Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5
Subscribe

Should You Hire a Tom Brady or a J.J. Watt? How to Choose the Right Players for Your Culture and Team

Business culture is top of mind for many employees and executives alike. Figuring out the type of culture you want to create can help your team perform at its best.

By
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Anyone hiring typically wants the best person available, whether the role is quarterback, product manager, defensive end or developer. But what happens when the best person for a position isn't the best person for your team?

In the NFL, where personalities can be larger than life, many talented players are considered the worst teammates of all time. Some were on winning teams, but their teammates may have preferred if they weren't.

It can be tempting to bring in the best individual player for each position and hope they all get along and win. They could push each other to improve and thrive, or they could all butt heads and create a toxic environment. The alternative is to bring in people that work so well together as a team that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Before you can decide, you need to determine what type of team, a.k.a. "culture," you want to build. In football, you might want to spend your resources on building the best west coast offense around a standout player like Tom Brady. However, if you believe the run-heavy smashmouth offense is best, Tom Brady would likely be frustrated and not the best for the team.

Some teams choose to be known for their killer defense that shuts down other teams, so adding a J.J. Watt would be amazing. But he won't fit the team if you don't surround him with proper supporting players.

Different players have different play styles that suit some teams and not others — the same is true in the office.

Related: Tom Brady Helps Us Understand the Significance of Employee Loyalty

Figure out which side of the ball you're on

No football team walks onto the field without deciding what type of team they are and which players they need to be successful. The same applies in business: We cannot throw together a random smattering of employees and expect to end up with a winning team.

As a leader, you must establish the culture you're hoping to achieve and seek out the employees that might fit into it. Are you looking to build a team of individual superstars laser-focused on the race to the top? Or of collaborative team players with whom you can't wait to grab a beer at the end of the day?

One approach is not inherently better than the other. Yet, each comes with its own set of values that show up at work — an office that values individual contributions is a very different place to work than one that prioritizes relationships with coworkers. Once you've established the company culture you hope to cultivate, it will be much easier to align all employees, enabling you to move seamlessly toward your goals.

There's no single "right" culture

Establishing the workplace culture is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The culture at Google may not work for a brand new startup, and the person who dreams of being the next Elon Musk may not thrive in a small, family-oriented company. We must find the culture that works best for our company and people.

Unhappiness at work often comes from a mismatch in culture — you'd never throw Tom Brady on the defense because you'd be wasting his skills, and he'd be miserable. In the same vein, if you work at a cutthroat, winner-takes-all company but value teamwork and work-life balance, you will be unhappy and unable to perform to your highest abilities. To thrive at work, we have to find a workplace culture that values and supports what we uniquely have to offer.

Related: What Football Teaches Us About Startup Sales Strategy

Molding your fantasy team

Establishing the best culture for your company begins during the hiring process. We cannot hire people just to fill a seat if we want them to be successful long-term. We may not get every person we hire right, but if we hire with our culture at the forefront, we will have a much higher success rate. To a slightly lesser degree, the same is true for those seeking employment. There may be times when we must prioritize finding a job to pay the bills, regardless of cultural fit. However, if we want long-term fulfillment in our career, we should seek work aligned with our needs and values our skill set.

So how do we build this workplace fantasy team? Whether you're looking for new team members or an employee looking for a new job, asking the right questions during the hiring process is key to finding a culture fit.

At my company, I conduct the first interview to ensure that each potential hire fits into our established culture. In this first meeting, I always ask how they've dealt with challenging situations in the past. This question helps me find employees with a growth mindset, who are unafraid to mess up, are comfortable asking for help when needed and are team players even amid stress.

Still, these are my priorities, and another interviewer may ask very different questions. I look to hire those with a growth mindset and a positive attitude because I know we can train them regardless of their starting point. However, if you run a fast-paced startup, you might want to hire people you know can hit the ground running.

As a potential employee, you should ask the interviewer about the workplace culture and do online research beforehand. If work-life balance is important to you, ask questions about how often you're expected to work on the weekends. If career advancement and speedy promotions are your priority, ask about opportunities for growth and for a typical promotion timeline.

Finally, if you hire someone who is not a culture fit, it's the leadership's responsibility to talk with managers and let the employee go or help move them into alignment. And if you're an employee, don't be afraid to leave a company that isn't the right fit for you if you have the means.

Related: Running a Business Is a Lot Like Playing Football

Find your team

You must be purposeful when looking for your next job or employee. Go beyond the ABCs listed on the job requirements and consider: What am I trying to accomplish, and what kind of people do I want to work with? Some may want to win the Superbowl every year and enter the hall of fame, while others may simply want a steady career and a reputation for kindness.

We can't all be Tom Brady or J.J. Watt, winning the Superbowl or sacking quarterbacks, but we can find the team that will allow us to flourish with our unique talents and gifts.

Entrepreneur Editors' Picks