Skip to main content
leadership lab

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at

In sports and in business, there are a lot of moving parts that have to come together for any team or organization to succeed. While we tend to focus on a desired result – growth, efficiency or profitability – my experience has been that in order to win we need to have strong, effective teams with each member playing their position well so they support each other in achieving a common goal.

Over and over it's been demonstrated how effective an organization is when leaders have the support of a team that moves as one. When a leader can unite their team across the country, business units or an organization, this is a game changer. These organizations all progress quickly and effectively, consistently meeting or exceeding targets and fast tracking accomplishments.

To assemble a tight-knit team, the first step starts with the leader. One of the most influential factors is the importance of being a true leader, not a boss. Effective leaders inspire and encourage team members to stretch themselves and achieve things they haven't in the past, and when they do – give them the credit and recognition they deserve. They lead by example and know how to motivate and cultivate talent. Most of all, they embody an organization's core values and bring them to life every day. This is pivotal in attracting and retaining like-minded people who not only fit the needs of a role, but truly reflect the best aspects of the organization through what they do and how they do it.

To assess whether a candidate is right for my team, I consider the role they will have, as well as who they will be working with. We all know hard skills are essential, but there are certain qualities and instincts that can't be taught. With so many pressures and competing priorities to overcome, the talent we hire must click with the rest of the team right from the start, so we can continue to move as one. To assemble a winning team, here are six criteria that guide my search:

Character: A candidate's character is the foundation for everything they think, say, do and feel. The more aspects of a person's character that align with the organization's core values and those of your current team, the better the fit. Character is the most important criteria to assess because the values they hold will eventually represent your brand, creating either harmony or havoc.

Competency: To gauge competency beyond book smarts and degrees, I ask hypothetical questions to see what ideas a candidate brings to the table. This helps me assess their creativity and experience at the same time. It also allows me to determine whether they have the skills to meet the demands of the role and how their knowledge can benefit the rest of the team and organization.

Chemistry: Teams with a strong bond achieve better results and do so more quickly because they think in terms of what's best for the group not just themselves. Since each team member's responsibilities are linked and dependent upon one another, those who will work closest with a new team member are included in the interview process. It's important they have a say and an opportunity to interact with the candidate, so you can gauge whether they will gel or not.

Confidence: I expect my team members to be confident in their abilities and those they work with. Whether they are mentoring others in their area of expertise or are questioning why we do things in a certain way – confidence is the basis for building trust and affecting positive change.

Collaborative: A candidate's ability to work with others and turn ideas into reality is essential. This quality is especially important when obstacles emerge. Those difficulties are hard to overcome in a team setting without a collaborative spirit. Look for open and effective communicators who have a strong drive and are results-oriented. Collaboration helps prevent silos from forming, leads to deeper connections and generates better results.

Cheeky: I like to laugh and my team does, too. People with a sense of humour tend to be more creative and productive. And, it's no secret that humour builds trust, reduces stress and strengthens the bond between team members. It also boosts morale and helps make the work we do more enjoyable.

History has shown us that it takes a unique blend of skills, culture and the right environment to successfully build great teams. Those teams are the driving force behind successful companies. Building your team takes time but as Henry Ford put it, "If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself."

Randy Mowat is senior vice-president of marketing with Calgary-based MNP LLP (@MNP_LLP), an accounting, tax, consulting and business advisory service firm.

Interact with The Globe