The Problem With Hiring Team Players

Every company seeks team players, but do you know how to identify the right one for your team? Learn about the five distinct types of team players and find out which one your team truly needs.

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Jun 4, 2024

Every company wants to hire team players. That sounds good at first glance, but if you investigate a little deeper, you uncover a problem: clearly and specifically defining the term Team Player.

Imagine a software development team struggling with the final stages of a project due to recurring bugs and performance issues. The team is under tight deadlines to deliver a highly anticipated product update, but the quality is currently not meeting the standards expected by stakeholders.

Consider a marketing team at a well-established consumer goods company struggling to gain traction in a newly emerging market segment. Traditional marketing strategies have failed to resonate with this younger, more dynamic audience, so fresh and unconventional ideas are needed.

Or, picture an event management company facing significant challenges while preparing for a large-scale international conference. The planning process has been chaotic, leading to missed deadlines and frustrated stakeholders.

Each situation needs a team player, but a radically different type of team player. The first scenario calls for someone focused on precise and meticulous execution, the second for an out-of-the-box thinker, and the third for a structured and systematic planner.

We know from the test “What Type Of Team Player Are You?” that people typically fulfill one of five roles when working on teams. Here are the five types:

  • The Achiever is driven to accomplish tasks precisely and strives for perfection in their work. They excel in environments with clear goals and performance metrics, contributing through detailed, meticulous execution. However, they may struggle in ambiguous settings or where quality is compromised, as they rely on defined objectives and high standards.
  • The Trailblazer brings innovation and creativity to a team, often challenging conventional approaches and spearheading new solutions. They thrive in dynamic, change-oriented environments where their creativity can flourish. Conversely, they may find their creativity stifled in rigid settings or struggle with tasks that require detailed precision, preferring to focus on big-picture ideas.
  • The Harmonizer fosters teamwork and collaboration, often acting as a mediator in conflicts. They are most effective in roles that require strong interpersonal skills and a focus on building relationships. However, competitive or highly analytical settings may challenge them as they prioritize harmony and consensus over individual achievement.
  • The Director provides decisive leadership, setting clear goals and aligning the team with a strategic vision. They excel in roles requiring strong direction and decision-making, such as project management. However, they may struggle in environments that favor flat structures and collaborative decision-making or where flexibility and adaptability are required.
  • The Stabilizer ensures that teams adhere to processes and meet deadlines through meticulous planning and organization. They shine in roles that demand strict adherence to schedules and quality standards. However, in dynamic environments requiring quick adaptation and less structured approaches, the Stabilizer might find adjusting difficult, preferring predictability and detailed planning.

The best teams are balanced, containing representatives from all five roles. A team filled with only Trailblazers will have many brilliant ideas, but that group is unlikely to hit many deadlines. A group of nobody but Stabilizers will be swimming in detailed roadmaps and project plans, but will they deliver anything of substance? And it’s easy to imagine the pain of being on a team comprised exclusively of Directors and the unceasing battles for control.

The point is that in any high-functioning group, you’ll find a mix of roles. And the people in those roles are, in their unique ways, team players. The cliched team player—agreeable, collaborative, friendly—is not the missing piece for all teams. It’s easy to imagine a team in need of a hard-nosed decision-maker or someone willing to upend the status quo, and both of those people would count as team players.

So when you’re hiring for a team player, make sure you’re clear what team player really means. It’s fine if you need to hire someone who can unruffle feathers, but on teams in the real world, it’s every bit as likely that you actually need someone to ruffle them.

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