Develop and Lead a Spirited Team


Are your employees motivated? Are they skilled? Do they have what it takes to work together and poise your company for success?

An organization is only as strong as its team, so it’s critical that you hire for, and foster, the right people for your company. But what should you look for in future and existing employees?

When I assess a company’s potential, I look at its employees and their development through the lens of four categories: leadership skills, technical skills, teamwork, and heart.

Leadership and technical skills are things that can be trained, and that can be imbued in your organization.

Teamwork and heart, on the other hand, are a reflection of spirit, which is something that you need to hire for. These “soft skills” of spirit need to be cultivated, and they also needs to have free rein to develop, which has a lot to do with your leadership. Because these skills are a little bit harder to measure, it’s worth taking a closer look at them.

Teamwork. Spirit is closely related to teamwork. Now, I’m not just talking about everybody working together. I’m talking about teamwork in the sense that, as a group, you opt in or opt out of things together, and you win or you lose together. Spirit is what’s inside a person that motivates him or her to put the needs of the group ahead of his or her own personal interests.

Heart. There are some people who really put their heart into the things that they do – they’re passionate, they take ownership of their job, and they really care about the company. These people tend to be innovative and entrepreneurial within the organization, simply because they have such a passion for what they are doing, and an interest in the direction of the company.

Heart is another thing that you pretty much have to hire for. But you also need to be careful, because it’s possible to kill it. Every organization should strive to have a balance of these four skills, as they really do determine a company’s potential.

It’s important to try to foster a team that represents all four of these things relatively equally, so that you don’t end up with too much spirit and not enough technical skill, or vice versa. I wrote an article about this recently, and the editors at that publication titled it, “Should You Hire For Skill Or Spirit?”

By doing so, it was  framed it as an either/or question. The interesting thing is that the article received a lot of comments, and 99% of the people who commented said they hire for spirit, rather than for skills. But is that really the case?

Realistically, we have a tendency to hire for skills. We hire for skills because it’s a lot easier – you receive a résumé, and you see that the candidate attended a certain university and has had a particular type of work experience.

These sorts of things make it possible for you to assume, with a reasonable amount of accuracy, just what that person will be capable of.

It’s not as easy to hire for spirit. After all, how do you assess the spirit that you bring on to a team? And then, once you have that spirited team, how do you unfold it? How do you let it grow?

Let me give you an example of a company that really worked to develop a spirited team, and saw that effort pay off. This company had just gotten rid of a very toxic CEO, and the board asked me to come in and identify the person who should succeed him.

The person I found didn’t come from a very senior position, but he was the right guy. He had a collaborative style, and a way of allowing the team to expand. The former CEO was very authoritarian and abusive, so it took some time for the team to recover from that. But under this new man’s leadership, the team was really able to unfold, with everyone bringing their own creativity and their own inspiration.

As a result, the organization thrived. So, the way to lead for spirit is not to rely on a position of authority, but to ask the grassroots leader (either within a corporation or within your business) to guide the team. This really means fostering spirit from the bottom up, so that the people have a sense of their own engagement and their own excitement because they’re working in a spirited team.

If you successfully hire and manage for an equal amount of spirit and skill, you’ll see your organization truly begin to grow. Look around your company. Are you fostering the right balance of skills?

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  Michelle Randall, president of global management consultancy Enriching Leadership International, is an executive coach and business consultant for senior leaders and their teams. Her newest book is Life Worth Leading: A Practical Guide to Executive Effectiveness. www.enrichingleadership.com