This post comes from a breakout session I recently delivered at a business leaders conference.  In a recent survey of about 600 business owners and leaders conducted by our organization, well over 50% have not developed or defined leadership competencies that are needed for success in the organization.  Does that statistic surprise you? Are these leaders saying they don’t know what determines success in their organizations? Probably not. But they may be saying that they haven’t taken the time or know how to specifically articulate those skills, traits and behaviors that are necessary for success.

This poses a significant problem – if one can’t articulate these things, how can one possibly hope to select great leaders?  Why is this so important?  Simply this, the cost of poor hiring decisions can be very expensive.  Research – strong documented research – shows that these costs can easily exceed 150% of the person’s base salary!

There is a multi-pronged approach to selecting great leaders (and great employees for that matter). Here is the outline:

1.    Start with a clearly defined role description and competencies –
•    The role description must indicate the key accountabilities and expected result areas for the position, expressed in as clear and quantifiable a manner as possible
•    Competencies are skills, traits and behaviors that are necessary for success in the position and the organization
•    Competencies can be consistently described, measured and assessed
•    Skills are those things that can be learned, such as manufacturing, engineering or finance
•    Traits are natural talents such as detail orientation, creativity or energy – if they are not there to begin with, don’t count on them being learned
•    Behaviors are good habits such as time management, communication and integrity

2.    Have a clearly defined sourcing strategy – where are you going to find suitable candidates for this position?

3.    Have clearly defined roles for the interviewers and agree on the decision making process. By the way, my experience in helping dozens of client organizations and hundreds of hiring managers tells me that the number one reason that hiring mistakes are made is due to the fact that there is no prior discussion or agreement on these points by those involved in making the hiring decision.

4.    Utilize a behavioral based interviewing technique – if you want more information on what this is, contact me directly.

5.    Compare candidates to the position requirements and not to each other.

6.    Use appropriate personality and cultural assessment tools. The skills and talents of an individual may meet the job requirements, but if they do not align with the culture and values of the organization, the new hire will fail and cause lots of turmoil in the process.

7.    Conduct multiple and in-depth reference checks.

8.    Ensure there is an intentional on-boarding or assimilation program that goes beyond a standard new employee orientation.

9.    Use this same approach when assessing internal as well as external candidates.

It is only when a formalized, intentional process such as the one outlined above is followed that an organization can possibly select great leaders.

What else would you add?  What else have you found helpful or necessary in Selecting Great Leaders?