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The ABCs of Hiring July 1, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Leadership.
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Few of us get to assemble our teams from scratch.  Most likely, we acquire a team as we move into a new position.  Much like a college football coach that inherits players recruited by his predecessor, we have to play the game with the team with have.

Over time, we get to reshape the team to our liking.  As folks move on to new opportunities, or as you “assist” folks in moving on to new opportunities, you’ll get the chance to bring new people to your team.  This is a big test for any leader.  People understand that you are not fully responsible for the team you inherit, but they won’t be as compassionate when someone you brought to the team drops the ball.

There’s a simple rule for hiring that should shape these decisions:

A people hire other A people.  B people hire C people.

When asked, every leader will insist that they hire only the best, brightest candidates.  But do they?

The best leaders surround themselves with people smarter than they are.  The best teams to lead are those where you are the dumbest person in the room.  If you are the smartest person in the room, your team has a serious problem. Find experts in the pertinent domains, create a culture that supports their efforts, and get out of the way.

Sadly, not every leader is the best leader.  Lesser leaders hire lesser people, intended to make themselves look good.  The result is a team of people that collectively rank just below the skills of the leader.  Given that any leader following this strategy is less than stellar, the entire team winds up being mediocre at best.

Few leaders will admit that they are intentionally hiring sub-standard candidates to make themselves look good.  Where, then, is this rule being applied? By everyone around you, that’s where.

People will closely scrutinize your every hiring decision.  Their assessment of each new candidate will reflect on you.  If you make good hiring decisions, people will notice.  If you make bad hiring decisions, people will notice and talk about it.  You may claim (and even believe) that you are hiring A players, but every C player you bring aboard knocks you further down the scale to becoming a B leader.

This ABC rule goes beyond technical ability.  It’s even more important when people consider the fit of your candidates into the current culture.  The ease with which your new team members integrate into the culture says a lot about how much you respect that culture.  If you diminish the importance of culture in your hiring decisions, you can lose the support of your existing team.  You may also make it much harder for your new people to succeed in their new role.

No one wants to be thought of as a B or C leader.  Seek out the A candidates while hiring, and you’ll go a long way to ensuring your own success as an A leader.

“…I’ll never go hungry again” January 6, 2008

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Random Musings.
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The other day, in a planning meeting, I was suddenly moved to channel Scarlett O’Hara and shared her core sentiment: “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.” followed by “Tomorrow is another day.” I was met by blank stares. (This happens a lot to me in meetings but can be disconcerting nonetheless).

I probed for some cultural connection, someone in the room who knew what I was talking about. No takers. Is Gone With The Wind that far removed from current culture? Is there anyone under 47 who knows this movie? Is it important any more?

I like to think that there are certain cultural elements that are consistent across wide swaths of our society, but I am beginning to think that fewer and fewer of them exist. Conversely, it may be that there are just as many of these touchpoints, but I am not getting the memos to keep me in the loop.

I worry that a culture that lacks these binding elements is actually no culture at all. We are shifting from a world where 50,000,000 people see one movie and remember it collectively, to one where 50,000,000 see 50,000 blogs and videos and break into 1,000 subcultures.

I’m thinking that this internet thing may have some unforeseen side effects.