6 Archetypes That Form a Great Team

Hiring managers across the board are faced with questions about their potential employee’s qualifications. How much do the typical three to five years of experience matter? Is it enough to turn down a potentially great employee just because they’re a year or two short?

Yes, experience matters, but attitude and aptitude play a role in determining whether a candidate will be the right fit for your company.

When you’re building a team to support your small business (“small” here is defined as ten or fewer employees, yourself not included), my best advice is to reach for archetypes, not role-fillers.

A role-filler has all the qualifications to perform the job, but simply performing a job is not adequate for your needs.

I’ve onboarded many employees to my agency who lack the three to five years that traditional job descriptions demand — but they did have leadership skills, a history of project success or a reputation with their references for getting the hard stuff done and done well.

Hypothetically, you’re looking for an account manager. You have two candidates in front of you, one who has three to five years of all your job qualifications and another who has a year and a half of experience but radiates the kind of leadership qualities that makes you, your team and the client happy.

There’s no contest to who I would hire. Five times out of five, I’m going with the leader archetype.

The six archetypes of a great team

I’ve boiled the essential archetypes of a team down to six players.

This does not mean that any company can get away with just six employees; to scale operations, you’ll need to hire several of the same archetypes eventually. You can’t ever have too many leaders.

Now, I could list them as bullet points and give you vague definitions, but I’ve worked out a description of the six archetypes that I’ve found to be more helpful. I’ve based my descriptions on characters from The Avengers.

The team’s line-up is perfect because no two members are redundant.

  • Captain America is the leader. This leader lacks the immense strength and other-worldly powers of his team members, but he has a strategic mind and the influence among the team to command them effectively.
  • Iron Man is an island. This team member is not the best at working as a team player but is exceptional in delivering high-quality projects independently.
  • Hulk is your brute force. This teammate is suitable for powering through tasks to the finish line and clearing up bottlenecks.
  • Thor is your specialist. This team member can dive deep into complex tasks and equip themself with a crucial and niche skill no other team member has.
  • Black Widow is your communicator, able to play both the internal and the client sides of a campaign to keep everyone happy and focused.
  • Hawkeye is your artillery support. This person ties up loose ends and handles routine tasks, no questions asked.

There’s a reason Loki (apart from having villainous motives) could never be an Avenger. As Iron Man notes, he had no plan. When it’s time for the climactic fight — even though he’s armed with more than enough resources to succeed — Loki fails to use the upper hand he has effectively. Poor planners and mismanagers have no place on your team.

The leader, the island, the brute force, the specialist, the communicator and the artillery support are all competent individuals. Still, they come together to form an exceptional team capable of handling anything.

Finding the perfect team

When screening a candidate, how can you tell a job performer from an archetype? The answer is to ask them questions about their experience, but not necessarily their job experience.

What I do is incorporate a pre-hire assessment into my hiring process with rudimentary questions like “what’s a leadership experience you’re proud of?”, “do you bring any unique skills to the table?”, “are you more efficient as a team or on your own?”

The answers will provide you with what archetype the candidate best fits into. Combining that with any samples or references they send and your interview process, you can make a reasonable determination between a doer who lacks communications skills and an island that produces an output of exceptional quality all on their own.

Of course, fitting perfectly into the archetype doesn’t make them a perfect fit for your team. An island might produce stellar work, but if they’re smug and refuse to collaborate, they will cause team friction and problems. Is it worth it? Probably not. Remember, Iron Man is not renowned for being a team player, but he operates seamlessly as part of a unit when it counts. A critical aspect of making a smart, retainable hire is never settling. The right fit will come if you can be patient.

Leaders, islands and specialists retain their innate qualities no matter their industry. The habits and procedures to do a job properly can be taught, but the ability to push through difficulty is much harder to instill in someone who doesn’t have them.

To sum it all up: hire the person, not the resume.

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