7 tips to building a dream team

I’ve been doing a lot of interviewing recently – Factora has been on a major hiring spree to keep pace with growth. As I spoke to the candidates, some in person at Trois-Rivières and some over the phone through our Atlanta office, I began to think about how to create a dream team…

What are the must-haves? What do you want to avoid?

Below, my thoughts on this one. Once you’ve taken a look, feel free to comment – what’s worked for you in building your dream team? What hasn’t?

1.   Interviewing

Interviewing is no exact science! Personally, I’m very visual – I much prefer in-person or at least on-screen to a phone interview. It’s easier to detect when truth is being offered, and when the goal is to evade or escape.

So I look for alignment – words and face and body telling the same story. That being said, here are three must-haves I look for in the interview process:

  1. Culture: Is there a fit? Can you easily visualize this individual joining one of your teams? In their examples of work success, do they mention and emphasize the same values that you and your colleagues do? Cultural fit is critical – in my opinion, the lack of it is the biggest reason for hires that fail to flourish.
  2. Communication: Is this candidate a communicator? Do they look you in the eye when they speak? Do they appear to care about sharing your and their ideas and passions? Do they put effort into understanding your points, and sharing theirs?
  3. Team player: True, ‘team player’ is an overused term. But there’s a reason for that. I’ll always choose a team player or one with a good cultural fit over a technical all-star. All-stars who lack team skills and/or cultural fit can actually detract more than they add. So I ask questions about off-work activities (Are any shared and social? Or are they all alone?). And I note how a candidate describes their past roles (Do they mention who allowed them to grow? Or how teammates contributed to a win?).

You’ll notice I didn’t mention the job’s technical skills as one of my top three. Within reason, technical skills can be taught or acquired. Character and values, not so much.

2.     The trust component

Some people are highly reluctant to trust.

Do not choose them for your dream team.

Trust is the glue that holds our increasingly remote, complex work world together. Bonus: it slows or stops the blame game from gearing up when things go wrong. By contrast, mistrust spurs the blame game, and breeds further mistrust – mistrust is contagious.

3.   Teamwork trumps all

Silo work was the norm for engineers and many technical professionals for decades, back when the business world was all hierarchical structure and no internet. But as our CEO Charles Horth wrote recently in Industry Week: “Silo work no longer delivers enough value, because cooperative work can accomplish so much more.”

Today’s complex tools and the fluidity of communication demands an ability to think about the next guy, and the goals of the team. Consultants for your dream team need to have soft skills – which they’ll usually have developed in the workplace, as it’s rarely taught at school.

Everything we do at Factora involves multiple lines of communication and interdependence, wrapped around considerable autonomy and accountability. A good team player has skills in group-based prioritizing, listening, knowing what news needs to be broadcast, and dare I say, humility.

As you build your dream team, try not to get dazzled by a technical wizard – unless that wizard can put those skills to use within the workings of a healthy, positive team.

4.   Building in commitment through clear communication

Commitment is how you get to your goal with a healthy ROI. On time – in budget – planned – focused on your client’s needs.

How do you get that commitment, across an entire team? I’ve found that the key to building commitment is clarity. Be super-clear about what the goal is, from the get-go. Don’t start until everyone gets it and is on board.

If the objective is clear, if we’re all paddling together, we’ll naturally have commitment. You can of course still get to your goal if someone is paddling in the wrong direction … it will just take longer, cost more … and be less fun (part of doing a good job is having fun).

So be honest. Be constructive. Be brave, because it takes bravery to be honest and constructive – to avoid the easy way out.

The funny thing about honesty is that your team can smell it. People instinctively know when you’re being honest, or to put it another way, treating them with respect.

5.   Reward in real time, in public

Think of rewarding as something you do regularly, part of your job as a leader. Rather than something that happens annually, or at a special event.

What do you reward for? Impact. I don’t care if a member of my team works 60 hours a week. But I do care if Jinghua helps a teammate to grow, or Noah’s drive sparks the team to increased effort, or Zayn’s focus helps them to stay aligned on a project.

How do you reward? One of the best ways I know of is a hand on the shoulder and the words “great job.” And whenever possible, in front of teammates. It’s such a small thing, yet I’ve found it’s something people savour and remember.

Here’s an irony for you. At Factora, we create large overhead dashboards (see p.5 of this whitepaper for an image and description) that show manufacturing operators / line managers / shift supervisors how to make the right decision – in real time. It’s the real-time that makes the difference; traditional manufacturing reporting is close to useless, because it’s too late to affect human behaviour or plant performance. Rewarding excellent work is the same – you want to do it in real time, and often.

6.   Strengths and struggles – like a jigsaw puzzle

People tend to focus on weaknesses when they think of improving, rather than building on strengths. Just think of every New Year’s resolution you’ve ever had, or heard of.

But research shows that we experience faster growth and development when we nurture our strengths instead of combating our weaknesses. It makes sense – are you going to improve more in an area you’re naturally strong in, or one that you’ve always struggled with?

As you build your team, try to place each person where they can build on their strengths. It’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle: let the organizational champion manage the schedule, while the whiz kid solves the coding issues. Your team will be more productive and your team members will experience greater pride, growth, and job satisfaction.

We’re big believers in this at Factora – let me give you an example. A few years ago we were interviewing for a job in manufacturing consulting and discovered a candidate who quickly built bonds with the hiring team. We know he’d not only fit, but that he’d also bring in fresh air: while we can be top-heavy with engineers and technical people who listen only to their head, this applicant had demonstrated strengths in following his instincts as well. But – he was applying for a job that didn’t match his skills and experience.

Two days after the interview, one of our leaders found a way to hire this candidate. Factora opened a new position with a new role, and called him in to present the offer.

Did it work out? Superlatively! This candidate is still with Factora and has brought us another way to approach problems, another way to lead and communicate.

7.   Your role as a leader

What’s your role, as leader of your dream team? The biggest is to keep your team focused on the big picture and goals. Humans naturally get sidetracked, every hour of every day, and sidetracked is another word for unprofitability. Do whatever you can, use any tools you can, to keep yourself and your team focused on the team’s goals.

Have you noticed? There’s one thing I left out

For you to be able to build your dream team, you and your organization have to be aligned on leadership, culture, and team-building. I’m fortunate to have that at Factora, and even more so today: since January of this year new hires attend a 3-month training bootcamp, which helps them to not only hit the ground running but also absorb the values we live by.

To return to my earlier questions: what resonates with you here? What’s worked for you in building a dream team? What hasn’t?