A Great Team Starts With Different Skills

May 30, 2013

Whenever I write operation profiles, the owners/operators always do the same thing – they all thank their staff. It seemed like lip service to me, until I actually became a manager. Then it all became clear. I understood the grateful tone used to pay tribute to staff’s hard work. I realized why operators take the time to fill out the route driver of the year nomination forms. A great team is too hard to find to be taken for granted.  

I’ve been lucky enough to find a great team of individuals whose skills complement each other, but I know plenty of people who aren’t so fortuitous. I was just reading a post from a past head of Merrill Lynch and Smith Barney about one of the most common hiring mistakes – hiring a person just like you. It’s easy to see how it happens. In the interview you “click” with someone who shares similar interests, or you recognize something in a person that reminds you of yourself. You can imagine that individual fulfilling the role, because you can imagine how you would do it. And these are valid, to a certain extent. You need to work with this employee after all, but these are not the most important considerations. You have to recognize the power of having different skills.

You can’t do it all

Years ago I was attending the opening session of a trade show and a basketball coach was addressing the attendees. I am not a sports buff, but I found his speech full of real-world experience and advice. One piece of wisdom he gave, that I will never forget, is that there’s no point in doing something you’re not good at. He said many people feel they should try to improve what they perceive as weakness. They think it will make them more well-rounded individuals. He felt it wasted time and energy. He believed you should focus instead on your strengths, and then hire people that are good in those other areas.

I’d never heard this before, but it made a lot of sense to me. I’m not saying don’t try to improve yourself, or practice something you already enjoy, but writers don’t become mathematicians for a reason, and why should we? It would be like a center practicing three-pointers. 

Bottom line, diversity is a good thing in a team. People with different skills who can work together to make the team the best it can be is desirable in sports and business.

There are lots of things to consider when hiring, and I’m no expert, but I do think it’s important to hire those with skills you don’t have and then make sure you can trust them to do a good job. That will lead you to greatness. And who knows, possibly an operation profile in Automatic Merchandiser or VendingMarketWatch too.