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Picking my SWAT Team

By : Ziad Abdelnour| 10 November 2014
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There is nothing more important for a business than picking the right team.

If you get the right mix of partners assisting you building your company, you have a far greater chance of building a real “powerhouse”.

So how do you find those people?

The first thing to look for is somebody with a personality that fits with your company culture. Most skills can be learned, but it is difficult to train people on their personality. If you can find people who are smart, ambitious, fun, friendly, caring and love helping others, you are on to a winner. In my experience, the best way to find those players is to work with them on live transactions first. Everyone looks good on paper; you need to see though what’s in your potential partners’ belly behind the “mask” and most importantly how they operate in the trenches before putting them on the front line waging war with you. Remember Lincoln? “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power”.

So “personality” for me is really the absolute key. It is surely not something that always comes out upfront though. People can be reserved or intimidated; especially when dealing with a swashbuckling personality like me. But you have to trust your judgment. If you have got a slightly introverted person with a great personality, use your experience to pull it out of them. It is easier with an extrovert, but be wary of people becoming overexcited as they can turn with time into being real dangerous loose cannons. Learn how to be “different”; it will serve you much – both in your business and personal life as well.

So how do you set the right culture?

In my personal experience, I set the right company culture through a very straightforward process which consists of defining the standards, demonstrating them and defining them.

I simply have a conversation with my team where we define together the ways of thinking, speaking and acting that we all want to enact. These are the ways in which you will implement your strategy, achieve your mission, and realize your vision.

I then give the example because you must behave according to a specific set standard. If you don’t, not only you will destroy the commitment, you will also destroy the team’s integrity. Nothing creates more cynicism than a leader who says one thing and does another, especially when he or she demands that people do as he or she says.

At the end of the day, the leader must always be a guardian of the standard—“a” but not “the” guardian. It is crucial that every member of my SWAT team feels empowered and committed to demand the standard from every other member of the team. This is because the promise to behave according to the standard is not to the leader, but to every member of the group. The role of the leader is not just to demand the standard, but also to demand that every member demand the standard from every other member of the group.

You can learn most jobs very quickly once you are thrown in the deep end. Within three months you can usually know the “ins and outs” of practically any role. If you are satisfied with the personality, then look at experience and expertise. Find people with transferable skills – you need team players who can pitch in and try their hand at all sorts of different jobs. While specialists are sometimes necessary, versatility should not be underestimated.

Lots of people get hung up on qualifications and fancy “Ivy League degrees”. I only look at them after everything else. Great degrees for me count for nothing if they aren’t partnered with broad-ranging experience and a killer personality.

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