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?
Great post and excellent advice. I particularly like point 5, compare candidates to the position requirements not to each other. It’s so easy to get caught in the trap of compare candidates to each other. Often times you aren’t comparing apples to apples so it is best to focus on the position requirements for a level playing field.
One thing I would add is to focus less on a candidates technical abilities and more on their attributes that support your culture and values. You can teach anyone how to learn a core processor, about your products, or reporting system. It is very hard to teach someone to care, to put customers first, to make solid decisions and so on. Unless the technical are highly specialized, companies are better off looking for candidates that possess the skills and abilities that are often termed “soft” skills. The learning curve will not be as steep and the transition will be smoother.
Best to you,
Kelly, thanks for the comment – I agree with the less focus on technical abilities. I have said for years that the higher one moves up the organizational ladder, the more important it is to have strong relationship building skills and less competency on the technical aspects of the functional role.
I particularly like your reference to using the same format for internal as well as external candidates. I work with orientations and onboarding and have also stressed that when someone moves into a new position, they should also go through the onboarding for the particular position they have now been selected for. While they are not new to the company and much of its culture (meaning that the entire process would look a bit different in terms of what is covered in the process) the position is new and in that sense the person should be onboarded or integrated into that role as well.
Thank you for another great article.
Thanks for your comment. I agree that internal people should go through an onboarding process when they are given a new assignment. The onboarding should focus on understanding their role and the expectations of it, understanding who their new boss is and what his or her style is, along with getting a firm understanding of what will make the boss successful. This goes along with establishing a process to receive regular and honest feedback on how the employee is doing in the new role. Thanks again Kellie.