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Advice From A CEO On Building A Great Team — And Your Career

June 9, 2017

Building a team and your career

Bring together a team of people with diverse skills, give them a sharp goal, and the outcome can be “extraordinary.” That has been the experience of Sarah Robb O’Hagan, CEO of indoor cycling company Flywheel Sports and former president at Gatorade and Equinox.

Robb O’Hagan spoke with Edgewise, AMA’s podcast series, about building a team and pursuing your own career success. In addition to her roles at Gatorade and Equinox, she has held management positions at Nike and Virgin Atlantic Airways. She also is the author of Extreme You: Step Up. Stand Out. Kick Ass. Repeat. (Harper Business, 2017).

The pursuit of team and individual success

Here are a few lessons Robb O’Hagan offers from her leadership experiences:

Give people with complementary skills a common mission. Robb O’Hagan has seen that many great brands have “a sharp, focused goal and a very broad collection of people running after it.” In fact, some of the best members of a team are not well-rounded, but rather “spikey individuals” who have strengths and passions in certain areas. These people often are innovators, buy they must be partnered with others who have complementary skills.

“What I’ve really understood as I’ve gone through this process is that the best teams are made up of a collection of quite different skills,” she said. “They understand their strengths, but they’re very aware of their weaknesses, so as to partner with people that can come together and make a real difference.”

Recognize what the boss really wants. Fear may cause people to become risk-averse and stick to doing “what they’re told.” But in Robb O’Hagan’s experience, what the boss wants is for you to drive results—even if that means doing things differently from what is expected.

She looks for people who will offer new thinking, challenge her, and move the company forward. If you want to take a big risk in a risk-averse culture, she said, “you just have to explain as you’re going what you are achieving and why it’s going to get there.”

“Get out of line.” Robb O’Hagan advises Millennials to forge their own career paths. People who create opportunity for the team and the business—who “get out of line,” as she puts it—will be recognized and move forward.

Take risks to learn and grow in your career. You’ll achieve more personal growth by taking a risk—even if you fail—than by “staying in the middle of the road,” she said. Robb O’Hagan was fired twice in her twenties and credits those failures with helping her to grow.

To young women in business, she offers this advice: Go forward as if there are no barriers and be the best that you can be. “I personally have never thought about myself as trying to be the best woman executive,” she said. “I’m trying to be the best executive.”

Listen to the full podcast with Sarah Robb O’Hagan.

For insights on a variety of business topics, visit AMA’s archive of Edgewise podcasts.

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About The Author

American Management Association is a world leader in professional development, advancing the skills of individuals to drive business success. AMA’s approach to improving performance combines experiential learning—“learning through doing”—with opportunities for ongoing professional growth at every step of one’s career journey. AMA supports the goals of individuals and organizations through a complete range of products and services, including seminars, Webcasts and podcasts, conferences, corporate and government solutions, business books and research.

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