John’s Recipe for Building a Successful Team

Conscious Capitalism & Leadership

John’s Recipe for Building a Successful Team

Jun 15, 2023

As leaders, we truly are only as good as our teams. Entrepreneurs and CEOs are often credited with all the success when building great companies or fostering revolutionary breakthroughs. In reality, all successful businesses have an amazing, talented team working alongside the leader.

A good team complements a leader’s strengths and compensates for their weaknesses. Personally, I am not always the most detail-oriented person. I am a big-picture thinker focused on vision and innovation. I am sometimes guilty of overlooking the little things, which can have great consequences. At Whole Foods, I made sure to surround myself with a team of individuals with diverse strengths and styles of thinking who I could trust to pay attention to those details when operationalizing a plan for the business.

Once you develop a strong team, it takes ongoing work on behalf of the leader to keep it that way. Maintaining a healthy team is an infinite game, which is why it’s so important that leaders are willing to constantly invest in and evolve their team. It takes genuine care and engagement as well as an ability to see all of the dynamic forces at play within the team and the larger organization. A conscious leader must make sure that growth, positivity, synergy, and expansion are prioritized, even in stressful situations. Creating a culture where a team can develop and thrive is the key to how organizations and their leaders will achieve optimum success! I have always strived to make this a priority at Whole Foods, and I’m doing the same in my new business venture, Love.Life.

But how does a leader cultivate a culture of growth and attract a team of talented individuals? Here are four rules that I follow when creating a team:

1. Lead By Example

Leading by example is one of the most important things you can do as a leader. As the saying goes: people pay a lot more attention to what we do than what we say. Leaders are role models and are constantly observed by their team. This means that a leader’s integrity, character, sense of purpose, and capacity to lead with love directly impacts the team dynamic for better or worse. Trust is earned – which is why it’s so important for leaders to practice what they preach. Lack of trust in a relationship between leaders and their team undermines transparency and open and honest communication, which impacts productivity and the overall health of a team. As a leader, make sure you’re authentically leading in a way that you want others to model because people are always watching.

2. Balance External and Internal Hiring

It is essential to create the right ratio of internal to external talent. Promoting internally is great because you already know the individual’s quality of work and they already are a good cultural fit with the organization. At Whole Foods, we had many thousands of individuals working for the company for decades! As amazing as it is to promote internally, it is also important to recruit external talent. Someone from outside the organization can offer new insights, innovative ideas, and creativity. Without a balance of internal and external talent, you’re operating in an echo chamber and the organization can risk becoming complacent and stagnant.  

3. Prioritize Culture, Emotional Intelligence, and Integrity

I don’t care how smart or accomplished someone is in their specific field – the person will likely never be successful in the long term if he/she doesn’t fit well with the organization’s culture. The barriers someone will encounter will make it very difficult to establish relationships, build trust, and effect change within the organization without an authentic cultural connection. There are many things I evaluate when hiring, but two things at the top of my list are emotional intelligence (EQ) and integrity. It goes without saying that it’s important to have super smart people working at your company, but IQ should always be viewed alongside EQ. This is especially important for leadership positions. Integrity is also a critical aspect of someone’s character that must be considered when hiring. Be very mindful of how these things work together within your company’s culture and the consequences of overlooking them when you hire new talent.

4. Build Community

It is no secret that humans thrive in a community. Creating real forms of community within your organization is important because it creates a sense of belonging. People want to feel cared for and want to care for others. Workplace culture is a great way to create a sense of community and establish trust throughout the organization. This can be carried out by creating collective organizational values, providing opportunities for growth and personal development, and organizing companywide events such as friendly sports competitions, team lunches, or team volunteer opportunities. One of my favorites recently has been team pickleball tournaments!

I personally believe that physically being together in an office is critical for a healthy culture, and I worry about how a strong community can be established in a post-Covid business world centered on remote work. If you’d like to hear more of my thoughts on this topic, click here.