The basic principle is that when you’re recruiting, you should be seeking to raise the average of your team, bringing in people who increase the level of energy, skill, and possibilities available – and who raise the bar in terms of commitment to your aims and values.
This is a helpful rule of thumb, but there are two problems with it:
- The more successful you are at raising your average, the harder it’s going to be to keep doing it.
- As you get better at what you do and grow as a team, it’s also going to get harder to find people who raise the average in what are presumably key areas.
So it’s inevitable that you’re going to lower some averages, some of the time, if you want your team to grow. It’s doubly inevitable if you’re seeking to build an organisation that increases the average, both internally (as individuals learn and grow and as the team works better together) and in the workforce (as people move on and take what they’ve learned to make a contribution elsewhere).
I think the answer is to make sure that you’re clear about which averages are non-negotiable, and which of the others are most important at a given time:
- Values and integrity
- Enthusiasm / energy
- Commitment to your vision
- Maturity – consideration and care for others
- Skill in a key area. This could be something you deliver, like training or a technical service you provide for your clients – or a support function like accounting or managing infrastructure.
- Readiness (and ability) to learn and grow
It’s worth being clear first about the non-negotiables of values and attitude (that is, character) – and the energy that you need a new team-member to bring to the team.
You also need to know which missing skills you’re seeking to add to your team from the outset, and whether you expect these to arrive fully formed (how will you tell?) or are going to help your new teammate acquire them (you need a training plan, and you need to make sure that you carry it out).
Beyond that, a lot depends on the stage of development of your team, and whether your priorities are growth into new areas (finding people to create possibilities and help you do things that you can’t already do), increasing capacity (adding people to help you do more of what you already do) or consolidation (adding people who will help you do what you already do better). It’s worth bearing in mind though, that the two types of growth create a need for consolidation, and consolidation creates the potential for growth.