I thought I would start out today’s post with a flawed title right from the start.  Everyone always wants to hire, train and retain the perfect team member.  Over the past month I have started to shift my focus from perfection to optimal.  I think that always expecting perfection is one of my down falls as a leader.  It is good to have high standards and look for all of our systems and procedures to be followed but expecting it to be perfect all of the time only leads to frustration.  Given the situation I have been refocusing to look at what is the optimal outcome.  Given the team member and the situation what could the best result be?  Keeping in mind that, we also need to teach and coach team members how to reach the next stage of “optimal” along the way.  The same situation will have different outcomes based on which team member is involved.  We should know what ideal is and then see how close optimal can get us. 

  • The first step in having great team members is to hire better.  The one simple hiring tip that has helped me tremendously over the past year has been learning about confirmation bias.  If we go into an interview hoping to hire someone or hoping they will be a good fit, our mind will pick out any little comment and tell us that would make them a good fit for our team.  You have to go into each interview with the mindset that you do not want to hire someone.  This will train your mind to pick up on subtle clues that will put up a red flag and give you a reason why not to hire someone.  As always, if it isn’t a hell yes, then it should be a no. 
  • Be it the interview process or even current team members looking to move forward in our company, there are 3 keys qualities that are outlined in the book “The Ideal Team Player” written by Patrick Lencioni that I think are key to creating a great team culture.
  • #1: Hungry.  Hungry is a quality that cannot be taught.  People either have it or they don’t.  When you talk to someone, you should be able to see the fire in their eyes and their desire to achieve something.  How many times have we said that someone could be a great team member if they could only have the drive to achieve at a high level every day.  We keep waiting for them to “grow up” or “take it seriously” but they never do.  I know that I have spent a lot time and effort over the years hoping that something would click in certain people but over and over again, it just doesn’t.  Hungry people can act without being asked. 
  • #2: Humble.  Humble is more about putting others first.  When they work are they helping others out and always looking for a way to jump in and help.  Humble people are not above doing the little things needed to get the job done.  Humble people never say, “it isn’t my job.”  Humble does not mean weak; humble people are still confident and direct.  Humble people can coach others without causing a feeling of resentment or an “I told you so” attitude.  A humble people is willing to be accountable and ask others for feedback to get better.   
  • #3: Smart.  Smart does not refer to book smart, it refers to people smart.  In business this is also known as someone’s EQ or emotional intelligence.  Smart refers to how well they get along with others.  Does this person have conflict with others or can they work in any situation?  You don’t have to get along with everyone that you work with, but you must be able to unite for the common goal / mission to get the job done.  Smart people are able to get the best out of other team members. 
  • The author talks about how the Ideal Team Player should have all 3 of these qualities.  His belief is that the only one that we can teach or develop is humble.  If you find someone with the other two qualities, you can usually help them become more humble with one on one coaching in certain situations.  For myself this has been an area of focus over the past year.  One of my big weaknesses is that I have a tendency to cut others off and not let them finish their thoughts.  I have tried to become more conscious of this and taking even 1 step further I have been trying to make a point of asking a follow up question to help validate the other person’s statement as well. 
  • As I was listening to an interview with Dave Ramsey the other day, he said that you shouldn’t have anyone working on your team that you wouldn’t hire again.  He said that the first time he heard this quote he went and let someone go the very next day.  He didn’t even have an exact reason but he knew that he wouldn’t rehire that team member.  Not saying that we should all go and let our team members go tomorrow but we should be on the look out for people that we know are not a good fit.  We need to spend some extra time coaching these team members and making our expectations clear.  If we can repeatedly make our expectations clear eventually someone will either get better or leave as they get tired of being told the same thing over and over again. 
  • This is another good opportunity for a life raft exercise.  List every team member and manager and rate them in the above three areas: hungry, humble and smart.  Where do they land?  Have you identified someone that we need to coach up or have we found a diamond in the rough that has a ton of potential?  This is a very interesting lens through which we can view both our team and ourselves.   

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