Top 7 Individual Qualities I Look For in Building A Team


As a startup founder (both Createpossible and Resource Global were startups) I have made quite a few hiring decisions over the years. I have had the chance to hire people for full time positions as well as part time positions.  I have worked with both men and women, young and old. Some hiring decisions have worked very well and some have not gone well at all. I have learned a lot through the process. Here are some of the qualities that I find are important to me and that I now look for when hiring:

1. Character

This is the most important thing and has become a non negotiable for me.  I’ve learned the hard way that hiring someone with character flaws won’t work well in the long run.  I used to think that if I gave a person a chance they would change but I’ve learned that this will hurt a team right away.   When I say character flaws, the ones that bother me the most in a team setting are arrogance and selfishness.  If unaddressed these will ruin a team.  I’ve learned my lesson on this one.  

2. Work Ethic

I do not hire based on the best talent. Having talent is important and it’s important that the person is skilled based on the need we are looking for.  But talent does not necessarily guarantee a good team fit. In fact, there were times when I felt like I did not have a lot of innate talent or natural skill to do the things that were asked of me, but that did not prevent me from performing successfully. On the contrary, there was a time when I hired someone with exceptional talent but it did not work out well because of his attitude. For me, a person’s work ethic is very important.  Does this person work hard? Pure talent is no match for a naturally hard worker who makes mistakes, but learns from those mistakes, perseveres, and does not quit until they have done what it takes to finish the job. When I have persevered despite setbacks, I have found that new doors have opened for me and I have been able to accomplish things that I had never thought would be possible. I want people on my team with the same attitude so that I can push them to reach their potential.  

3. Learner

Does this person know how to learn by listening?  Does he listen in humility? Early in my days when I was working in the telecommunications industry, my managing director told me, "Tommy, you have got to listen and quit talking.  No one will ever want to teach you if they think you are a know-it-all.”  I still remember those wise words he said to me.  The truth is, I may already know something, but when I have a know-it-all attitude and think that I have all the answers, it is a turn-off for the people around me. When I choose to close my mouth and start listening to the perspectives of other people, I often learn something new, and in the process they see in me a spirit of humility and in turn say, "Wow, he really wants to learn. Let me do everything I can to help him." I look for people who know when to talk and when to listen, because if they can listen well, they are capable of learning and growing.

I sometimes find that our seminaries are not encouraging our future ministry leaders and pastors to develop this trait.  We call pastors “lead” pastors and their church “their flock.”  Therefore, when a young pastor is brought in for a pastoral position, we have automatically placed the young pastor in a mindset where he believes he is the leader and the CEO.  The wise ones will learn and ask questions.  But for some they walk into their role believing they call the shots.

For me to work effectively I need people who are constantly learning and asking questions.  They need to be humble in their approach to the task or situation at hand.  

In my experience, having a teachable spirit is hard for many leaders.  Leaders who are older in age often feel that they have all the answers and believe that young people need to show them respect and so they tend to talk down to people.  On the other hand, young people often do not show respect to older people because they feel like things have changed and they know the answers.  Listening, honoring, respecting, and learning with a posture of humility are very important.  

4. Communication

Communication is also very important.  I am always asking, does this person communicate well with others?  Do they communicate well with the team they are working with?  Do they communicate well with the client? Whether it is good news or bad news the person needs to be able to let the client know what is happening.  We have to communicate to our team or our boss what we are doing.  This may involve more than just a text or an email.  It may be a phone call just to touch base.  It may involve face to face meetings especially when dealing with hard decisions and conversations.  Communication is different for my generation.  We communicate like a certain basketball player in the NBA who likes to communicate his frustration with his team through tweets versus just talking with them directly.  Communication is the key to a successful project.  

5. Flexibility

Things change.  Problems arise.  Situations happen.  Can we make adjustments?  Can we identify possible solutions and make adjustments as things are happening?  This is a very important quality to have.  Some people are so tied into their exact plan that they are not able to do this.  But in real life situations and problems occur unexpectedly and when that happens we have to make changes to our plan based on the situation that is unfolding.  The demeanor of a person is also key because they need to continue to remain calm and collected as they assess the situation.  This is not a natural skill and takes time to develop in a person.  

6. Proactive

I love working with people who are naturally motivated and can lead.  I love working with people who look at what needs to be done and then proceed to put together and implement a plan.  Sometimes they need direction but for the most part I can trust them with a project.  These days I have so many projects that I am juggling that it is important for me to have a team of people that I can trust.  It is key to have proactive team members who can take something and run with it.  It is hard to work with a person I have to give direction to every minute.  

7. Service

Does this person serve other people? Too often I see leaders who have worked themselves into a particular position and believe that their level of authority makes them too good to do certain tasks. I do not believe that I should ever ask someone to do something that I, myself, am not willing to do, and I expect the same attitude from the people that work with me. Any person can delegate, but it is harder to find a person who will work hard and serve those under their authority.

Building a team is important.  I have found it is important to build around my strengths and weaknesses and how I work.  If not, my team has more conflict and everything blows up.  It took time to find out what I needed on my team, and it will take experimentation to figure out what works best for you, too.