Experience vs. Results When Hiring and Promoting?

Many of the companies we work with and come across define their recruiting criteria incorrectly, and some do not even realize they have a problem.

The typical initial problem statement is, “We need to fill a position with a qualified candidate.” Defining “qualified” is where they tend to go wrong. Some go on to say, “We will have better results when we hire from the inside than from the outside.” Others insist, “We should only look at people that previously have worked in this particular function for a certain number of years.” Or, “We want someone that has been in our industry before so we won’t have to teach them our business.”

What these criteria and the initial problem statement often overlook is the real problem in the company. There is not an “A Player” in every position, and the company does not make defining, finding, keeping, and growing “A Players” a necessity

When filling positions in a company, there is one common denominator that gets overlooked consistently in almost every company I come across. If you want to solve a problem, it is important to first define it correctly. Once you have defined it correctly, you can then come up with the questions you need to answer in order to solve your problem. Redefining “We need to fill a position with a qualified candidate” as “We need an “A Player” in every seat” forces you to redefine your expectations for the position and the criteria for the candidates. Many people you might have hired using the old definition should now not get past your screening process. Here’s a case in point.

There is a Fortune 500 Company that I deal with that recently made some big moves in its management team. This company has had a track record of having good people. At a social gathering, some of their employees were telling me about the person supposedly being groomed to become CEO and about the one just promoted to CFO. I know both these people. They have been with the company for a long time, and are people I like, trust, and respect. Both are well credentialed and very smart. However, neither one is qualified to fill their new position, and their track records inside that company prove it.

The new CFO is technically sharp and was great in his previous position, and management should have stopped there. The CFO of a public company that wants to grow must have vision. This is the new CFO’s biggest weakness. He is not a strategist, and you cannot teach someone to be strategic. It is a capacity a person is born with or not.

The other vital talent is leadership ability. As one of the top 3 people in the company, the CFO must be someone that can inspire everyone in the company to achieve greater levels of performance. They must be able to find, grow and produce top talent. This person has never done either. He tends to focus on the negative rather than the positive, is really hard on other people, and places too much emphasis on the technical aspects of accounting (his comfort zone) rather than the financial aspects of business to help grow the company. He was an “A Player” in his former position, but will wind up a “B or C Player” in his new role.

The CEO-apparent is a different story. Everybody loves him for his engaging personality, his Ivy League background, his quick wits, and positive outlook. He has worked in every function in the company, which is what makes him so appealing. He got promoted fast, furious and young. So why do I think there’s a problem? Results! His first claim to fame was a really large project that he was in charge of in his early days. The project was projected to cost $50M. It came in at over $200M, and never did what it was supposed to do.

His proponents will say that the cost overruns were approved by others; he did not make those decisions, and that he made sure stuff got done as decided. I say that he should have had the insight and courage to stop this monster from the start and help senior management save hundreds of millions of dollars. All the next stops showed no remarkable results for the company, just promotions for him. So, what the company now has is a very smart politician taking its reins. Perhaps he should run for governor in our next election.

This is significant because an “A Player” will produce 3 times the value to your company as a “B or C Player” yet they all cost the company the same amount of money in terms of compensation. Ironically, many times the “A Player” is misperceived as “B or C” player because they are pushing back instead of “going with the flow.” They are saying, “Do not go through with this massive project because it is a train wreck,” or they are asking to try to do things a different way. If you micromanage them, they cannot innovate and give you the results you need.

The next time you fill a position in your company, ask the right questions:

  • What are the key performance indicators of “A” performance for this position?
  • What are the key success factors for producing this performance?
  • What qualities does the person need to have to produce this performance?
  • What track record do you want to see for you to trust that they can do this job?
  • What are the cultural aspects of your company that are important to consider when choosing a candidate fit?
  • What values must a candidate have in order to be hired, and what questions will you ask to test whether they’ve demonstrated those values in the past?
  • What early warning indicators will you put in place so that you can tell whether things are working?

Howard Shore is a business growth expert that works with companies and people that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about him or his firm please contact Howard Shore at 305.722.7213 or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.