The Overlooked Skill

If you’re in a position of leadership, you often wonder about certain questions.

How’s the company doing? Are we going in the right direction? What difference are we making in the world?

But there’s another question that weighs heavy on the hearts of leaders…

Frustrated Man

Image by Zach Klein

Who should I hire? What traits should a prospective employee have?

The question is never an easy one to answer. Every position requires a different set of skills.

One position may require knowledge of computer coding. Another may require the employee to know how to effectively manage a core team. Still another may require exquisite customer service skills.

It may seem overwhelming searching for someone with the right skill set. And it can be.

And yet the skill set is not the most important thing a prospective employee must have.

The most important thing you should look for in an employee is actually a trait.

What could this trait be? Let me share a story with you before I tell you the trait.

Imagine a young man named Jim. He’s in his early 20’s. He comes in with a list of accomplishments a mile long. His sales skills are stellar. He can make sales like no one else. You want to hire him right then and there.

But there’s also a trail of former companies he’s worked for.

The former employers isn’t necessarily negative. He may have been able to leap in pay by going from company to company.

So you go ahead and hire him anyways.

You feel you made the right decision when you see his sales soar. They’re almost breaking records.

Until you start getting complaints from coworkers. He’s making their jobs miserable.

While his sales numbers are rising, others have their numbers drop. Customer complaints are up due to lies. Nerves are shot.

There’s a major decline in morale. And it looks like Jim is cause of the morale decline.

Can you see what is missing? Jim’s not a team player. He can’t get along with others. He fibs to customers.

The trait that has been overlooked for far too long is character.

If a team member lacks character, issues will arise.

While his sales may be up, your team’s productivity may drop, people become discouragement, they become resentful of the lack of respect shown.

This causes a drop in overall sales. All because a bad apple got into the workplace.

Sometimes it’s not worth it to have a high performer on your team that cannot get along with others.

Sales, customer service, technical knowledge, and more can easily be taught to a new employee. Changing the character of a person takes much more work.

When hiring new team members, be sure you’re looking for the overlooked trait. The trait of a good character.

Skills can be taught. Character you either have or you don’t have.
— Anthony Bourdain

Question: How would you do with an employee who wasn’t a team player? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.



Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Not very well. I’ve had emplyee’s like this and one line they like to say is “It’s not my job”. That very frustrating to an employer!

    • Yeah, it can be hard to deal with an employee who’s not a team player. But I think it’s important to make sure you get him on the team or get him off of the team. What do you think?

  • That’s a toughy. I’m thankful I’ve never been in a position where I’ve had to handle a situation like this. However, I’ve been a co-worker praying/wishing my employer would do something about a person like this.
    I believe being a leader is about making tough decisions, before you lose other good workers.
    It’s even harder when the “problem” employee is a friend of the boss. Really puts a strain on everyone.

    Great quote at the end.

    • That’s the worse TC. When you can see the problem but have “no” power to correct it. Can you think of anything you could have done to help the situation?

      • I tried to be a Christian, to treat others how Christ would like and not the world. I also prayed for all involved.
        It was a tough situation, but it grew me. It was a great lesson. Not really sure what else I could have done.
        Eventually God lead me away from that situation 🙂
        From time to time, I still think of those people and pray for them. That’s really all I know to do.
        What suggestions do you have?

        • Sounds like you handled the situation well TC. You took practical steps to solve the situation.

          I would suggest approaching your boss about the trouble employee but I see that he was a friend of the boss. That makes it hard. I think it could be done but you would have to handle it with extreme care.

  • I think the interview process is very important. It can determine if you will hire the right person or not. Multiple interviews in different setting can help you see what the person is really like(For the most part). Dave Ramsey in his book EntreLeadership talks about how he takes the potential hire and their spouse out to dinner. It has really helped him when it comes to hiring the right people.

    • Very true Dan. It’s easy to act one way in one situation but when you’re being shuffled around into new environments it’s more likely the real you will come out.

      • I just read this quote and thought it went well with this post, “In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.” ~ Warren Buffet

        • That would fit perfectly with this post. Looks like it might be time to edit it.

  • I have found that the team player quality of an employee is the one thing that is really hard to break. In most cases they don’t even realize when they aren’t acting as a team. I’d probably give a trial period and an action plan. Good thoughts.

    • Adam, that’s what I have found as well. If someone is not a team player it is much harder to break him/her of that than to teach them a new skill. It’s so important to ensure you get the right people on your team.