Built Not Bought #spurs #leadership #nbafinals

Now, before you Miami Heat folks freak out about the Spurs trouncing the Miami professional basketball team last night, or before the Spurs fans freak out that this post isn’t about them, I’d like you to focus on the message on that image above.

Built, not bought. 

(Note to my current team: This is NOT about you, avid readers, even though we just did some reorgs and hiring).

What a powerful concept. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to hire new staff members. The team was growing because of increased workload and projects we’d put into place (which, isn’t that just awesome?), so we had to hire a few positions.

Here are some of the lessons I learned:

  1. While having a skill-set is important, hiring for attitude is more important. This was a lesson I was reluctant to learn that my first assistant superintendent shared with me. We often may have the most wonderfully talented and skilled individuals in the interview pool, but the same character trait that made them be so talented is the same one that makes them a pain to work with. Better to go with a B+ candidate with great attitude than an A+ candidate with a crappy one.

    Unfortunately, unless you go out of your way to ask questions about attitude, you won’t find out until it’s too late. I have some special questions I include in EVERY interview I have to gain insight and they have proven invaluable.

  2. Build on candidate’s strengths, especially when they are your second, or even, third choice. Once upon a time, I recommended a top candidate but the candidate was passed up from higher up for reasons I was not made privy to until after the second candidate had been accepted. The second candidate, I argued, didn’t score as well in the interviews, was an unknown, and frankly, I’d rather go out and hire again.

    Surprisingly, though, this candidate turned out to be one of the best additions to the team. Even though the higher-ups’ reasoning wasn’t based on hiring the best candidate or greatest attitude, this candidate enabled the team to achieve new levels of customer service. In fact, I credit this individual with getting me started in Linux, supporting free open source solutions like WordPress, Moodle, etc. And, that was very helpful for the schools I’ve served in as well as rewarding professionally for myself and other team members whom I later taught.

    So, what made the difference? We built our programs around the “second” candidate’s strengths rather than cling to what had been the previously perceived needs of the District. Instead of focusing on the perceived weaknesses of the candidate who did get the job, enhance their strength. Indeed, a powerful lesson–build on their strengths and you’ll go in directions you can’t imagine.

  3. Grow your team. We’re back to the lesson of the image at the top of this post. Though I scarcely pay attention to basketball (uhh, sorry I’m a reader not an athlete), I found this image powerful because it highlights the power of investing in your team and building them up. That’s why Coach Popovitch is hailed as a great coach…the team he built has done so well.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes, you get a candidate that has great attitude and awesome skill-set. When you do, do whatever you can to bring them onto your team. I’ve had the good fortune to work with folks like this, and those experiences can power your entire program. However, there aren’t as many of those as you might imagine. 
That’s why mentoring and supporting folks, helping them build their great skills and awesome attitude is critical to your organization’s success. I think of this as helping them transform their potential to kinetic energy (see science teachers? I haven’t forgotten those lessons!).
These are life lessons that come slow. What have you learned over time about building your team rather than buying it outright?

A quick aside: When I was hired for one position quite a few years ago, I later found out I was the second choice. It blew my mind. “What,” I asked myself, “I’m second-string? Not good enough to be chosen first? Only in the job because someone else’s boss said, ‘No, you can’t have your first choice candidate?!?'” Then, I got over it. After all, *I* had the job. And, over the next few years, I knocked the socks off that place. I did stuff that they hadn’t imagined doing, and we were all better off. I was hungry, thirsty, to do well, and it made a difference. The sweetest moment was when the boss said, “You’re the top hand on this team.” What else could you ask for?

Of course, no one is a top-hand alone. Your team makes you top-hand by the choices they make. You make them “top” by the choices you make. If you want to serve the team, make the choices that make your teammates great.


Check out Miguel’s Workshop Materials online at http://mglearns.wikispaces.com


Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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One thought on “Built Not Bought #spurs #leadership #nbafinals

  1. Toni Soto June 7, 2013 at 3:16 pm Reply

    Agreed 100%. I would like to add that the environment is also crucial. Same person, same social, academical or technical skills can flourished in one place but not in another. In general, when looking for the right profile for building a 'San Antonio Team' we should be paying more attention to portfolios than to certifications. Best regards from the other side of the Atlantic. Toni (Antonio) Soto

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