What Every Leader Should Be More Honest About

June 4, 2016, 4:00 PM UTC
Leonardo DiCaprio is Jordan Belfort in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, from Paramount Pictures and Red Granite Pictures. TWOWS-FF-001
Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “How do you build a strong team?” is written by Simon Berg, CEO of Ceros.

Someone once said to me, “As a leader, you need the ability to make good people do exceptional things.” To this day, I still don’t know if this was an insult or a compliment—maybe it was a bit of both. Either way, this piece of advice gets at the heart of building a strong team: It starts and ends with the people you choose to be a part of it.

The ultimate goal for any CEO trying to build a strong team is to hire exceptional people who deliver exceptional results. This is easier said than done. In reality, exceptional people are hard to find, especially ones who are available, a good culture fit, and within your price range. But they’re always worth searching to find, and always worth fighting to keep.

There are two ways to evaluate exceptional talent: from an analytical perspective and from an emotional perspective.

See also: The Danger of Using Personality Tests to Hire Employees

On the analytical side, you can look at things like previous job performance, IQ, aptitude, Myers-Briggs personality type, education, skills, and other measurable attributes. These are indicators of a person’s functional strengths—how they will contribute to your organization’s performance.

On the emotional side, you can learn about someone’s interests, creative pursuits, motivations, personality, and humor. These are indicators of a person’s cultural strengths—how they’ll integrate into the larger team and what they’ll contribute to the organization’s atmosphere.

At Ceros, we care equally about both analytical and emotional strengths. That’s why we have every potential team member do two projects for us:

  • A sample project, which shows how their functional skills will translate to a job-related task. This project varies by department. For example, we’re trying to hire a junior developer right now, so those candidates’ project is to develop a visual pizza-topping builder using our software development kit.
  • A passion presentation, in which they present for 10 to 15 minutes on a topic they’re highly passionate about that has nothing to do with work. In a recent presentation, one of our team members shared about his long-time fascination with fitness and how he does personal training and nutrition blogging in his spare time.


Giving only one or the other project wouldn’t give us a full sense of each person’s strengths.

At the end of the day, your team’s strengths depend directly on the strengths of its members. What kind of strength you need depends on your organization’s mission, your existing employees, and the culture you’re trying to cultivate. Once you’ve clearly identified what you’re looking for, you can clearly establish ideals for both the analytical and the emotional side of things and assess both employees and candidates fairly and consistently.


After three to six months, you should also re-evaluate everyone’s performance based on their job responsibilities. If their performance is rated “good,” give them time to make adjustments and improve to “very good” or “exceptional.” If there’s no change in performance, part ways amicably. This may sound harsh, but the sooner you can identify areas of weakness within your team, the easier they will be to rectify.

As a leader, one way you can strengthen your team is to be honest about your own strengths and weaknesses and willingly admit your vulnerabilities in the right circumstances. No one is perfect, just as no team is perfect. The more honest you are about your own shortcoming, the more honest your team will be about theirs—and the better able you’ll be to shore up those weaknesses long term with training, talent, or tools.