In a 2008 BusinessWeek study, 82% of respondents reported that they needed to partner with others throughout the day to get their work done. In other words, collaboration and teamwork are necessary for most workers to be effective as individuals--and teamwork is most certainly necessary for your company to function well as a whole.
After improving the quality of your team and your own ability to be a team player, you have to make sure you continue to recruit collaborative, effective individuals as your company moves forward. As major league baseball manager Casey Stengel once said, “Finding good players is easy. Getting them to play as a team is another story.” In other words, new hires can’t just be talented--they have to know how to work well with others, too. In order to find great team players, you need to learn how to spot them during the hiring process.
Keep Your Eyes Open
...even outside of your normal hiring process. Not everyone who walks into your door or turns in their application is going to be a great team player. When you’re at networking events, conferences, or other professional gatherings, there’s nothing to stop you from scouting talent. You have to know what you’re looking for, however: what does a team player mean to you? What kind of person would work well with the current people on your team and your workflow? You have to define these ideas for yourself. If you need a starting point, here is the definition Eric Herrenkohl, author of How to Hire A Players, gives for a team player in his book: “An A-player is an employee who creates superior results compared to the vast majority of other people who hold the same position in your industry.”
Interviews are the easiest way to spot a team player because you get face time and on-the-spot answers. You can also informally interview people outside of the recruiting process (remember, keep your eyes open!). Good interview questions to gauge team experience and mindset include:
- What does it mean to be a good team player?
- Do you work better on a team or by yourself?
- Tell me about a team project and your contribution.
- Is it possible to disagree with your manager or fellow teammates and still work collaboratively?
You want someone who believes they are a team player and can explain how they’ve contributed to teams in the past. The interviewee should be able to articulate how they communicate with others and how their own methods work. When assessing your interviewee’s responses, note how often they use “I” vs “We” and how that affects the ownership and responsibility of their statements.
Have a Clear Purpose
...and make sure your new hire really understands and shares that purpose. Successful teams have clear performance objectives and a team-based strategy. It’s okay for your newest hire to have unique ideas and future ambitions, but they need to be a) happy to perform and work with their current team and b) “with the program,” so to speak. Their current team and purpose can’t be viewed as a stepping stone; it deserves weight and commitment.
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