My daughter and I have been traveling across the country to visit her three top choice colleges so she can choose where she wants to go this fall.
Since she’s a basketball player, we’ve been meeting with the basketball coaches at each school. One of them talked about what he looks for when he’s bringing in new players.
As he spoke, it struck me that his thought process in selecting new players was consistent with my process in selecting new team members, albeit with slightly different vocabulary.
Here are Coach Gould’s three questions concerning new players, and some observations from a job hiring perspective:
1. Is she tough?
The coach wanted to know if my daughter would cry or whine when things got tough in practice or if the other team was frustrating her in a game. (Of course not – my daughter is tough as nails and I’d like to think she takes after me, but in this case it’s probably my husband).
Similarly, as an employer, I would want to know that a new team member could persist in the face of headwinds and pull their own weight when the going gets tough. In effect, I’d want them to be resilient, and have the ability to bounce back – if not bounce forward – from setbacks.
Another aspect of toughness is whether or not a new team member is fragile and therefore likely to be “hard work” from a management perspective. Will they need lots of TLC (tender loving care) or as my friend and colleague Catherine says, will the person need a lot of “couch time”?
2. Is she smart?
Coach Gould looks for players who are smart about the game of basketball – people who can see the whole court, anticipate and make things happen. (Again, my daughter has this ability, and it definitely comes from my husband.)
For me, it’s about whether someone is able to see the big picture, handle ambiguity and navigate through complex situations without me having to list out every step. Are they independent thinkers? Are they resourceful in getting things done while working with others? Are they “street smart” and not just academically smart?
3. Does she have at least one skill that could help the team win?
Coach wants each player to bring something valuable to the table from the outset, and expects them to know and articulate what that is. Then each player comes in from a position of strength and the task is to build the team up to be greater than the sum of the parts. (My daughter’s strength is that she’s a good shooter. This one comes from her work ethic – she’s put in more than her 10,000 hours.)
For me, every team member has some unique strength that they bring, and the more they are in touch with and able to leverage this capability, the better our results will be as a group.
It’s also important that these skills are complementary across the team. As I like to say, when you’re forming a superhero team (think Avengers, Fantastic Four), it’s pointless to have four Superman types – a little Kryptonite and you’re finished!
While most teams in the working world aren’t using physical skills to win sports matches, the similarities between the two worlds are significant. Both value people who are mentally tough, able to see the big picture, and in possession of unique talents that we can mold into a high performing team that produces great results.
So, what do you look for in your team members? And as a team member, what do you uniquely bring that contributes to the team’s success?