Don’t Look For Superstars, Look For Superteams

HR departments seems to spend a lot of time looking for the best person for each position, but I'm not sure they always think about "best" in the right way. The best programmer isn't the person that can write the most lines of code per hour. The best accountant isn't the one that has the most certifications and awards. "Best" should really be defined in terms of the structure of the rest of the team.

Businesses don't need the "best" people as we usually interpret "best." They need the right people. Situation, team chemistry, all that stuff matters. It's like the movie Miracle, when hockey coach Herb Brooks is chastised for not picking the best players. His response? "I'm not looking for the best players. I'm looking for the best team."

  • W

    Agreed, this is the way I and others I know have done it – paid close attention to the group dynamic and hire people with complementing skill sets. It works great (at least until the next re-org).

    Also, I think that managers should do the final hire decision, not HR. And, this is just another reason. The manager should know the team better.

    HR should facilitate the process to make it easy for the manager. But, the manager should make the hire, taking into account the team dynamic. That’s just my opinion.

  • Great post! I think that what it all comes down to (whether you’re looking for an employee, a business partner, an executive, or anyone else for your company) is skills, experience, and fit within the organization.

  • Lord

    The problem is if you only look to fill your weaknesses, you will not build true strength. A real star can lead a team to higher achievement, but if your focus is on compatibility, you may end up with mediocrity. This can be fine if your competition is only indirect but be fatal if direct.

  • Right on Rob. Hot teams and hot teamwork are the stuff that make businesses great. Anyone can do it and everyone should!

  • Great post, Rob. The cult of stars leads us to forget that Deming was right. Great systems help stars be productive and great teams are part of those systems. Boris Groysberg and Linda-Eling Lee explain in a forthcoming article in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, that “It is true that a star’s past performance indicates future performance—but the quality of colleagues in his or her organization also has a significant impact on the ability to maintain the highest quality output.” See “The Key to Managing Stars? Think Teams” at

  • Sam

    Teams are important, agreed. I don’t buy the fact that you should make team dynamics the driving factor in the decision, however. 1, it’s too hard to predict how a person will fit into a team anyway and 2, it would make interviews too complex (I guess you could have some sort of predicted relationship matrix with everybody on the team, but c’mon…) Bottom line, hire the superstar. Don’t hire a loser with a great “team dynamic”.

  • Teams and team-work are important than the individuals. Visit my post “Transactive memory” for more on this.