Re-think “The Best Fit”

I like mismatched teams, the kind that shouldn’t really work, but somehow do. A few years back, I was a new Digital Services manager for a public library, with a growing staff of varying backgrounds: IT, user experience, library databases, technology education, etc. They all worked together in an open-office plan–no partitions, no cubicles, pure chaos.

Some of the staff I’d inherited, some I’d helped hire, and some, after serious deliberation, I’d brought on board in spite of objections from my existing staff. I had a different view about what it means to be “a good fit.” I didn’t want a monoculture where everyone got along and they all had the same approach to their work. My decisions were based on what each candidate brought to the table, whether we needed it, and why.

Did we really need someone to create a music studio in the library, or did we need someone interested in the Digital Divide and the Girls Who Code movement? Did we need the candidate who would get along with everyone? Or the one with the focus and strong work ethic that could inspire and influence other staff?

It was hard not to be a pleaser. As a hiring manager, I was faced with a decision that was unpopular, but one I knew would take the department in the direction it needed to go. Staff on the hiring committee wanted the person they thought was the best fit. The one most like them. I wanted the one that would challenge the department.

Well, there was gnashing of teeth, there was (eventual) turnover, and some days it seemed like nobody liked each other. But overall I watched the productivity soar, and everyone was genuinely engaged and interested, and working at their best. By introducing a new and challenging team member, I had raised the bar on everyone else

I thought about this at Friday’s Leadership Academy, as we talked about our energy profiles. I scored heavily in Creative Energy, and, given my previous work in technology, lower on Logic and Grounding. It makes sense then that as a manager, I had sought out people who were grounded and logical, whose energies would play off one another effectively if not always harmoniously. In the end, I drew as much or more inspiration and energy from the staff I managed as they did from me.

Eric Battaglia is the Senior Manager of Adult Services at the Aurora Public Library and a participant in the 2018 Leadership Academy presented by the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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