Don’t hire superstars – 3 keys to great team culture

In his book, The Culture Code, Daniel Coyle identifies which factors must be present in order to make a great team culture.

He says that you need three subtle messages running between the humans in your workforce.

  1. They need to feel connected
  2. They need to feel safe
  3. They need to feel there is a future between them.

A team that has this going between them feel like family. The loyalty they have to each other, the support, perpetuates even more of this culture and results in the whole team contributing far more than each of them would on their own.

But how do we create that? And what does this have to do with skills assessment?

Don’t be seduced by the superstar

Hiring people because they have displayed some superstar quality in the past will not tell you whether they actually enjoy that job, and will definitely not tell you how well they got along with others. More often the opposite.

Business coach Barbara Heffernan points out that superstars spend much of their efforts competing against members of your own team, and often they undermine the jobs of others by overreaching into the roles of others. 

This puts the team on edge, they feel worthless in their roles, aren’t recognised, don’t belong, don’t feel they can contribute as much as they could, so they don’t, then they leave. Which is often, says Heffernan, the only reason those superstars looked any better than anyone else in the first place: stifling the talents of others.

An unfortunate effect of this is that they often become team leaders without having any leadership qualities.

Do not be seduced by the superstar.

Human connections built on assessment

Instead, to make connection, get to know each person. Find out what they love to do and what is important to them. And find out where their natural talents are, even if they don’t know it themselves.

Next Generation human assessment technology will give an assessment not just of what they have done before, but of what they were born to do, and could do on your team. This will be the area in which they will have great energy and enthusiasm, sometimes to their own surprise.

Then move them into those roles. Then make it clear that they are safe. The position is secure, they are able to offer ideas safely, and nobody reaches into their domain.

It is easier to lead people who want to be there and are enthusiastic to do their jobs. Moreover, assessing soft skills as well as technical ones means you can appoint leaders with a talent for leadership. Those with social empathy in particular. These leaders now have more time and enthusiasm to focus on facilitating good teamwork.

These empathic leaders can then get to know each team member even better – talking to them, connecting, communicating, making them feel welcomed and appreciated, and running meetings where each person has a chance to contribute.

Why A Sense of Safety Matters

Feeling you belong, and that your contributions will be supported, is where the sense of safety comes from. They feel safe in doing their work and sharing ideas, and know that they will be supported even if they had an off day. 

This needs to be supported by the organisation, though. If staff see people dismissed for the sake of restructuring, or of not measuring up on some KPI, then they will not feel safe no matter what their leader says.

Again, next generation human assessment technology helps. If a good team member seems to be struggling with a role, then an assessment will find out what the problem is, and how to fix it.

Imbuing Future Into The Culture

You might discover that a person in a creative role is perfectly suited to that, but not to making budget reports which they end up doing as part of the job.

Or that a person enthusiastic for the industry but failing in their role actually has talents in another. Seeing someone on the team fired is devastating to the composure of others, but seeing them retrained, repositioned and happier in a new role boosts their feeling of safety, and the family-like culture.

This is not to say that an ideal culture will be continuously full of positive, feel-good behaviour. Far from it. Instead, it allows your team to be raw and honest, to bring concerns and frictions to the surface, yet your job will not be threatened because there is a fundamental sense of security built on an open culture that values the individual.  This supports an employee’s sense that there is a future –and where there’s a future for the individual, culture thrives as more risks are taken and genuine strengths are free to emerge.

And next generation Human Assessment Technology can do even more by really looking at the capabilities of your candidates and those already in your workforce. A capability is an attribute, knowledge, skill, ability or other characteristic that contributes to a person’s effectiveness. Human capabilities are observable and measurable ‘soft skills’ (e.g., teamwork, cooperation or communication). They can be cognitive or behavioural in nature. Using next generation Human Assessment Technology allows you to identify and harness capabilities such as managing people, learning, and teamwork. By doing so you will quickly be able to ensure that your culture has the right mixture for a healthy and productive culture.  And what is critical for a healthy culture is critical for business performance. 

The key takeaway is to avoid falling for the superstar is everything myth, which can be hard because it’s an attractive and enduring one. Instead, start seeing culture as a human capability mosaic where the main challenge is using the best technological tools to find what pieces you need and where each of them fit best.

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