Leadership Skills: Team Selection

Teamwork makes the dream work, but a vision becomes a nightmare when the leader has a big dream and a bad team.

– John C. Maxwell

TeamHaving the dream team is every leader’s dream, however few know how to build that team. We tend to gravitate to people we like, regardless of their fit for the culture we have or are creating. Selection of team members is an art and a skill.

When I studied with the composer, conductor René Clausen, he shared the process he used to select the right singer for the Concordia Choir. This highly skilled ensemble has matched voices who understand how to participate in maintaining ensemble and how to become part of the skillfully blended sound. The audition process included all the demonstration of skills – matching pitch, sight reading, staying in tune when singing a cappella, and vocal tone quality. In addition, René classified their voice type as “fluty” or “reedy” with an intensity measure of 1-6. Finally, he placed the final candidates in a circle by that nomenclature. He could only replace graduating singers with the same voice type, so he had to select from that voice-type group only the number of singers to fill the open slots.

This is a lot of work; however, this recruiting process ensures that the quality of the ensemble remains constant. If leaders used a similar kind of process to measure competency, agility, values, personality, and ability to follow principles and apply lessons learned, then there would be a consistency in team synergy and functionality.

We typically don’t know how to do this.

Here’s a process I teach leaders who are hiring new team members:

  1. Have an updated strategy – Be sure that the strategic plan is up to date and that the competencies listed are still the competencies needed. In addition, review roles and responsibilities to be sure that you are hiring for the right profile. It’s tempting to just replace the former person with another one for the same job description without reviewing the position to see if it’s still accurate.
  2. Define the qualifications needed – Hire for competencies and hire for personality. I didn’t say hire people that you like. There’s a danger in hiring people just because you like them. Hire people who fit the culture you are creating or the culture you have. This is crucial. One hire who is not a team player will change the makeup of the team. First, define competencies, then determine personality, and then spend some time getting to know the person. Over time, they will reveal more about their personality.
  3. Ask open-ended questions and listen carefully – Define a situation and ask how the candidate will deal with it. Create about 3 questions that will reveal different aspects of their thinking skills, such as problem solving, creative thinking, sequencing, and reasoning, and to get insights on their thinking and experience.
  4. Create success by developing an assimilation process – Develop an entry process and a checklist of information to transfer. Fitting the new person into the culture is as important as the hiring process. You can’t leave this to chance.
  5. Define performance expectations – In addition to defining the person’s role and responsibility, define what you want them to accomplish monthly and annually, and then schedule check-in points weekly to have an opportunity for coaching and course correction.

Get my eBook, “Creating and Sustaining High Performance Teams: Preventing and Managing Conflict


Hugh Ballou

The Transformational Leadership Strategist TM

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