In a recent mentoring session with an emerging leader, we spoke about the challenges of the hiring right people. Beyond that, we talked about how I motivate new team members and make sure that they support my vision as a leader. It’s an important conversation about a topic that can be easy to theorize,, but difficult to put into practice. I told her that the first thing to remember is that as a leader, everyone who works for you is a reflection on you. You’re only as good as the people that surround you. I often let that knowledge motivate me to take a bit of extra time before choosing a new hire.
Since taking over as CEO, I had been looking for a new for a Chief Operating Officer to replace my former role. I recently hired someone and of course I took into consideration their technical skills and experience. Equally, if not more important to me was their potential for the future, their emotional intelligence, and their overall commitment to the mission. If someone can demonstrate to me why they are committed to the mission of CHOP, it goes a very long way in terms of feeling confident about adding them to my team. Looking past someone’s proficiencies means asking ourselves if they are they going to fit into the culture and support you as a leader. But that is easier said than done.
Before hiring someone, try to spend time with them – not just reference checking. Bring them into social situations and see how they react. I recently took a potential candidate and his wife to dinner with my husband and me. I was able to observe his social skills and it made me feel confident in his ability to work collaboratively. However, a note of caution here. We can often be compelled to hire people who we like; who we feel are like us, or who have similar backgrounds. But this can be a trap. Look for people who are different than you and bring different skills to the table. For example, I tend to look for analytical people since I have a tendency to make quick decisions.
When you are interviewing in a formal setting however, there are a few tactics that I find to be helpful. I usually ask people what led them to apply for the role. I tend to get so much good information from that question, and though it sounds obvious, it’s amazing what you can learn from how little or how much info they give, and how thoughtful they are about their answer. When you can steer the conversation past what they have done and towards WHY they want this job and why it fits into their future you will get important insights. I always say the “why” questions are the best ones to ask to get a sense of a person’s self-awareness. Ask them what others would say about them if you asked. Let them talk more than you. Present scenarios to them and see how they’d respond. All of these tactics will lead you to a better understanding of the kind of person they are.
I once heard a great line: you permit what you promote. Not only are people paying attention to who you choose to hire, but also will keep a close eye on who you promote. It truly gives people an understanding of who you are as a leader, and what you find to be the most valuable qualities in the workplace culture you create. If your employees know exactly what you stand for, what you want to accomplish and how you want to accomplish it, they will be better able to support you and know what is expected. In order to motivate people it’s really important to give them a big picture of the goals of the organization and how THEY fit in. If you can’t bring it back to how they fit in and what it means to them, I believe that people can get a little lost. There have been times when I’ve had to explain why we’re moving in an unpopular direction as an organization, and the more I’m able to tell people how they fit in and what I need from them specifically, it helps their motivation levels. As a CEO, I want to be aspirational and visionary but I need to still be able to bring these ideas to the front lines and explain how my employees can help to bring that vision to life.
Lastly, if you do feel like you’ve made a mistake with a new hire and it turns out they’re not the right fit, it’s always best to make the decision early and let them move on. I think a lot of times leaders want to give people excuses before they let someone move on. In the end, it will only hurt them to stay in the wrong position.