Hiring Future Leaders

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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.


Influence without Authority

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Even as leaders, we often don’t actually have the official power to accomplish what we want.  We are tied to other departments, 3rd party organizations, and managers of all shapes and sizes.  One of the hardest things for me to learn as a growing leader was how to get things done without actually have any decision-making power or authority in various areas.

The very interesting thing you learn is that the strength of your idea and usefulness to the organization is probably one of the most unimportant factors in accomplishing a task.  It depends much more on if you communicate the information in a way that makes people want to hear it and the strength of your relationships which determines how much they’re willing to support your idea.

I once had a manager tell me that you should want the outcome of any conversation for that person to want to hear more.  While this is not always possible, it’s a good rule of thumb in trying to get things done.  One savvy trick I quickly learned when working for a very large organization was to send feedback, suggestions, and ideas up through people with influence.  Maybe you don’t have your manager’s ear, but your friend in accounting might.  Sending the idea through your friend rather than yourself makes it more likely to be heard and your friend gets some credit too if the idea is successful.  The truth is, your relationships are much more a key to your success than any ability or knowledge you possess.

The Face of Your Organization

Blog - Service with a SmileThe face of your organization is your team.  Your front-line staff may appear the most important and certainly they have the most direct contact with your customers, but everyone in your organization has some impact on your front-line staff and sets the tone for your culture.  The formula is simple:  Happy workers make happy customers.  Your people can be your biggest advocates or they can bring down the entire organization.  Would you go back to McDonalds if you always had to deal with disagreeable or unhappy people?  Definitely not.  Have you ever been in an Apple Store and infected by their enthusiasm for their products.  That doesn’t happen by treating employees as a business expense.  It happens by treating them with respect, involving them in the organization, and making them proud of what your organization is offering.

Treat your team with respect.  You’ll not only feel good about how you’re putting a little happiness into people’s lives, you’ll also be investing in the people that have the most power to make or break your organization.

Objective, Focus, and Flow

Blog - TennisThe other day, I came across this great quote posted by Shawn Upchurch:  “If you focus on results, you will never change.  If you focus on change, you will get results.” – Jack Dixon.

This got me thinking about our obsession with results.  Then it got me thinking about sports.  In particular, it got me thinking about those times when you’re playing sports and you find that you can’t lose, when everything just seems to flow.  But then there are those other times.  You know the ones, where your game starts going downhill.  Then you get frustrated and resolve to just focus and do better, but all that seems to happen is you get worse and worse.

This is the danger in being too focused on the result or the objective.  In sports, when we are in love with the game, practice comes as pleasure and we seem to do well by seamlessly integrating all the different requirements being demanded of our brains and bodies.  When we do poorly though, when we get frustrated, practice becomes a chore.  Then we start to over-analyze every little body movement.   What came naturally before is broken down into component pieces and we can’t seem to connect them to achieve success.

The same happens in business.  When we are working at jobs we love towards a purpose we believe in, everything seems to come naturally and the results take care of themselves.  However, when things aren’t going well, we become obsessed with the result and it’s all we talk about.  We break down every procedure and action to determine areas for improvement, but, suddenly, we lose sight of the whole.  Performance continues to decline and we respond by introducing tighter and tighter controls.

What we really need to do is realign around our purpose.  We need to find our love of the game again and help our teams find it as well.  Instead of focusing on the number of calls or the length of interactions or the number of units produced in X amount of time, we remind our teams that the real goal is providing great customer service or releasing a great product.  Once we do that, we and our teams will take the actions necessary to deliver.  We’ll re-achieve our flow.

The Why of Corporate Citizenship

Blog - Globe HeartDid you know that companies that promote volunteering have more engaged employees and are more likely to retain them?  Did you know that creating a positive brand image through corporate citizenship initiatives attracts more customers and drives profits?  Who the hell cares!

You shouldn’t be involved in your community because it drives your bottom-line.  You should be involved in your community because your business is a part of it and it’s the right thing to do.  You should be involved in your community because your business depends on that same community, whether it’s local or global, to survive.  As your business grows, it also grows in wealth and influence, both of which can be used to make positive contributions to the very same employees and customers that got you where you are today.  So today, show them some gratitude and become a part of business for a better world.  Start a volunteer project, make a donation, raise awareness of an important social issue, or make the change to more eco-friendly materials.  Tomorrow starts with you.

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Leading the Way:  Why Corporate Citizenship Can Be Good for Business