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3 Critical Competencies for Selecting a Championship Team

June 14, 2012

It’s been a few months since my Alma mater, the University of Kentucky Wildcats, finished the successful run for their 8th national men’s basketball championship, and I am still flying high.  The Big Blue Nation is still sitting on top with the most all-time wins in the NCAA with 2,090 wins, and the chances to win national championship #9 are already looking good with the nation’s top recruiting class for the fourth year in a row. With Coach John Calipari orchestrating the team and recruitment efforts, he sets his players up for success in his unique system of play.

The question that often arises is why is Coach Cal so successful?

The answer is simple: he recruits and selects the best talent available.  Sounds simple enough, but let’s take a look at how Coach Cal - and employers - can select a championship team by looking at three specific competencies that are important for identifying and predicting success:

1.  Achievement Motivated.  Coach Calipari is known for attracting the best student-athletes in the country to play basketball for the Wildcats.  Before playing for Kentucky, he makes it clear that he can help develop the players and prepare them to compete in the next level in the NBA, but it starts with hard work and dedication.  To be successful, the players must possess the strong desire to excel on and off the court.  This strong desire to win juxtaposed with setting challenging goals for oneself and working aggressively to achieve those goals is necessary to building a championship team.

Employers can take a page out of Coach Cal’s philosophy for selecting a successful professional-level employee in hopes of building a successful workforce by assessing hopeful job candidates for the motivation to achieve.  Having a strong desire to excel at what one does is a key trait in predicting success in many types of positions.
2. Adaptability/Stress Tolerance.  Adapting to changing on-court situations is crucial for players during the game.  Throughout the year, players had to be ready to adjust their actions and plans from game to game to continue to be effective and successful.  Each team would try several strategies to thwart the powerful offense of Kentucky and to penetrate their tenacious defense, but if they were not able to continue to function effectively and quickly during times of change, there may have been another champion this year.

Just like the players, assessing adaptability and stress tolerance in potential candidates can be equally important in predicting a successful professional.  Organizations often need someone who can adjust behavior or attitude to accommodate changing circumstances and continue to function effectively during times of change.
3. Working Collaboratively.  It is no secret, basketball is a team sport; thus, the importance of teamwork and collaboration.  Without a basketball team being willing to basketballcollaborate and work together, success will be very difficult.  There is no question that this year’s UK basketball team had a group of individuals with chemistry rarely seen.  Coach Calipari selected a group that was willing to work together and find a variety of ways each could aid the team in pursuit of bringing back the eighth national championship to Kentucky and it paid off.  Teamwork and collaboration, combined with talent, was another factor for success.

The same can also be said for selecting individuals for the workplace.  Professional-level employees often must be willing and able to work collaboratively with others.  Although professional-level employees may not need to worry about passing a ball to a teammate or co-worker effectively, collaboration comes in the form of cooperating and working effectively with others in the pursuit of common goals.  Nothing demonstrates the significance of this concept more than the Kentucky state motto, “United we stand, divided we fall.”

So, whether you're trying to pick players to build a championship basketball team like Coach Cal at the University of Kentucky, or trying to choose talented professionals to build a high-quality workforce at your organization, there are several key competencies that can aid you in the process.  Achievement motivation, adaptability/stress tolerance, and working collaboratively are just three such competencies that may be important to focus on in your selection processes.  By employing reliable and valid assessments that focus on key competencies for success in your target positions, you will be able to identify key attributes of effective performers.

Is your organization using the right tools to select, identify, and hire a championship team?

Jason Frizzell Jason Frizzell is a Senior Consultant, Healthcare Lead, on the Talent Solutions team with PSI. He earned a Master of Science degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from Eastern Kentucky University and a Master of Health Administration from Ohio University. Jason also holds a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification. He has experience in designing and implementing valid and legally defensible talent management systems within the healthcare, technology, manufacturing, retail, call center, mining, and transportation industries to help each in selecting and developing employees. His areas of expertise include selection, leadership development, competency modeling, job analysis, turnover, test/survey development, and talent management.