Geoff: Pat, your new book The Ideal Team Player is crushing. Congrats on its success!
Pat: Thank you. I’m grateful that so many managers and leaders find it helpful.
Geoff: As a fellow business book author, I’m impressed that a fable format works so well with a business audience. Why do you think the fable format has been so successful for you?
Pat: When I wrote my first book, I wanted to write something that was a quick read. I had been an amateur screen writer earlier in my career, and I thought a fable format would be an interesting way to convey a message. And, most of my stories are rooted in reality. Otherwise, I don’t think people would like them.
Geoff: Your new book seems to have touched a nerve.
Pat: Why do you think that is?
It’s the searing pain that most leaders feel when they hire somebody who turns out to not be a team player.
One of my clients called us after hiring a C-suite leader who turned out to be anything but a team player. The new executive turned out to be egotistical, careless, and EQ-deprived. Get this. This person also kept people waiting as long as two hours for meetings!
Pat: Kept people waiting for two hours? I’ve known an executive or two like that.
Geoff: Yes, he expected teammates to wait outside his office for two hours until he eventually got around to meeting with them. He managed from his desk at his newly-renovated fancy office. He was completely tuned out to the needs and wishes of his teammates—both peers and subordinates. Customers were mad. Good people left. The business’s profitability tanked. It was a hiring disaster which cost our client millions.
The cost of hiring a non-team player is lost productivity, downward pressure on the team’s results-and the misery of working with the person.
Everyone knows it’s desirable to hire team players. But the concept of a “team player” has been so intangible. One of my motivations for writing the book is to help people understand that there are three specific virtues that every true team player must possess.
Geoff: What are those three virtues you say are so important?
Pat: The ideal team player is humble, hungry, and smart. If a candidate is strong in those three areas, chances are they will turn out to be a great team player.
Geoff: I like those criteria. Virtues indeed. And the criteria in your Five Dysfunctions book are also important to add to the list–trust, conflict, commitment, accountability, and results. Combine all of those criteria together with a clear statement of mission and measurable goals that you want a person to accomplish in the job, and you have what we call a scorecard in our Who book.
Pat: Yes, half the challenge of hiring team players is to know what you are looking for.
Geoff: Right, and the other half the challenge is to actually find it.
Pat: It’s hard. It’s not like people write “I’m a lousy team player” on their resume or LinkedIn profile.
Geoff: That reminds me of a story Jay Jordan told me. Jay is a very successful CEO. He had to fire someone shortly after the person started. Jay sat the person down and said, “I hired your resume. But unfortunately, what I got … was you.”
Pat: Yes, resumes and online research have their limitations, and can be misleading. In contrast, a well-conducted interview is an important tool for finding out the truth about someone. I offer some hints and interview questions in my book.
Geoff: I saw those. They are good questions for getting at the truth. When I did my Ph.D. in Psychology two decades ago, specializing in pre-employment interviewing, I learned that all interview methods are not created equal. Poorly-conducted interviews yield unreliable results, and lead to hiring mistakes.
Pat: Poorly-conducted interviews—like where the interviewer does all the talking? Or asking candidates questions that are not really relevant to the culture of the company or to the job itself?
Geoff: Yes, yes. And other bad interview methods are asking candidates hypothetical questions — how would you resolve a conflict with a team member? It’s too easy to B.S. those answers. There is no way to verify the answers. No, it’s much better to ask candidates a ton of questions about their actual jobs, to learn clues about how they actually performed on their teams across their career. And then if you call 5 to 7 teammates as references to verify the candidate’s claims, you are going to hit 90% hiring success. But just asking candidates vague or hypothetical questions and failing to do reference interviews yields that low 50% hiring success rate. And bad hiring means your team will not run at full power.
Pat: Let’s summarize for our readers. It sounds like we are saying it’s better to hire team players than not.
Geoff: For sure.
Pat: Ideal team players practice the virtues of being humble, hungry, and smart.
Geoff: So put those, and any other criteria you want to measure, on the scorecard you use to rate candidates.
Pat: And we are in agreement that lousy interview methods won’t give you clues about how well someone will perform on your team. But a thorough interview method will give our readers a 90% chance of success in hiring a team player.
Geoff: Yes. Here’s to practicing good hiring, and having more team players!
Leaders bet their career success every time they hire someone.
I’m hopeful our readers find our suggestions useful in improving their bets!
—Dr. Geoff Smart is Chairman & Founder of ghSMART, a leadership consulting firm that exists to help leaders amplify their positive impact on the world. He is known for being the world expert on the topic of hiring. Click for his downloadable free tools.
—Pat Lencioni is President of The Table Group, a management consulting firm specializing in executive team development. He is regarded as the top thought leader and speaker in the world on the topic of teams. Click for his downloadable free tools, and website.