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Brain circuits

How to pick an A-team

Published 30 March 2022 in Brain circuits • 2 min read

You’ve just taken the helm of your company – now what? The first thing you need to do is assemble the top team and do it fast. You need to ask yourself seven critical questions to get this right:

  1. Are they outstanding representatives of their functions? Whether it is marketing or operations or finance or government relations, you need people who are accomplished and respected experts in their chosen disciplines.
  1. Do they have the right values? It matters little how able someone is if they can’t be trusted to do what’s right for the organization.
  1. Can they balance their functional orientation with what’s good for the business as a whole? Your top team has to understand and support the overall strategy and vision and be willing to disappoint their people sometimes in the name of pursuing the greater good.
  1. Do they really want to be here? After all, capability matters little without passion for the business and drive to achieve excellence.
  1. Are they effective leaders? As you move to drive alignment and engagement down through the business, you need people who can communicate with and motivate their people to go the extra mile.
  1. Are they able to function as members of the team? It matters little how effective they are in their narrow functional roles if they leave a trail of dissension and dead bodies in their wake.
  1. What roles will they play? Given the work the team needs to undertake and the roles you prefer to play, who are your natural complements?


Michael Watkins - IMD Professor

Michael D. Watkins

Professor of Leadership and Organizational Change at IMD

Michael D Watkins is author of The First 90 Days, Master Your Next Move, Predictable Surprises, and 11 other books on leadership and negotiation. A Thinkers 50-ranked management influencer and recognized expert in his field, his work features in HBR Guides and HBR’s 10 Must Reads on leadership, teams, strategic initiatives, and new managers. He taught at Harvard, where he gained his PhD in decision sciences, and INSEAD before joining IMD, where he directs The First 90 Days and Transition to Business Leadership programs.


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