Second to visionary leadership, this is your most important job.
Many of us go through the motions of hiring to fill a position, trying to use our intuition and skills to find the best candidate for the job. Sometimes we use consultants or recruiters; many times we use internal talent to fill most positions.
And over the years, we students of business success have learned that there is a science to the hiring process that continues through the life of an employee’s tenure with the company. Bradford Smart captured this succinctly in his book, Topgrading. His thesis is that “A” players amount only to the top ten percent of the talent pool at any given time, and that your job is to find, recruit and retain only “A” players to make a successful business. It is hard to argue with that. What is hard to find, is the rare CEO that makes the process of hiring top recruits such a priority that he or she spends personal time deeply involved in the specification, resumé review, interview and selection of top employees. Most of us are “far too busy” to do all of that. And yet, aside from managing the vision of the enterprise, the most important job of a CEO is to find, recruit and make productive “A” players for the team.
As an investor and board member for numerous companies, it is increasingly easy for me to quickly evaluate the quality of senior team members in an organization as I probe for strengths and weaknesses in the enterprise. Teams where the CEO is comfortable enough to delegate to “A” players and manage the strategies for growth stand out as rare and powerful. Conversely, it takes very little for a CEO to derail what could be a great team and company, by ignoring the details involved in finding the right talent for each senior position, and by failing to communicate the strategies and empower the team to execute.
[Email readers continue here…] A successful hire is not just the responsibility of the recruiter and manager to whom the recruit will report. Many companies require that finalist candidates be interviewed by a number of contemporaries, good employees who fill similar level positions. Some even encourage interviews with those the candidate would manage. Agreement among the interviewers becomes an empowering experience for those conducting the interviews and agreeing to the decision to hire, and paves the way for a quicker assimilation of the new employee into the organization whose cohorts are already prepared to receive and encourage the new hire. This is not an inexpensive process when considering the cost in time and productivity of the interviewers. But finding “A” players is not an easy job, requiring a stretch of resources at each stage of the process.
Earlier, we explored strategic planning within the enterprise. We spoke of developing strategies and tactics that are measurable for each department. Now is a good time to complete that chain by suggesting that paying significant incentive compensation to the people empowered to execute those strategies and tactics is critical to the success of the plan as well as to the organization. Aligning everyone toward the same goal and using the practice of rewarding for achievement of milestones defined by the tactics from planning, makes for a great business, managed by a leader who understands the process.
What makes a great leader great? Of course, it’s great execution by great employees acting as a unit in the best interests of the enterprise. No-one can do this alone. No CEO can do this with “B” players or less.