Thursday, October 15, 2015

Building Your Team Around a Star Recruit

Every now and then, managers are faced with a unique opportunity: building a team from scratch. Usually, though, they are expanding slightly or replacing someone who has left the team, voluntarily or not. In some cases, the team acquires an extremely talented individual, which may require rethinking how to continue to build the team to function most efficiently. I may have been watching too much football lately, but most of the coaches and managers have the right idea on this front, namely, to build the team around the star recruit. But as a manager, how do you craft the team that way? Here are some ideas that can help you maximize the potential of your organization.

Play to Strengths

If you have identified a superstar, you know what talents make him or her particularly strong. He is completely organized and can keep the rest of the team in line. She has brilliant ideas that need a support structure to implement them. Take those strengths and balance them out with the rest of the team, providing the superstar with the resources needed to succeed. 

Defend the Weaknesses

Even superstars have faults. These may require a keener eye to identify, however, and might even be disguised. He sometimes underestimates time required to do tasks. She needs deadlines set explicitly to get things accomplished. Find a way to protect the team from the implications of these weaknesses. Utilize coaching on your part to help the individual grow and get better in those areas. Task a team member with filling in the holes (provide second guesses to his estimates, or provide her with reminders of the deadlines). Just don't let the weaknesses spread to the rest of the team.

Vary the Gameplan

Just like running the same play over and over can wear down a team and become predictable to their opponents, repeating the same process over and over again can become monotonous, dull, and outright life-sucking to the best, or worst, employees. Vary the approach from project to project. Swap responsibilities slightly between team members if they are capable. Use your power as the manager to guide and direct the team towards keeping fresh.

Focus the Skills

Resist the temptation to assign everything to the superstar. Likely in your mind, this will increase risk of failure on various projects. However, in reality, it should improve your chances of success. Your star player will still have a bandwidth cap, whether three projects or five or sixty-seven. Anything you assign above that cap will either not get done at all, or will diminish the quality of what gets done. Instead, spread the love around and keep your premier player focused on the areas where he or she adds the most direct benefit.

Relieve the Pressure

The burden of carrying a team can eventually bog down and burn out the performance of the strongest star player. You can relieve that pressure by hiring another superstar to share that load. Sometimes additional headcount is not a realistic option, though, so look at developing mentoring programs where your superstar can take a coworker under his or her wing and teach some of the unique skills to another.


If you stumble across a star player on your team, as a manager, you must maximize the opportunity for the team to take advantage of that person's strengths and weaknesses. This takes a careful balance of assigning activities and tasks around to other team members and making sure that you have recruited the appropriate skills to fill the positions around your star, as well as making sure that she or he has ample time to work. Difficult as it may be, the strategy will help maximize your team's performance and the star player's happiness.

Got another idea? I'd love to hear about it, if you want to reply by email or drop me a comment below. And don't forget to sign up on the email list if you haven't already to get notified when I drop a new post on the blog.

Image credit: skeeze via Pixabay