Posted by: Knightbird | October 18, 2010

The ME in Team-Not

As employees are either asked to leave Chugachmiut, or chose to leave on their own, I want to learn from their departure. I believe the key is in selecting employees. We typically have a fair representation of applicants in our pool for new positions. We go through a traditional selection process. As we recruit, we try to prepare employees for the differences that exist between our work place and the traditional command and control workplace. We strive to work as a team, and there is no room for employee’s who put their personal mission above the team’s mission. There is no ME in a lean team, but there is a me. What do I mean by this distinction?

The “me” we are looking for is someone who is capable and has spent time continuously improving their skills and their ability to work with people. They are creative in their thinking, diligent in pursuing their work, and have the potential to work with others in a way that they aren’t used to.  They are willing to learn new methods of doing things. And most of all, they aren’t critical of what is, but are willing to accept flaws in what we do and work continuously with others to develop better ways of doing things.

The “ME” we are trying to avoid typically does good work. They are capable and accomplished. However, the world revolves around their view of what should be. Instead of identifying problems and working on them, they prefer to complain to whomever will listen. In the past, I have described their impact on the workplace like the impact of a pebble thrown into a calm pond—the ripples reverberate throughout the organization. The half-truths they spread disrupt camaraderie and teamwork. They attempt to do things alone, and circumvent well thought out processes, which leads to more problems in the workplace. They are more likely to hide defects than disclose them. We would prefer that they find a workplace more like what they are used to, and believe me, there are more such workplaces out there than there are like ours.

Another problem is that many people have been through interviews, understand the kind of questions they will have to respond to, and in many cases they “nail” what the interviewers want to hear. The interview is, for many of them, another victory they would like to use to put another notch in their belt. Based on the interview, they are offered the job, and don’t fit in.

Some of the information I am learning from reading Dr. Carol Dweck’s book on Mindset seems to be giving me some information that may help. Her description of people with a learning mindset seems to be the kind of people we want. The type of question asked can give you a clue about whether the applicant is a learner or a non-learner.

What do you think?



  1. Probing candidates for a learning mindset as a core competency is a great idea, given that Chugachmiut is on a lean journey. Developing behaviorally-based questions around this competency would be a great way to go. I imagine your HR folks, along with input from other selected team members, could develop these questions then gage candidates’ responses accordingly. Here’s how I envision it…

    Situation Question: Tell me about the last time you solved a difficult problem – one that couldn’t be readily solved with minor adjustments.

    Behavior Question: How did you approach this problem? What were you learning as you worked on it?

    Outcome Question: What were the results? What did you learn from your results?

    Lots of possibilities. I hope this works out for you!

    • Thanks for the suggestions Mark. Do you have questions that might help us recognize creative thinking?

  2. Using the same format above, one could lead off with something like, “Give me an example of a project or issue where your creativity shined through very strong. What was the issue? How did you go about tackling it? What was the result?”

    Another approach to take is, “Tell me about a time when your creative juices just weren’t flowing as you wish they were – when you were in a creative rut. What did you change to get out of it?”

    Or, “Tell me about a time you were problem-solving with a group and they were uninspired. No ideas were coming from them. How did you tap into their creativity? What was their response to this?”

    Just some ideas. Best of success to you with this, Patrick!

  3. There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also.
    Keep working ,great job!

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