“I think self-awareness is probably the most important thing towards becoming a champion.”
- Billie Jean King, tennis player and winner of 12 Grand Slam singles titles, 16 Grand Slam womens doubles titles, and 11 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles
Are you missing crucial information for key hiring decisions?
Do you find yourself following the conventional standards (if you follow any standards at all) of team building? Can you confidently forecast how successful your team will be? According to Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, getting the right people on the bus is one of the most important predictors of a companys success. So, whether youre a VC investor or the founder of an early-stage company, hiring the right people and forming a cohesive team is one of the most important and valuable tasks you can do to ensure the success of your investment or your company. On the other hand, there are few things more disastrous than hiring the wrong person for a key position or putting together a team of individual superstars that do not ‘play well together’.
Yet many founders and VCs leave these crucial decisions to chance or do not avail themselves of vital information that could dramatically increase the chances that the management teams they assemble are the ones who can lead them to success. They do not ask the right questions in an interview, even accept an unstructured interview process (unfortunately, the ninth best predictor of on-the-job performance according to Bob Sutton, Stanford Engineering School professor and author of The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t).
Specifically, many hiring decisions are made solely on the basis of job function and how well a candidates experience and expertise matches the positions duties and responsibilities. Also, there is often an unconscious bias to hire candidates who act and think much like existing company leaders. At its worst, this approach can lead to disharmony and glaring blind spots (or ‘group think’) because all key members of a management team see the world from a single perspective.
Successful individuals dont need to be well-rounded but successful teams do
What can be done differently?
According to Tom Rath and Barry Conchie, co-authors of Strengths Based Leadership, a #1 New York Times bestseller, founders and VCs should identify the strengths of each individual on their management team and develop specific plans for helping each team member further develop their strengths. They should also identify gaps in their team and make filling these gaps an explicit part of their recruiting process.
Rath and Conchies research states that while individuals dont need to be well-rounded, successful teams do. Specifically, successful teams are comprised of individuals whose ‘dominant themes’ can be categorized in the following ”strength domains”:
• Strategic thinking
The Four Strengths Needed by Every Successful Team
Thus, Rath and Conchie claim that successful teams need team members that excel in executing, influencing, relationship-building and strategic thinking. While no individual is strong in all four of these key areas, a team must have all of these qualities if it wants to maximize its chances of success. While the detailed definitions of the 34 strengths identified by Rath and Conchie are available in their book, Strengths Based Leadership, a brief summary of these four categories of strengths are described below.
•Team members with strengths in EXECUTING are those who are naturally able to work tirelessly to implement a solution. They are the ones who turn a vision into reality. The specific strengths described by Rath and Conchie for individuals strong in executing include “Achiever”, “Discipline”, and “Responsibility”.
• Those strong in INFLUENCING help their teams reach a broader audience and ensure that its message makes its desired impact. These individuals sell their teams ideas both within their company, as well as to key audiences beyond it. Some of these strengths include “Command”, “Self-assurance”, and “Woo”.
• Individuals who excel at RELATIONSHIP-BUILDING make sure their teams are cohesive and that the whole truly is greater than the sum of its parts. They create esprit de corps and keep a teams energy level high. Descriptions that Rath and Conchie use for these strengths include “Positivity”, “Harmony” and “Relator”.
• STRATEGIC THINKING describes those who can help a team make sound decisions and navigate a path to success. Strategic thinkers explain how past events led to present circumstances and identify the best choices to effectively move from todays situation to tomorrow’s desired goal. Strengths in this domain include “Analytical”, “Futuristic” and “Strategic”.
While specific assessments are available for a detailed analysis of the strengths of a teams members, even just using these four broad categories as a catalyst for discussion among those responsible for key hiring decisions at early stage companies can increase the chances that the team will be successful.
Three questions VCs and founders should ask their management teams include:
1. What are the strengths of each member of our management team?
2. What strengths do we need but dont currently have?
3. What is our plan for filling those gaps as quickly as possible?
Management teams should carefully consider their answers to these questions and engage in a candid and thoughtful discussion with all stakeholders involved. The results could prove surprising and enlightening. They could also lead to the self-awareness required to become the champions you aspire to be.
To start a fresh dialogue on how to fully-implement this non-traditional method in your recruiting process, or ask a quick question, please give us a call at the number below or send us an email at email@example.com.
- Andy Mok, Founder of Red Pagoda Resources and “Executor,” “Strategic Thinker” and “Influencer”