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Sep 1, 2020

When you think about “team building,” what comes to mind? Escape rooms, bowling, happy hours, cheesy icebreakers? But, what do those activities actually help us “build?” It sounds like they don’t help us build anything, but instead help us develop existing teams. 

So right now, forget everything you know about team building. Let’s instead talk about literally building a team. 

If you played a sport or were in a band (like I was), you know the importance of getting the team composition right. You can’t have too many flutes or not enough tubas. You most definitely can’t have more than one lead conductor. You need the right mix or the entire band is off. 

The same goes for our organizations. 

Much of recruiting focuses on an individual’s ability to perform a specific job. However, as The Altman Companies’ HR Generalist Georgette Cartegenia puts it, “A team is a group of people brought together by a common purpose working towards an outcome.” Shouldn’t that mean we focus on people who complete the team over people who can do a specific task? 

Moreover, unless you’re one week into middle-school band, most of the time you won’t be building a team from scratch. That makes focusing on team development significantly more important. When you know which skills, experiences, strengths, and weaknesses your team already has, you can find a candidate who completes your team by adding the right new skills and experiences. 

Building The Team

Instead of hiring the best people for jobs, imagine how much more successful and productive our organizations could be if we hired the best people for teams? Put otherwise, what if the best person for a job is the one who could best enhance a team?

Because everything should start at the top, let’s take a look at what our teams need from their leader.

Team Leaders

Companies spend $366B a year in leadership training, and still the single greatest reason people voluntarily leave their job is because of a bad boss. That might be because leadership development trains leaders how to manage people without enough emphasis on preferences of those being managed. The best leaders understand that teams need diversity, and they know how to bring out the best energy in different kinds of people.

Other important skills for leaders include the ability to set the direction for the team or company, communicate the vision and common goal, delegate tasks and set goals for each individual, help team members get the resources they need to do their job, and hold people accountable.

Planners, Doers, Creatives

When hiring for teams, it’s important to understand that every team needs planners, doers, and creatives. 

Planners should be really good at taking the company or team vision, goals, and direction and mapping those out into the basic project management premises of who, what, when, where, why, and how much. They need to be able to turn goals into action plans. And they need to have the ability to designate, communicate, and measure those deliverables.

At some point, the planning phase must come to an end and people must start doing. Doers get stuff done. They should be detail-oriented and be able to take direction well. Counter to workplace norms, doers should not be considered junior-level roles. Not all junior people are great doers and not all experienced people are planners.

That said, doers exist in every line of work, including recruiting, nursing, marketing, and even highly technical positions like accountants, web developers, and scientists. All doers should possess the know-how to accomplish work regardless of experience. 

Teams also need creatives. A lot of people think of creatives as unpredictable, difficult to manage, or even sometimes flat out a**holes. They are also often labeled “disagreeable,” which sounds negative but is exactly the reason most teams need creatives. They are problem identifiers and solvers. The best recruiters and managers know that most management styles don’t work with creative people because they don’t believe in or abide by most social norms. As leadership authority Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic points out in Fast Company

“One solution is to pair up a creative team member with a conscientious, organized, predictable person who’s well-suited for project management and execution. Indeed, teamwork is often the best way to overcome the downsides to certain personality types, creatives included.”

People People and Technical People 

Beyond planning, doing, and creating, most teams need people who can get up in front of others and speak. It could be for company training, a room of prospective buyers, or even simply sharing with leadership all the great work the team has done. 

Many teams also need someone who is highly technical, who can collect, review, slice and dice data, or analyze a budget.  

Not everyone is comfortable with public speaking or data collection and analysis. That’s why pairing people with opposing skillsets makes all the difference. 

Next Person Up

An often-overlooked part of the team is what Director of Talent Acquisition at RadNet Jeffrey Shapiro calls “next person up.” Like in a sports team, Shapiro explains, teams need people who can be available to pick up the slack just in case. Considering how many organizations recently came to a complete halt as a result of the pandemic, many teams are now realizing just how lacking they were in the “next person up” department.  

The Benefits of Team-Based Hiring

Today, many TA processes focus on finding someone who can fit in with the current team. Doesn’t that totally miss the point of hiring someone new? We shouldn’t want people who fit in. We need people who add different skills to change the team for the better. So during interviews. It’s important to ask people questions about their strengths, weaknesses, behaviors, and motivations in the context of teamwork. Rather than continue to myopically focus on individualism, talk to candidates about their experience as team members.

Additionally, one of the biggest anti-diversity arguments is that companies will hire people from underrepresented groups instead of picking the best person for the job. But again the argument doesn’t hold water if we view the best person for the job as someone who enhances the diversity of a team. In other words, being fit for a job and ensuring diversity are not mutually exclusive. 

As talent acquisition consultant Adam Rosenfield says, “Recruiters need to become more intentional. If you have the wrong mix of people, your team is not going to work. Just like when you’re building a sandcastle, you need to fortify the walls before building the ceiling.”

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