• Matt Black

How to Build a Winning Team

The search is over.

Hundreds (sometimes thousands!) of resumes have breached your company’s walls, countless rounds of interviews have been held, third and fourth opinions have been offered up… and you’ve finally made your decision. The new hire starts on Monday.

…Fast forward three months…

Signs of progress for your greenest employee are nowhere to be found. The rest of the team has weighed in (privately or otherwise) and he or she “just isn’t getting it.” Things aren’t working out. You’ve trained them well, given them the resources you figured they needed… what gives?

It’s time to consider the fact it might not be them after all… maybe it’s you.

Have you ever taken a step back and thoroughly examined the process you’ve implemented to build your team? Because don’t kid yourself: that’s the key to everything in terms of producing results that everyone can be proud of.

It’s all about the process.

Building a winning team is almost entirely dependent on understanding what you’re looking for in an employee.

And I’m talking more than just the tired clichés – everyone is a “driven,” “versatile” “problem solver” on paper. How, when and why you do certain things while you’re vetting candidates can make or break your success and retention rates.

As you work towards building a winning team, here are a few critical stages of the process (in no particular order) you need to nail every time.

Clear vision

It’s going to be literally impossible for any new blood to meet (never mind exceed) your expectations if you aren’t clear on what they are.

Can you answer this question: what does the perfect employee look like in your organization?

Maybe there’s no clear cut answer, but it’s in your best interest to have a specific and measurable list of qualities, achievements and experience that you can set as benchmarks. Will everybody operate at the same level in terms of each one of these?

Of course not.

But it does leave little room for doubt as to the types of employees you’re looking to add into the mix.

Falling short of your goals as an organization is easy to do. Lacking a concrete vision for who you are and what you’re all about as a team will definitely increase the chances of that happening.

Think about the journey ahead and the people you’d want to surround yourself with – and most importantly – stay true to your principles! The second you start making excuses for your employees or stop enforcing the vision and values you’ve set forth, your team becomes weaker.

Cultural fit

Does this candidate speak your language?

I don’t just mean can they spew tired buzzwords or commonly used verbiage faster than other candidates…

Are they on the same page as you? Is their attitude positive and upbeat? Do they focus on using affirmatives like “will” and “can” and “do?” Can you see yourself having regular conversations with this person, about both work and life?

In my eyes, cultural fit is everything.

Even if a new member of your team is capable of outperforming all of your current employees, risking the overall morale and happiness levels at the office is a huge risk if the fit isn’t right.

And that’s not to say that everyone you hire is going to have the same qualities or experience or passions… but to not consider all of these factors and how they’re going to react with a new person injected into the mix is a mistake.

If your organization has a defined vision and values that has generated buy-in, it’s crucial you stick to it! And if you don’t, try to focus on what’s important to the people who already work for you. What would they hope to see in a new teammate?


It’s official, folks.

Who you know really matters.

Sugar-coating it won’t do anybody any favours.

Sometimes it’s all that matters.

As an organization, relying on trusted sources for information on candidates and gleaning as much as you can from your network is an effective way to dig deeper.

I’ve experienced a lot of success by leveraging relationships to help me identify possible candidates for the team I’m building. In certain cases, it’s a win-win for both parties as one gets a new hire and the other enhances their reputation as a business or brand with great people. I’m also very open to suggestions from top performers as they often surround themselves with like-minded people. Referrals can also serve as proof to your current employees that you trust their judgment, appreciate their input and you’re willing to confide in them.

When putting faith in the judgment of others, just remember there’s no guarantee of success. It just helps reaffirm your gut feelings on a candidate, both the positive and negative ones.

Results & experience

Notice how results come first in this heading?

That’s no accident!

But just because somebody held a position or worked for a specific brand doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

Sitting in a desk doesn’t equate to making things happen. When reviewing potential candidates for your team, you’ve got to really examine what results they produced and the things they accomplished. There’s a big difference between what someone is responsible for and what they actually achieved.

Years worked < objectives completed.

What has this individual done that makes you go “wow… I’d like her to accomplish that for us!”

If you’re having trouble determining an answer to that question, it might be time to move on to the next candidate.

The interview

There’s an obvious need to spend time meeting with potential employees in an interview setting.

But perhaps less apparent is the importance of knowing what you’re trying to accomplish during your meetings with candidates.

Is it to get to know them as a person? Do you want to understand their professional achievements in relation to your needs as a leader and an organization? Are the questions you’re asking producing information and insights that will actually help you make an informed decision?

It sounds basic, but far too often we schedule interviews and go through the monotony of the process because, well, “it’s just what we do.”

Maybe your approach and style is stale though.

The interview itself is an incredible opportunity to gauge whether or not you’ve got the right person sitting across from you – but only if you set the appropriate tone.

Do whatever you can to eliminate the natural tension and anxieties that go along with the process to help you get an authentic glimpse at the candidate. You’re obviously not going to discover everything in an hour or less, but you’ll position yourself to make smarter choices.

What does a winning team look like to you? Are there any steps during the team-building process that are ‘musts’ in your eyes? Please share your thoughts with me in the Comments section below.


©2020 by Matt Black Ink | All rights reserved | Toronto