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Hiring Effective Teams

Updated: Jan 16, 2022

"Teamwork makes the Dreamwork", as Tom Hoyland is often heard saying. And he's right - effective teams win over individual superstars. Or put another way, there's no such thing as a 10/10 individual, but you can build a 10/10 team.

This is why people tout hiring for "attitude over aptitude" - as amazing as it is to find that 10x performer, egoless collaborative teams out-perform teams of superstar heroes every time.

Supportive teams can compensate for each other's weaknesses and compliment/multiply each others' strengths, which is why it's far more effective to be able to put together an entire team rather than just place an individual.

Selecting for Key Traits/Skills

In hiring, I take my advice largely from Thinking Fast and Slow (which is written up here).

The Danny Meyers interview on Hospitality and Humanity sticks in my head - something like "If you're hiring a chef who makes the best souffle in the world, that still only scores you 49 points out of 100".

Having the right attitude is SO important, which is why integrity, cultural fit, outlook, etc are not to be overlooked.

That's why the top traits I look for generally break down into:

  • skill, ability and experience

  • collaboration and communication

  • attitude, curiosity, interest and enthusiasm

  • drive and work ethic

Skill, Ability and Experience

Whatever the detail of the role, the best will in the world can't account for real knowledge and experience in the problem domain. Having tinkered with, experimented and learned about the craft and areas it impacts is a vital prerequisite.

I vaguely recall a story where a retired engineer was brought out of retirement to solve a perplexing problem of some sort of machine cavitating. He came in, analysed the problem, marked out a spot on the machine with a pencil, drilled a hole, and then submitted an eye-watering invoice.

When the company requested a breakdown of the invoice, he wrote:

lead in the pencil: $0.01
use of the drill: $1.00
knowing where to put the hole: $7,000.00

The company paid the invoice. It's a cute story, but just came to mind regarding the importance of having the knowledge to solve the problem at hand.

Collaboration and Communication

Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers demonstrates how us humans celebrate exceptionalism -- we're predisposed to recognise it. In reality, that's not the case; sustainable success is borne out of taking the best of a diversity of ideas, being able to effectively identify and communicate the problem, and being pushed to do your best in a safe environment filled with people you can trust.

Attitude, Curiosity, Interest and Enthusiasm

The TL;DR is that both Samuel Pierpont Langley and the Wright brothers were trying to be the first to flight.

The Wright brothers were in it for the interest - it was their passion. Samuel Pierpont Langley was a well-funded engineer.

When the Wright brothers beat him to be the first to flight, Samuel didn't revise/iterate his design, or improve his approach. He quit.

Enjoying your craft - having a desire to solve he problem in front of you using the skills you've acquired accounts for a lot.

Drive and Work Ethic

The most skilled, best communicator in the world doesn't really matter if they don't show up to work, or aren't driven to help you solve your problem.

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