Building a Team Through Questions

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Jul 27, 2013

"At the end of the day, the questions we ask ourselves determine the type of people that we will become." 
Lee Babauta

Whether we are leaders or followers (most of us are both) we all know that organizational success rises and falls on the collective strength of the team. And building a great team is one of the greatest challenges of any organization.

We have all seen the high salaries of franchise players drain the economic resources of an athletic organization and then to see later those very highly paid players never really making a positive contribution to the team effort. 

Thom Rainer suggests five key questions that should be asked of any organizational candidate. If these questions are asked, Rainer feels the choice of quality leaders will be enhanced.

Does a person have strong character? If there are any questions about a person’s character, that person should be immediately disqualified. Without a sterling character, sooner or later huge problems will surface. You just can’t get away with camouflaging character.  

I once interviewed an individual who presented himself as an expert. Even his references provided corroborating evidence. But when the challenges grew, he quickly made excuses. It became obvious that he performed better on his interview than he did on the job. As Elmer G. Letterman said, “Personality can open doors, but only character can keep them open.”

Does the person have the competency and skills to do the work? A strong character must be a necessity, but even a strong character cannot carry an employee who lacks competency and skills. I have often said that no matter how great anyone’s character may be it doesn’t make someone a better golfer or teacher or doctor. Competency and skills are needed.

Even Rainer admits, “I, though, have admittedly brought people to different leadership teams without doing due diligence on their competency and skills for the job. Typically, I like them personally and like their personalities. But hiring friends and fun people to do a job for which they are not qualified is a recipe for disaster.”

Does the chemistry of the person match the team and the leadership? Some people are extremely talented and they are good people but they just have a hard time working together with others. Toxic behavior can destroy the synergy of even the best team. It takes more than everyone quoting, “There is no ‘I’ in team” for a team to really work together. 

Will the person align with the vision of the leadership? According to Rainer, “If you are on a leadership team and you disagree with the major direction of the leadership, get off the team. If you are a leader seeking to bring a leader on the team, and you sense that he or she does not align with your vision, run from that choice immediately. A team with diverse visions is not a team at all.”

If the members of a team do not move in the same direction, whatever effort they do invest becomes diluted when they pull in other directions. Those kinds of persons can diminish even the best of intentions of any organization.

Can you trust the person? Rainer describes trust as the way a person “looks after their own interests or preferences or the interests of the team, the leader, and the organization.” Any doubt about a team member’s motivation should inform how that person can be trusted.

And as George MacDonald said, “To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.” Trust may be built over a period of years and, as we all know, it can be destroyed by one inappropriate comment or gesture. The stakes are always large when it comes to the place of trust on a leadership team. 

To build a world-class team we must always keep asking the critical questions. Through them we unlock the secret to leadership effectiveness. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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