Hiring? Consider the Individual vs Team Sport Approach

Hiring? Consider the Individual vs Team Sport Approach

Sometimes, we all need a hero. But other times, we need the entire Justice League. We (the royal “we”) used to think of hiring talent as an individual sport. Meaning that if you found that one brilliant, successful, super-performer, they’d win at any job they were put into.

The truth is… it’s not that easy. In fact, it’s super messy. Some people will thrive in one environment but completely wilt in another. That rock star executive (who seemed like a slam dunk on paper) didn’t mesh with your culture and fell apart. Why?

Well, we’ve come to see hiring as a team sport. But each team is different. Some of them have one super player who just doesn’t quite mesh. And others will bring in a star who integrates with the team and lifts everyone up to play their best. So when you’re hiring…

consider who will come into your team and raise everyone’s game. 

So first, let’s reverse the rules. What if you *started* with outlining who the cultural complement is for your particular team? In the art and science of most professional work, there is a plethora of science on the critical link to culture to back it up.

Also, there isn’t “one way” to do any of this, so you can take a deep breath and think creatively. It’s fascinating to see how very different cultures can scale and thrive. Apple has a focus on secrecy and a functional organization, whereas Google is open-source and matrixed. The key here is to find the right hire for your unique team and company. 

For example, we’ve met incredibly talented alums from Apple who would never thrive at Google and vice versa. But we’ve also met people who would fit in brilliantly at either company. Our advice? Start with the reality (with brave honesty) of what your organizational context and culture is. Next, sprinkle in the cultural specifics of the team you’re hiring for and what experiences and perspectives would complement that team. Now, you’re set up for hiring an executive who will not only add to the diversity of the team but will (more likely) feel included and amplify what makes your team rock and roll. 

Here’s the easy part. Now, you can outline the critical skills and experience you’re looking for from a resume. We recommend picking your top five—a short list of skills and experience widens the aperture (versus the laundry list of requirements) to attract people who nail the key elements—and who might bring other talents you never dreamed of including. Long gone are the days of verbose job descriptions. We’ve learned.

To be sure, we want individuals on our team to perform in outstanding ways. We love a super star just as much as anyone (who doesn’t love that game-clinching play or phenomenal heroic save). But we also don’t want individuals so bent on individualism that they diminish the rest of the team, or act according to values that are not congruent with your team. 

You want to hire the person who is the best for your team, not just “the best in the market” (which is highly subjective anyway).

We don’t just hire this way because it feels like the right thing to do. We do it because it works. We’re determined to make work better which means setting individuals and teams up for success. So join us in embracing the messy, tricky, and complicated. Because often, the easy way isn’t the best way (unless we’re talking about downhill skiing or pre-made cookie dough).


Work is a team sport. We are on your team — drop us a line to tell us how we can help.