I have a natural curiosity. I enjoy hearing peoples’ stories and learning from them.

Not long ago, I had an interesting conversation with someone I met at a party, who happened to be a retired human resource director. He told me his specialty was interviewing and hiring potential managers.

I asked him if he had any secret techniques he used whenever he interviewed applicants that gave him an indication that a particular individual would make a good hire.

He explained to me that by the time applicants reached him, they had already been vetted by someone else in human resources. Every applicant had the necessary experience and qualifications. They were all polished and accomplished professionals.

When he interviewed them, he was looking for two specific intangibles that he felt were essential for good managers in his company.

The man would take the applicants to lunch or dinner, and he would observe them eat.

The first thing he looked for was if the applicants tasted their food before they added salt or pepper to it, or if they just blindly added the condiments without sampling it.

He believed good managers paid attention to details and never made assumptions. They always examined the data before they made their decision. In his experience, the “salt and pepper test” was a good indicator that applicants would consistently do this.

The second thing he watched for was how the applicants ate. He watched to see if they chewed with their mouths open, tried to speak while they had food in their mouths, or smacked their lips while they ate.

I expected him to say this had to do with the applicant having good manners. But he said that wasn’t the only reason.

He also believed good managers have a high level of self-awareness. How they ate was an indication of their self-awareness.

Everyone has little idiosyncrasies. People can become comfortable with their own idiosyncrasies to the point they become oblivious to how much they are annoying those around them.

Managers are going to work long hours in a very intimate environment with the other members of their team. In an ideal situation, everyone would be tolerant and accepting of each other’s idiosyncrasies.

While being tolerant and accepting are admirable traits, having an awareness for how their actions affect others and being able and willing to suppress their annoying habits for others was more important.

Paying attention to detail, making decisions without making assumptions, and having self-awareness are all qualities of a good teammate.

If you’re in a position where you’re trying to assemble a more effective team, maybe there is something to be learned from the practices of this human resource retiree.

If you are in a position where you want to be a better teammate—and all of us should be—maybe you should try to care more about these things.

As always…Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.

Lance Loya is a leading authority on the good teammate mindset. He is a college basketball coach turned author, blogger, and professional speaker, who inspires TEAMBUSTERS to become TEAMMATES. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, or through his weekly Teammate Tuesday blog.

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