The 4 Types of “Groceries” Every Manager Should Pick

By Song Woo, Contributor
February 28, 2014 Updated: April 23, 2016

Bill Parcells, the legendary football coach, once said, “If I’m going to be asked to cook the meal, I’d like to be able to pick the groceries.”  Those were his words as he resigned from the New England Patriots.  I always remember that quote because that was the driving force behind why I left my post with one of the largest companies in the world to start my own firm.  I wanted to be able to build a team that fit within my vision and philosophy.  I couldn’t do that there.  I was a bit handcuffed by my boss at the time as to who I could hire and fire. The irony is my boss was fired not too long after I had resigned.

A few years after I started my firm, we were honored as the fastest growing privately held company in Silicon Valley, everyone wanted to know what the secret to our success was.   I would jokingly say, “I was able to pick the groceries.”  The truth is I had a great team.  Now, a great team doesn’t necessarily mean that you have the smartest and most talented people in the world, but the fact remains, if you want to build a high performing team and have a healthy corporate culture, you need the right blend of people.

So what kinds of people do I always want on my staff? From my personal experience being in the employment world for all these years, I came up with the following list that has worked well for me:

1)     The Grinder

I have a guy who is the ultimate professional.  He shows up to work every single day, never late, and works harder than everyone else.  You need someone like that to set the pace and set the proper tone from a work ethic standpoint.  On paper you wouldn’t look at him and think he was blessed with the most talent, but he is extremely successful and outperforms everyone because he outhustles everyone. 

2)     The Competitor

Do you have a friend that has a burning desire to win at everything he or she does whether it’s chess, basketball, video games, etc.?  I bet you that person is successful.  I have never met an ultra-competitive person that is not successful.  These types of people have too much inner drive, confidence, and ego to allow themselves to not be successful.  They will do whatever it takes.  This too is infectious and having healthy competition in the workplace raises the bar for everyone. 

3)     The Comedian

It’s safe to say that most of us who work full-time spend more time awake at work than anywhere else.  If that’s the case, don’t you want to have fun at work?  Work is more enjoyable when you can laugh and smile.  If you have someone who can lighten the mood at the office, it keeps everyone loose and more productive. 

4)     The Glue

I have a wonderful woman who works her magic by engaging with everyone.  She is a pleasure to be around and draws other people in and promotes the team aspect of what we do.  This makes collaboration within the office that much easier.  Her nature is infectious and makes even the grumpiest employee sing a different tune. 

It takes more than top talent to build a successful organization.  The pieces have to fit nicely together and having the right mix of personalities is more important than you think.  If you pick the right “groceries” and blend them well, you will have yourself a very tasty team.