ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS
Agility and nimbleness to change on a dime have become common
discussion points. To bring that to light, recruiting decisions
need to be less focused on specific industry experience and more
on what they have done during their time with other organizations,
regardless of the vertical or size.
An interesting fact to consider is that 80 per cent of B2B organizations
have never been heard of. Professional recruiters have
these organizations on their radar while potential candidates –
and the organizations searching for them – may not. If a leader
has not come from the ranks of an IBM, Microsoft or major
bank, people may have no idea as to what that means from a
Yet that experience with a little-known tech company or startup
can prove to be invaluable. The most important thing to apply
in this case is context. What kind of impact has that person had
on a company’s early-stage growth for example? More importantly,
even if their roles were not directly tied to revenues, what other
measurable results did they achieve?
Problem solving is yet another important skill set to consider. A
senior Microsoft executive recently claimed that whether talking
about a start-up or a multi-national enterprise, the differences are
not as big as one might think. They are all solving the same problems,
but at a different rate. The only differentiating factor is that
in a start-up, problem solving tends to have an immediate impact,
whereas larger organizations require more patience.
A telling indicator of problem solving skills would be a person
who has gone through a major change management initiative or a
hyper-growth stage and navigated their way through disruption.
THE UNIVERSAL FOUNDATIONS
In the many interviews conducted with successful leaders, the
consistent qualities across the board are openness to continuous
learning and self-improvement. These indicate that the person has
a high level of self-awareness and an appetite for growing their
own capabilities. Successful leaders also put people first – whether
that is their team, customers or colleagues.
Risk tolerance is also a factor. Successful leaders are able to take
risks, including hiring and developing promising talent. If a candidate
worked at IBM, then left that role to join a hyper-growth
start-up, for example, HR should explore why they took that risk
and how that helped their personal development. One important
thing to keep in mind, however, is don’t confuse educated risk
If one had to summarize the one skill that trumps all, it would
be the ability to sell. Everything a leader does is tied to business
development in some form or another – whether that applies to
increasing revenues, developing new partnerships or selling the
company itself to internal staff or potential hires.
THE WRONG PATH
While these are some of the indicators that improve the chances
of successful leadership, there are also common mistakes that can
lead to very different results.
The number one mistake is getting seduced by a competitor’s
talent. While a majority of hirers tend to look to their competitors
first for talent, remember that they are competitors for a reason.
The key to success is not in becoming that organization. Rather,
it’s about capturing their market share. It is critical to maintain a
fundamental difference between what each organization does.
A second potential pitfall is over-hiring for a role. Hiring a
seasoned VP of sales – for example – while in early growth
stages may add value for a short time. But there could be limited
tactical runway left for that leader, which ultimately means a
A third mistake is focusing too much on the title and not the
skill sets. In today’s rapidly evolving business environment, searching
for people with the same title will not necessarily guarantee
that candidate has the right ingredients for success with another
firm. Today it’s more about who the person is – their strengths,
character and skills – instead of what titles they may have previously
DIG DEEP AND PROSPER
In fact, there is an ever-growing list of new roles that defy the
usual checklists. When filling those roles, recruiters have to dig
deeper into a candidate’s performance and behaviour to find the
qualities that will fit. Simply put, look beyond the title to find the
raw ingredients that will shape that role.
Finding and developing successful leaders has always been a significant
challenge for organizations. Now the stakes are higher
as more companies are vying for the same talent while having to
understand less familiar, but important, leadership skills. Keeping
an open mind and looking beyond industry experience alone when
recruiting for fit will help organizations hire and retain leaders,
positioning them to win that battle in the end. n
Jamie Hoobanoff is the founder and CEO of The Leadership Agency.
MANY OF THE KEY
ARE LESS TANGIBLE
THAN THEY HAVE
BEEN IN THE PAST.
26 ❚ JULY 2018 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL