Chemistry, Teams and New Hires: The 60-30-10 Rule

Chemistry matters.

It matters in personal and business relationships, and among sports and business teams. And nothing quite affects that team chemistry like introducing a new element: a new team member.

Perhaps nowhere is that more true than in the C-suite. When a company makes a new C-suite hire, it’s vital that they not only have the competencies and chronological experience to succeed. But they must also have the personal attributes that will be compatible with the chemistry of the incumbent executive team.

At Lantern Partners, evaluating and testing a candidate’s chemistry is an essential part of our process as we seek to find the right—not the perfect—hire for our clients. We go to great lengths to understand the chemistry and context of the team the new hire will enter.

Sure, this may seem like common sense, but new leadership insights from a Harvard researcher underscore just how crucial an executive team’s chemistry is, and how important it is to get it right from the outset, during the recruiting process.

In their incisive book, “Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing,” authors Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman write about the 60-30-10 rule, a principle uncovered by Harvard researcher J. Richard Hackman. Hackman, who has studied teams in a variety of settings not limited to the C-suite, has found that 90 percent of a team’s fate—their success or failure—is determined before they actually begin their assigned work.

Hackman holds that:

  • 60 percent of a team’s success is determined before they meet. He calls this the “pre-work” stage.
  • 30 percent is determined when they first meet, during what Hackman calls the “team launch” phase.
  • 10 percent is determined by the team’s actual work together.

What consequences does the 60-30-10 rule have for the recruitment process?

First, it tells us that as recruiters, our understanding of the incumbent team’s dynamics, desires, and functional deficiencies is integral to finding the right candidate.

Second, it confirms the importance of our recruiting approach: competency and chronological experience are key, but personal attributes are also an important piece of the puzzle.

Third, and most importantly, it highlights how critical the recruitment process is to building successful teams. If your company wants to put a team on the field that finds success, the majority of your resources should be focused on the front end—not the back end.