Looking for amazing people

23 February: added a perspective from Deepak Chopra, at the bottom of the original post…

People often ask what we are looking for when we recruit. Sometimes the question comes from students who are thinking about their job search. Or from people who are thinking about applying for a particular vacancy.  Or people who are curious about what makes our sector tick…

For me, there are three elements. Of course, having the relevant skills is very important – candidates demonstrate this by referring to their education, training, or experience. Sometimes we’ll spend some time exploring the applicant’s skills in the interview, and almost always we’ll talk to references about this.

Fit with the team is also extremely important. Sometimes candidates have all the right skills, but it becomes apparent that integration into the existing team might be a challenge. I’ve learned to take this very seriously, because the most exciting places I’ve worked (as leader, or member of a team), and where we’ve accomplished the most, have been where the skills were right and the team gelled.

Early in my career I became the leader of a team in a Regional Office.  As part of a team-building exercise, each of us completed a Myers-Briggs questionnaire, the results of which were very useful.  To my great surprise, when we looked at the results across the team, it was apparent that – with one lonely exception – we were all very similar in terms of our psychological preferences.  We were in danger of collective group-think!

That team went on to be one of the strongest and highest-performing I’ve ever been a part of.  But since then I have paid even closer attention to ensuring that teams that I lead benefit from a range of styles, and from diversity in their makeup across a number of characteristics – not just personality preference, but also of course gender, ethnicity, etc.

So if skills and fit are so important, what’s the third element? For me, in our sector, I think the missing piece of the puzzle is a passion for social justice. I am looking for activists, people who are determined to make the world a better place, people who don’t accept business as usual. People who know how to organize, act collectively, for change.

Activists and organizers are often challenging to manage or lead, because they are by nature resistant to authority. So be it, because the world has never made fundamental progress by accepting the status quo (by definition) – and our work is all about making fundamental progress.

What kind of people are we looking for? Amazing people – with the right skills, who enable our teams to move to the next level, and who are driven to be a part of making the world a better place.

I’ve been very fortunate to work with people like this for a very long time, and I am lucky to work in that kind of team now.

ps: here is an interesting reflection on the same issue from Deepak Chopra, which somehow reached me via Linked-In.

From Deepak Chopra:

What creates the best teams? I teach a course at the Kellogg School of Management Northwestern University for executives. It’s called “The Soul of Leadership,” and over and over again the question has come up, “What creates the best teams?”

So here are the three ingredients of best teams:

  1. They have a shared vision, which they feel deeply
  2. They are emotionally bonded.
  3. Every member of the team compliments the strengths of every other member in the team. That’s it.

The best examples of these of course are sports teams. When you have two teams with basically equal competencies, the team that wins is the one that has those characteristics (the ones listed above).

So once again these are: a shared vision deeply felt, emotionally bonded, and third where every member compliments the strengths of the other. There’s a lot more that goes into team building. Shared vision is the first thing, but emotional bonds means you are free of emotional resentments, grievances, jealousies of the other members of the team. You understand their emotions and they understand your emotions. You communicate in a way that displays or is authentically an expression of affection, attention, and appreciation.

And finally beyond emotional freedom and emotional bonding there is also emotional resilience. You know how to get over the ups and downs of life. So there you are–and you compliment each other’s strengths. So you know in soccer, the forward and the goalie and the quarterback all have strengths and they compliment each other, but that’s true of anything in business as well.

So where my strengths, for example, are: futuristic, adaptable, strategic, and maximizing my energy–and also thinking in a way where I can connect everybody else. My weaknesses sometimes lie in execution so I compliment that weakness with people that know how to execute. Okay. That in a nutshell is what creates a great team.