Great Leaders – Hire Great People – Build Great Companies: Myth or Reality?

“People are ‘not’ the most important thing…The ‘right’ people are. In fact, the ‘wrong’ people are your biggest liability.”

It’s the toughest — and most important — challenge in business today. The scarcest commodity in business is not customers or technology capital — its people. More and more companies simply can’t recruit great people fast enough. The talent shortage is the biggest obstacle to growth; solving it is the biggest strategic priority.  “Hiring great people must be a strategic initiative in all companies, and every person must be involved in the process.”

A great company — full of great people — is an invaluable asset. It all comes down to people. Making the right people decisions will promote success — from the corner office right down to the front lines.  Great leaders hire great people and build great teams!

In the blog “Great Leaders Hire Great People and Build Great Teams!” by George Ambler writes:  Great leaders surround themselves with great people. The proposition is undeniable: you can’t build a great company without great people. The all-too-common reality, in far too many companies; the hiring process is poorly designed and shabbily executed. Hiring, some believe, is not about finding people with the right experience… it’s about finding people with the ‘right mind-set’.

These companies hire for attitude and train for skill. One of the central tasks of leaders is the selection and development of people and teams, and to remove those who are under-performing. The key to recruiting great people it to be clear about what you’re looking for…

It was Peter Drucker who said, “Great people have great strengths and many times great faults too. As a hiring manager you need to take full advantage of the former and make the latter irrelevant.”

Remember the immortal words of the “Apple Computer Ad Campaign”: Here’s to the crazy ones:  The misfits– The rebels– The trouble-makers– The round pegs in the square holes– The ones who see things differently– They’re not fond of rules and they have no respect for status quo– You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them– Because they change things– They push the human race forward– And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius– Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do…. Hire people with greatness in them and make their weaknesses irrelevant.

A successful leader is one who is always looking forward. They always have their eye on the long-term vision without losing focus of near-term needs. When faced with a hiring decision, they know that they can either hire a ‘follower’ or a ‘leader’. A follower will simply play the game. A leader will change the game. How do you tell the difference? Followers want to talk about credentials.

They’ll tell you all about what school they attended and tout awards and accolades. It’s all about what they’ve done and how they can do the same for you. Leaders want to talk about possibilities. They have all of the same credentials as the follower, but their focus is on the future. They want to talk about how they can take those skills and help you create something better

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” ~Theodore Roosevelt

In the article How to Attract Top Talent by Jason Hesse writes: Difference between success and failure is attracting top talent and finding the right people for your business…  Get to know talent before you need it… Spend time networking and figure out who the shining stars are and what excites them about their work… Fostering these relationships early will pay off later…

Set clear expectations of what they can learn from you and what you expect from them… In a complex organization or unfamiliar context; “sink or swim” is a perilous strategy. New talent wants to succeed. Invest from the start in making sure this happens, and you will soon find yourself surrounded by loyal followers…

“The most successful businesses often thrive because of their talent. Getting the best people should be at the top of every manager’s list. So to become a talent magnet, try developing these habits.”

In the article Recruiting Stars: Top Ten Ideas for Recruiting Great Candidates by Susan M. Heathfield writes: The smartest employers recruit from a pre-qualified candidate-pool of potential employees before they need to fill a job. Or, as Harvey Mackay, well-known, irreverent, author and speaker, says… “Dig Your Well, Before You’re Thirsty”. You can develop relationships with potential candidates long before you need them.

Spread word-of-mouth information about the position availability, or eventual availability, to each employee so they can constantly look for superior candidates in their networks of friends and associates. Tap into this potential audience on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, …

In the article “The War for Talent” by McKinsey & Company writes: In today’s competitive knowledge-based world, “the caliber of a company’s talent increasingly determines success in the marketplace”. At the same time, attracting and retaining great talent is becoming more difficult, as demand for highly skilled people outstrips supply. Companies that are leading the way execute against five talent management imperatives:

  • Instill a talent mindset, which is a deeply held belief that building a strong management talent pool is critical to achieving the aspirations of the company.
  • Create a winning “employee value proposition” (EVP); just as a company carefully shapes its value proposition to customers, it should also deliberately craft the value proposition to its people: Exciting work – Great company – Wealth and reward – Growth and development.
  • Always be on the prowl for top talent and continuously recruit great talent.
  • Talented people crave the opportunity to grow, and without it they’ll leave. Grow and develop people and turn them into great leaders.
  • All people are not the same– differentiate and affirm.

In the article “The Talent Myth” by Malcolm Gladwell writes: “Success in the modern economy, according to the McKinsey & Company study “The War for Talent” requires a “talent mind-set“, which is a “deep-seated belief that having better talent at all levels is how you outperform your competitors”.

The “talent mind-set” is the new orthodoxy of management. It’s the intellectual justification for why such a high premium is placed on degrees from first-tier business schools, and why the compensation packages for top executives have become so lavish. In the modern corporation, the system is considered only as strong as its stars…

However, the management of Enron did exactly what the consultants at McKinsey said and it hired and rewarded the very best and the very brightest… The reasons for its collapse are complex, needless to say. But, what if Enron failed not in spite of its talent mindset, but because of it? What if smart people are overrated? The talent myth assumes that people make organizations smart but more often than not it’s the other way around.

There is ample evidence of this principle among America’s most successful companies: Southwest Airlines, Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble, and many others highly successful companies. The consultants at McKinsey preach what they believe about themselves. They are looking for people who have the talent to think outside the box. However, it may not have occurred to them, if everyone had to think outside the box, that maybe it was the box that needed fixing.

In the article “What Exactly is a Top Performer?” writes: What I object to most about ‘top grading’ is the vague definition of an ‘A’ Player, namely “the top 10% of talent for a compensation level” — like anyone could possibly determine who exactly qualifies. But, even if you did figure it out, it would not help you hire correctly. One thing I know for certain: top performance in one environment does not necessarily predict top performance in another.

Simply hiring Olympic athletes or poaching your competitor’s top people guarantees you nothing… So rather than filling your company with mythical ‘A’ Players”: set performance goals, manage your people against their results, fire your bottom performers and replace them with highly competent, hard-working people who fit in your culture. Then train the new people and hold them accountable for their results. Then, rinse and repeat…

“A top performer is someone who is capable of, and interested in, driving the business results you need – someone who will take responsibility for getting results within the norms of your company culture”.  

In the article “Don’t Hire to Fire:  Secrets to Getting and Keeping Top Performers” by Robert Half writes: Hiring is one of the most difficult tasks any business owner or leader faces. Yet many leaders simply do not know how to interview effectively and how to uncover the critical aspects of the candidate’s skills, experience, background and personality that will give them the information they need to determine if the person they are interviewing has high potential for being successful…The whole process… interviewing, hiring, retaining… is challenging and yet it’s the single biggest factor in the success or failure of any company.

In the article “The Dirty Little Secret of Successful Companies” by Jay Goltz writes: Great companies do not always hire the right people. It’s a dirty little secret that even great companies have to fire the people who don’t work out. If you want to run a great company — a company that gives great customer service, delivers a great product, has happy employees, and a good bottom line; you occasionally have to fire people. But which people? Those who are rated a six (6) on a scale of one (1) to ten (10). You’ve probably already parted company with the people who rate worse than a six (6); but it’s the six (6) who can be tricky. They’re not that bad, but they’re just not good enough…

Do you know about the “hedgehog concept”?  It refers to a parable of a ‘hedgehog and a fox’, where the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing. The good-to-great companies are, by and large, built by “hedgehogs”– this doesn’t mean stupid – au contraire – it just means that they were able to focus on one big important thing that made their companies great.

Sometimes it takes real genius to see through all the clutter and grab the one, simple, unique thing that gives you the advantage. It’s not really that much harder to be great, rather than just good, but if you and your people are not motivated to greatness, perhaps you should consider doing something else…

“The toughest decisions in organizations are people decisions – hiring, firing, promotion etc. These are the decisions that usually receive the least attention and are the hardest to unmake” ~Peter Drucker

“Nothing matters more in winning than getting the right people on the field.  All the clever strategies and advanced technologies in the world are not effective without great people to put them to work” ~Jack Welch

“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies ~Larry Bossidy