Some things don’t change. Since the days when we were choosing sides on the playground, the best players still go first. But in those old days on the playground it wasn’t hard to choose the best players first. We knew who the good players were based on hanging around and seeing everyone in action. Everyone knew who was who.
In today’s complex organizations it’s not so easy. What is the best way to pick a team when you haven’t seen the players in action? It is not a perfect science, but here is how I do it:
- Credentials matter, but experience is better. Sure I like smart people with impressive degrees but I like people who know how to do something based on having done it before.
- Strategic thinking is great. Every team needs someone who can think from 30,000 feet. But a team is only successful when it reaches its goal and goals are reached when someone worries about implementation.
- Impatience can be a virtue. Getting stuff done is better than meeting about getting things done. A good team includes someone who keeps things moving and will never miss a deadline.
- Bad apples spoil the bushel as they say. The team member who doesn’t contribute or worse, complains, needs to go to another team or, at least, somewhere else. And bad apples need to be removed fast.
- Instincts matter when picking a team. Some call it pattern recognition, some call it following the gut, whatever it’s called, “it” matters. After serving on enough teams, we get to know what a good one looks like.
- Every organization has a framed small poster on the wall with the headline “Values”. On that poster are words like Trust, Integrity, Honesty and Communications. The words on that poster matter when it comes to picking a team.
- The exceptional teams I have been on include people that I like, people that I enjoy spending time with. That hasn’t changed.
- A team needs a leader and that leader needs to make decisions. Without the decision maker, there is no team. Picking a team includes picking a leader.
No doubt, I will continue to pick teams and I will make mistakes. The one thing I do know in team picking, just like on the playground, is that availability is not a skill.