3 Reasons to Select Team Members for Commitment, Not Skills

Trust me, if you come together over commitment, skills will follow. But if you select team members for skills, then needed commitment might never appear.

Conventional wisdom on teambuilding advises leaders to first attend to creating the “right” skill mix as they assemble teams. I disagree!

I have observed time and time again that skills are much less critical to responsible relationships and high performance on teams than is aligned motivation, energy, enthusiasm, and interest.

Don’t get me wrong, I demand the best fit in terms of skills for a job, but managing the skill fit is a project management concern, not a team leadership concern. It’s important to not confuse the two.

I have seen “teams” with all the right skills perform miserably. And I have seen teams without all the “right” skills but broad alignment and high enthusiasm perform at extraordinary levels.

Consider this example from sports: for many years during the 1980s and 1990s the New York Yankees baseball team had the greatest talent money could buy, yet they often got beat by teams with much less talent.

Why do you think that was the case? Why didn’t they win the World Series every year?

3 Reasons Why Commitment Trumps Skills

  1. Talent doesn’t created teamwork — shared commitment and desire does.
  2. Low motivation is more infectious in teams than high motivation. Even highly skilled freeloaders will rapidly bring down a team’s performance level.
  3. Skilled individuals act within their roles. Committed team members do what needs to be done for the team — they improvise.

The solution: if teamwork is important to you, choose team members for their motivation first and their skills second.


Get Started With This 5-Minute Practice Tip

Reflect on the experience you have accumulated while participating in the last few teams. How were your skills and commitment treated during the selection and start-up process?

Remember a negative team experience and imagine how things might have been different if commitment had been addressed first, before skills. Would the team have performed better?

Dare to make commitment the priority the next time you assemble your next team.

Team challenge; discuss with your team the implication of placing “commitment over skills.” How will this priority work to your advantage?

Leaders and coaches: Get Christopher’s best team building and leadership strategies collected over two-plus decades of solving teamwork problems for smart people. Get this FREE Special Report while it lasts: The Five Flawless Steps to Building a Strong Executive Leadership Team.

Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.

Posted in Leadership on 07/07/2014 07:56 am
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