(Part II of a two-part series on Leadership and Team Building –click here for Part I)
Once I made the decision to give up the control I worked so hard to get, and become a leader instead of a micromanager, the next step was building a team that I could trust to get the job done.
Finding the “right” people has always been one of the most challenging things a leader can to, and it often can be the most frustrating, because when you get right down to it, it’s a lot like playing Blackjack in Vegas – by following the right rules and being disciplined about it you can reduce your odds of failure, but in the end, you can never reduce that risk completely, even if you think you’ve been dealt a winning hand.
Consequently, my approach to hiring has evolved into a quest to keep my batting average as high as possible, knowing I cannot do it perfectly, by following three basic rules.
The first one is something one of my old bosses said to me many years ago. I was asking his advice on a major hire I was about to make, and as he filtered through the resumes I had handed to him, he suddenly stopped, looked me straight in the eye, and said,
“My dear boy, if you ever learn one thing about doing this, here it is: Never, ever, be afraid to hire somebody smarter than you are”
This advice couldn’t have come at a better time, because I had just come out of my “control” phase, which by its nature had put me in a place where I thought I could do everything better than anyone else.
On top of that, there were human insecurities at play – let’s face it, it takes a lot of intestinal fortitude to hire someone you consider more talented. They are immediately a threat to your often fragile ego.
But it was a rule I knew I had to follow.
The next rule is to find people who have the courage to express their opinions, both intelligently and respectfully.
Another trap I found all too easy to fall into was putting a bunch of “yes people” around you. It’s great to get that kind of validation, and I know I’m pretty forceful in my opinions, but I’m far from always right. I need to be tested, and I’d prefer to have it done by those within my own team.
The type of hires that fit this description are the ones that are clearly comfortable in their own skin, with a confidence that approaches, but never crosses, the line of arrogance. And for me, it must be combined with a “statesmanlike” ability that comes from a natural application of the Golden Rule.
Lastly, I like to hire people that set high goals and standards, and are the first ones to tell you they aren’t hitting them. In other words, they are harder on themselves than I ever could be.
I call them “self-regulators”. They come with an additional bonus – they aren’t afraid to tell you the bad news that you really need to know.
If I can keep to these three rules, I will make good hires, although, just like at the Blackjack table, there are times when they won’t be so good in the end. It’s just not a perfect science. I can’t be dealt 21 every hand.
But I’ll be successful enough to easily survive the failures – and stay on the road to greatness.
And I’m confident that if you follow these rules, you’ll be able to stay on that road too.