Although there are many factors that go into building a high-performance team, there is one that stands out above the rest. Simply put, the company with the best people wins. Building a high-performance team means that you’re putting together the all-star dream team. This includes your executive leadership team, your employees, and your board of directors.
Hiring must be a purposeful process, never left to chance. The first step in the hiring process occurs way before any interviews are held: your leadership team must identify the key characteristics you’re looking for in the people you hire. Once you’ve decided on these characteristics, go after them. Don’t compromise for second-best. Use word-of-mouth and personal references from those you trust to find the very best people you can.
The interview process must be rigorous to discover whether a candidate really has the qualities you seek. As CEO of Ariba, I interviewed every potential employee until the company grew to around 300 people. In fact, when Ariba was a young company, I spent almost half of my time interviewing and training new people. CEOs don’t often do this, yet it’s the most important job they have, to ensure that the right people are hired. We had teams of employees put candidates through tough presentations and hard-hitting questions to see what they were made of and whether they really knew what they were talking about.
You should be looking for diverse group of individuals, both generalists and specialists. You need to be secure enough in your own leadership abilities that you can hire people who may be even better than you! You want people who are the best at what they do. It’s a fact that “A” people attract “A+” people, but “B” people attract “C” people. Where do you want your teams to be?
Although you may be looking for people with traits specific to your organization, there are some universal qualities that are typical of people who excel on high-performance teams. These include:
- A strong inner drive and passion
- Excellence in area of expertise
- Confident and secure about who they are
- Open to new ideas and different points of view
- Risk-taking, fearless attitude
- Humble and non-defensive
- Strong team player
- Good communicator
- Not afraid to say that “the emperor has no clothes”
The initial success of Ariba was largely due to the seven people who founded the company. Each of these seven founders fit into this high-performance profile. All were humble people who put the team first above their own self-interests. All were secure enough to be able to hire the very best talent, even stepping aside to make way for others better than themselves. And all of us were very good at what we did. Paul Hegarty and Boris Putanec were two of the best technology guys in Silicon Valley. Paul Tuow was the best conceptual thinker I have ever worked with. Rob DeSantis was a master at sales and execution. Bobby Lent had a profound understanding of marketing. Ed Kinsey was a high-integrity Chief Financial Officer. And I was simply the team builder. We really had the “dream team,” and it paid off big time.