I stand to be corrected, but if memory serves me well I’ve only once employed a direct team member in two different organisations. And in that case it was many years later and after they had already left the organisation in question. To say that I find it peculiar when people hire people from their previous teams, is an understatement. It completely baffles me.
Let’s start first of all with the moral arguments, or those of good and decent etiquette. Whilst there are often contractual and legal reasons for not seeking to solicit previous employees, there’s also in my opinion a really simple point of etiquette. A bit like stalking an ex on the internet to look at the pictures of them with their new partner, or driving slowly past the house that you once lived in to see what they’ve done with the decor, there is something a little bit icky and unbecoming about going back into an organisation that has been part of your past to make it part of your future again.
But more than this, it also infers a limited self confidence and a level of protectionism and closed mindedness. The chance that the very best people that are available to do the job that you need doing are in the place that you previously worked is highly improbable. There are of course certain circumstances that might prove extenuating, when a full team moves from one organisation to a near competitor, for example. But these are nearly always closed off by the contractual restrictions I mentioned above.
One of the things that I’ve loved throughout my career is working with different people, with different perspectives, ideas and approaches. Sometimes learning to get on and find your groove can take a bit of time, but that’s as much about stretching yourself and adapting to other people’s styles. In many ways that’s one of the joys of moving to a different organisation, learning new things, new ways and working with new people (incidentally that’s also one of the joys of moving sector). Bringing the people that you’ve previously worked with is going to limit that stretch and potentially lead you to continue to have the blind spots that you previously were unaware of.
Would I rule out ever working for a CEO I’ve worked with before? No, but I’d want to know that there was enough time and space between it to make sure that they’d changed and so had I. I’d want to know that the organisation was entirely different and there would be things that I would need to learn and develop in. But would I ever take the people who’d worked for me with me? I just wouldn’t. For the very simple fact that I would want them to grow and develop and learn from different leaders in different contexts. When push comes to shove, no matter how brilliant they are it would be better for them, and it would be better for me.