Here’s a post I wrote that is geared towards CEOs and leaders of companies, but I thought other members of the Circle might also find it interesting as you think about how you position yourself for potential jobs.
We’ve all seen it happen before. Maybe we’ve done it ourselves. We’ve hired someone for the wrong reasons. Because the candidate has a deep rolodex, never mind if he/she is the best fit. Or the candidate’s personality is most similar to yours, never mind if he/she will challenge the status quo. In any case, the wrong hire is made for the wrong reasons.
Don’t fall into that trap. It will take months, if not years, to undo.
Hiring is one of the most time-consuming activities for a founder. You know that you need the right people on the bus if you want to grow. Investors share that sentiment. We like to invest in great teams, first and foremost, not just great ideas.
I was taught a long time ago by a mentor, a CEO who had successfully taken two companies public, that one of the most important qualities of a good leader is to hire slowly and fire quickly.
So what do you look for when you hire a manager into your fast-growing company?
Let’s keep it simple. Focus on 5 things. As a leader of a fast-growing company, there are 5 attributes you should closely evaluate managerial candidates on. Granted, all candidates need to possess the fundamentals for the job in which they are being considered, but in my experience, there are 5 attributes that will dictate a manager’s success more than others in your fast-growing company.
1. Have they been part of a fast-growing company before that is in your company’s stage and beyond? You need a management team that knows what it’s like to work inside of a company at your stage (and in the stage where you are going). You need people around you who have lived through that before and can navigate it with you. You need managers who know how to lead others through it. You need to be able to rely on those managers to make sure they are running their parts of the business without hiccups. If you hire managers who have successfully experienced the growth curve of a fast-growing company, it will help you avoid common pitfalls as you scale.
2. Have they managed people before and do they have experience building teams? When hiring for a managerial position, you don’t have time to teach someone how to manage. If your company is going to be as successful as you envision, you need leaders who know how to build big teams. Making the transition from employee to manager isn’t easy. It usually takes people a couple of years (and sometimes a couple of jobs) to figure out how to be a good manager. You often can’t afford to spend years (and missed opportunities) training someone. In fact, you may need that person to help you become a better manager yourself. Don’t promote people into management roles just because they are good performers. Promote them into management if they demonstrate they will be exceptional managers and leaders.
3. Will they raise the bar for the entire team? Don’t hire someone who is just as good as every other manager, as everyone else on the team. Hire someone who is better. Hiring is an opportunity to raise the bar for everyone in the company. That’s how you need to be thinking. Will this person drastically elevate the performance of the team they are on? If not, don’t hire him/her.
4. What is their potential? When you’re a scrappy, growing company, you often can’t afford to hire big guns. That’s okay. You can find impressive candidates by evaluating their potential rather than just past experience. If you’re hiring for a VP-level position, consider looking at Director-level candidates who are hungry to step up. How do you determine their potential for success in that higher-level role? Look at their track record. How many times were they promoted in past jobs? What specifically did they do to make improvements in other companies, raise the bar of the team, and demonstrate exceptional performance? And ask them what they think the attributes are of an exceptional VP. See if they’re thoughtful about how they plan to step into a higher role.
5. Are they bringing any excess baggage? A mentor once told me this and I thought it was odd, but having made bad hires who brought excess baggage, I now know exactly how important it is. You don’t have time to deal with excess baggage. That baggage is often emotional baggage. It’s often a melodramatic personality. It could be an incident you uncovered that occurred at a past job, but you’re overlooking it because your personality meshes with that candidate. Whatever it is, avoid excess baggage. It will save you time and headache.
This advice might seem harsh to some people. But the reality is, if as a leader you neglect to take these factors into consideration, you’ll waste a lot of time, money, and mindshare. You’ll also be lowering the standard for the whole team if you make crappy hires. Let my mistakes be your learning.