Bill McDermott is the CEO of SAP, a global technology company with over 100,000 employees in offices around the world. I think it's safe to say that he knows something about building teams. In fact, his employees give him a 95 percent approval rating on the popular recruiting site Glassdoor.

Glassdoor recently named him one of the top CEOs based on those reviews and also interviewed him for their blog. One line jumped out at me in particular when McDermott was talking about his employees.  

He didn't describe his team as hard-working, or well-educated. He didn't mention the fact that his employees are dedicated, or that they're extraordinarily talented programmers--although I'm sure that many of them are. Instead, he called out two specific qualities to which we should all pay attention. 

McDermott described himself as being grateful for employees who are "thoughtful and adaptable."

Thoughtful.

You've probably worked with someone at some point who was, perhaps, not thoughtful. I don't just mean they weren't considerate of your feelings, and I don't think that's what McDermott means either. 

"I love people who know themselves and trust their talents and are also brave enough to seek help in areas where they are not experts," said McDermott.

Thoughtful people are self-aware and able to evaluate how they fit into a team. They know their boundaries and are willing to ask for help when it comes to filling the gaps. They are willing to be challenged and grow but aren't intimidated by the fact that they don't have it all figured out. 

As a result, they aren't putting on a front that they do have it figured out. Thoughtful people are more concerned with actually figuring things out. Having this type of person is valuable because you know you can trust them to consider the best interests of everyone involved--themselves, their team, and your company.

Adaptable.

The other quality McDermott mentioned is being "adaptable." This one is brilliant for so many reasons, but he went on to explain, saying that "we also foster a continuous process of innovation--in our products and for ourselves."

I love that he's focused on innovating not only the company's products, but also the people. 

Here's the thing; I think it's tempting to try and find employees who fit a specific mold. You're looking for someone with a set of skills that are easily defined and categorized. You need someone who can code, or sell, or create content. 

As a result, team members are categorized by role and title, and their career trajectory is determined by the mold they fit in. Businesses are built around those molds and roles, despite the fact that while they might make sense on paper, over time, your business is changing.

That means you need people who can adapt to that change. McDermott seems to be suggesting that the most valuable skill is to be adaptable. 

It's true. Think about it for a minute. Which is more valuable to a growing business--to know a lot about one specific subject, or to be able to quickly find and learn about new things? 

Adaptable people are like the latter. They're able to quickly adapt whatever other skills they have to a variety of roles or responsibilities that ultimately add exponentially more value to their team and the business as a whole. 

Both of these qualities seem like no-brainers, but require an intentional effort to, as author Jim Collins likes to say, "get the right people on the bus." That's your primary job as a leader--to find the right people and get them on board your team. Finding people with these two qualities will make that job far more effective.

Published on: Jun 21, 2019
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