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Designing a powerful team

When putting a team together, we often get stuck on the skills each individual has to offer and miss out on some key factors that are at stake. It goes without saying that skills are very important; you can’t hire a pilot if the candidate doesn’t have the required flying experience not to mention qualifications! […]

When putting a team together, we often get stuck on the skills each individual has to offer and miss out on some key factors that are at stake. It goes without saying that skills are very important; you can’t hire a pilot if the candidate doesn’t have the required flying experience not to mention qualifications!

However, designing a powerful team requires more than skills and compatible personalities.

Recruiting: match-making or allowing individuality and creativity to bloom?

Some organisations’ recruiting process can be mere match-making. Based on skills promoted on a CV, candidates with the best expertise are selected before they get to prove themselves at an interview. Once at the interview, the selected individuals are assessed on how they would fit into the rest of the team and the organisation at large.  Of course, it is important and advisable to hire skilled people who are team players with good social skills. But it seems a lot of recruiters stop at that.

Job interviews don’t often involve a shared vision. The focus is rather on the recruiter’s vision. Certainly, a company can’t change it’s core values and beliefs every time a new recruit joins in. But if the vision is a one-way, self-centred one, only benefiting the hiring party, then the team members will not be engaged. They might do the job for the money or as a stepping stone to something better and more empowering. But nobody thrives when their individuality and creativity is suppressed.

What glues a team together are shared values and beliefs: a shared vision.

Longterm strategy for implementing and supporting a powerful team.

A shared vision means it is crucial to see each individual for who they are and what they bring to the team. There is no need for one superhero or one shining star (often the CEO in the case of companies which lack forward-thinking). The synergy of the entire team will shine brighter than any individual. So the role of a powerful recruiter is to find as many stars as possible. And this is not only at the top management level or amongst highly skilled and technical team members but includes everyone. Who doesn’t get an instant lift when feeling overwhelmed by a mile-long to-do list and the office administrator tells them “You’ll be all right, dear” and offers them a cup of tea? That admin person can have as much positive impact on team morale as great end-of-year sales’ figures.

The long-term strategy for acquiring and maintaining a successful team is to:

  • Recruit well (shared vision as well as skills and character compatibility)
  • Treat individuals with care and compassion
  • Allow each individual to shine in their own way

It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

Steve Jobs

Here is a little personal story…

I was recruited as Base Camp Manager for a six-week expedition into the Peruvian Amazon in 2016. The position required being responsible for logistics, equipment and food supplies, managing environmental impact at base camp and helping with the day to day life of expedition team members (altogether 70 people) in the harsh environment of the jungle. Having been a professional pilot for two decades did not directly prepare me much for life in the jungle to say the least. However, I had a lot of transferable skills (working under pressure, coping well with emergencies, keeping a cool head etc.) which combined with my love of adventure and organisational skills landed me the job.

But it wasn’t until we were on the expedition that my true values merged with that of the hiring organisation and the rest of the team. The organisation has youth development at its core and is “founded on the belief that challenging experiences can change lives”. In my own way, I share this vision and therefore was able to bring the best of myself to the expedition.

The dream team doesn’t come together because a bunch of highly skilled people are thrown in together. It is carefully designed by leaders who believe in the synergy of each and every individual who makes up the team.

And they are all shining stars in their own way.

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