Jeff Bezos, of Amazon fame, goes to the next level. He wants his execs to ask themselves these three incredibly insightful questions before hiring a new employee:
1. "Will you admire this person?"
2. "Will this person raise the average level of effectiveness of the group they're entering?"
3."Along what dimension might this person be a superstar?"
These are all crucial questions to ask of ourselves.
Photo by Bekir Dönmez on Unsplash
Let’s focus on the second question for a moment. Like me, you have likely experienced a time when a person was simply not a good fit for their team. Ironically, this often happens when someone excels at what they do so highly, that they operate as cowboys, leaving their team members behind. An exceptional player who motivates and inspires others can be a boon, but those who work at odds against their team members or stakeholders can pose serious problems. Similarly, someone who doesn’t respect others, or cannot get along with those around them, can demoralize an entire operation.
Now, being an independent operator isn’t always a bad thing. It’s only a problem in the wrong context. Sometimes we need individuals who can operate strongly on their own, be independently innovative, and who are highly competitive. Sales is one example. In such a context, a person who is highly collaborative and overly dependent on others may be the poorer fit.
A diverse team too can be invaluable; thus, we may select someone based on skills or backgrounds which compliment those of others. Yet if differences in expertise or perspective are too vast and remain unresolved, this too can be a barrier to collective progress and performance. Along with diversity, a team needs the maturity and capability to exploit their differences rather than be overwhelmed by them.
A close corollary, and related to Bezos’ question number three, is whether or not the team at hand will likely bring out the best in this candidate. After all, we aren’t looking to dampen the performance or development of a superstar. We just need to position our superstars in the right places. When the team and its individuals are enhanced, everyone wins.
Before bringing on a new hire or new team member, it’s useful to consider not just an individual’s strengths, but also the full context of the work to be performed. You can then better assess if that person is a good fit for enriching the whole and keeping things in proper balance.