Hiring and promoting the right people are probably the most difficult decisions made by anybody who builds and leads teams.
I’ve been extraordinarily lucky over the years to find some of the best people at the early stages of their careers who have gone on to become industry leaders.
I have been privileged to work with them.
Through that time I can think of many people who have excelled who were perhaps not the most obvious stars of the future, or at least had not been recognised as such. Most often they were square pegs in round holes, or were so well fitted to their ‘hole’ that they had just been left in it.
My great lesson in team building was to make no assumptions about anybody.
It is far too easy for a manager to judge people on the advice of others, to jump to conclusions too quickly, or to be misled by the presence or absence of qualifications.
In my experience the best way to identify talent has been to give people a chance to prove themselves, sometimes a few chances. And not to listen to others. I’ve always tried to make my own mind up about people.
The thing I’ve looked for more than anything has been that they seem to care about what they do, and most of all that they care when they get things wrong, or when things go wrong around them through no fault of their own.
I’ve liked people who take responsibility and do not look for others to blame.
My teams have usually been a healthy mix of people with ‘professional’ communications expertise and experience and those who come from a variety of other backgrounds, particularly those from the operations of the business itself.
Working in multinational corporations, with big in-house comms teams and multiple agencies, my other priority when “client side” was to bring the two together and always treat in-house and agencies as integrated teams. The results always spoke for themselves, the more united the teams, the better the outcomes for the businesses.
I like teams with a mix of people who I’ve inherited and wanted to hold on to, and new people recruited. With a mix of those who I think are best potential for promotion and who may move on because somebody else head-hunts them and people who feel like they might like to stick around for a while.
But more than all these things, I’ve been lucky enough to find people in my teams who challenge each other and who have challenged me.
These attitudes and approaches have helped me to build truly great teams of wonderful people.
Without wanting to sound too David Brent, I’ve always found that the greatest teams are those who enjoy working together, those who are friends not just colleagues, those who have fun.
The photos here show my old BT Major Programmes Comms Team (on an away day messing about in boats) and my McDonald’s Europe Team (on away days in a restaurant on an island). I can’t find photos to hand of others who’ve suffered to work with me – so these two represent them all!