Definition: The Jedi Council was a group of twelve wise and powerful Jedi Masters elected to guide the Jedi Order.

I admit it.  I love Star Wars.  Well, at least the first three movies.  These movies had a strange and powerful influence over the boy I was in the late 70’s and early 80’s.  For whatever reason I can still recall specific details of the saga to this day, much to the chagrin of my family.

I believe the reason that the movies resonated with me, and everyone else, is that they were based on simple human truths.

As I have grown through my career of recruiting talent in the Architecture and Interior Design industry one of these “truths” has resonated with me, the idea of the Jedi Council.  Or to translate, a group of trusted and experienced firm employees who understand where a firm has been, where it is today and where it wants to go tomorrow.

I have seen several firms use this model to great success, specifically around business development and hiring talent into the organization.  But how does a firm build a Council and what is the best way to put it to work for your firm?

Building Your Firm’s Council

You will want to fill your firm’s Council with a mix of firm leadership and developing individual contributors.  By balancing these two levels within the group the Council can become aspirational, an appealing growth opportunity for the high bar talent in your firm.  Some firms I have worked with have made membership on the Council a rotational appointment and a qualifier for those on track to Principal.

All members of the Council must understand your firm’s core values and be able to speak about your firm’s value proposition (value=benefit-cost).  They should also have an understanding of where your firm has been, how it has grown and how it defines its self in the market.

It is also important for members of the Council to be involved with relevant organizations outside of the firm.  Successful Councils can function as outward public relations tools.

How to Use Your Council

Of course the Council can support a firm in limitless ways.  As mentioned above the group can be aspirational or a needed rotation as you develop talent within your firm.

Two uses I want to discuss here are public relations and recruiting.

The first, public relations, is an outward focus for the group.  Members of the Council should also be active participants in groups like the AIA, IIDA and others.  Leveraging those memberships and connections can be a great way to educate potential clients and the industry at large on the expertise of your firm.  This can be done through presentations, panel discussion participation and white papers.  By having this group, in conjunction with marketing and PR, be the “voice” of your firm it will also position your employees, and in turn your firm, as the go-to experts in the field.

Another way this type of council can be beneficial is in evaluating talent.  This is an inward focus for the council.

First let’s discuss the benefits of the firm on candidate evaluation.  Because the Council is made up of employees that understand your firm’s core values and are able to speak about your firm’s value proposition (value=benefit-cost).  Members have a unique perspective on how a candidate will meet the specific position need.

Also, through this understanding, the Council can evaluate the higher level fit with the firm from a semi-detached point of view.  Is the candidate biased for action?  Can the candidate deal with ambiguity?  Has the candidate effectively demonstrated the ability to work within a team or influence with out authority?  These questions that speak to the over all firm fit should be part of what the council asks in the interview process.

Second, the Council should be selling the firm in the interview process.  The perspective the Council members bring can greatly influence and motivate candidates when interviewing.  In chorus with the rest of the interviewing team the Council member should be tasked with “selling” the firm.  They can also lend a more in-depth look into firm’s goals and how the candidate might fit into those goals.

The great thing about the Jedi Council idea is that it is scalable and can work in any firm regardless of size, specialty, market share or location.  The most exciting aspect of the Council idea is the way it can transform a firm into a knowledge and market leader through active participation in the industry and by evaluating talent, ensuring each hire is the right hire.