You Shouldn't Be the Smartest Person on Your Team. (And Here's Why. )

November 28th, 2018

Imagine being the smartest person on your team.

The only one who really knows what needs to get done and has the drive and vision to do it. The hero of the company you work for. 

And now imagine just how much that would suck. 

Because it would mean the people you work with aren't pulling their weight. That the success and failure of projects is on you. That there's no one to share the wins with. No one to talk things over with when something backfires.

And that's just the beginning...

This nightmare scenario will leave you drained, frustrated and desperate to leave your job for good. Because the hero narrative has one fatal flaw:

In the real world, no one really does it alone

Everything is the result of teamwork. Of billions of relationships that made it all possible.

It's the culmination of information that has been passed on, shared and developed by billions of people over thousands of years.

And yet we forget that. A lot. Just take one look at Elon Musk and the personality cult around him. And then look at the challenges this creates for the team at Tesla

Do we really need a hero?

Back in the nineteenth century, writer and philosopher Thomas Carlyle proposed a theory about human progress. He argued that most of humanity's greatest accomplishments are the result of the actions of a single person. A hero.

Superman flying through the sky

Carlyle got plenty of push-back but the idea of a hero has a lot of appeal. We remember the names of famous movie stars and directors but forget about the writers, set designers and crew whose work is essential to the movie's success. 

We talk about CEOs without looking at the greater context that makes that success possible. 

Some of this comes down to sheer practicality. It's hard to tell a compelling story when you have to name everyone involved. One of the best pop-culture examples of this has to be Game of Thrones

Wait... who's that again?

Game of Thrones introduces us to a lot of characters. (And that's just the TV show...) Every one of those characters - no matter how minor - affects the story in some way. And yet most of us only remember the names and deeds of the main families. That's because when you introduce too much information to a story, it becomes hard to remember. 

That's why Pixar studios - the people behind some of the most tear-jerking stories ever told - keep their stories simple and often merge characters to make each story more engaging. 

The real world has a lot more characters, names and events to remember but we still process stories the same way. That's why when we speak about accomplishments, we tend to focus on a few key actors. And as time passes, we forget the significance of everyone else involved.

That's why when we talk about the rise and growth of Apple, we usually talk about Steve Jobs. Yet he didn't do it alone. 

The collective power of teamwork has been essential to every single human accomplishment. Working alongside other smart, driven people who share your passion and are willing to go the extra mile makes work worth doing in the first place. 

Your brain wants you to work with others

Researchers now believe that working with others is a hard-wired human trait. But we didn't always believe this. 

Back during the industrial revolution - and throughout a big chunk of history - social scientists and philosophers theorized that human beings were primarily motivated by greed and self-interest. But as we entered the post-industrial age and scientific equipment kept improving, new theories began to develop. 

Recently, a number of studies used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the brain and how it responds to various situations. Researchers found that helping others lights up the same mid-area of the brain as fun, pleasurable things like sex and food. Turns out that your biology wants you to work with others. 

Your success is tied to your team's success

Our tendency to work together makes biological sense. Acting like a pack - co-operating and sharing resources - helps ensure our survival.zz

"When the snows fall and the white winds blow the lone wolf dies but the pack survives." - Eddard Stark

Source

It also makes sense in every day scenarios. Working together as a team helps us tap into diverse skills and resources. Because while we are wired to help in general, we are especially likely to help our own team.

Life, work and teamwork

Two things will take up more of your adult life than almost anything else. Yup. Sleeping and work take up about 2/3rd of your time. 

This makes work incredibly important because if you are going to invest so much time into something, it needs to be worthwhile, right? Having the right team beside you - people who are smart, dedicated and eager to do their best - improves your whole experience at work. 

Are you a good fit?

Successful work relationships are built around similar pillars to your other friendships. But they have a few special elements:

  • Competence. Most of us want to work with people who are good at what they do. People we can trust to finish projects and do their best. 
  • Teamwork. Most of us also want to work with strong collaborators. People who'll communicate and put the needs of the team first. 
  • Dedication. We tend to enjoy working with people who are just as committed to the project as we are. 

People with strong ties to their team feel happier at work, are more productive and more likely to stay at the company longer. 

However it's not always easy to spot a good fit by looking at a resume. It's hard to distill your experience down to two bits of (digital) paper, especially if you took a non-traditional path like freelancing, working abroad or starting your own business. 

A great team member doesn't just fit some specific criteria. They also care about the company's mission because it aligns with their own. They understand your overarching goals and want to help achieve them.

Yet it's incredibly hard for HR and recruiters to differentiate between candidates based on these traits because they aren't easy to spot. This is where referrals come in. 

Building a team you want to work with

Referrals are the number one source of high-quality hires. Referring people who fit the team for open positions - people who are able to bring their diverse experience to help improve the environment you already love - can help everyone grow. 

The link between referrals and high performance

Referral hires are happier at work and stay at the company longer: 47% of referrals stay for over 3 years. Plus, they are more likely to perform better than non-referred candidates. Part of this may be because they go in with a clearer understanding of what the job and company is like.

Because when a candidate knows someone on the inside, they can get a frank account of what working there is really like. They can learn about the potential benefits as well as the challenges they'll encounter along the way. And armed with that knowledge they can make a more informed decision. 

Your way of paying it forward

You've got the power to help build up the company you work for by referring candidates who'll help everyone grow.

As an engaged employee, you understand the skills and qualities hiring managers and team leaders are looking for. But you also know what it's like to work in the team. This insider's look means that you can give potential referrals a realistic view of what it's like to work at a company like yours. 

How Hootsuite made referrals a part of their culture (and grew)

Hootsuite is a social media management platform founded in 08, right in the middle of the great recession. Just ten years later, they are a registered B-Corp, have over 16 million customers, 1000 employees and just got $50 million to spend on growth. Their team and hiring practices played a key role in that success. 

To get the best people on-board, Hootsuite deployed an "everyone is a recruiter" approach. Everyone at Hootsuite felt the responsibility of being in it together- of being responsible for creating content that pushed the company forward.

Part of that feeling came from a grassroots effort to hire people who believed in Hootsuite's mission just as much as the existing team. People who believed in the power of social media and wanted to make a difference. People that wanted to see the company grow. 

This mission-focused growth helped Hootsuite get to where it is today: wildly successful and accelerating forward. 

We are in it together

Referring fantastic candidates for open positions at your company helps everyone grow. It gives you the opportunity to help people who share your level of dedication towards your work. It's a way to pay it forward: to help someone get in the door for a career they'll love. Not to mention it's a way to earn a referral bonus while feeling really good about your contribution to the team. 

But it's not easy to know who's a good fit and who isn't. That's why we built Jobfit. Instead of asking people for a resume or trying to piece together their work-history, you can send them a link to your free Jobfit profile. 

This is where the real magic happens.

 The potential referral will get asked a series of questions that will help you decide whether they are a good fit for your team. Questions like:

  • What is the problem the company is trying to solve?
  • What do users hope to gain from using the company's products/services?
  • From your research what problems should the company be solving? Why?

We ask the big questions - the kind that usually get saved for the interview - upfront so that teams can hire awesome people, faster. 

Want to help your team grow? Sign up for a free referrer profile today.

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