The key to building high-performing teams

Qualifications and experience aren’t the only things that matter when you’re hiring; you’ve got to look for team players, too

By the team at SlackJanuary 22nd, 2019Illustration by Josh Cochran

Individual performance and talent have long been regarded as key components of organizational productivity. But now managers and business leaders are starting to focus more on the bigger (team) picture.

And for good reason. Businessolver’s 2018 “State of Workplace Empathy report shows that 87% of CEOs see a direct link between workplace empathy and financial performance. The report also found that a large percentage of employees are willing to work harder for leaders that exhibit workplace empathy, which naturally drives performance across the organization.

So when it comes to building high-performing teams, managers would do wise to learn ways to dig past achievements on a résumé to assess whether a candidate would contribute positively to the overall team dynamic and the group’s success.  

But how can managers look beyond traditional qualifications to identify whether a candidate has the capacity and intention to be a true team player? We’ve taken some notes from the experts.

Look for people skills, not just job skills

Software proficiency and problem-solving abilities are important skills to look for in a candidate—but they aren’t the be-all and end-all. Case in point: The World Economic Forum’s newest “Future of Jobs Report lists emotional intelligence among the top job skills for 2018 and predicts that it will be just as important in 2022.

Understanding how a candidate operates within a group setting is easier said than done. You know how to interview candidates based on their qualifications and experience, but interviewing to assess their resilience and adaptability is something else entirely.

How to identify emotional intelligence in potential hires

There are ways you can learn whether a candidate is a team player who possesses qualities like self-awareness, humility, adaptability, and emotional resilience. For starters, a good set of questions is almost guaranteed to make interviewees open up.

Unconventional, open-ended questions ensure that no two answers will be the same, reveal more about a person’s habits or character, and give managers the opportunity to gain more insight into how well the candidate would contribute to the team.

When it comes to interviewing for emotional intelligence, Inc. columnist and leadership coach Marcel Schwantes suggests looking for four key indicators:

  • Authenticity and transparency
  • Resilience and flexibility
  • Emotional stability
  • Empathy

And because we know how difficult it can be to identify these qualities in candidates, we’ve put together a few questions for you to ask during an interview.

Level the playing field: High-performing teams feel safe contributing and taking risks

Congrats! You’ve assembled an ace team, but your team-building efforts mustn’t stop there. According to reports cited by the New York Times, the profitability of an organization increases when workers collaborate. What’s more, collaboration has become a larger part of our everyday work lives—more than three-quarters of an employee’s time is spent working with colleagues, so it’s important that everyone understands how to effectively communicate with one another.

This is something Google discovered during Project Aristotle, a study that was meant to uncover the defining qualities of a “perfect team.” After analyzing more than 180 of its own teams, Google struggled to find clear similarities between top-performing ones—until it came across the concept of psychological safety, a shared belief that it’s OK to take risks and express opinions in a team setting.

The study made it clear that individual skills and knowledge aren’t the sole drivers of a team’s success. Rather, a team’s performance was a reflection of how safe team members felt to contribute. The safer (i.e., more trusted and respected) team members feel, the better they communicate and will be more comfortable raising doubts and voicing opinions.

High-performing teams communicate well and often

Researchers behind Google’s Project Aristotle concluded that it’s an organization’s responsibility to create a common platform and “operating language” that employees can use to improve overall communication. If everyone speaks the same “language,” the risk of miscommunication is significantly lowered, and collaborative success is heightened.

So remember, building high-performing teams isn’t just about finding the right individuals with the right skillsets, leaders must also be diligent in creating an environment in which everyone on the team feels valued and motivated to reach shared goals.

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