It doesn’t matter whether you work in a business, volunteer, or are a church member — every organization benefits from those involved and interacting as a high-performing team. What’s a high-performing team? It’s a group united around a vision and mission and pooling their talents and gifts for group success.
We can learn a lot about high-performing teams by studying Jesus’ approach to recruiting, organizing, teaching, and sending his disciples out into the world. What we can learn about recruiting the talent needed by a business or organization can apply to new and existing organizations needing to refresh their teams as well as to replace members as they retire.
Let’s examine Jesus’ process and the key actions he took. There are at least three things we can learn by understanding how Jesus selected his team, which we can apply to our businesses and organizations.
First, it was about quality, not quantity. Jesus recruited his team individually or in pairs. He needed a small critical group that he could develop. This has clear implications for organizational development: recruit and go forward with a small group of trusted members. Don’t worry about your future talent needs. When a business or organization has a small, trusted group, it can scale and grow over time. When you recruit “just in time” as Jesus did, you can take the best people available and still leave room to add to the group later on.
Second, Jesus selected disciples with different skills. Every apostle worked, but they weren’t all in the same job. Jesus selected a set of disciples who knew how to do many things, and these same skills were critical to building and nurturing the group through the three years of his mission. He needed four fishermen (Simon and Andrew, James and John), and he needed only one tax collector/financial manager. The analogy to business is this: the fishermen were today’s equivalent of sales and business development roles tasked with feeding the organization and keeping it healthy. The sole tax collector (Levi/Matthew) probably managed the group’s finances like today’s controllers or finance managers. That role didn’t require a team—just one expert.
The implications for businesses and organizations are also clear. The best performing organizations are built on many individual talents, not the same talent replicated many times over. Businesses and organizations use this model to build out leadership teams, boards, and overall staffing models. Having diverse talent enrichens the knowledge and expertise of the organization. It helps them bring in best practices. It creates a pool of talent with different attributes. The Biblical base for this is best found in 1 Corinthians 12:12, known as the “unity and diversity verse” –“Just as a body, although one, has many parts.” This passage serves to reinforce the view that every group—every business, every organization—performs best when the parts work together and work for the same mission.
Besides a diversity of skills, this “unity and diversity” verse encourages a mix of backgrounds, cultures, ages, and gender. The best performing teams include not just various skills but population variety, too. If you are trying to sell to or attract younger people like millennials, you’ll need to both understand their values and have people in your organization to who they can relate.
Organizational and workforce diversity reflects the body of Christ. All people are made in God’s image, but we do not have the same gifts and talents. As Jesus’ movement spread, it was increasingly necessary to bring in people who knew other languages and represented other cultures. Later additions to the movement included Greek speakers like the apostle Paul. Paul brought language skills and his knowledge of geographies and cultures outside of Jerusalem and Galilee. As the movement spread and more disciples were needed, the ability to reach other Jews and then non-Jewish Gentiles became critical to its success.
The final point we can learn about recruiting talent is that Jesus relied on known relationships, both within families and existing friendships. He trusted that if a person he respected had a relationship with another person, that was at least a passive endorsement of that person’s skills and character. Think about this in your need to bring new people into your business or organization. Many businesses use incentives to encourage recruiting family members and friends. Why not? These are people who someone you trust is willing to vouch for. No one purposely brings in someone who is a culture wrecker or an underperformer. They have put their name, or brand, on the person they endorse. This means you are likely to bring in better talent with less effort and without spending your time and money recruiting people who are relative unknowns.
Recruit selectively. Start with a core group. Mix talents and expertise. Find people who support your vision. The Christian movement spread from a group to an estimated 2.4 billion people today. Follow Jesus’ lead, and every organization can be a high-performing one. And who doesn’t want to be part of an organization that works well?
1 Corinthians 12:12
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.”