We all carry belief systems that may lead to success and or throw us off course. Many times behavioral weaknesses that are obvious to others (but not to ourselves) are the results of these belief systems. Often they are belief systems that have suited us well overall. However, when used in the wrong situations or to an extreme these same systems hurt us. A great example is the CEO of a fast-growing company that employed our firm. Let’s call him George.
George has been successful because of his ability to make good quick decisions with little or no facts or information (“trusting your gut”) and to get his organization to move quickly. One issue George’s firm has faced relates to a low percentage of “A Players” – in other words poor talent decisions. George admitted that the internal processes have been flawed; that he personally made terrible decisions at the leadership level in the past; and that he had always been too quick to hire and too slow to fire.
In order to conduct a proper assessment of the situation, we performed self-assessments of the entire executive team, observed them in meetings, and reviewed results. In the end, we concluded that one member of the executive team definitely was not suited to the position. When we presented our findings to George, he pushed back at first. As we delved deeper, we learned his apprehension related to the executive’s earlier performance at the company in positions that did not include management duties. We also learned that George and this person had been friends for more than 20 years. After learning that George was reacting to past and not present performance and was allowing his emotions to cloud his judgment, we held our ground and pointed to the actual performance of this executive’s team, conclusions drawn from the assessments, our own observations, and feedback from others. With all that said, George still insisted that we give this executive a chance because of his industry and company knowledge. We put a development plan with key performance indicators in place and told him he had 60 days to shape things up. Within 3 weeks, the CEO saw clearly what we had seen and realized this person was a bottleneck to his achieving the company’s goals and strategy. This was where the real problems began.
We started a proven recruiting process, and within 10 days George was refusing to follow it. He got impatient and insisted on circumventing the process for a candidate he knew from the industry. He could not wait for our process to take hold and did not want to consider that his candidate had failed the assessment. He wanted to go with his gut, and he felt that speed in filling the position was critical. While he went through some motions toward change, he reverted to his belief that he knew better than anyone else what the company needed. This was despite the following:
This was a clear case where the CEO’s overestimation of his own strengths was getting the better of him, and he would not allow himself to see reason. He was going to move quickly and violate the advice of the people he hired to help him. He was immediately falling into old habits at the first sign of struggle. His strong need for immediate results caused him to ignore facts and crowd out the help and voices of his team members.
Without getting too deeply into this, when you have strong belief systems you subconsciously will do anything to support them. In this case, the CEO immediately attacked the use of the same assessments we had just used successfully to fill two key positions with no problem and rather rapidly. The assessments we were using were the same ones used to determine that the current person was not a fit. It was also accurate on his other existing people. This was all put aside. The bottom line was he just did not want to follow the process because it was not comfortable for him, and he would rather follow his old belief system even if that system has consistently failed him in these same circumstances in the past.
Howard Shore is a business growth expert who works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential through business consulting, executive coaching, sales force development, training, and employee selection. To learn more about him or his firm, please contact Howard Shore at [phone link=”true”] or firstname.lastname@example.org.