I experienced one of my proudest moments as a parent this past week. In fact, I almost did not make it through the full experience without breaking down from the immense swelling of my heart! As I reflected on it, I realized that this experience was also a perfect reflection of what our goals should be when hiring new members for our team.
My Daughters’ Story
I have twin daughters who will graduate high school this month. They have played soccer since they were not much bigger than the soccer ball! As standouts on their high school soccer team, I knew the recent year-end banquet would be a proud moment for me. What I did not expect was the extent to which they would be recognized for their impact on everyone involved in the program.
Maddie was a starter all year long, but had to switch positions mid-year due to team injuries and a resulting change in coaching strategy. She played all season with her characteristic tenacity and also led as captain of the team. She was an example to her peers as well as the younger players.
During the banquet, other stand-out players were awarded Best Offensive and Best Defensive Players of the Year, but Maddie was recognized as the Overall Best Player of the Year. As the coach described his reasons for this choice, he cited her never-quit attitude, her intense focus on those coaching her, and her ability to motivate her teammates to higher performance.
Catherine would have been a starter as well, but she went down with a season-ending ACL injury in a tournament held just weeks before the start of the season. While she was privately devastated, she remained an integral part of the team, making it a point to never miss a practice or game. No one else knew the pain of watching her sister and the rest of the team play when she could not. She did not let it show.
During the banquet, the coaches recognized the various impact players, including her sister. I know this was so hard for her and I hurt for her during this experience. However, the final award of the night was created for her. The coaches recognized her as “Honorary Captain” and went on to describe the reasons.
They talked about the way Catherine did not let her injury keep her from impacting her teammates. The described how she continued to cheer on and motivate those on the field and the bench. She put aside the pain of having to watch and instead focused on doing her part to coach as a peer. Her response to her injury also set the bar for the other four players that subsequently went down with similar injuries. As hard as it was for the team to lose her on the field, the coaches made it clear she was still an impact player.
Lessons For Us
I could go into much more detail about my daughters and the incredible impact they each had on their teammates. At the same time, I want to make sure I communicate how I believe this experience reinforces lessons that I learned from Bill Hybels in his book, Axiom. These lessons are critical in hiring team performers.
Hybels boils these lessons into 3 qualities that he seeks in all of his hires. He puts these qualities in a specific order of highest priority to lowest priority, but he says he will not hire anyone without all three! Let’s take a look at his 3 critical qualities:
Quality #1 – Character
My daughters were not the most skilled on the team. They did not have the best training pedigree or the highest level of competitive experience. What they both had in spades was character. Their character, each exhibited in different ways, caused the coaches (and parents) who watched them to take note. This was their greatest quality and the one of which I am most proud.
When we look for employees or team members, we need to put this quality at the top of our Must-Have list. Character in the workplace is exhibited in much the same way as it was by my daughters. Examples of this are integrity, putting others first, never giving up, handling adversity with class, etc. I could go on, but you get the idea.
For Hybels, “Character” is non-negotiable. Too often, we are tempted to hire the one who comes to us with incredible talent and experience, but with questionable character. “We can manage them,” we say. Wrong. If someone has questionable character, there will be trouble- avoid them at all costs! Those with character will pay off in the long run.
Quality #2 – Competence
If you took from my description above that my girls lacked skill or competence, then you are mistaken. They were good at their game – really good. They put in long hours of practice and were relentless about getting better. They went to camps, kick-arounds, etc. in an effort to improve. They were not the most naturally gifted or highest skilled players on the team, but they were clearly good at what they did.
When it comes to hiring people for our teams at work, we must look for those who are good at the job. Having character is mandatory, but it is not enough. We must commit to only hiring those who show a high competence level. If we compromise on this quality, we will suffer for it.
Quality #3 – Chemistry
It was clear from the comments from their coaches that my daughters were influential on the team. This influence came from the relationships they built with their teammates. While there is always potential for conflict on a team like this, they found ways to connect with other girls of all personality types. They did not blow off the younger players or exhibit jealousy towards those with more skill. They had the “Chemistry” quality that Hybels endorses.
The same potential for conflict exists in our workplaces every day. We must focus on hiring people that have the ability to get along with others. Not everyone will be best friends, but they should be able to work together despite their differences. This is critical for high-performance teams. Is it true of yours?
I encourage you to take these three qualities and integrate them into your hiring process. Do not accept less than this or your team results will certainly suffer. It is worth the additional effort!
Photo by g-stockstudio / iStock