Picking the Right People
“Business is all about having the right people, doing the right job!”
Garrison Thomas Meadows
(local business philosopher)
Strategic decisions to hire or not hire, select or not select and place or not place a person are just as important as the decision to buy or sell a company. Though we elevate the status of the merger/acquisition or the downsize/sell off decision because of its profound economic and financial implications, we seldom, if ever, give any strategic thought to the decision that leads to one person moving up the career ladder, across the career tundra or over the career bridge. As is often acknowledged in the Executive Profile section of business magazines, taped interviews on business talk shows and autobiographies that allow for a look back on one’s business life, the consistent theme woven through these profiles is that the toughest decisions they face are the ones that involve the strategic placement of PEOPLE! The due diligence that comes with financial reports, legal meandering, bid solicitation and portfolio analysis, while lengthy, technical and crucial to the survival of a company, can all come crashing down like a stock market panic if the wrong person is sitting at the helm. The wrong mix of background, experience and insight can be equally as damaging as any exercise in organizational restructuring.
The growth and evolution of the people selection process has seen the emergence of assessment instruments, personality profiles and structured interviewing methods, all designed to augment the natural inclination to go with one’s ‘gut’ on a people decision. In many instances the, ‘gut’ decision is jettisoned in favor of the traditional ‘seniority’ practice or the culturally reinforced, politically charged ‘entitlement’ option that often clouds the mind and judgment of key decision makers. The volatility of the current business climate demands more of decision makers than just the standard approach to getting-it-done, but to really zero in on what skills are crucial to any job or position connected to the profit and survival of the organization. The shifting tides of globalization have encroached on the once time honored practice of ‘position-mine’ and much like the ladies of Dogpatch on Sadie Hawkins Day where if you catch your husband, claim him, then he’s yours, positions have been handed out to non-competent individuals with about the same amount of forethought. When economic times are on the high end, we rarely give much thought to this kind of process. However, when standing eyeball-to-eyeball and toe-to-toe with time honored traditions caught in a vortex, standing on ceremony is no longer appropriate when the foundation is crumbling.
PEOPLE MAKE A DIFFERENCE! Talented people strategically placed in the right jobs, make an even bigger difference. Positions and titles come with money and status. This combination appeals to our needs for security, achievement and recognition. It feeds our desire to want more, but not necessarily our ability to do more. We want a position because it is available, not because we can do the job. The interest and attraction to a position does not make it an automatic gift. We assign levels of importance to titles when, in fact, the title of the position, (Mail Room Clerk, Chief Executive Officer) should have little bearing on how much forethought should go into who should occupy that spot. The structural connectivity inside most organizations is such that the way the mail room clerk goes about handling the job can have a rippling impact on how the Chief Executive Officer handles their job. Though it may seem like a reality stretch, ask any CEO what happens to their day when the mail is late!
Our primary criterion for self-evaluation is ‘Me next’ and the energy that fuels this perspective is often reinforced by managerial unwillingness to look beyond the immediate need and think, strategically, about the skill requirements and talent needed to position the organization stay competitive.