If You Want A Great Team, Look In The Mirror

How our values effect how we feel about our work

I recently had the immense pleasure of hearing Dr. Sabrina Starling talk at my local chapter of the Entrepreneurs Organization. Dr. Starling is the bestselling author of a series of books about hiring the best. I don’t know how staffing is going for your organization but for nearly every business owner I talk to building and keeping a team together has proven to be one of the greatest challenges small businesses are facing. It doesn’t seem to be just about COVID, but the shifting landscape in how people view their time.

Video game accessory

I haven’t done all the background research on this, but the combination of several factors seems to have disrupted the workplace like never before. The sudden and often unexpected shift from office work to working from home (it happened in my company), coupled with families both spending more time together AND being separated from people they love has tilted the sense of value many people put on their work and their time.

I am hearing more people say, “Someday is today.” In my experience, those thoughts can lead to powerful change. It happened to me four years ago. I bought my first Harley Davidson motorcycle. I named her Willow. Willow was a soft tail deluxe so named because her color was similar to Willow Rosenberg’s hair color on the TV show Buffy the Vampire slayer. (Played by Alyson Hannigan). Joss Whedon said in an interview that whenever he wanted to kick start an adventure he would put Willow in peril, but of course he would never hurt her. To me, Willow the motorcycle was my call to adventure. That one single decision had an enormous impact on my life. I am not surprised to hear and see more people reaching out to live their dreams now.

So how does this affect hiring and employee retention?

According to Dr. Starling, “A-Players” are not just great performers, they are also people we are compatible with. Surprisingly, there are multiple ways to be competent, and some are not compatible with our deepest held values. Dr. Starling calls these, “the immutable laws.”

Her advice? If you want to build a team of A-players, start by looking in the mirror and finding your immutable laws. Because she warns, if you don’t, you may find the perfect candidate for the job and hire them – only to discover you drive each other nuts.

Finding your immutable laws is simple, but not easy. I have seen two different methods for discovering how to gain perspective and discover what you value. The first is to make a list of people you admire – a short list. Then study the list for commonalities. The common qualities point to traits you admire and want to develop within yourself.

Gaming for Team Building

Dr. Starling gave an even easier method to arrive at discovering what you value most. First, take a look at times you have become really upset by something. Chances are, you are upset because the thing that happened somehow violated one of your values. The second path to discovery is to look for instances where you feel very proud of someone close to you. Kids are an obvious example, but you can also be inspired by team members, family, or friends. Your sense of pride stems from the fact that they are demonstrating a value you hold dear.

I know I have seen franchise owners in the GameTruck system spark a deep sense of pride within me. Until Dr. Starling explained it, I had thought the feeling slightly misplaced out of a misguided desire not to be pedantic. GameTruck owners possess a deep sense of duty and commitment to show up for a child’s birthday. It is truly remarkable and one of the main reasons the brand has flourished.

It did not take me long to sit down and mine my frustrations and my pride. I quickly identified some values that are core to me. I also remember Dr. Starling telling me these values should be “real”, not aspirational, not something we aim but, but “the way it is.” For me, that’s exactly what these values are. That’s why she calls them immutable laws. These values guide how each of us processes and ultimately experience reality right now.

Chances are, when you find an A-player, someone you really enjoy working with, someone who kicks ass and takes names. It is not only that they are competent, but that you both share a large overlap in values.

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So if you want a great team, a good place to start is to sit down and make a list of your own “immutable laws”. You can have as few as 2 values or as many as 10 What’s important is that they be authentic and sound like you. When I shared my list with my team, they said, “yup, that sounds like you.” I believe the list is a mirror into the part of myself where thought and emotion mix. As Simon Sinek said, “the part of your brain that is responsible for decisions is not the part of your brain responsible for language.” Putting words to deeply held feelings and beliefs is hard. What’s more, it feels so much easier to see in other people than ourselves.

I loved Dr. Starling’s simple tools because they helped me articulate my values. What’s more, they make it easier for me to see alignment with others on my team. Armed with that information I find it easier to diffuse frustration and amplify positive feedback. I think it makes it better for my team as well.

I encourage you to take 15 minutes and give it a try. You might be surprised what you come up with.