In a video that has since gotten 46M views and over 760k shares, University of Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma describes how qualities like positivity, effort and teamwork have taken a backseat to attitudes that seek ego and glory on the court.
Responding to these comments, John O’Sullivan, who heads an organization based on youth soccer player development describes how talented players hit a key transition point where “character matters.” Talent and ability will, in time, place top performers in increasingly high stakes situations where the pressure is high and reward for winning is significant. Unfortunately, many of these individuals lack the character needed to thrive in these situations, and it hurts their ability not just to perform as an individual but to work on a team of any sort.
I witnessed this first hand in working with 2Win Clients. They entered into high stakes sales situations where they had the talent and experience to win, but a lack of character strength led them to make questionable decisions — to bend the rules, do something unethical, mislead or even break the law — because they prioritized personal gain. These decisions compromised their team and compromised their company.
To develop employees that are able to sustain high levels of performance, organizations must be able to identify key behavioral traits in promising individuals and develop them alongside other needed career skills through coaching and mentoring. One of the ways I accomplish this is when I’m trying to build an effective team. I look for what I like to call the Four Cs:
Character defines who we are and the decisions we make. Even the most talented person can fail and let their organization down if they lack the character traits needed to carry them through tough situations.
What are these traits? A willingness to take responsibility for your own actions, for one. Many people try to deflect, point fingers or pass the buck when something goes wrong, but those with a track record for recognizing their personal role in failures and taking responsibility for it help preserve the structure of an organization as a whole.
They must also be honest — honest with themselves and honest with others. These characteristics help them know what the right thing to do is …even when the right thing is hard to do.
Sometimes, a person can have strong character but still be out of step with company culture. Maybe they prefer bigger picture thinking when your company is grounded in practical, ready-for-market solutions, or vice-versa?
Someone has to share the vision of their company and value the work of the team as a whole in order to contribute the maximum amount of value to that team. When someone is able to meet this standard, they recognize how their contributions matter, and they uphold their commitments in a way that continually reinforces the value of the company.
Competency involves more than basic skills and knowledge. It also involves demonstrating that the person can put both into action in a complex or high-stakes situation. Past experience is the best indicator of competency, but testing someone in interviews with “What if…?” scenarios can also help reveal how they put foundational skills into action.
Capacity to Learn Through Leadership Training
This quality is the most important one when it comes to identifying potential for advancement. Simply put: does this person have the capacity to keep growing? Can they apply feedback through coaching? Are they willing to learn more and accept increasingly hefty responsibilities? Are they willing to hone skills that help them work as a component of high functioning team, including putting in the needed focus and individual effort for training? Finally, can they set their own pace for advancement?
I have found that prioritizing Character, Culture, Competency, and Capacity in identifying and developing top performers has helped me and our clients build teams that not only perform at elite levels, but are able to sustain that performance over time. Developing hard skills alone is not enough. As employees grow into more complex and demanding roles you must focus on soft skills that will help sustain them.
If you are concerned about your organization’s ability to develop team members and leaders with these qualities, then you can upskill your management’s abilities with leadership training and coaching. They can develop fundamental skills rooted in effective coaching and mentoring to foster leadership qualities within their team and develop talent so it can work with the team, not against it.
In the end, identifying and fostering qualities similar to the four C’s above through effective leadership will help forge and reinforce everyone in your organization’s mutual commitment to excellence.