Undeveloped Potential: Listen To Who’s On Your Team

Whether it’s 10% of your brain or 10% of your potential or no known percentage at all, most of us live without tapping into everything that we have. And for the independent minded small business owner that usually means there’s a team that could help us pursue a new project or develop a new portion of the business — if we knew how to tap into them.

always listen first

Team Building Always Comes Back To Communication

What are you saying to your team? What is your team saying to you? To be effective you have to get clear about what you really want from your team and who they really are. Are they right for the job you’re giving them?

To make the most of any team’s potential, start with 1 simple action: Listen/observe first.

Before adding to or promoting within your team, listen to who the person really is. When it’s interview time, polished people know how to “turn it on.” The only way to get around this is to put them in real life settings and let them deal:

  • Watch how they communicate.
  • Watch how they handle stress.
  • Watch how they make the most of the time they have.

This is where simulated or trial experiences come into play.

A Trial Basis or Test Environment

I used a trial basis/test environment for years when hiring administrative assistants and other team members that worked directly with me. After the first interview, the few candidates who were chosen to move onto the 2nd and final interview with the director were given 3 office assignments to complete in 30 minutes or less. Yes, it was a test. All candidates were told at least 48 hours in advance and given a cheat sheet so to speak.

The Cheat Sheet

They were told the tools that they would need to use in order to complete the test on time. And they were told exactly what the assignment was: recreating a flyer, typing a letter and preparing it to go out to a list of 19 recipients (as a former instructor at the local technical school I knew what the applicants were supposed to know and I knew what our office needed).

This trial/test environment saved us time and probably saved quite a few trees:

  1. Some never returned for the test and since our office was a high stress environment, it’s better they disappeared upfront before we spent hours training them. Plus, it exposed any padded resumes.
  2. Some showed up but didn’t believe that there really would be a test — so they didn’t prepare. And since my leadership style was very amicable — I like to be nice to people AND I like to get the work done — I needed someone who would take me at my word and deadline, and get the job done.
  3. Of the ones that did not quit in the middle of the test, most never made a perfect score — the time frame was too short on purpose. The goal was to see who knew the software (do you live up to your resume?) and/or who was savvy enough to make it work somehow. The goal was to see who would quit and who would stick. I typically recommended the innovative people (because you can teach software easier than you can teach quick and creative thinking).

True to form, my favorite candidates from the initial interview often changed after this trial environment. In an industry that typically had a high turn over (less than a year) — most of my core team held their positions for 2 to 6 years. While there where other tools and communication standards at play, the interview process was step one in observing who they were under pressure.

Listen Photo via Shutterstock


Jamillah Warner Jamillah Warner (Ms.J), a poet with a passion for business, is a Georgia-based writer and speaker and the Marketing Coordinator at Nobuko Solutions. She also provides marketing and communication quick tips in her getCLEAR! MicroNewsletter.

7 Reactions
  1. I really like the idea of the test/trial environment, and the example you’ve provided here is intriguing. Too often, employers don’t take the time to see potential employees’ skills in action, and that’s often to their detriment.

    • Jamillah Warner

      Hi Dave,

      I get why this step is skipped — it cost time on the front end. But it more than pays for itself in the long run.

  2. This is a great idea. I wish a couple in our office had to have taken the “test” before they got hired.

  3. We typically had a 1/2 day or full day try-out period. My hard goods wholesale distribution company (small=25 employees) would have ask any candidate who got to finalist standing to come and work a day at the job. We told them it was part of their job interview. That included drivers, warehousepeople, office staff, etc. I would tell them “it does not matter what I say about the job and job conditions but when you work the job you see everything about the job.” What the candidate did not realize was that every employee that they intracted with was also evaluating the candidate. They did not want a co-worker who was a slacker or not up to par. Some candidates would let their guard down and we did not want them when their true work habits and personality was displayed. Also, the current employees would tell the candidate how good we were to work for and help convince them why they should come to work for us.

  4. Here’s a resource tool to maximize your potential and team . . . ADVanced Insights profiles:

    Keys to unlock the WHAT, HOW, and WHY of SUCCESS:
    • By understanding the way you think, you can leverage that knowledge to make better decisions, maximize strengths, and achieve greater results personally and organizationally.
    • By understanding your unique preferences and habits, you can communicate, collaborate, and work effectively and efficiently as a team or through individual efforts to ensure success.
    • By understanding your motivators, you can optimize your passion and drive by setting and achieving goals to maximize your personal and organizational performance.

    • Jamillah Warner

      I like your profile, especially since every conversation starts within – Thanks Lisa

  5. Thank you, Jamillah. Just explored your website and connected with you on LinkedIn. Looking forward to collaborating with you! I’d be happy to offer and explore the ADVanced Insights profiles with individuals interested in Optimizing Their SUCCESS!