I was on vacation recently and, as often happens, my mind starts to wander to different things related to my work.
For years, I have joked with people about how meaningless the term, “team player” is. No one asks for people who are mavericks or renegades. Everyone wants to hire, “team players.”
And then the thought hit me.
Why is being a team player so good that employers write it into every job description?
I did a Google search in my browser.
“What is a team player,” and got a few answers that I thought were interesting.
One defined a team player as being someone who:
- Enjoys other people’s company
- Is non judgmental and accepting
- Is a listener
- Is likeable
- Is empathic
- Accepts other opinions
They sited as examples someone who says
- “I enjoy motivating people by praising them for their achievements and I accept others’ opinions if even if they differ from mine.”
- “I enjoy other peoples company and I enjoy discussions with others.”
- “I think that team work increases efficiency at work.”
Now I understand why in some jobs these are qualities that should be sought after but I must in all candor tell you that there are times where it is important for someone to stand facing the storm and shout, “This is wrong,” or “What you are doing is crap,” and demand that they be heard.
You see, I hold the opinion that too many organizations have doomed themselves to mediocrity through demanding that people be “team players” rather than geniuses . . . or team players who can be “a pain the patootie” when something is seems wrong or mediocre instead of superb.
So while you are interviewing for team players, ask them a few extra questions that lets them know that being “different” or not just “going with the flow” is a quality you want in your new hires.
After they speak with you about what they have done, follow up with this statement and question:
“A lot of people answer that question in much the same way. What makes you any different than the last three people I’ve interviewed for this job?”
“Tell me about a time you took a stand for something that turned out well at your last job.”
and, just as importantly
“Tell me about a time you took a stand for something that didn’t turn out as you hoped. What did you learn from it?”
You will learn a lot more about the people you interview from their answers and begin to shift your firm’s culture from being one that accepts others opinions in an unquestioning way, where it is important to be likeable and empathetic to one that values excellence, hiring highly motivated and demanding people who want to create excellent products or offer great service to customers, no matter what others may think or them.
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