There’s nothing like a Lord of the Rings theme to jazz up an HR article. The sly Tolkien references, a couple of dwarf jokes and you’re good to go. But when it comes down to it, there are lessons to be learnt from the team dynamics of the fellowship of the rings, and just like in every office, it is crucial to manage and promote good team dynamics.

This begins early on from the recruitment stage and goes through to the management of the team. It is important to get it right from the start and make sure you’re correctly managing, developing and getting the best performance from your employees. So what did the fellowship do right and what did they do wrong?

I can’t imagine you haven’t watched The Lord of the Rings, but if so watch out for spoilers!

Have a Clear Mission Statement and Team Goals (Destroy the One Ring)

From the get go, it was obvious the fellowship had a mission and more importantly the mission was made very clear to each team member – take the ring to Mordor and throw that bling into the fire baby! From early on in the recruitment stage, to new employee onboarding and beyond, it is essential to communicate your company’s mission statement and the shared goals of that group.

For an employee to be a successful fit for your company, they must wholeheartedly understand what it is you are trying to achieve. If you haven’t already got a written mission statement for your business, make one.

If you want to make the nicest ice cream – great. If you want to be the leading provider of B2B telecommunication services – sweet as. And if you want to destroy the one ring and save all of middle earth from eventual destruction – good on you mate!

What’s truly important is to have a clear and defined mission with measurable goals, and to then ingrain this in every team and staff member. Your employees needs to be steering the ship in the same direction towards the same location, otherwise you will never get to where you want to be!

Complementary Strengths and Weaknesses (Humans, Dwarfs, Hobbits and more)

The fellowship had a variety of different team members who were all suited to certain tasks over one another. Aragon had his sword, Legolas had a Bow and Gimli had a big, fat axe. Every team member at your company will have their own strengths and weaknesses; what’s important is for you and your employees to know what they’re good at and what needs improving.

From early on in the recruitment process, it is important to know what your team is lacking, so you can hire the best new member to fill the missing piece of the puzzle. Is your team lacking in creative flair? Then hire an innovative and abstract thinker. Lacking an analytical or organised structure to your team? Hire a number cruncher. Need someone that can swing an axe? Recruit yourself a brutish dwarf.

It’s important to keep this process going throughout every staff member’s duration of employment. Annual employment reviews are a great way to assess your staff members strengths, weaknesses, areas requiring improvement and areas improved on. Discussing this with your staff is important in order to grow and develop individuals and your team into an Orc killing machine.

Poor Culture can bring down Team Morale (Watch out for Boromir)

From the beginning, when the fellowship was formed, we could all tell who was going to be the problem – Boromir, a rather selfish human who had his own desires and end game. He put himself before the team and as a result, he turned on his own in an act of betrayal.

It sounds extreme but a staff member with a poor work ethic and attitude can have a serious impact on the efficiency and morale of a team. They can bring down the mood in the workplace and have other staff members wondering if this is an environment they want to work in; so if one of your employees comes to you complaining that Steve from accounting tried to steal the ‘One Ring’, you should probably take it seriously. I mean come on Steve; do you want Sauron to be your future boss?

A study by the National Business Research Institute found that 66% of employers said they experienced negative effects of bad hires in 2012. Of these employers, 37% said the bad hire negatively affected employee morale. Another 18% said the bad hire negatively impacted client relationships. And 10% said the bad hire caused a decrease in sales. So it’s safe to say hiring a bad apple can have a serious impact on your business and your workforce, so avoid Orcs and turncoats at all costs.

A Good Team Starts with a Great Leader (The one and only Gandalf?)

As many movies and motivational quotes have taught us over the years; every good team needs a great leader. A leader is responsible for delegation, management and training. In many instances, a good leader must strike the right balance between supervising, without micromanaging, depending on the individual personality traits of the team.

Take Gandalf for example, he treats each member in a different manner, depending on their position within the team. Gandalf constantly supervises, directs and teaches the hobbits (entry-level employees) throughout their quest. He does not, however, treat experienced and seasoned members of the team in such a way.

Aragon, Legolas and Gimli (supervisory employees) are not micromanaged, Gandalf respects their opinion and gives them greater freedom to make group decisions and command others within the team. The same should go for your staff at the office. So if you have a group of Hobbits running around the office like headless chickens, it may be time to put your foot down, or just give them second breakfast – I hear potatoes and mushrooms work well.

Here are some traits every good leader should have:

  • Delegation (I cannot carry the ring for you Frodo, you must take that burden)
  • Lead through actions (I might be old, but I can still chop the heads of a few Orcs)
  • Treat every team members time with respect; like they should treat yours
  • Keeps their eye on the big picture (Say NO to world destroying jewelry)
  • Are comfortable to question their own management style (Maybe I should have asked the Eagles to help us from the start)

I know it is a bit of a stretch, but when you look at it there are traits and lessons that can be learnt from our favourite office team in Middle Earth. To put it simply, you must have a clear goal or mission for your team to strive to; develop your staff and look for complementary strengths among the group; avoid poor hiring decisions and place a lot of importance on good team culture; and at the end of the day the team needs to be managed by a good leader in order to produce good output.