This article is part two of a multiple-part paper exploring how to attract the right leadership team. We continue our discussion on the challenges of making the right choice in selecting team members with the right skills.
The second challenge with looking at achievements is that firms routinely value external experience above internal: it is the mirror image of employees believing that the grass is greener elsewhere. Remember that it is greenest where it rains the most. In practice, external hires are risky.
You do not really know what they have achieved or why they want to move. All new hires suffer a transition dip because they no longer have the networks of informal influence that made them effective in their last role. And even if they do work through the transition, many struggle to adapt to a new culture.
The second challenge with looking at achievements is that firms routinely value external experience above internal: it is the mirror image of employees believing that the grass is greener elsewhere
The more senior the hire is, the greater these challenges are. At least if you look for talent within your own organisation, you are likely to know what the person has really achieved, they will still have their networks of influence and they will understand the culture.
The third challenge with hiring externally is to understand how someone has achieved their successes. There is a delicate balance here: if they lead the success, then are they really a team player or a one-man band? If they were a team member, then can they really lead? If is, potentially, a catch -22 situation where the candidate cannot win.
Most leaders understand that you need a mix of skills to succeed. If the executive committee of a large firm was made up solely of lawyers, engineers and accountants, marketers, it would be easy to spot that it was unbalanced and unlikely to work well.
When it comes to skills, leaders see the need for balance and mix. When it comes to styles, many leaders avoid balance and mix – they want uniformity and conformity. This is not about the traditional take on diversity, balancing your team in terms of age, race, gender, ethnicity and perhaps left handers and right handers is worthy but misses the point. There are plenty of organisation out there that brag about their diversity credentials and then in the same breath boast about the fact that they are a global organisation with the same values, beliefs, and ways of doing things.
Read also: How to attract the right leadership team (1)
Within a team, leaders make the same mistake. It is tempting to hire people like yourself, at least you have some idea how to work with people like yourself. For example, see what happens when you select your team on two simple trade-offs: introverted people versus extroverted people; detail focus versus big picture. Here is what your team will be like if they all share the same style of trade-off:
i. Team of introverts: the room will echo to the sound of silence
ii. Team full of extroverts: more chaos than a local market of butchers
iii. Team of big-picture people: great debates and arguments but no complementary action.
iv. Team of detail people: everyone diligently marching in the wrong direction.
Here are some other style trade-offs for you to consider as you build your team:
a. Task focused versus people focused
b. Controlling versus empowering
c. Risk taking versus risk averse
d. Individualistic versus team player
e. Flexible versus structured
A good starting point is to think about your own style on these trade-offs and others that are important to you. Then consider whether the rest of the team are important to you. Then consider whether the rest of the team should be the same as you or whether you need some balance.
Inevitably, it is harder to work with people who are not like yourself. It takes time to understand each other. But it is also more productive. You bring different perspectives and different strengths into the team, and you may even learn from each other about different ways of making things happen.
There is no single formula for the right balance of team, the fact remains that you must make that judgement. This is one of the reasons that leadership is an art which a robot or artificial intelligence will find hard to replicate.
You can teach skills; you cannot teach values. In principle, you will succeed more often if you hire for values and not for skills. A good example is where a South African insurance company was hiring more than 2,000 people a year to become salespeople. Over 76 percent left the company within three years, which was poor return on the $18,000 cost of hiring and training each salesperson.
The company then started adding optimism test to its regular screening process. It then found that the most optimistic candidates outsold their peers by 82 percent. Even the optimists who failed the regular screening but were hired to test their power of optimism outsold pessimists who passed the regular screening by 63 percent.
The company duly changed its hiring practices. The beautiful part of this is that these results have been replicated in other industries, such as banking, automobile, and real estate.
Please lookout for a continuation of this article.