Hiring Future Leaders

Blog - Teaching Music


Everyone you interview has the potential to be a future leader.  The problem is we often want to hire people who are the leaders today.  Not only that, we want them to have 3 PhDs and 15 years of experience in each field.  I just read a wonderful article from Liz Ryan, the founder of Human Workplace.   She discusses how so many HR departments are posting job ads for people that simply don’t exist or, if they did, they certainly wouldn’t work for the salary being offered.  


When I hire, I look for those future leaders, the people I know will be great with some coaching.  I search for passion, integrity, and drive to improve.  Training is so easy and 90% of any job is on the job training regardless of how much relevant experience the person has.  Your systems, culture, and team dynamics are always going to be different from what they were doing before.  In short, a person’s potential is often far more valuable than their actual experience and qualifications.

The plaintiff if Liz’s article above illustrates another common situation, especially here in China.  Management is way behind on deadlines they shouldn’t have set in the first place because they don’t actually have the staff to deliver.  Then they decide they need some mythical wizard that magically takes over a role and does the best job ever to deliver on time and to specs.  Of course, this person can’t be found (and even if they could, they certainly have a job already and wouldn’t be sending in applications to web ads) and then, instead of reexamining their assumptions about deadlines, capabilities, and hiring requirements, they blame the poor recruitment manager for not finding the right people.  I’ve seen this more times than I can count.

Real leaders set realistic goals for their teams and make sure they have the staff and resources available before promising the moon.  They also know they will need to hire good people and develop them, not expect to be able to find some wizard to clean up the mess they’ve put themselves in.

Look for those people who would be a great fit for your team.  Give them your time and your attention . Pretty soon, you’ll find you built a team of incredible people, people who are loyal to you for the help you’ve given them.


Rating Your Team

Just read an interesting article over at HBR Blog about Microsoft removing it’s rating system for staff management.  Certainly a bold move and one I’ve contemplated for a long time.  The most critical point the author makes is that the best leaders work with people as they are, not against some set of supposedly objective competency criteria.

Your team will always have strengths and weaknesses and your job as a leader is to help those people use their skills to the best of their ability.  This can mean coaching them to play to their strengths as much as it may mean developing a weakness.

I see this all the time when coaching teachers. There is a certain way that I teach and, of course, that will influence what I consider best practice in the classroom.  However, my teaching team is always made of a number of educators with very diverse backgrounds, experiences, and personalities.  They certainly won’t always teach the way I do and what works for me, may not work for them.

I remember a conversation I had with one teacher during probably our 4th feedback session after a class observation . He stated, “You know, I’ve seen you teach and I value your feedback.  However, I realized that it’s not about me teaching like you, it’s about me teaching to the best of my ability in a way that works for me and my students.”  This was a key point in his development and I think this is a common stage in learning and coaching.  First you try to emulate, but then you internalize ideas and practices to make them your own.

I think you also know you’ve done your job as a coach when your team is comfortable enough to tell you that they aren’t taking your feedback and this is why.  When you can help your team draw on their own strengths, it sets them up for success.  In learning, it’s always about finding where a person is and then helping them get to the next level.  This means that real development comes from understanding your team, not necessarily comparing them to a so-called objective set of criteria developed by someone else.

What do you think?  As common sense as this may sound, is it practical to apply at an organizational level?  How do you deal with talent management, pay increases, and other HR processes generally tied to performance management systems?

You’re Accountable, Too!

Blog - Pointing Finger

I hear leaders complain all the time about their teams:  “This person didn’t complete the project on time.”  “This person just can’t seem to get it right.”, “The numbers are below expectations yet again.”  You notice in those statements, there was a whole lot of “them” and no “I”.

The reality is that you are the leader and you are accountable for delivering those results, even if you’ve delegated the task to someone else.  I bet you tell your team all the time not to point fingers and place blame.  Are you leading by example, though?  Instead of pointing fingers yourself, we can ask questions related to our own accountability:  “Did I provide enough support or coaching to this person?”, “Do I clearly explain my expectations and then listen to them regarding challenges they’ll face in meeting them?”, “What can I do as a leader to help bring those numbers up?”, “Are my expectations in line with what our team and organization are currently capable of?” or even “Did I make the right hiring decision?”.

It’s a cliche, but it’s true.  When you point a finger at someone, there are four fingers pointing back at you.

Let Them Do It

As managers, we often want to do things for our team, especially if we know we can do it faster or more in line with what we want.  However, this doesn’t give our team the chance to grow.  It might take twice as long to finish the project, but it’ll get done faster next time and now you’ve got someone who you know you can give similar projects to in the future.

Check in, support where needed, and have the patience to let your team learn for themselves.  They’re worth it.