Talented Teams

Goodness, what lessons we’re all learning about teamwork these days. We may have heard some of them before, at Company teambuilding days. And then promptly forgotten them, -the moment we returned to work. Others – such as taking a personal interest in the wellbeing of colleagues – we’ve been encouraged to put aside as Africans emulate hard-nosed western management styles.

Many leaders are rightly asking themselves whether they have the right teams in place. For some, this is a cold analysis of productivity divided by cost of employment. For others, it’s more important to work out why certain team members aren’t a good fit. In spite of established HR policies and administrative requirements … or perhaps because of them!

Last week I was leading a discussion at www.amalgamleadership.com, specifically focused on the need for leaders to make a more inspirational contribution to their company’s recruitment process. Many of our class members (drawn from over a dozen business sectors) talked animatedly about how Human Resource practices often prevent them from finding and hiring the right candidates. Examples as simple and silly as candidates with 4 years’ relevant experience instead of the specified 5 being excluded from shortlists. And as complex as having to argue the case for creative people for the entertainment industry in the face of stone-walling over the lack of formal qualifications.

Perhaps the greatest contribution any leader can make to getting the right people on the team is to set the tone for the search. I coach leaders to pen a short paragraph on the purpose and culture of their company – to serve as the initial inspiration for the recruitment brief. The more personal they make it, the more likely they are to attract like-minded people.

The explorer, Ernest Shackleton, is reputed to have stimulated recruitment for his 1907 Nimrod Antarctic Expedition with a newspaper advertisement which read:

‘Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.’

There was nothing in there about qualifications or previous experience. Shackleton was hiring for attitude. In a way, he had written a simple psychometric test. For people who were attracted to risk, and for whom recognition was the ultimate reward.

The expedition never reached the South Pole, although they did record the southernmost latitude ever reached. But they were trapped on the ice for 22 months and had to perform extraordinary feats of teamwork and physical endurance to escape. As the motivational speaker Simon Sinek www.simonsinek.com observes, ‘the fact that nobody died confirms that Shackleton had built the right team’.

Chris Harrison leads The Brand Inside.

www.thebrandinsideafrica.com

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