Recruiting using the Cathedral test

A couple of years ago I made my first ever appointment in my team – see Building the right team with the right people – and this week, I’ve had my latest new employee start within my team as an intern.

Going through this recruitment process has got me thinking about what kind of person I look for when I’m employing someone, what characteristics do they have, and what am I looking for from them in the interview.

And this thought took me back to what I have learnt from two key people who inspire me – Carl Taylor and Simon Sinek.

When I was on several leadership development courses run by Carl – and as I have read his book and used his app – he uses his storytelling ability to tell his story of ‘Zen and the Art of Cathedral Building’ which is based around the building of the Sagrada Familia, or Gaudi Cathedral, in Barcelona. Within the story, Carl identifies four main employee types –

  1. The wall builder – they see their role as the tasks they do. In Carl’s example, Wayne shapes the bricks, puts them together and builds the wall. He does that because that is what you pay him to do.
  2. The expert – they see their role as being the most skilled expert in the team. In Carl’s example, Payne provides the best quality brick work – and he is proud of it.
  3. The team player – they see their role as a team member who are helping the team to deliver their priorities & targets for the year. In Carl’s example, Sayne is willing to accept change once he understands the options & reasons for it, and how this will benefit the team.
  4. The cathedral builder – they see their role of creating a better future and driven by their internal purpose. In Carl’s example, Jayne is driven by her personal commitment to this cathedral being her family church for the future.

I was always intrigued by this.

As a ‘cathedral builder’ myself, I could always see the other types in my colleagues that I have worked with through my career. I have realised that some fit better with me and my style than others. At the time I went on Carl’s courses I wasn’t in a leadership role within my team, so I was soaking up the information and applying to the team I was part of. This gave me a really useful grounding of understanding people before I had responsibility for them, their development and for helping them grow as individuals.

More recently I’ve been reading and studying Simon Sinek’s ‘Start With Why’ philosophy. This has added a further level of my understanding on the type of colleagues I work best with and who add the needed elements to my teams.

Start With Why is all about understanding why people come to work, the way they think and how they communicate. Start With Why resonates so much with me because everything I do and how I do it is driven by my purpose, or, my Why – to help people do life, better.

And this had always attracted me to seek people that are similar – or ‘cathedral builders’, using Carl’s example.

But, I’ve come to realise that actually just having ‘cathedral builders’ gives an unhealthy balance for my team. So, I’ve been seeking a mix of ‘team players’ and ‘experts’ to bring in as well.

Bringing a balance of employee types means that we can bring together people who can see the bigger picture with those who see the day-to-day tasks and those who are committed to proving excellent, high quality services. I’ve learnt that too many ‘cathedral builders’ means that we never reach the end point. Having too many ‘team players’ means we lose the bigger picture. And having too many ‘experts’ means we never move forward as we are constantly seeking perfection. 

I’ve realised that for my team to be come a ‘great team’ we need a bit of all three.

But what I still don’t see fitting within my team is the ‘wall builder’. I can resonate with someone who just comes into work to do the job just because they are being paid to. I struggle to understand them. I can’t understand what makes them tick. And then because of that, I can’t identify what I need to do to help them develop, improve and be part of our journey to being a ‘great team’. Historically I have had ‘wall builders’ moved into my team; but it doesn’t work. So, I tend to leave ‘wall builders’ out of the team – or move them out if they are forced on me.

So this got me thinking about what I look for when I recruit new people.

I know that I’m actively seeking a mix of ‘cathedral builders’, ‘team players’ and ‘experts’, and when I do recruit, I’m looking at the balance of the current team and identifying what’s missing. In other words, I use the ‘cathedral test’.

Let me know if this resonates with you – or if you agree. I’d love for your help and advice about how I can work better with the ‘wall builder’ and how they can add something to my team.

Add your comments & thoughts below or drop me an e-mail – iammichaelwatts at gmail dot com.

If you want to find out more about Carl visit,, or his blog,

For more on Simon visit or read through my Start With Why blog posts.

2 thoughts on “Recruiting using the Cathedral test

  1. Hi Michael,

    You’re a star!

    It’s been ages so let’s get together soon. What days of the week are best for you?

    Best wishes,



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