The Toronto Blue Jays showed phenomenal improvement in the second half of the season.

How’d they do it?

They tried a new approach to recruitment and team building.

The Blue Jays became top contenders when General Manager Alex Anthopoulos put more emphasis on hiring team players with strong character.

“We really made a concerted effort last off-season—really, by mid-September—to put less of an emphasis on talent and tools and production. Don’t get me wrong: that is still the driver in any player acquisition. But we put more of an emphasis on character, make-up, quality of the human being, what kind of teammate they are. That’s not to say we didn’t value it before, but we decided to up the percentage quite a bit.” – Alex Anthopoulos to Michael Friccolanti, Source: Alex Anthopoulos, The Canadian Who Rebuilt the Blue Jays

It worked!

From the trade deadline, the Jays went from winning 50% of their games in the first half of the season to winning 70% in the second half. They scored 100 more runs than any other team in baseball and they got career years from people like Donaldson, Pillar, Goins and Estrada.

What can we learn from the Jays to help us build better teams in business?

Get veterans and rookies working together

Jays’ manager John Gibbons knows how to engage young talent with veterans.

Roberto Osuna is the youngest pitcher in baseball and LaTroy Hawkins is the oldest. It was a great move when Gibbons put Osuna’s locker next to Hawkins.

Perhaps the most important thing a manager does is keep players happy and motivated, maintain a sense of unity and purpose within the team, and deal with the inevitable bad stretches and distractions that come with an 162 game season….Gibby is ludicrously likeable and appears to have both the requisite fire and calm to be an excellent team leader. – Nick Ashbourne, Exactly What Kind of a Manager is John Gibbons

Take a chance on people with potential

Chris Colabello played in the minor leagues for seven years until he was picked up by the Minnesota Twins. Colabello fizzled out in Minniesota. Then the Blue Jays took a chance on him.

He didn’t let them down. Colabello had the highest batting average with the Blue Jays this season.

Take a chance and invest in people that have potential. Look at their work ethic. Colabello is one of those guys who’s always the last one to leave the ball park.

Hire team players with strong character

Roberto Osuna became the Jays’ closer at age 20. He shows no fear in spite of the immense pressure. In his first major league game he struck out Alex Rodriguez, one of the best hitters in history.

Josh Donaldson overcame a tough childhood with his dad in jail. After joining the Jays, he became the top third baseman and a candidate for MVP for the league.

Marco Estrada was a steady-eddy pitcher before joining the Jays. When other pitchers dropped out due to injuries, Estrada jumped at the opportunity and had the season of a lifetime.

Jose Bautista — I’ll never forget his controversial bat flip in the seventh inning of game five against Texas. Always the hero, when the Jays were down 3-1 in post season game six against Kansas City, Batista hit a second home run and tied it up 3-3, in spite of a twisted ankle.

How do you know if a candidate has strong character?

Ask job candidates about a major challenge they’ve faced. Ask about a major accomplishment.

Look for people who can give you an example of a time in their professional life where they had to buckle down and get the job done in spite of obstacles. Especially look for people who put a priority on keeping positive relationships even when the work is hard and mistakes happen.

Related Post: 8 Interview Questions To Hire Strong Team Players

Transparency during all stages of recruitment

Troy Tulowitzki was blind-sided when he was traded from the Colorado Rockies to the Jays. He was upset about the trade but this didn’t prevent him from hitting a home run in his first game as a Blue Jay.

To help new hires feel comfortable in their new job, set clear expectations during the hiring stage. Always assign someone to help the new team member settle in. Otherwise you may waste their talent and drive them away.

Recruit people with the agility to adapt as they go

David Price demonstrated how to regroup and adjust after a setback. In the first two innings of the Jays’ final post season game, Price allowed two home runs. He immediately adjusted his pitching style and retired 16 of the final 20 batters, including eight strike outs.

How do you know if a job candidate has agility?

Ask them to talk about a setback they faced at work and how they dealt with it.

Look for the positive or negative energy in the answer they give you. Did they show flexibility in their approach to overcoming the setback? Were they able to adapt to a new situation?

Wrapping up

What’s the big take away for hiring managers from the Jay’s success this season?

A job candidate is more than a resume of skills and experience. A person’s character and ability to be a strong team player are essential to success.

If you want to talk about the Jays or how we can help you get your team to come together with some awesome new staff, let me know.

Tim Collins
President and Chief Connector
Stafflink Solutions

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