One of the recurring themes in the lexicon of leadership literature is that of ensuring that we recruit only the best possible people to be in the business.
Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great, emphasises the need to get the best people on the buss, US leadership guru, Lee Thayer, says that we ought always recruit virtuosi and many other eminent commentators have said that we should recruit people who are manifestly better than we are and then get out of their way and let them get on with it.
Whether we are promoting someone or recruiting from outside the criteria are still the same. I much prefer the promotion route because this demonstrates trust in people and elevates someone who already has domain knowledge, knows the people and knows how the business operates.
On the other hand if there is nobody suitable for promotion or we are looking to fill a new vacancy then recruiting is the alternative.
It is perhaps obvious that, in both cases, experience and the appropriate technology should be a given. We wouldn’t normally appoint or recruit a sales person to be finance director.
What then are the most important factors in recruiting anyone especially to the top team? It has to be attitude and behaviour and those are criteria that the usual format of job interview doesn’t always uncover.
US Vistage speaker and recruitment specialist, Ed Ryan, says that we normally hire on skills and fire on attitude and that means that getting the attitude question right from the start avoids problems later.
All well and good but how many times do we backslide and go for someone who is “good enough” or “reasonable” simply because it is an easy way out and it fills the vacancy?
The cost of employing top people these days especially at a time of high levels of employment is probably double the annual salary apart from the disruption an unsuccessful appointment generates.
What is even more toxic is tolerating people even though they may have a poor attitude especially when they are in a function that is special or “one-off”.
Everybody in the business is well aware of their shortcomings and have to accept the fact that we tiptoe round the problem rather than confronting it.
We get the behaviour and the performance that we tolerate.
The question is, do we tolerate at a high enough level? Probably not because it is easier to keep someone in post rather than go through the pain of terminating and then recruiting or promoting.
It usually results in a list of excuses to justify our indecision. I have written recently about cognitive dissonance and this can be a prime example.
If we tolerate unacceptable behaviour and/or performance then the business suffers. Eventually we create a culture that says that average is the norm and great people will leave.
Far better to develop a culture that excites, encourages, and rewards creativity and positivity so that the people and the business will prosper.
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