A great team can take a mediocre idea and turn it into something meaningful. But a mediocre team will still take the next Facebook and f**k it up 100% of the time. So how do we make great teams?
I’ve spent my entire career obsessing about how to build great companies, and I’ve learned so much trying to get this right.
What I learned is that the way we do 99% of all recruiting is completely broken. Normally we have a job description, some needs, some wants, some nice to haves. We interview a candidate, and we compute: yes they’ve got this, no they don’t have that, etc. We calculate: 80% match – let’s hire this person. But that’s completely wrong: it has absolutely zero to do with what makes a team great.
What makes a team great is the same thing that makes a personal friendship great, or a romantic relationship great: that we share values, believe in the same things, not believe in the same things, share the same ethos and mindset. If you’ve ever seen it, or been privileged to be a part of a team like this, you’ll immediately know: once you’ve got this, there is nothing you can’t achieve together. It’s inspiring and powerful and amazing.
Instead, we approach hiring a great team with what we call the 3 C’s: Culture, Capacity and Craft, in that order.
Most important thing: Culture. What is culture to us? It’s a composition of Values, Mindset/Ethos, and Traits. Values are limited to words that can be used to Evaluate, Assess, Praise and Critique; words that can’t be used in this way are bad (e.g. Obsession vs. Passion – one can be meaningfully measured, one cannot). Mindset and Ethos are phrases that are basically inspiring mantras that also define our culture, but don’t really apply to evaluation and assessment (e.g. sooner is better, now is best; clean hands make you wrong). Traits are things we sometimes try to leverage as values, but are really just attributes of people we’re looking for (e.g. self-reliance).
Next most important thing: Capacity for Mastery (Google sometimes calls this Velocity of Learning). This is important to distinguish from skills because if you have the ability to master things, you can acquire any of the skills you need. In a startup where you’re always doing something new, there’s almost never an instruction manual, so the thing to optimize for in building a capable team is its capacity to master new things.
Last thing we look for: Craft – this is what most companies interview for – technical skills and capabilities. They’re important, don’t get me wrong – you’re hiring for a job, and you need this person to get the job done. But from the perspective of building Great teams, it’s the least important thing, because if you have the first two, you can get the third. Because again, skills have nothing to do with what makes teams great.
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