What a terrible interviewing question to ask someone! Who in America would say they are not a team player? To deny being a team player is like saying I hate motherhood and apple pie.
Are you a team player has become a key interview question that is totally ineffective. In the first place interviewees are ready for the question and are quick to provide their pat answer. In the second place, you get a response that you already know you will get. And thirdly, once you get their answer you have closed the door to exploring how they really work with others.
We in America have become so obsessed with the idea of being a team player that we dont even know what we are looking for in a potential employee.
Lets get to the core of the idea of being a team player. The first thing we need to understand is that there are many different kinds of teams and the role an individual is expected to play is as diverse as the team. For example there are football teams, track teams, rowing teams and swimming teams. Think of the great difference of the types of people on these different kinds of teams. On the football team, everyone moves into action at the quarterbacks command and all play their respective roles. On the track team each person is performing their own event and is not dependent on the other team members unless they are on the relay team. When one is on a track team, one person may win a gold metal while they team as a whole comes in last. Or the team can come in first place while a given athlete was completely ineffective in his own event. The rowing team is again very different in that all team members are working in unison at the command of a coxswain. On a swimming team -unless it is a relay- most members are not even present when their team mate is competing nor do they have any influence in the success or failure of their team mates actions. So, each team requires different a type of team participation. Many times I have heard people say I am a team player and then talk about golf being their favorite game.
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A company hired a consultant to help them develop their executive leadership into a team and create common systems for all three divisions of the company. After meeting for several days they were completely frustrated. I was called in to help them understand the frustration. It was quickly apparent that they had decided to call themselves a baseball team. However, the company in no way resembled a baseball team. There were four different divisions, producing four different products, with different levels of profitability that had no relationship to each other. They did not in any way rely on each other to be successful. We helped them to understand that they were a track team and not a baseball team.
The next time you ask someone Are you a team player it is best that you first know what type of team you have or need to create.
Frequently I see companies and individuals who want to espouse being team players but they have no understanding of what type of team their division or company needs to be. Nor should we conclude that the type of team structure that is right for you today will be right for you tomorrow. A classic example is the football team. When your experienced quarterback who calls his own plays goes out with a broken ankle and the rookie enters the game now the coach starts calling in the plays and every member on the team must make a significant adjustment in their play.
Stop now and ask yourself, What type of team do I need and What type of team am I trying to build? Are my answers congruent with what I am doing?
Once you have a clear understanding of the type of team you need for your division or company then you are ready to evaluate the team style of the person you are considering promoting or hiring.
I recall interviewing an individual who presented himself as a strong team player because he had been on the university swim team. His specialty was the breast stroke. This information told me considerably about him. He was very focused and very good at doing a repetitive task alone. He did not like the feedback and protested that he was capable of multitasking and original thinking. The company chose to hire him knowing this because they accepted his explanation. Within a few months the hiring executive shared that the individual was not performing as well as he expected, but he was performing exactly as we had predicted.
The next time you interview or think about building a team. Remember to first ask yourself What type of team do we need now? Once you determine the type of team you need, you have taken the first step toward selecting the right person.
For more information on how we provide selection and screening assistance to business of all sizes visit our new website at www.brownlee.biz.
Feel free to pass this on to your business associates.
All the Best in selecting the right team players.
(Copywrited by John H. Brownlee 2015)