Recruitment – Individual Brilliance Versus The Team Dynamic

Published: 29 October 2014

Berwick Partners offer unrivalled support to an array of market sectors, finding talented leadership candidates that can make a real difference. My focus is in industrial markets and the starting point for conversations is often that the client needs a ‘game changing’ individual.

This made me think about the dynamics of hiring someone for an organisations leadership team; more often the focus is on the qualities of the individual rather than taking a close look at the current team dynamic and how the newcomer will gel with what you already have. No matter how hard the interview process, the reality is that it is only much further down the line you discover whether the personality and capabilities of the person you hired are actually what was required to take the organisation forward.

An increasing number of clients are utilising personality profiling as standard, but is this enough? A recent client who profiled the personalities of candidates at final stage interview had also profiled the management team they were being brought into – a critical further step in understanding team dynamics and fit.

Manchester United’s rush to rebuild their squad has been a genuine who’s who of top talent, presumably with some thought into positional structure, but I wonder if any thought was put into whether they will get along? Liverpool’s drive to build on last season’s surprising performance led their Manager Brendan Rodgers to comment that he was looking to bring in players that “fit the criteria that we want in terms of the model of our game”. Interestingly he then signed Mario Balotelli! Perhaps evidencing that teams also sometimes need mavericks or personalities that can bring an ‘X factor’ to proceedings.

The right profile for the job, both in terms of knowledge and aptitude is clearly important, but more attention needs to be paid upfront to personality traits. Experience suggests that clients want to hire the best individual, however they should be wary of this being at the expense of the team. When Sir Dave Brailsford, the Team Sky's cycling supremo picked his 2014 Tour de France Squad, the omission of Bradley Wiggins was explained by the principal of “a star team rather than a team of stars”, with Chris Froome selected in the CEO role supported by a team of loyal lieutenants.

I agree with the philosophy of having a ‘Star Team’ – retention of your best people, with external talent that is well matched through a rigorous recruitment campaign is the way forward.

David Thomas is a Principal Consultant in the Engineering & Manufacturing practice at Berwick Partners

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