It’s said that only 18% of managers that companies are hiring these days actually have the ideal mix of skills to succeed (ref Gallup).
In a recent WSJ article by Sam Walker, this is seen as being caused by the way that corporations are conducting the hiring process, or, we should say, the way that they are still conducting the hiring process. In years gone by, it was assumed that those hired into a firm would remain for their entire careers. Thus, sit down interviews were conducted to determine if the potential hire was “one of them” – that is, sufficiently like them to “fit in.” This is still being done through a wide variety of means, but particularly through a sit-down interview. Recent studies have shown that energetic and extroverted people are those most able to provide the “wow” factor in sit-down interviews, and, thus, are those most frequently hired. However, additional research that has been conducted indicates that these traits are less likely to determine whether a leader is effective. You’ll all likely remember the “charisma” research that has shown that those with “charisma” are often less effective as leaders – they’re often well-liked, but, then, that’s not what is actually needed to be effective at leadership. In fact, we often remind our clients that if a leader is well-liked, he’s often not doing his job well. Because, to do an effective job often means making at least some of the people in an organization unhappy with the executive. Employers, however, tend to look for the “tells” when they’re interviewing for leadership roles: did the person sit up straight; was he pleasant to the receptionist, etc? These kind of judgments are useless when looking for effective managers, as leadership is not a human character trait. In actuality most effective managers don’t spend a lot of time consulting their moral codes, but, rather, link into an intelligent strategy that they’ve developed: “a recurring pattern in thinking, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied.” Often in the questioning part of the sit-down interview, the candidates will be asked an array of questions, all of which they can find the answers to on social media. Thus, the interview essentially turns on having candidates tell the interviewer what he/she wants to hear. How productive is that? Walker suggests that a solution to fixing the problem is to begin by jettisoning the application process and opening it up to a nomination process instead and have the nominees send 5 people that they’ve worked with closely. These five will, in turn, each send one additional person who has worked closely with the potential employee’s leadership style. The interview is then conducted of these 10 people and if the company liked what they saw, they would then invite the nominee to company headquarters for their first meeting. We’ve had some experience with this sort of process, or variants of the same, and it definitely can work well. The only downside is that it’s more time consuming than the current process of “inviting ’em in and listening to their hyped-up stories.” There’s also the issue of whether those participating in the nomination process would feel tree to “tell it like it is” because of legal issues that might ensue. At any rate – something to think about as corporations grapple with ways to acquire better management personnel.