How To Build a Unique Capability Team

One of the best coaching programs I’ve ever been a part of was a three-year course taught up in Toronto, Ontario. Every three months I’d have to justify to the Canadian Border Patrol why I was heading into Canada for coaching and prove it wasn’t me actually doing the coaching! It was an intensive one-day class and, although sometimes it would make my head spin thinking about all the various holes I had to fix in my own business, there would always be one big takeaway from the day. It’s been a while now since I went to my last coaching class but I thought I’d share with you the single most valuable revelation I got from my time there. That one piece of knowledge has been a revelation to my business, and also to those of our clients. Are you curious to hear what was so groundbreaking and worth all those hours traveling north?

Here it is: “Grow your strengths and outsource your weaknesses.”

“Aha!” you’re probably thinking. “I already knew that.”

I thought I did, too. Turns out I didn’t fully understand the power that this statement contains.

First, it means you have to know your strengths. And then, just as importantly, you have to know the strengths of your various team members. And then, also, everyone’s weaknesses.

Every person possesses a unique capability. Some people love organizing. They are born organizers. Take my sister-in-law, for example. She is the most superior organizer I know — she is excellent at keeping a consistent schedule (and keeping others on it, too), and she’s a gifted long-term planner. She’s even got a detailed five-year plan for her family! In an office setting, she would be invaluable at project managing and ensuring everyone was doing what they should, when they should.

Other people are gifted with numbers. Give them an Excel spreadsheet and some data to crunch and they are as happy as a lark. Still others (like me) thrive on change. We’re always forging ahead and are never satisfied with the status quo, because we see the opportunities that others miss.

In a practice, like any business, all of these roles (and many others) are essential. However, if you take the number-crunchers and try to turn them into project managers, while they might be okay at that, they’ll never be stellar at it. It’s not their unique capability. But put them in charge of data analysis and they’ll pull reports and give you insights into your practice that you never knew existed. In other words, by trying to develop someone’s abilities outside their unique capabilities, all you’re doing is making them have stronger weaknesses. You’ll be frustrated because they’re not the project manager you need them to be. They’ll be unhappy because you’re asking them to work in a role they’re just not well-suited to. Productivity declines, stress increases and it’s not a good situation for anyone. But give them more of the work that they love — that they’re naturally good at — and they will shine.

Without realizing it, I learned this lesson the hard way many years ago.

When I graduated from law school, my first “real” job was working in the litigation department of a huge law firm in Melbourne, Australia. I was lucky enough to be accepted into this large firm and had pushed away my entrepreneurial tendencies and love of marketing to the point that I had convinced myself that being a lawyer and helping the “down-trodden” was going to be my way of helping the world.

My first day on the job, I was ushered to a windowless, airless 10x10-foot room filled with floor-to-ceiling stacks of files that it was my job to pour over, word by word, line by line, looking for “evidence”. I started working 70-hour weeks — I barely slept and was utterly and thoroughly miserable. By chance, I happened to attend a fundraising event that was held at one of Melbourne’s finest hotels. That evening, I met a number of extremely accomplished business people, one of whom was a senior vice president at a very well-known Australian company that happened to be embroiled in some tricky and complex legal matters. To cut a long story short, I ended up getting this company as a client for our law firm –the second-largest client our firm had ever worked with. I don’t tell you this story to brag but to illustrate a very important point: no matter how many legal cases I would have been involved in, the very best-case scenario is that I would have been only a very average lawyer (and certainly an unhappy one). But if that firm had allowed me to work in my unique capability — marketing and rainmaking — I would have made them a great deal more money.

At the risk of sounding somewhat self-serving, I am constantly amazed at the number of extremely accomplished physicians who continue to struggle with their marketing. If you’re trying to do your marketing yourself, ask yourself this simple question: is this my or my team’s unique capability? Is it my unique capability and passion? If it is — great! Become a voracious learner of all things marketing and invest in ongoing marketing coaching and education for your team. But if it isn’t, then please do justice to all the many hard years of training and education you have invested to become a great physician, and consider outsourcing your marketing to an agency that is every bit as passionate about marketing as you are about aesthetic medicine.