I’m often asked about the strategy used for putting great teams together. My teams have always performed well, they have endured under pressure, kept a smile even when sometimes treated in less than professional ways, and do not join in the surrounding gossip. Throughout my career, in different countries and continents, I’ve been fortunate to have been a part of a great team!
How does this happen?
First off, there is no formula. It’s a question of time, and of being patient. For instance, the last team I’ve assembled has taken years to get to where it is now. This is not because there we no suitable candidates. It all came down to the interview process; It was something they said, the way they responded to a question, their outlook on their own future. The interview process consists of 2 parts.
One is to come in for a typical face-to-face interview, usually involving other members of the tech-support team and, if I can pull them away from other meetings, members of the admin team. If they do well in the first part, they are asked to come in for half-a-day trial.
During the trial the team will quiz them on their technical chops, all the while I hang back looking for signs of a personality, how they react to being under pressure and how they react to out-of-the-blue unrelated questions. My team is testing their tech skills, while I am evaluating their question/statement choices. It all comes together after, as a team, we debrief.
At the core of all people who have been in my teams are the following traits:
- They are personable
They are kind
They are patient
- They have a sense of purpose and are passionate about what they do
- They have a good sense of humor
- They will go the extra mile for good results
- They are positive
So, where are the technical chops? That’s secondary. If someone is interested in learning something, they will learn it – they must be forever-students. However, you can’t learn to have a good sense of humor, or to be king, or how to talk to people while they are under pressure. Questions I am more interested in hearing a response to have to do with someone’s outlook, their own past and reasons for doing what they do. I am interested in their story much more than I am interested in their technical know-how.
I read somewhere, a long time ago, an interview being done of a film director as he was making the rounds promoting his latest release. I have a feeling it was about Bruce Lee, but cannot quite remember what the film was, sorry 😦 It was about fighting, and it had a strong protagonist who displayed great martial arts skills. The director was asked what he preferred to start with as he got into his filmmaking process; A good actor or a good fighter. He chose a good actor, because he could always teach a good actor how to fight, but he could not necessarily teach a good fighter how to act. Acting is something less technical and goes deeper than a technical skill one can learn by training. After all, at some point the technical aspect of acting is overtaken by the amount of feeling and self that one puts into a scene.
It’s the same for technical support. Technical ability can only take you so far. When dealing with a stressed-out teacher, in a room full of students and parents, all waiting for a screen to turn on and for sound to come out, you have to know how to deal with the teacher all-the-while making the screen come on and the sound come alive. For as much as you are able to do the technical, dealing with the teacher is something that requires patience, kindness, a bit of humor at times, and cool. If you are showing as much stress as the teacher may be, it will only add to the chaos.
And so it is that I take my time in finding the right person to be part of my team. Once hired, my team members also know that there is more to the position than providing technical support.
Every member of my team has to be part of students’ lives in some form or another. My team members are football coaches, photographers, teachers, mentors, advisors, break/lunch supervisors, and even coding teachers. This is not optional. If we are not willing to step into the lives of children, we should not be working in a school. Sure, we will not take on a full-time teacher load, but schools offer ample opportunity to play a role in learners’ experiences.
The hardest part of my job when assembling a team is finding the right members to bring together. As long as do this part well, the rest takes care of itself. Through weekly meetings we keep adjusting our course, ensuring we remember our mission, that we keep to our promises and that we continue to provide the best service possible. I do my best to hang in the background as my team makes things run smooth. I have the best job in the world!