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“Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it’s true. If you hire somebody without integrity, you really want them to be dumb and lazy.” — Warren Buffett

It’s worth spending as much time possible during the recruitment process in order to find “A” players. “A” Players want to work with other “A” players because they love a challenge.

Just like iron sharpens iron, “A” players hold each other accountable at the highest levels of performance; whether through friendly rivalry or mentorship.

It’s also worth finding “A” players from the beginning in order to avoid problems down the line, behavioral or performance wise. As a leader I’m familiar with the probationary period. When a fresh trainee comes on board and has to prove that they can hash it at the company.

I recall times as a union steward when a fresh batch of trainees would onboard and I could tell immediately who’s going to make book(who’s going to pass probation and sign that sweet sweet union contract) and who was going to get laid off.

As a union steward responsible for representing union members, I didn’t want any one on my team who couldn’t do the job.

Over the years I’ve put in a good word for star players and my judgement has never served me wrong.

These members all possessed about 20 ingredients that made them star players from the jump but I’ve boiled it down to 11 in the following section.


Proactive

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“People who end up with the good jobs are the proactive ones who are solutions to problems, not problems themselves, who seize the initiative to do whatever is necessary to get the job done.”— Stephen R. Covey.

When it came to the nature of package handling and delivery in a warehouse setting, taking initiative was highly regarded. This came in the form of finishing your work and asking the supervisor for more work or looking for more work to do.

As a union leader these were the types of trainees I looked out for because it made not only managements job easier to place them but it also boosted morale amongst the team.

There were some occasions when a specific assignment would consist of heavy commercial deliveries that can be too much for one person to handle. Having a proactive trainee come along and help out without being instructed allowed them to gain respect from the union team member.

I remember a particular trainee use to come in 15 minutes early to get started on his assignment. He’d finish his assignment early then help out the guy working next to him.

Or the time I had busy day of union business to tend to and I was in and out of my work area; a trainee that was working next to me took initiative to help me catch up with my work when I got back to my work area permanently for the day.

Look for this trait when recruiting individuals especially if there’s a mandatory probationary period. It will save you headaches in the long run.


Collaborative

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“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” — Helen Keller

Does the employee go out of their way to give their team members a helping hand or are they selfish and only care about their assignment(s)? Are they willing to go up against challenges with other members?

This is the definition of what it means to be an “A” player. When you have someone who’s willing to assist others in meeting deadlines, to mentor or just give a little nudge in the right direction, this does wonders for worker morale.

Management at the company I use to work for use to give specific assignments to “test” a trainees collaborative skills.

One hot summer day, the supervisor gave a trainee and a union member an assignment to share out of a confined space. It was a tight squeeze as it was “back to school” season and the volume of work was insane.

The trainee formulated a plan to split the work in such a way that they could finish the work 20 minutes before dispatch(when the drivers get set to deliver)!


Charisma

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The ability to bring good energy to the team is an intangible that most leaders overlook because much of the time they’re the ones tasked with keeping worker morale up by default.

But when you have a team player that’s willing to put themselves out there for the good of worker spirit, don’t let them go unnoticed.


Flexible

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Allow me to toot my own horn for a second. I’m a great leader but what makes me an even better a team player is my ability to adapt to anything a leader hands me.

I’m the guy at work who’s supervisor depends on to take a last minute assignment and have it done on time. There were times management would switch my assignment in the middle of the shift and I was able to catch up and complete the assignment despite being behind for a considerable portion of the shift.

Adaptability is a must have in every team player. Sure, you’re going to have some that excel at specific tasks. But now a days, it’s valuable for the individual to be able to wear many hats.


Good Communication

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“Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.” — Buddha

Good communication is a basic necessity any profession needs to have. Whether they’re leaders or followers, professionals need to be able to skillfully communicate: desires, needs and crucial information in a timely manner.

Team members, at the very least, need to be able to listen effectively in order to carry out instructions. Failing to do so can destroy a project before it even gets started.

Imagine telling a team member one thing, they hear a completely different thing and miss the mark completely on a project.

An “A” player has the ability to listen completely and repeat back, not necessarily verbatim, instructions given.


Reliable

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You as a leader need to know that when it comes down to it there’s at least one or two members you can call to clutch the situation. Nothing keeps your blood pressure in check better than having a crisis commence and immediately contacting your go to person to take on a critical task.


Dedicated

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When you have someone who’s committed to the team, that’s a person who acts as the gel keeping the team together.

This is a person who has the capacity to lead by example. Committment is contagious because when others see you’re committed, they’re quick to follow behind in your footsteps.

Find yourself a team member that never dodges their responsibilities and owns up to their mistakes.


Competent

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At the core of a team members key qualities in a specific role, they have to be able to do their job and do it well.

This is where the inspiration and friendly competition starts within the team. The ability of one of your team members to nail a specific assignment only leads to having another team member put in equally, or better, work to follow up.

Having friendly rivalry like this is fun in the work place. It gives your team something to work towards and it provides for dignity in the role. It also shapes the culture of the corporation/team.


Strategic

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For the “A” player, the objective is clear. They form multiple pathways to the goal through planning and in the event of that plan fails, they’re resourceful enough to find a way around the failure. They’re strategic enough to have a plan “B” in wait just in case plan “A” fails.

The strategic employ has ingenuity. They understand that there’s a difference between strategy and planning. They understand that planning is a specific set of pattern with discreet immovable parts. Strategy is creative, flexible and adapts with the current situation at hand.

A plan can inspire confidence as well as provide faux confidence.

A strategic member:

  • Is open to change and commits to it.
  • Knows how to integrate a new tactic according to changing conditions.
  • Is creative.
  • Know when to ask “why?”
  • Sniffs out multiple routes to an objective.
  • Can foretell the future aka “Throws the ball to where the receiver is going to be and not where they’re currently at.”(American football reference)
  • Knows when to evolve past an outdated paradigm.

Problem-Solver

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They consider many different solutions to a problem through careful thought and calculations. The top tier team player is optimistic and puts optimism to work by using their brain, not their emotions, to solve problems.

This is the person who has a solution for every problem not a problem for every solution. When you, as a leader, are stumped during a specific crisis. This person can act as a quasi-advisor.

Integrity

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The most important ingredient of them all is integrity. You want someone who has a solid moral compass and a true north.

You don’t want to onboard anyone that can potentially bring shame to your team. There are a variety of ways you can test someone’s integrity that I’m not going to outline here because the methods for testing for integrity and semantics of what many consider integrity is varies.

But you definitely want someone who is honest and trustworthy. Someone you can trust and not have second thoughts about.


The Takeaway

I’ve had some great team players back in my time as a leader. It was all made possible by thoroughly scouting during the probationary period.

I made sure the people I wanted on my team reflected many of the leadership skills I have myself. One of the most important things you should do as a leader is have each and every one of the ingredients that you’re looking for in your team members, including integrity.

A top tier team member should be an extension of your leadership

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