Leadership skills and Team Performance are areas where organizations mostly talk about, and spend their people’s development budgets, as part of their efforts to achieve their goals, or, at least, improve, their results.
Countless of books and training programs are available to keep improving managers, supervisors and team leaders’ ability to build, grow, and motivate their teams to better address the organization’s needs in terms of ultimate, tangible results, like Customer satisfaction, Market share growth, and Profit.
And yet, the #1 reason why organizations are not meeting their expected level of results is the lack of team performance: Managers and Team Leaders complain that their teams DON’T work as a team.
If we consider that those same Managers and Team Leaders are the ones responsible to request, interview, and select their team members (in other words, they are the decision makers in the hiring process) then their ‘complain’ is more difficult to understand.
What does it take, then, for these Managers, who are the decision makers when hiring new staff for their teams, to not be able to make better choices when deciding upon a new team member?
Why, after so many trainings on people’s management skills, they are not capable of putting together the correct mix of individuals to build better performing teams?
While many managers will look for external reasons (a.k.a. excuses), like limited hiring budgets, inherited teams, or competitive job market, only those honest hiring managers will recognize their limitations and mistakes when deciding upon who to add to their teams.
Studies show that a high performing team has to be diverse and balanced. Like an orchestra with many different instruments, that is able to produce the finest of the symphonies.
As human beings, we all have our personal preferences and biases that interfere in the final decision of what kind of individual to hire for our teams.
There are 3 main mistakes we, as Managers, unconsciously, or not so, make when deciding on the final selection of our team members:
1. We tend to hire those who think like us.
Regardless of our professional background or competencies, we are human beings with our values, beliefs, and assumptions about what is true, and how the world should be. Each of us has a unique paradigm governing our life.
When in charge of building our team, a professional team that has to achieve the results our organization needs, we tend to surround ourselves by individuals we are comfortable with, because we all want to build the best environment around us. And we think that that environment will be easier to achieve if the people working with, and for, us share most of the same view of the world as we do.
So we tend to attract to our teams those individuals who resonate with who we are, overlooking many times the need of building a diverse team. It’s not unusual to see how people in the same departments naturally gravitate towards the manager’s preferences and behaviors.
If a manager is abrupt in his relationship with others, is aggressive, impatient, or directive, he is this way because this behavior helped him achieve results, and he will hardly consider that those results can be achieved with a different behavior. Therefore, when hiring members for his team, he will prefer to select those who are aligned with ‘his’ way of how results are achieved.
Eventually, he will build a team who is abrupt, aggressive, impatient, and directive in their approach, not considering ‘good enough’ those individuals who are able to achieve the ‘same of higher’ level of results with a totally different approach.
2. We tend to hire those who look like us.
Personal appearance and social norms play a much more important role in our professional environments than we can think of. Although we consider ourselves ‘tolerant’ with other ways of approaching life, we show our preferences when deciding who will be part of our teams.
I knew one very smart and well respected manager who did not want to consider for promotion a very capable and highly professional employee because he dyed his hair blue.
Similar cases happen when managers show their preferences of no hiring people with tattoos, piercings, long hair, ‘inadequate’ dressing, or just the suspicion of an specific sexual orientation.
Obviously nothing of it is publicly acknowledged, but we have just to observe the members of a team to recognize how the manager made the selection beyond their professional capabilities.
3. We tend to hire those who have similar abilities.
Taking aside physical or mental resonance, we are also more comfortable surrounding ourselves with people with similar abilities, or strengths, to solve daily challenges.
A manager who is a visual person, who prefers reading about a solution, or drawing on the board for easier comprehension, will more readily accept a candidate who shows that trait than considering a person with auditory or kinesthetic learning styles, despite their even superior professional capabilities or potential.
A manager who constantly needs high level of details to feel ‘in control’ will surround himself with people who are focused on details and provide him with what he wants. The communication is going to flow much better, they will understand each other easier, than having the employee who prefers summarizing or talking in more general terms.
All these biases or unconscious choices can harm the manager’s future results. To have high performance teams, we need diversity and balance.
Members who are extrovert and members who are introvert.
Members who are good on details and members who are good at synthesizing and visualizing.
Members who focus more on results and members who focus more on the team's healthy relationships.
Members who are prompted to act fast, and members who go deeper in thinking.
Members who predominantly like to lead, and members who feel more comfortable being good followers.
In summary, the team needs a good balance, where members are checking and challenging on each other. And, if the hiring manager or team lead is not aware of this fact, he will paint the picture with only one color (his) hindering the team’s full potential.
Ask yourself, when hiring new team members:
“What do I like the most about this person? What I dislike the most?”
If the answer is related to any of these three reasons described above, reconsider your decision, and base it more on how this person can contribute to the team’s future balance.