Like everyone else I’m still feeling a little hungover after the US Presidential vote. We are starting a new and unpredictable era straight in the face and we need to come to grips with it. It got me thinking about leadership and the team every great leader needs to be successful. This said, like a great post by Sir Richard Branson recently, I do not want the focus of this article to be the rights and wrongs, the good and bad of the President-elect, nor his complete lack of plans and policy. I write this knowing it will likely never be read by The Donald. But if he happens to, or any other leader happens to, I want them to take something away about the team they surround themselves with, and how that in turn will influence those they serve.

A little more two years ago, I became the owner of my own company when I bought in as a partner to a great and established firm. Part of what I joined was an excellent, established team. The people that were here are still here and doing great work. When I was made Managing Partner sometime later, I got to work even more closely with them on a one-on-one basis and learn what they really wanted from this company as well as what more they could offer. Lessons learned: know the team you inherit; know their strengths; put them in positions to capitalize on those strengths and help them truly enjoy what they do in ways they perhaps hadn’t previously. Do these things and your end client will feel the pride each of these people has for the company and for the work they do.

As I began to look deeper into our company and business, it became clear that we really needed to bring in some good young talent to complement the skill sets we already had. I was able to attract a few people with very different personalities and skills that made the team even stronger. The first thing these young talents reminded me to do was to listen. Lessons learned: listen to understand; listen to learn; do not listen merely to give an answer. Steve Jobs once said “we don’t hire smart people to tell them what to do; we hire them to tell us what to do.” Learn to listen to your people and they will often tell you what your clients need and want and how you can best provide it. That is the most important outcome of all.

As the business began to come into focus, I realized it was too much for me to handle alone. I had never done this before (sound familiar Donald?)! My next steps were to find and hire the best business coaches I could. These guys were going to ask me the tough questions and allow me to realize the potential in front of me. I lucked into a brilliant dad that had decades in the same industry, a business and brand coach that has changed our team model in ways I could not see at the time, and an MGA executive that gave insights that allowed me to push this business to be leading edge and not merely follow the stodgy trend this industry is known for. Lesson learned: surround yourself with advisors that will push you and the business to new heights and give candid and impartial feedback. It is easy to get lost in the everyday of your company. These advisors will shine lights into the dark corners and illuminate the path forward so that you can better serve your people.

Lastly, make sure none of your team members are “yes people”, team members that just agree and never push what they believe to be right. Members of my extended advisory team are my buddies. Guys that as Robin Williams character ‘Sean’ says in Good Will Hunting “will lay down in traffic for you.” These are people I can trust implicitly but they are also the first people to tell me I am an idiot when I am (and they do often!). Lesson learned; your team needs to tell you when you’re wrong, and you need to provide them with the environment and opportunity to do so.

In conclusion, to President-elect Trump, to any leader, keep some of the established team together. There is value there whether you like them or not. Hire people with differing opinions and listen to them. Surround yourself with the best advisors you can and listen to them too. Make certain all of these people connect you to your customers and allow them to tell you what you need to know. You don’t always have to agree, but you do need to listen and learn. Do this and you give your team, business, and maybe even your country the best opportunity, to not just succeed, but to thrive and move from “good to great.”