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"Rockstar" versus Dynamic Teams

In 2004, Boris Groysberg, a Harvard professor, studied over a thousand top-notch stock analysts from various investment banks, chosen based on their rankings in Institutional Investor.

These solitary number-crunchers were given the Rockstar treatment by companies, who paid them outrageous sums and sign-on bonuses. But what happened next was a total buzzkill.

Shortly after being hired their performance plummeted by a whopping 20%, even up to a year later. And not only did the individual star's performance suffer, but the whole team they joined took a hit too. Why?

It turns out that stars have a hard time fitting into new cultures and unlearning old habits. Their ego gets bruised when colleagues resent them and withhold information, and their past successes make them slow to change. Only when their performance slips do they become open to new approaches, and by that time, their reputation is hard to shake.

It’s another reason why I advocate for “culture add” versus “culture fit.” (see tomorrow's post)

Groysberg even tried poaching entire teams through a method called "lift outs," and surprise, surprise, team talent trumps individual stars every time. “Lift outs” were a huge success because talent flows from teams.

➡ What exactly is a team lift out?

A team lift out is a method of hiring in which an entire team is hired from one company to another. This means that rather than hiring individuals one-by-one, an entire group of employees, who have already been working together, are hired at once.

This approach is typically used when a company wants to quickly build a new team or department or acquire specific skills or expertise. By lifting out an entire team, the new company can benefit from the team's existing rapport, established processes, and collective knowledge, which can lead to higher productivity and faster results.

When I jumped into my current project, I witnessed a newly-formed team that was “lifted out” to greatness. We worked on multiple product-related projects, and when I compared their performance to a team that was hired individually, the lifted team outperformed them by 18%!

✔ Here are a few questions you can add to your interviews to get a feel for what candidates would be like on a team:

↔ What does your ideal team look like? How often do they interact and how do they treat each other?

↔ In what type of culture do you feel you do your best work?

↔ What was it like working on your last team?

↔ Have you ever been on a team that just didn’t work well? Explain!

Compare the answers to these questions across all potential candidates and also compare them with how your current team would answer. It helps!

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