Stop hiring for roles; start hiring for teams

Performance is a team sport

According to a nineteen-country ADPRI study of 19,000 individuals, most work — in every industry, in every region of the world, and at every level in an organization — is actually teamwork; 83% of workers say they do most of their work in teams.

The quality of your team experience is the quality of your work experience. You have responsibilities that are connected to other people’s responsibilities; you have strengths that complement others’; a strong team has each other’s backs, keep each other’s confidences, offer supportive reactions to work product and team dynamics, chip in when necessary, and help you get unstuck.

To feel like you’re a part of a team depends on whether your team leader and your teammates show up every day, talk to you, care about and support you. Your experience of your team drives how productive and happy you are, how creative, innovative, and resilient you are and, often, how long you choose to stay with your company.

In other words, performance is a team sport.

However, when we hire, we focus mostly on the individual person and role; the tens of bullets required to “do the job”. We rarely look for fit: fit into the team and company cultures which can, on occasion, have differences and/or emphases. We rarely look for the missing skills, knowledge and/or abilities to round out the team or provide overlap in key areas to ensure continuity and consistency.

We believe that it is vital to always hire “A” players but often neglect the need for cognitive diversity to approach or reach an optimal team output. In his book, The Diversity Bonus, Scott Page shows us through many stories and examples that focusing on just hiring the best people and ignoring other key factors often, inadvertently and counter intuitively, generates sub optimal results.


The IMF primarily employs economists. These economists are highly capable with a range of analytic tools. They know development economics (D), econometrics (E), game theory (G), and political economy (P). However, many economists may lack knowledge of cultural anthropology (CA) and social psychology (SP) which are key to having a holistic environmental perspective and more fully solve the problem.  It is clear that the tools of economists perform better, on average, for the problems the IMF confronts than do the tools of cultural anthropologists and social psychologists.  By the IMF’s standards, people trained in these disciplines (CA or SP) possess less ability.

Nevertheless, cultural anthropologists and social psychologists add value when the economists get stuck, that is, on difficult problems that require cognitive and cultural knowledge and experience. So while the IMF wants high-ability people, they also want diversity, so they do not just hire economists. If the IMF hired by ability only, its staff would consist only of economists.

The bottom line of this research is that we are likely hiring incorrectly but with good intentions. Here is my bulleted synopsis:

  • Most key outputs for any organization relies heavily on teams
  • Most key outputs require depth and variety of ideas. This need will only increase over time
  • In order to create an environment of deep and various ideas, teams with optimal cognitive diversity will be paramount
  • Richness of experience combining multicultural experiences with optimal skills abilities and knowledge will greatly enhance the depth and variety of ideas.
  • Those organizations with the optimal process to generate the best Ideas the fastest will flourish

My recommendations to begin to address this complex hiring problem is to start simple:

  1. Identify the key functions in the organization that generate business and the key functions that support them. 
  2. Identify the key sub-functions for each of these key functions 
  3. Do this until you reach the most fundamental key sub-functions. Apply Einstein’s guidance of “simple but no simpler”
  4. For each of these identified functions and sub functions, determine the key skills, knowledge and abilities as well ask the key inputs and outputs for each.
  5. Use these guidelines in your hiring process.

Illustrative examples can be found here – Look for Part 1 – Performance is a Team Sport, #s 3,4 & 5 – Key Process Flow Maps.

I also recommending using a tool like Predictive Index or DiSC to help in the psychometric portion of the process and the 3X5 coach to provide guidance on the output portion.  For further information on these and other tools and evidence-based suggestions, please feel free to contact me or pick up my book Further, Faster for this and the supporting tenets to help you take the guesswork out of growth.

Be Exceptional!

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Bill – Multi-certified Growth Coach, Foundations in NeuroLeadership certified with Distinction, Predictive Index Certified Partner

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Please click here to order a copy of my upcoming book – Further, Faster.

Published by Bill Flynn

Gazelles Member Advisor and early stage startup specialist with a proven track record with 16 Boston-based startups (9 to date with 5 successful outcomes, advisor to 7 others); SMB to Fortune 500 companies. 20+ years of Senior Sales, Marketing and GM experience in industries including mobile advertising, security, digital advertising, e-commerce and IT. Core Competencies: Player/Coach, Metrics-driven, Execution-based philosophy, Life-long learner

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