Creating a Strong Team – Surround Yourself with Good People, Not Disruptive Superstars

As an executive search consultant for over 18 years, I have been working with clients of all shapes and sizes to secure the best possible talent for their businesses. Back in the 'old days', talent was defined as an individual who had the skills to do a great job and no attention was paid to whether candidates would integrate into team dynamics, shared company values or could fit culturally. Neither was any attention given to creating strong teams and the types of people needed to achieve this.

My first employer was a growing 6 man 'boutique' headhunting consultancy and I remember my boss declaring that he didn’t need to like everyone who worked for him and the results they brought was a more important assessment. I was young and inexperienced but even at that stage I disagreed with him and have always held the view that superstar performers who don’t hold the same positive team behaviours, aspirations or togetherness might produce profitable results but will always create unnecessary conflict and a level of uneasiness in the work environment. In fact, that employer had a revolving door, to simply put “bums on seats” and failed to appoint people who the team wanted to work with. Since those early days I have regularly witnessed clients suffering high attrition levels, not through departing superstars, but by the team around them seeking a more harmonious environment in which they can enjoy coming to work and ultimately perform.

You only have to look at football to see how team dynamics can be damaged by managers massaging superstar egos and not considering the unit as a whole: Ballotelli, Tevez, Barton, Anelka… There are also some examples of where strong managers have taken action for the good of the team e.g. Ferguson and Beckham or Veron and only recently the French football team manager left out Nasri from the World Cup team. Nasri has had his best season in the Premier League and so for many, his absence from selection was bemusing, however Didier Deschamps’s decision was explained in the media pointing to Nasri as a disruptive influence to the French team dynamics. Fair play to Deschamps and it appears to be paying off following their 3-0 demolition of Honduras and evidence of a team all fighting for one another. Other sporting analogies demonstrating the strength of a unified team is the New Zealand rugby team. The most successful international rugby team in history, the All Blacks have long understood what makes a good team focusing on the behaviours needed and not settling for anything less. Many a superstar Kiwi has failed to win the coveted All Blacks jersey due to their inability to share values and successfully integrate with the other players. Again an easy ideal but far harder to implement in practice. Every manager would want a high achiever to score their points for them but in reality, it comes at a cost if they operate outside the team.

Part of the issue in many companies has been the lack of identifying what their values are, their culture is or the culture they want to create. Not having clarity of the environment you want to create prevents you from benchmarking potential employees during the interview process. Only recently I met a rapidly growing client who asked to discuss two key senior level appointments with me. The managing director talked at length about the skills and experience he wanted to bring into his business to generate even more profit but, at no point did he discuss his team or the traits required for the individual to thrive in their environment. Recruitment is a significant investment and getting it wrong is very costly, it is therefore critical that you should not merely consider skills and experience but instead focus your efforts on understanding the team you want to create and the behaviours and values needed to achieve this.

Top 6 tips to create a strong team. Invest time to:

  • Understand your company vision, what does success look like?

  • Understand the team you already have and benchmark model employees

  • Work with your team to create a set of values you all want to live and breathe

  • Work with your team to create core behaviours that will ensure the team is aligned

  • Create a robust recruitment process ensuring that you assess not only someone’s skills but also their values, behaviours and ability to integrate into the team

  • Once you know what a successful employee looks like, don’t settle for anything less. A quick financial win in the short term will affect your performance later on

If you are interested in finding out more about how to create a strong team please get in touch.