There has been a recent buzz about the global skills gap, highlighting a perceived lack of technology professionals. I participated in the IBM Tech Jam a few weeks ago where this was a topic of discussion. The conclusion? Recruiters are searching for very specific technical knowledge rather than soft skills such as teamwork and collaboration that make for a good long-term employee. A good technologist can pick up a new technical skill easily through formal or on-the-job training; it’s not so easy to teach the soft skills often requiring years of experience to develop.
As a hiring manager I was faced with this dilemma many times: do I grab the person with specific technical experience in the hopes that they would get me going quicker? Or do I hire the one with more rounded experience and spend the time training. In every case, the latter was the better choice. In fact I saw a very direct comparison when I hired two people at virtually the same time, one in each camp. Sure enough, the person with the more rounded experience had a net positive impact on our team while the other guy (whose technical experience we were salivating over) brought us all down.
Which leads me to the topic of this blog – if I could start from scratch and create the nirvana of working teams, what would it look like? Who would I hire and how would I lead the team? Note I actually got to do this once and wow, what a powerful team – nothing could stop us!
Some of the things I would do to create the perfect team poised for breakthrough thinking and innovation:
- I would hire a global team and build creative spaces for local collaboration. Diverse thinking is what leads to innovation (as I have highlighted here). The same concepts that HBR highlighted in their article, “Creating the Collaborative Workspace” can be replicated in the virtual world through video conferencing and whiteboard sharing technology.
- I would ensure no team members were made to feel second-class because of their time zone by using social business technology to keep the conversation going and make sure everyone is heard, day and night. And as the team leader, I would listen! Per HBR article, “The Discipline of Listening”, one technique I have frequently used is to take notes when someone is talking to me, which keeps me focused on what they are saying rather than my response.
- At least once a year, I would gather the team somewhere inspiring to celebrate our progress and strategize our next moves. Video conferencing only takes you so far – team building needs to be face-to-face. For my business, the heart of our operations was in Puerto Rico so I took our global sales and marketing team to see first hand what we were selling – the beach was an added inspirational bonus.
- On a regular basis, even daily if the team needs tight coordination for fast execution, I’d have a 15 minute check-in to review what was hot. I’d rotate focus of this meeting amongst the team members to highlight their unique contribution or perspective on our progression.
- I’d sign up a lighthouse customer to use as a sounding board for our ideas, and I’d let every team member get a chance to hear first hand what the customer was saying, looking for different interpretations of the same words.
- I’d regularly schedule brainstorming sessions and best practices reviews to ensure we took the time to step back and review the broader landscape, using outside facilitation to ensure an even playing field. For both, I’d make sure that everyone was heard and we built on each other’s ideas rather than each individual throwing in their own $.02.
- Lastly, I would use specialized expertise to fill in the team gaps for skills needed only temporarily instead of just expecting everyone to do more at crunch time.
Because technology has enabled a global pool of potential team members, it is easier than ever to form the perfect team with balanced soft skills and expertise. It is the companies that harness the true power of this global workforce – the people that formulate their teams – that will lead.