Derek Bishop


Engaging in teamwork

Date added: 16th Sep 2013
Category: Employee Engagement

“I work well as a team”.

In these days of professional CV writers, on-line CV apps and endless guidebooks to help people on the road to their dream jobs it is surprising how many CVs contain statements which set the applicant in a negative light.  The number one pet hate for a colleague of ours is the simple statement “I work well as a team” which seems to appear on a depressingly regular basis.

Our colleague is happy to interview people who work well as a team member or as part of a team but when an individual professes to be a team in their own right the red mist descends.  Whilst generally the statement is more a sign of poor proofreading it cannot be denied that teamwork and being a team player has gained in importance over the past decade.  Where once a CV was packed with qualifications and work history, now being one of the team, working well with others or professing leadership skills have become the “must-have” CV entries.

Businesses too have embraced the teamwork ethos with hiring for cultural fit taking the place of hiring for qualifications.  And it is certainly true that a team which works in harmony can generally achieve far more than a team of well qualified individuals who barely speak to each other.  But alongside this move towards cultural fit and teamwork is the hidden danger that managers will start to employ only those who fit a prescribed mould.

Put simply, teams of clones are teams which go nowhere.  Teams need different skills and different personalities if they are to work effectively and efficiently.  In a football team if everyone was good at defending the team would never win a match.  If you hire two people with exactly similar personalities they may forge a strong partnership or they may take an instant dislike to each other.  Businesses, sports clubs, charities, every organisation needs members within a leadership team to bring a range of strengths to the table and every team within those organisations needs a balance.

So hiring for cultural fit is not the same as hiring a group of “mini-me’s”.  But that doesn’t mean that you should go to the opposite extreme either.  Whilst there is a trend of management thinking which runs that every manager needs someone in their team to disagree with them, it is a rare manager who relishes a perpetual nay-sayer.

Rather, hiring for cultural fit means hiring those who can bring something to the business table and whose personality type will enable them to embrace and enhance the cultural ethos of the organisation.  For example, if the culture is biased towards going the extra mile in the quest to provide outstanding client service then a jobs-worth attitude may not sit well within the organisation.  Conversely, if the culture centres on methodical painstaking research then a gung-ho attitude may ruin a carefully forged reputation for scientific rigour.

Of course these are fairly extreme examples and most organisations will be looking for employees who will simply work with others in the team in a productive and fruitful way.  So interviews may be structured to include personality tests or the interviewee may be invited to spend some time meeting with their potential new team members to see if they do get on together.  But whatever the interview method, it is then up to the management team to ensure that their new employee is fully engaged in the organisation from day one.  How the induction process is managed can make or break employee engagement.    Depressingly the “here is your chair, here is your inbox get on with it” model is still very much in operation in many organisations.  Taking care, taking time with new employees may not be productive from day one but in the long term it will pay dividends.

Forget the clones that may work well as a team but show no initiative or spark and instead hire for variety, for excitement and for a contribution to the culture of the organisation which will benefit it for years to come.

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