No Need to Watch Your Back When You Hire Right!

We may brag when we hire right, but in reality hiring is a melding of insight and science, and not everyone does it well. The higher we go up the executive ladder, the more we are dependent upon getting work done through others. If you're not getting the results you want, it's likely to be a breakdown in the hiring process chain. The process of hiring is like baking a cake; getting a good recipe, putting in the right amount of the right ingredients, keeping out the wrong ingredients and setting a timer on the oven. If the new hire is a flop, it's likely you haven't adhered to specific hiring criteria, including job descriptions (recipe). Or, you don't have an effective screening or interviewing process (putting in the right ingredients, and keeping out the wrong). Or, you hire too soon or too late (not setting a timer on the oven).

Ineffective hiring will undermine an executive's success. Whether you are hiring a direct report, or one of your direct reports is hiring others -- it is critical to be clear on requirements for the job. The candidate must be trained or have some modicum of experience to perform the work, but just as important is their behavioral fit to the organization.

For example, you can have a candidate with outstanding credentials and experience, but if his or her values don't mesh with the organization's values, the candidate should not be hired. Bypassing fit can be like letting a fox loose in the henhouse -- a high-casualty, messy affair. Leaders sticking their fingers in the holes of a workforce dike sometimes plug the hole with anyone they can find. Do this enough times and whole dike may give way. Unless you are a beat-the-odds Las Vegas gambler, it is better not to hire than to hire someone who needs to be let go later.

Leaders who have a successful hiring process reap the benefits of organizational synergy, of having a great place for people to work and of having the right candidates waiting eagerly in the wings. Paying attention to board recruitment and retention is as critical as hiring the right employees. Board members not aligned with the CEO's vision can be sand in the machine of the business engine. Selecting board members needs to be an ongoing process of identifying and courting potential candidates to have a planned succession over time.

Here are six tips that contribute to successful recruitment and retention of board members who fit the organization:

  1. Review the by-laws and pay particular attention to the number of board members based on your organization and your business industry. Select the types of backgrounds that are needed.
    • a. It is often easier to recruit board members if the number of positions are twelve or under.
    • b. Attract at least two members with successful experience in your industry -- with representation locally, regionally, nationally and/or globally.
    • c. Determine the number of members and the respective background necessary, such as financial, marketing, technology, quality, service or other expertise.
  2. Ensure you have a strong mission and vision statement and attract board members who aspire to have the organization achieve them.
  3. Ensure you have organization values that can be extended as an expectation to board members, and attract candidates who have demonstrated experience in upholding the values.
  4. Urge the board to develop and use clear criteria for attracting new board members that fit with the values.
  5. Take time with the board to outline the type of board they are, such as a working board, a strategic board, an operational board, etc.
  6. If there aren't descriptions for each role on the board, put them into place. Not being clear on the expectations can create dissatisfaction once board members are on the board.

Regarding employees, think through your organizational chart carefully and make it a living document that changes as the organizational needs change. If your industry is going through unrest, you want to consider a transformational approach as you review and revise your organizational chart. Explore innovative titles and descriptions in order to attract transformational leaders. It takes transformation to innovate your organization and industry.

With employees, the following five tips help to attract candidates who fit your organization:

  1. The chief executive owns the culture, ultimately, and articulating the culture (current or future) helps with hiring people who fit it.
  2. Develop job descriptions that clearly outline the major functions of the job -- knowing that for unique positions, the descriptions may change over time. This helps with clarity on advertising for positions.
  3. Take time to outline the values and behaviors you expect in every employee, and put them into the job descriptions.
  4. Develop and implement a set of standardized interview questions that help uncover the real personality of the candidates.
  5. Enlist a recruitment team that is small and has experience in hiring well. If you get concerns about a candidate from any member on the interview team, listen to them. Don't lobby for your candidate, but explore their concerns. Of course the leader has the perfect right to hire regardless of feedback. I have done so in the past and regretted it.

If you adhere to the systematic hiring process recommended above, you'll stomp out the glowing embers of political intrigue that can burn a business to the ground. And you'll sleep better at night knowing that you can concentrate on leading your company forward without always looking over your back. Hiring right benefits everyone from the board member, to the employee, to the executive; it is just the right thing to do.

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