Picking the Right Teammate: Use all the bats in your hiring equipment bag

Published On
Apr 15, 2021

In the increasingly competitive process of hiring good employees, we need to use every tool available. In many cases, people rely on their instinct. I, too, have used this mindset in some hiring decisions. While some were home runs, there were also a few strikeouts.

In Patrick Lencioni’s book “The Ideal Team Player,” he describes the three virtues of that person. The book is written as a fable of a young executive from Silicon Valley who goes to work in his uncle’s construction business. Early on, the executive identifies a disconnect between the uncle’s desire for strong teamwork and the firm’s reality. The strong team members are described as passionate about their work, going beyond the call of duty and willing to put the team before their individual success.

Simply put, Lencioni describes the ideal team player as humble, hungry and smart. Humble, those who focus on the good of the whole, keep their ego in check and value the strengths and skills others on the team have. Hungry means seeking the opportunity to do, learn and provide more value to the team. Smart entails having a good sense about people, listening and knowing how and when to respond to get the most out of others. As a manager, I like to take the smart virtue one step further and ask, “Does the employee have the ability to learn what they need to be successful in their role? What is their capacity to gain and improve to the necessary levels in the future?”

Think of these virtues as the legs of a stool. When all three legs are equal, they provide balance and stability. The ideal team player needs to have a balance of being humble, hungry and smart. How do managers ensure they are hiring the right individuals?

Think back to the last employee you hired. How do they encompass the characteristics of Lencioni’s ideal team player? Beyond your gut, how do you determine they are the right fit for the company in the short time you have with them?

First, look at what a right fit means. Often, when employees do not cut it, this is the result of a bad cultural fit. They may be a superstar in their ability to do their job, but if they do not fit with the company’s culture, there arises a disconnect. From my experience, this is most commonly related to the individual’s values not aligning with the company’s.

For some managers, culture is not on their radar when hiring. They have an urgent need to fill a position and want to hire someone who has the skills and ability to hit the ground running and be productive on day one. What happens when we are so eager to fill this role that we miss the cues of a bad cultural fit? The new employee may be doing well, but at what cost to the rest of the organization? On the other hand, what if we find a great person who shares similar values as the company and is also humble, hungry and smart? They want to do what is right for the team, share success with others and gain the skills and knowledge to be successful. You’re probably asking if such a unicorn exists.

How can you make better hiring decisions? I like to coach clients on hiring for cultural fit first and knowledge, skills and abilities second. This approach helps ensure that when we invest in a new employee, there is a greater likelihood they will stick around for the long term. Personally, I have not found a better way to judge cultural fit than using my gut. As for the second part, a formal whole-person assessment can be valuable.

A quick online search of employee assessments returns hundreds of results. However, these assessments are not equally good. After extensive research, as well as trial and error, I have found an excellent assessment that closely aligns with an ideal team player’s three virtues.

The assessment is the “Profile XT” from Profiles Inc., and is broken into three parts that provide data about the candidate: thinking style, behavioral traits and occupational interest. The thinking style measures how someone processes and communicates information, or the smart virtue. Behavioral traits measure how a person acts. Can they be a humble team player? Lastly, it measures their occupational interests. Are they hungry to do what it takes to be successful? For example, you may find a candidate who is number-smart but does not have the interest to be a numbers person (hungry). They probably are not the best candidate for an accounting or estimating position.

Of course, I’m not saying the hiring choice should be based solely on a formal assessment. However, having more tools at our disposal and using concrete data helps you make a more informed hiring decision.

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