In my role as the Dean of Nebraska Christian College, I am in the middle of several staff changes. Some people are leaving and we are interviewing and hiring others. I was reflecting that I have probably hired over 100 faculty members (many of them adjuncts) and a dozen administrative assistants over the years (along with many church staff members). Most have been good hires, but I have certainly had my share of bad hires, persons who make you regret ever agreeing to employ them.
There are many things to consider in a potential employee, but there is one thing I have found will always make a person a regrettable hire: inability or unwillingness to be a team player. Team players are folks who work well in all three spheres: with supervisors, with peers, and with those they supervise.
Years ago I was in a Cascade Symphony rehearsal with my friend, the late Frank Nielsen, conducting the practice. In a moment of frustration with us musicians, Frank gave a little pep talk. He said, “There are two great sins in playing symphony music. The first is to play the wrong note. The second is to play at the wrong time. And yea verily, the last sin is greater than the first.” I could not agree more. In an orchestra, if you play together, the blend of many instruments will minimize intonation problems to some degree. But when you do not start or stop together, when one section begins to rush while another section lags, or when a single player holds a note too long in an exposed place in the music, everyone in the audience notices.
And, yea verily, so it is with organizational teams. Yes, you need to be playing the same note (or as we usually put it, be on the same page), but more importantly you need to play together. Beginning an entrance half a beat early doesn’t really matter if every single player does it together.
I remember doing a reference check on a potential faculty member in which I contacted a former dean about his performance. The dean said, “In our organization we strive to get everyone on the train and then get the train moving in the right direction. The problem with your applicant is that we would get the train rolling and I would look out the window and see him on his own train going a different direction.”
The issue is that such people often see themselves as important innovators and catalysts for change. Maybe this is true at times, but more often they are just poor team players. They see themselves as somehow above rules of workplace behavior that apply to everyone else. I don’t want anyone like this on my team.
This is not a vote for incompetence or mediocrity. Team players can be highly competent. Talented people can be team players. I want both characteristics on the teams I build.
Nebraska Christian College of Hope International University
The views represented in this blog are solely the responsibility of the author.