This article was written by Mike Bloomberg.
Success doesn’t begin with strategic plans or policies. It begins with people – in both the public and private sectors.
Ever since FDR, reporters like to write stories about what a new president or governor or mayor got done during her or his first 100 days in office. I was no exception. Leading up to my 100th day, the press asked me: “What have you accomplished so far?” Most elected officials use it as an opportunity to release a laundry list of things that the media duly covers.
I had a different answer. I said, “We built a team.” Reporters replied, “Yeah, we know that. But what have you done?” And I said, “We built a team.”
They kept asking me the same question, and I kept giving the same answer. They couldn’t understand why I thought that was an accomplishment. But I knew from my time in business that the single most important element of success is assembling the strongest possible team: smart, driven, creative, and effective managers who are capable of building out their own strong teams.
The team we created during our first 100 days in office made possible all that we were able to accomplish over the following 12 years. Nothing was more important to our success.
The factors that bring great teams together also keep them together. Many of the people we recruited during our first 100 days in City Hall were still there on our last day in office, 12 years later. And at Bloomberg LP, one of the things I’m most proud of is our retention rate – because of what it says about our company. We award commemorative cubes when people reach 10, 20, even 30 years at the company, with each cube a different color. They’re a common sight around our offices, and we have a new list of recipients each week.
Our company has managed to grow and thrive through major changes in all the industries we work in – media, technology, and finance – because we have always invested in our employees, which helps us attract and retain great talent. We live in a world that is increasingly digital, but people are the most important element in any organization – and that will never change.
Strong teams stand up for each other and operate as one. Weak leadership leads to weak teams, high rates of turnover, rivalries, and chaos. That’s bad in business but even worse in government.
Great leaders understand that great achievements are never accomplished alone. They share credit when the team succeeds, and accept responsibility when things fall short. They get rid of I and Me and replace them with We and Us. They find the smartest people, and do whatever they can to hire them. You want the very best playing on your team. If not, they may wind up playing against you.
The truth is: Other than FDR, no one remembers what new executives get done during their first 100 days. I don’t expect the press to stop writing those stories. But leaders in every industry, especially government, should ignore the question and concentrate on the answer that matters most.
Building a strong team doesn’t guarantee success. But it gives you your best shot at it.