients and stakeholders about as well – or as badly – as they treat each
    other. Attention should be given to all of the potential Team member’s
    relationships with other staff. Even if all but one or two of those
    relationships are fine, attend closely to the one or two that are not. A
    good Team member has effective, acceptable relationships with everyone
    associated with the agency. For any potential Team member, use his (or
    her) worst relationships as the reference point. If this is how he relates
    with stakeholders, is it acceptable? If not, he is not a good candidate
    for Team membership.
  3. Is he consistent from
    relationship to relationship and situation to situation?
    Good Team members are
    consistent. Their behavior, attitudes, demeanor, and self-presentation
    change little from person to person, from situation to situation. They do
    not run hot and cold, on again – off again. They are predictably
    themselves most anywhere we encounter them.
  4. Is he friendly and interested
    in people?
    This does not mean all Team
    members are outgoing and extraverted. However, it does mean Team members
    are comfortable meeting new people and in being in new or somewhat novel
    situations. Also, they enjoy getting to know people and learning about
    their experiences and interests.
  5. Does he take his good manners
    along everywhere he goes?
    This is not a minor point. There is never a good excuse for bad
    and behaving rudely, inappropriately, or insensitively are
    guaranteed ways to offend or otherwise alienate stakeholders. Effective
    Team members exhibit their good manners with everyone, every time,
    wherever they are. If a potential Team member exhibits bad manners or
    inappropriate behavior with anyone, anywhere, assume they will probably
    behave similarly with stakeholders, sooner or later. This is a risk not to
    be taken.
  6. Is he helpful and cooperative?
    This too is not trivial. An important element of a leadership
    connection is the Team member’s being seen by the stakeholder as helpful
    and cooperative. A goal of the connection is to support the stakeholder’s
    success specifically as it relates to agency success but more generally as
    it relates to the stakeholder’s interests and personal priorities. If the
    potential Team member is not helpful and cooperative with others at work,
    he is unlikely to support an external stakeholder’s interests and
    priorities on a consistent basis.
  7. Does he take care of his
    responsibilities, including both personal and professional
    This is an obvious criterion
    for Team membership but deserves some extended attention. No one wants
    someone who is irresponsible on the Leadership Team; but if the candidate
    is actually irresponsible, he should not continue to be associated with
    the agency. Here, attention is on people who exhibit minor lapses or are
    not as responsible as they should be now and then. This includes both his
    professional and personal life. What he does on his own time matters and
    is the Leadership Team’s business. The team is limited to people who are
    responsible and who conduct themselves responsibly all the time,
    everywhere they are. A lesser criterion runs the risk the next small
    responsibility lapse or indiscretion will happen with a stakeholder or
    come to the attention of a stakeholder. Either way, it would represent a
    serious debit to the leadership account of the Team member and, by
    association, to the accounts of all Team members.
  8. Does he do what he agrees to
    Our assessment attention here is on important
    agreements and commitments but also on minor agreements and commitments.
    Team members are scrupulous about doing what they say they will do, with
    everyone, every time. The Leadership Team cannot afford to have any of its
    agreements or commitments disregarded or ignored, ever.

Does this mean a Team member is never unable to keep an
agreement or honor a commitment? Although always keeping agreements and
commitments is the goal, situations and circumstances infrequently preclude
keeping agreements or meeting commitments. When this happens, the Team member
lets the stakeholder know immediately, along with a sincere apology and an
explanation about why the stakeholder’s expectations are not being met. Also,
no matter how magnanimous the stakeholder is in accepting the apology and
explanation, it is still a significant debit from the Team member’s account
with the stakeholder. When assessing potential Team members, simply assume they
will not be any more responsible with stakeholders than they are with everyone

  1. Does he do things on time? This is a sub-element with being
    responsible but warrants specific attention. Stakeholders should and do
    expect things to happen when they expect them, when the Team member says
    they will happen, and so on. For the Team member, this means being sure he
    is where he is expected when he is expected. It means activities and
    events occur when they are scheduled to occur. It means stakeholders get
    information or feedback when they expect to get them. It also means phone
    calls or emails are returned the same day, every time. Time matters and being
    on time is essential. Any successful candidate for the Leadership Team
    takes being on time very seriously, with everything, with everyone, every
  2. Does he stay calm when he is
    dealing with important issues or having a serious conversation?
    This is especially important
    when dealing with difficult issues or when having conversations where
    emotions may run high. This does not mean Team members are emotionally
    flat or do not have strong feelings about some things now and then. In
    fact, a lack of observable feeling and emotion is easily mistaken for
    indifference and not caring. We are focusing here primarily on moderate to
    intense negative emotion, especially anger and frustration. Expressing
    anger and frustration directly with a stakeholder is most always
    counterproductive. The point sometimes missed is sharing angry feelings
    and frustrations about someone else with a stakeholder is also
    inappropriate and counterproductive, even if the stakeholder shares their
    similar feelings with the Team member. People who hope to join the
    Leadership Team must be skilled emotional Managers who have a demonstrated
    ability to stay calm under stressful circumstances and when people’s
    choices and behavior are quite contrary to their expectations and
    preferences. The best Team members are rarely to never overtly, negatively
    reactive to people and circumstances.
  3. Is he energetic and positive? This assessment criterion does
    not need much comment. People who seem tired, disinterested, and detached
    are not good Team members. People who are critical and negative are not
    good Team members. People whose energy and enthusiasm seem artificial or
    forced are also not good Team members. The need is for Team members who
    manage everything they do with an appropriate level of energy, engagement,
    interest, and positive demeanor. Assess candidates for the Leadership Team
    over time and in all areas of their work life. Assume if they occasionally
    seem tired, negative, and less than fully involved, they will occasionally
    behave the same way with stakeholders. This can quickly lead to debits in
    their leadership accounts with those stakeholders.
  4. Is he a hard worker? A reality understood but
    seldom acknowledged is if people associated with the agency were to only
    do what they are required to do and only do it when they are required to
    do it, few agencies would operate smoothly and none would excel. It takes
    the little extra from those people who go beyond what is required for the
    agency to run smoothly and especially for the agency to excel. These people
    are good candidates for the Leadership Team. If they also do what is
    required when it is required, keep their work current, and consistently
    meet all of the expectations for their positions, they meet the hard
    worker criterion referred to here.
  5. Does he make good choices? This assessment criterion
    applies to the work life of anyone who wants to join the Leadership Team
    but also extends to his personal life. If someone makes bad choices
    anywhere, he is more likely to make bad choices with stakeholders than
    someone who has no history of making bad choices. Additionally,
    stakeholders are more likely to learn about bad choices made by him than
    by others who have no record of bad choices. The connections with
    stakeholders enable those stakeholders to trust the judgments and choices
    made by Team members and any history of bad choices works against this
    outcome. Included here are choices affecting other people negatively,
    jeopardizing agency or service outcomes, or leading to private or public
    censure. Also, choices related to personal appearance, dress, choice of
    associates and activities and such are also considered. Be sure Leadership
    Team members consistently make choices and decisions in their professional
    and personal lives not reflecting negatively or adversely on the Team or
    on the agency.
  6. Is he accepting and tolerant
    with others?
    Any indication of overt
    prejudice, cultural insensitivity, sexist views, or other behavior
    suggesting a negative, indifferent, or superior orientation to any
    particular group of people are unacceptable. People with such tendencies
    and inclinations should not be associated with the agency in the first
    place. We may assume agency Management has already dealt with them and
    they are no longer with the agency. Our attention here is on more subtle
    issues. We can pick up on these issues by watching how an individual
    relates to and interacts with various groups of people. Does he (or she)
    interact differently with men and women, children and adults, young people
    and older people, agency clients and staff, people in Management and those
    who are not, and so on? Good candidates for the Leadership Team relate to
    and interact with everyone in very similar ways. There is no sign of
    non-acceptance or intolerance. They interact with and relate to people
    based on each person’s merits and not on his (or her) membership in a
    particular group, class, or status. – It is worth noting this level of
    non-judgmental behavior is considerably less common than one might expect.
  7. Is he assertive without being
    demanding, confrontational, or pushy?
    Leadership Team members are
    able to comfortably and clearly present agency interests and priorities,
    suggest ways in which stakeholders may support those priorities and
    interests, and convey their points of view to stakeholders. Additionally,
    they initiate contacts and interactions and actively pursue connections
    with stakeholders. They also are skilled in managing those times when they
    disagree with stakeholders, think stakeholders may be acting in ways
    contrary to agency interests, or have to take action not supporting
    stakeholders’ interests or priorities. There are also those times when
    stakeholders have to simply be told no. Diplomacy is fairly easy when
    everyone agrees and is headed in the same direction. When people disagree
    or are heading in divergent directions, maintaining leadership connections
    is much more challenging. Leadership Team members are skilled at managing
    these challenging times assertively while avoiding the natural tendency to
    become demanding, confrontational, pushy, or – what is just as bad – the
    tendency to avoid the people and situations all together.
  8. Is he considerate? Excluded here are people who
    are sycophantic or excessively deferential. They do not make good
    Leadership Team members. However, adjusting to or accommodating to the
    special situations, preferences, beliefs, values, or difficulties of
    people are to be expected with considerate people. There is nothing
    artificial or self-serving about their behavior. They are consistently and
    somewhat automatically considerate with everyone in most any situation.
    They are what we simply call genuinely nice people. Leadership Team
    membership is limited to genuinely nice people, people who seem to be
    naturally considerate.
  9. Is he dependable? The notion here is somewhat
    more complex than it may at first seem. It means Team members do what they
    are expected to do when they are expected to do it, are where they are
    expected to be when they are expected to be there, and produce the results
    they are expected to produce when they are expected to produce them.
    Beyond these important areas of dependability, successful candidates for
    the Leadership Team demonstrate additional areas of dependability. These
    areas are reflected in the questions in this assessment. Consider each
    question and ask if the Team can depend on the candidate to continue
    behaving and performing consistently with respect to the expectation
    suggested by the question. For example, can the Team depend on the
    candidate to continue treating everyone the way it wants agency
    stakeholders to be treated? Look at each assessment question and consider
    whether the candidate can sustain the expectation. Only those people who
    can be depended on to meet those expectations over the long term are good
    candidates for the Leadership Team.
  10. Is he a good listener? This question incorporates a
    notion a little beyond what may be obvious. Along with attentively hearing
    what is said, the Team member also asks appropriate questions and for
    necessary clarification so he understands what is being said. This
    understanding includes insight into the motivations and interests of the
    person talking. Once the Team member understands, he remembers what was
    said and takes appropriate action based on the communication. Taking
    appropriate action is, then, the evidence of having listened. The
    appropriate action might be a verbal response or some other action in the
    future. Whatever the action is, it lets the stakeholder and others know
    the Team member did indeed listen. People being seriously considered for
    the Team demonstrate good listening skills in all areas of their
    professional and personal lives.

A related point is important here. Along with accurately and
carefully listening, Team members have to also communicate accurately and carefully.
Is the candidate consistently understood correctly and completely or do people
occasionally misunderstand or misinterpret his (or her) meaning or intent? The
Leadership Team cannot afford to have its messages and intentions
misunderstood. The ability to communicate clearly and appropriately with
everyone with whom the candidate interacts is an essential prerequisite for
Team membership.

  1. Is he patient? We have all heard patience is
    a virtue; and from the Leadership Perspective, this aphorism is definitely
    true. Leadership connections do not develop quickly and usually not
    without a fair measure of ups-and-downs in the process. As the Leadership
    Team assesses people who may join the Team, the Team is patient, not
    rushing the selection process or shortcutting it. They also limit their
    selections to people who are patient – patient with them and patient with
    other people. Select people who will be patient with stakeholders, who are
    comfortable with leadership connections developing on stakeholder time.
  2. Does he understand and support
    the agency’s interests and priorities?
    It is not uncommon to talk
    with someone who has leadership responsibilities with an agency and hear
    him (or her) say he does not understand or agree with something the agency
    is doing or with some action the agency did or did not take. Through his
    behavior, he either explicitly or implicitly makes it clear he disapproves
    and perhaps thinks the agency’s choice was somewhere from ill-advised to
    stupid. Suffice it to note this is behavior never seen in successful
    Leadership Team members. There are appropriate opportunities within the
    agency to pursue such differences and disagreements, but sharing them with
    stakeholders and potential stakeholders – which includes almost everyone -
    is not appropriate. People who are being considered for Team membership
    are screened very carefully to be sure they do understand and support the
    agency’s interests and priorities. A mistake here can lead to the person’s
    doing more damage to the agency’s reputation than the Team can ever expect
    to fully repair.
  3. Is he someone who you want to
    be a primary agency representative?
    This is the bottom line. Will
    the person be invited to join the Leadership Team or not?
    As the
    decision is being made, understand this person will represent the agency,
    its staff, its clients, and everyone else associated with the agency.
    Stakeholders and others will fairly assume everyone associated with the
    agency is like this person, strengths, shortcomings, and all. As a Team
    member, are you comfortable with others judging you based on their
    perceptions of this person? If so and if he has done well with the other
    assessment questions, he will likely be a good Team member. If not, be
    slow to select this person even if he has done well with the other
    assessment questions. Just know the future success of the agency depends,
    in part, on getting this decision right.

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