Team Composition: Selecting Right Team Members

Building, Developing and Managing High Performance Teams Sunday, 18 March 2012, Dharmendra Gupta In continuation of my earlier blog article Building, Developing and Managing High Performance Team, In this blog article I am sharing few thoughts of mine on Team Composition. Background While it is a well known and documented process but often many skip it while expanding team or building it from scratch (Easy to say tough to implement). 1. Clear understanding of what set of goals and objectives you need to achieve, and as a result what set of unique skills you need to have it in your team. A clear answer on how will they contribute to the overall success is also imperative. 2. And the second is what skill gaps you have in your existing team. This needs a thorough self assessment. Selecting right people with right skills and capabilities is the most powerful first step that as a corporate manager you can take towards starting journey of developing a high performance team. It’s a highly responsible job which has high impact on future outcomes hence it needs careful attention and detailed working on 1. 2. 3. 4. Job Descriptions (JD’s), Key Result Areas (KRA’s), Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) - How are you going to measure his performance levels. Career Path available in the organization to least next few levels which is often the most overlooked part.(Sense of career progress and job satisfaction is very important)

Often above 4 elements are not properly articulated well and debated between internal stakeholders (existing team or up-line managers) before selecting a new team member. Team leader know only what they want in limited words but they fail to articulate beyond that. Without having a clear strategy and thorough understanding of above 4 elements the whole selection process becomes a matter of chance discovery and dependent on several other outside factors. I Propose Select Members for their Unique Skills About a couple of months back I came across a very interesting blog on HBR by some sagacious writer (unable to find it again) a few lines of which I have noted in my diary. This HBR article brings focus to a very interesting perspective on team composition it states that “Each person in the high performance team is a specialist for his own job, that trust every other person in the team for his expertise and at the same time feels safe and assured about his own importance in the team thereby reducing conflicts of ego’s, existence and expertise.” Team composition strategy can’t be said in more holistic approach than this. Cognitive Skills like Good Communication, Perception, Problem solving, Decision Making, Attention to details, Flexibility, Anticipation and Non Cognitive skills like Perseverance, Reliability, Attitude and Self Discipline are very important skills which are expected in almost all job positions today. But first before you measure and judge a potential team member on these important cognitive and non cognitive skill parameter you need to identify and decide what base skills are needed to do the job by the team. Like in cricket/football/medical care/space Mission/Investigation etc, you will select a person for his specialization as per required position. Once a person has the required unique skills then he should have important cognitive and non cognitive skills to apply, execute and move towards success. I Propose Select Members for their Passion and commitments Having a team member who is passionate and committed about something of relevance is like “Icing on the Cake”. Whether that member is a Graphic Designer, a Content Writer, a meticulous event planner for a marketing team or a sector specialist, product specialist, technology specialist, a region specialist in a business development team. But more often than not I found people miscast-ed in roles and responsibilities that become drag on the team. It is extremely important that a member of your team loves his role and is passionate and committed to move ahead in that direction and at the same time happy while in that role. Because you need a self driven specialist who can put his heart and mind into the assignment. And people can be self driven only in areas where they know the process of moving forward better than others and team members look forward to him with expectation and

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confidence. This confidence in his role creates enthusiasm and self engagement which propels the team forward towards high performance. Passionate and Goal Committed candidates show a special characteristic of continuous learning and adaptability while moving forward at the same time. When I requested Mr. Vikas Bagga - Vice President Marketing-M&B Footwear to share his most important criteria of selecting a new team member he says “Learning Oriented & Ability to get in sync with team and organization.” A candidate has highest likeability if they display their commitment towards a specific career goal which is in alignment with the team objectives. Recently, when I contacted Mr. Akhshay Jain who is Business Head with Amar Ujala Group of publication for its Brand Activation Division asking him what is his criteria of selecting a candidate he says that “I will see the ‘Will to Excel’ in that team member and also whether the candidate is joining me with a defined career objective.” In an another incidence, When I contacted one very senior level executive in a leading engineering firm to ask what is the most important criteria when you select someone for role in sales, marketing or business development team he gave a very brief answer; "Attitude and Energy, then everything else." Well none of us will have any difference with him because without a good attitude even the best skilled member in a team will make negative contribution to the team instead of complimenting it. And biggest fear and challenge in front of a interview boards are; hiring a jerk. Jerks can put the entire team in a difficult situation by annoying other team members and deteriorating the environment by being small minded. But during interview people may hide their real attitude temporarily and can easily deceive. It is extremely difficult to rightly judge such qualities in a short flash. Hence only extremely experienced people should only carefully judge attitudes of others. Optimum Size of Team Size of the team also plays an important role in the effectiveness and team performance. Size of the team can also hinder in achieving high performance in a given situation. Bigger team tends to form different sub teams, breeding silos within them and then there is a loss of coordination and coherence. Although there is no conclusion reached in various researches that were carried out on finding the optimum no of members in a high performance teams. Mr. Robinson Fernandez, Director GEI Industrial Systems, has an interesting view point on the no. of members in a team he says Conclusion The composition of a team should be based on unique skills and perspective. For a new or an existing corporate team, members should either have at least one distinctive and unique skill to differentiate or they should develop one differentiating skills in alignment with team objectives. At the same time they should be appreciative and supportive of the other team members for their unique skills and help them strengthen and sharpen it further. This will reduce the ego friction, unproductive debates; enhance trust and mutual interdependence which are the foundations of high performance teams. When such a team member with distinct capability enter the team then other team members also acknowledges the same and then they can collectively play with each other’s strength which has high potential to generate environment of high performance. Coming back to you if you were to choose team members for your marketing, sales or business development team in your organization, what factors you would choose to select your team members. How you would ascertain them during the interview process. Share your experience and tell us your secret strategy of choosing right candidates. Reference and Resource Box for Related Readings: Article Link: “Team at the Top” by JON R. KATZENBACH AND DOUGLAS K. SMITH from Mckinsey Quarterly - 1994 Article Link: “Three steps to building a better top team” by Michiel Kruyt, Judy Malan, and Rachel Tuffield from Mckinsey Quarterly Video Link: “Team Composition” by Kathleen M. Eisenhardt from Stanford University Article Link: “The mistakes employers make when selecting candidates for a job” by Ben Fletcher Article Link: “Composition of an ideal team” by Citeman Network Article Link: “How to Prevent Hiring Disasters” by Amy Gallo from HBR Article Link: “Turn your Group into a True Team” by Linda Hill & Kent Lineback from HBR

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