Most of these “Leadership Proverbs” I’ve just picked up, absorbed and imbibed by some process of osmosis along the way and don’t know exactly whom they originated from. But when I know I’ll make reference, and when I don’t it’s not that I’m ungrateful or that I want to appear like a genius. It’s genuinely that I can’t remember. So if I’ve flogged something from you let me know and I’ll happily acknowledge it.
The 5 Cs
A common difficulty when it comes to leadership of teams is working out how to recruit people. When I’m recruiting or hiring a person what criteria should I use to evaluate them? How do I differentiate between people?
When looking for new people for your team, whether paid or volunteer, or thinking about where your people are up to and where they need to develop, there’s lots of different ways to assess people and all of them have strengths and weaknesses. Whether it’s looking for F.A.T. people (Faithful, Available, Teachable) or a Myers-Briggs-type personality assessment or more sophisticated screening processes.
A common, and very helpful, set of criteria is often referred to as the 3 Cs, Each C stands for a different lens that you’d use to look at someone, and their order reflects their order of importance: Character, Convictions and Competencies. These are very helpful. I would like to insert 2 more Cs: Chemistry and Capacity.
And again, their order is important. Character, Convictions, Chemistry, Competencies and Capacity. The way the 5 Cs criteria works is that each C is less important than the one before. Character is the most important criteria, and Capacity is the least. That is, if someone has a strong character: honesty, reliability etc., but has a low capacity that isn’t an automatic disqualification. It’s just an orange light, we’d need to think carefully about where and how we might deploy this person, or in the case of a staff position we’d have to think carefully about whether they are the best hire. But if someone has a large capacity but also has large character deficiencies that person is much more likely to be disqualified since character is the most important factor.
Here’s briefly how each C breaks down:
Character: Character is the collection of a person’s values, personal virtues and motivations. It’s not so much what a person does as how a person does things. Examples would be things like honesty, reliability, faithfulness, servanthood, humility and so on. These are qualities that are very hard to teach a person and take a long time to develop or change, though they can be taught, developed and changed. The reason it’s most important is because it colours how a person does everything and because they are very hard to teach, and some people never change them at all. One person may work hard out of servanthood, humility and faithfulness whilst another will work hard out of a mercenary spirit, pride and competitiveness. Both will work hard but for very different reasons and out of very different underlying traits and in practice they will be very different people and make very different decisions.
Convictions: This is what people believe deep down about who we are, where we are, what the problem is, what the solution is and what time it is. In Christian contexts these convictions become more specific and revolve around what you think of Jesus, his death, his resurrection, his Bible, his Spirit, his Father, his exclusivity etc. What are you willing to stand for, what are you not willing to compromise about and what are you willing to die for.
Chemistry: This refers to how a person gels with the rest of the people on your team or with you. I used to think this wasn’t as important as competencies and should come 4th or even 5th in the list. I was wrong and I’ve since changed my mind. Chemistry isn’t a character issue, it’s not like “Well, people who steal just don’t fit in around here.” People can align completely with the values you value and share the same convictions you do, but you just don’t like being with them. They don’t find the things funny that you find funny, they don’t relate to people the way the rest of the team relates to people, things like that. It’s not a failure on anyone’s part, you just don’t click. Something’s out of synch. You don’t enjoy being around them. The chemistry isn’t right. This is sometimes hard to pick before you’ve been working alongside a person, but sometimes it’s really clear and obvious. Again it’s not a failure on anyone’s part, it’s just a lack of chemistry. And if you need to work closely with a person you might as well get on well with them on a personal level, otherwise every interaction is much harder than it needs to be, and the task will be hard enough as it is.
Competencies: This is the skills a person has to do the job and to fulfil the responsibilities. A certain degree of competency is required, but usually you can work with a person with lower competencies but who has a willingness to learn. Competencies can be learnt and perfected with use and helpful feedback. Someone with amazing competencies but who rubs the rest of the team the wrong way may in fact be less effective overall than a person with a lower competency level but who doesn’t suck the will to live from the rest of the team. That team will most likely outperform the team with the star player who everyone hates being around. And generally competencies can be taught and improved.
Capacity: This refers to how much work a person can get done at once, or how many different tasks they can manage concurrently, or how much pressure a person can live with. I think of it as plate sizes. Each person has a certain plate size, and they can only fit so many tasks on their plate at once. Some people are high capacity people and others are low capacity people. And people’s capacity changes as their life-stage changes or as other arenas in their life become heavier to carry and more burdensome. Capacity and Competency’s position are a bit more fluid than the other 3. Sometimes a person with a higher capacity but a lower competency level will actually achieve more overall than a highly skilled person with a smaller plate. But that’s not always a watertight principle. So these last two are a bit more fluid in their importance depending on the person and the situation and the responsibilities.
Obviously, if you can find a person who is at a high level in all 5 areas they’ll be a MVP and you need to keep them around and keel them interested and excited and keep as much out of their way and let them score goals. But usually life is more complicated and has more grey areas. And so for most people it’s a series of trade-offs and compromises. But the 5 Cs are a powerful conceptual tool to help you make those trade-offs clearer and more explicit in your own mind and in how you communicate them to people.