In our organization right now our focus is on building a culture that attracts and retains team members. We are especially focused on selecting the right people – unselfish people who want to be part of a team, who put the needs of others before themselves, and who, quite frankly, we want to be around every day.

Pretty simple, right?

No. In one of our divisions we have found we only hire three (3) out of 100 people we start with. It is really hard to find people who match-up with the criteria we are looking for. Even more, we never really know if the person is the right fit until they get here and we see how well they fit in with their teammates.

Theo Epstein’s Character Formula for Building Teams. With all these questions swirling through my head I happened to read Fortune magazine’s article The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders. This year they named Theo Epstein, the President of the Chicago Cubs, their #1 Choice. Epstein is no stranger to Boston Red Sox fans because he was General Manager of the Boston Red Sox when they won their first World Series in 86 years in 2004. Then Epstein went over to the Chicago Cubs, where they won their first World Series in 108 years last fall.

Clearly, Epstein has a success formula we can all learn from.

The most interesting part of the article to me was how Epstein requires his scouts (a baseball term similar to recruiter in the HR world) to explore deeply the player’s character. Here are eight questions he expects his scouts/recruiters to answer before the team drafts or trades for a player:

  1. Give three examples of how the player handled adversity on the field.
  2. Give three examples of how the player handled adversity off the field.
  3. What is the player’s family situation like?
  4. How does he treat people when no one’s looking?
  5. How does he treat people he doesn’t necessarily have to treat well, perhaps people who have been unfair to him?
  6. What do his friends say about him?
  7. What do his enemies say about him?
  8. What motivates him – is he mostly externally motivated (i.e. money, Twitter followers)?

As we all try to build the best cultures for our own teams and organizations, let’s remember these Fortune article words from Epstein himself,

“If we can’t find the next technological breakthrough, well, maybe we can be better than anyone else with how we treat our players and how we connect with players and the relationships we develop and how we put them in positions to succeed. Maybe our environment will be the best in the game, maybe our vibe will be the best in the game, maybe our players will be the loosest, and maybe they’ll have the most fun, and maybe they’ll care the most. When people do things they weren’t even sure they were capable of, I think it comes back to connection. Connection with teammates. Connection with organization. Feeling like they belong in the environment. I think it is human need – the need to feel connected.”

It often does come down to connection, doesn’t it? As my colleague, Ryan, always asks, “Would I want to invite this person over for Thanksgiving dinner?” There is only room for one turkey at that table.