Thirty years and hundreds of team experiences have produced two seemingly paradoxical guideposts to staffing teams:
No team succeeds in the absence of people with the skills, behaviors and working relationships required for performance.
No team succeeds without folks on the team learning something new.
If read carefully, these two insights indicate it is simply not possible to predict in advance every dimension of skill, behavior and working relationship required for team performance. Can and should team leaders be careful and thoughtful about staffing teams? Of course. But, the second point would indicate that too many team leaders suffer from an illusion that somehow, someway there’s a ‘Dream Team” out there and if they only spend enough time, they’ll be able to pick that team.
Indeed, if you think back to the last Olympics, you might recall that the US “Dream Team” did not win — in major part because the players selected lacked a significant but necessary requirement: an orientation toward learning how to adjust their individual games to the requirements of international rules and styles.
In other words, even this ‘Dream Team’ needed to learn to succeed.
So, yes, by all means, be thoughtful in staffing teams. Pay attention to what you imagine will be the skills, behaviors and working relationships demanded by performance.
But, when it comes time to pick your team, please remember this: Pick ‘learners’. Pick folks who have an orientation to taking risks, trying new things out, and not freaking out at the thought that things might not go as planned.
When it comes to successful teaming, picking learners is a ‘best practice’ in picking winners.