The Ultimate Way To Build Successful Teams 2020 And Beyond

man and woman astronaut on planet
It’s worth considering what NASA would do.


Have you ever thought about how astronauts are trained and picked? First of all, the best of the best get into the program. From there, the best are winnowed down to the few to go into space. The choice isn’t finding another level of ‘better’, but in seeing how the best of the best work together in the most unfriendly environment there is. It’s worth considering recruiting your most important people together this way, as one, as teams.

Imagine if NASA let independent selection committees or recruiters decide who would lead the next big mission into space. Imagine the individual recruits, hired independently of each other, meet each other for the first time on the launch pad. Does that sound right to you? Yet this is the exact practice in the executive recruiting industry today. And it makes not a bit of sense when it comes to equipping your people for your environment, your culture, and the ultimate teamwork it will take for them to succeed together and not ruin your mission.

The way you’re hiring right now is increasing your failure rate probably without you even knowing it. Why? Because departures and infighting and competitiveness in our companies somehow became the norm. We forced people to compete. And the only real reason for this is because we don’t hire for integration, teamwork, and ultimate mission success. It’s as simple as that. But imagine if you started to hire more like NASA does for the most critical roles requiring cooperation, responsibility, and teamwork? Resume and reputation gets you into the program. But not everyone is chosen to go where no man or woman has gone before. It requires egoless teamwork, where each person adds to the whole. There are no individuals in space.

It’s alien to me that everyone hires this way down here on earth. But when NASA plans a trip to something incredible, never done, like a moon landing, or building a space station in space, the people are obviously incredibly skilled, but they also work incredibly well together, at the highest levels of what cooperation requires in hostile and foreign environments that will kill you if you don’t. You can see the comparison to business. They complement and mesh with one another, and this itself is the fundamental criteria for the final selection process. You can’t have someone aboard who can’t help the team succeed, or stay alive. The mission is the team. Nothing less than ultimate teamwork works in space, but somehow gets accepted inside of companies everywhere, to the detriment of every company there ever was. Expertise isn’t enough. Nor is intelligence. Nor is track record. Those are the basics of high performance, from the CEO on down. What matters most is how the executive and professional teams you hire actually work and perform together.

I say, take NASA’s lead in selecting your teams.

I recommend, where possible, that you hire your senior executive and your senior directors and managers in teams in intake, to see how they interact together. The trial for your short-list then becomes finding your best teams and team players rather than selecting for individuals. There are easy ways to learn how the people you’re hiring might actually work together, and you can make it a natural part of your process. Making this the highest criteria for your recruiting will change your business performance, increase your retention, build your culture, and drive people to excel together.

In the process, you also need to expose your existing team to the potential recruits. Don’t just keep a ring around a narrow or HR-only selection committee.

Of course, I realize you also might only be looking at hiring one position, like a CEO, which often happens. In this case, I recommend you go past the CV and understand her or his personality and behaviour in depth. ProFound Talent uses personality tools to see into candidates, their role fit, their tolerance for teamwork, their adjusted behaviours, the way they see and react to situations. There is no faking these tests, so they do get you a long way. But beyond that I highly recommend that the breadth and depth of your team gets exposure to the new leader. Eye to eye and conversation to conversation. Your people need to trust this individual, and you need to see her or him interacting up and down the line. This goes for any C-suite candidate you might hire. Your ultimate success depends on them being the biggest team players possible.

There are no individuals on the shuttle. And there really shouldn’t be any room for them on your mission, either.

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