December 10, 2012
The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.
This week, Tech Cocktail asked, “How do you know when someone will be a great team member?” Their responses are below.
1. They Take Pride in Their Work
When we are looking to bring on a new team member or are evaluating a current team member, we always try and evaluate whether they take pride in their work or if they are just getting the job done. Having someone who takes pride in what they do on your team is invaluable. In my experience, these people “go the extra mile” on a regular basis and very rarely do you have to ask them to.
2. No More Self-Promotion
You know someone will be a great team member when he stops doing things that show how great he is and starts promoting the people around him.
3. Attitude Goes a Long Way
Talent and education cannot be faked. A good attitude, however, can go a long way towards bridging the gaps in your company. A great team member has enthusiasm for what the company is trying to achieve, and is willing to learn on the job, deal with occasional obstacles, stay late, come in early, and refuses to get discouraged. These people are also infinitely more enjoyable to work with, and will engender a better company culture among other team members, prospective employees and your clients. A good attitude should be a priority when looking to hire a new member.
4. Brand Advocate
I always look for someone who is a raving fan of what we’re doing. When the values are already in alignment, the motivation to perform well and contribute at their highest level happens naturally.
5. Work Ethic is Apparent
You can’t definitively tell at the interview stage. You can avoid the obvious zeros but often times you need to see how people perform to be able to gauge if they will be a great team member. A great sign for me is when a team member comes in early and works late to help others get things done. It shows that they care deeply about their team and the company as a whole.
6. Using WE vs. I
Pay special attention to how they answer certain questions. Are they using “we” rather than “I?” Does the candidate speak more about “his/her” accomplishments rather than working with others and “their” accomplishments? Does the candidate use team player on their resume as a strong quality? Specific questions will tell if the employee is a solid team player. My favorite question: “If co-workers were asked to evaluate you, what do you think they would say about your strengths and weaknesses?”
7. They’re Innovative
I always prepare a set of questions that relate to my business in order to see how the interviewee responds. In many cases, he may not be familiar with the question but will give an answer I hadn’t thought of. That’s a sign of an innovator.
8. Values Alignment
There is no such thing as a universal a-team. What makes a great team member depends on the team they’re a part of. Core values and culture differ from organization to organization, and the best team members are those who will align with YOUR organization’s core values and culture. Skills and experience are important, as is diversity of perspective, but a great team member cares about what you care about even if they see the world a little differently.
9. They’re Willing to Sweep the Floor
The best team members are the ones that will do whatever is needed with a good attitude. Building a business takes hard work and hustle, sometimes that means we have to do jobs that are not fun or glamorous. If you know they’d sweep the floor or do other mundane tasks to advance the business with a smile, most likely you have a real winner.
10. You Trust Them to Hire Others
Only hire people you would trust to hire other people on their own. If you believe in a person that much, you’re going to build a team of rock stars.
11. They Outwork You
I’ve thought about this question many times. Aside from an alignment of values that other YECers mention here, I’ve found that one of the most important things to consider is work ethic. Everyone loves to “talk” about how hard they work, but I’ve learned that “hard work” is often very subjective. So, what is one to do? Use yourself as the yardstick. Before committing to work with anyone on a project, one of the most important questions I ask is, “Could they outwork me?” If the answer is “no” I don’t partner with them. Period. An imbalance of workload can be an immense source of stress. If the your partner does have an incredible work ethic, however, chances are most challenges can be surmounted.
12. Personal Responsibility is Key
My philosophy is that whenever there’s a problem you should always look towards yourself to see how you can take responsibility, and I expect everyone I work with to take the same perspective. When I interview I ask about past problems and see how they describe them – are they always blaming everyone else? Or are they able to have some humble perspective on what they did wrong, and what they could have improved? Great team members don’t play the blame game.
13. Shared Interests
People want to be around people they like. If you find that a prospective hire and you might have completely different professional backgrounds and skill sets, but still have some similar hobbies and views on life, that’s usually a good sign. Skills can be learned, but finding someone that you really click with on a personal level is much more difficult. I hire based on people I’d like to hang out with. Assuming the basics are there (good work ethic, motivated, positive attitude), I’ll almost always take someone with shared interests over just about any other non-technical set of skills.
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