Leadership

Don’t ‘Press Gang’ your crew

Be prepared to pick someone who experiences are less than ideal, but is willing to learn. Look for people you can work with even if their skills are not a perfect fit.

By

Paddy Breslin

on

Jul 27, 2017

Don’t ‘Press Gang’ your crew

It’s always possible to teach someone the new skills required for a job, but you cannot train people to fit your culture. Looking beyond someone’s abilities becomes the best way to find out if they will fit into your current team.

Asking for Volunteers

Anyone who’s worked in teams or spent time recruiting will know the value of having people who genuinely want to be there. An unhappy colleague, will at best, contribute little towards the common purpose. At their worst, these people could even undermine the entire project.

Of course, very few candidates in an interview will say they don’t want a job, and people don’t often refuse to join a new project team. So the task then becomes a matter of looking inward at the organisation and seeing who will gel with our current group.

Attracting someone with the skills required to do the job, is relatively easy. Finding those skills in a motivated person, who will fit into your company culture is more of a challenge. So building the group becomes a process of teasing out details of each person’s traits, personality, and character.

Often people want a job for now, however, you want to engage a committed team player.

Look for professional sailors

Press Ganging was the practice of forced military enlistment used during the 17th and 18th centuries. In times of war experienced men were forced to enlist and sail into battle, pressed into service so to speak. These men were sent on campaigns around the world, facing danger and often with little hope of returning. Desperate times require desperate measures.

When the choice is taken away, many people can react negatively, nobody likes being told what to and where to go. Press Ganging was all stick and no carrot, compulsory service with little reward. This lack of buy-in made the task of motivation and progress very difficult.

Contrary to some popular beliefs, only four of the crew Christopher Columbus took to the Americas were convicts. The other eighty-three were professionals sailors, willing to be there, wanting to explore a new world, or at very least get paid for trying. If he had ships full of prisoners, only there as an alternative to jail, it’s unlikely they would have ever reached America. Time spent recruiting the right people is time well spent.

You want a crew with those adventurer qualities, motivated by new learning, who want to answer questions and discover new lands. You want the group around you to question everything, including you. This type of united crew will push any organisation to achieve its goals.

This is where the process of delving into people’s motivations becomes so important. When holding interviews or building your team, look at what drives each person. Are they willing to grow and develop? or are they simply looking for a job. This information is often found beyond the skills and work history, this is the personal stuff, the hobbies, volunteering work. The time spent outside the office. What is their passion, because it's this passion you want to tap into.

Are they interested in what you are trying to achieve with this project? Are they asking questions? Do they have an understanding of the wider context?

Be prepared to pick someone who experiences are less than ideal, but is willing to learn. Look for people you can work with even if their skills are not a perfect fit.

Teamwork is a competitive advantage

The picture with this blog is from the 2009 Volvo Ocean Race in Galway. On the last day as the boats headed off on the next leg. I was lucky enough to be onboard one of the support vessels. These boats are the absolute pinnacle of modern sailing and to see them up race was a real privilege.

The precise teamwork needed to sail these was only evident up close. While they are beautiful from a distance, seeing the huge endeavor it took to sail and turn at speed was what impressed me the most.

It took a massive effort from the crew to maneuver each boat around a buoy, and sail out over the horizon. This is a superb example of what a group can achieve. To the amateur what looked like a chaotic scramble across the deck was actually a very well drilled and motivated crew working as one.

Remember this, Columbus took nine weeks to sail across the Atlantic, the current record for the same direction is a little over six days. No doubt modern technology has helped this, but it still takes a tremendous team effort to get it done.

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