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Hiring Right – A Leadership Must!

October 22 2018 - by Dr. Lois Parkes, CLP's Regional Project Manager

A well-known quote from Steve Jobs says, “It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

In my current role as Regional Project Manager for the Caribbean Leadership Project, I recently had a near meltdown, in front of a group of clients no less. While running one of our workshops, the hotel where the event was taking place lost electricity. Twenty minutes became an hour, then another hour, then night fast approached with no return of electricity in sight. Quite frankly, my brain started to melt in the heat of the day, sans electricity; I literally could not think a straight thought.

Then, a wonderful thing happened. My mobile phone vibrated. There was a message from our Project Logistics Officer. He advised me that he had commenced activities to get us relocated to another hotel. He further advised me who had been contacted, and what steps he had taken and what next steps would be taken. In that moment, I had two (2) choices. One, I could ask him who gave him the authority to do these things (I recall a CEO once remarking cryptically to her team that she did not recall delegating her authority). However, I decided to choose my other option, where I stepped back, and allowed the person with the competence to lead in that situation to lead, and to supportively follow. Now this did not mean that I abdicated responsibility as key decisions had to be made at intervals that only I in my capacity could make. However, words cannot express my absolute relief to know that a competent person was hired, who could flawlessly execute, especially in a time of crisis. We were relocated within hours and everything was in place the following day for the workshop to continue without a glitch.

What were my key insights from this experience?

  1. Hire the right person – Understand the competencies required, the tasks, level of effort, necessary aptitude required, and hire accordingly.
  2. Empower your team – Give your team the opportunity to step up, take decisions, execute, be accountable, and yes, allow them to lead, and step back when necessary.
  3. Compensate for your weaknesses – There is limited gain to be made from trying to develop competencies that one is not naturally good at. Personally, I am great at big picture thinking and strategy – not so great at detailed execution at the more granular level. My team member is excellent at detailed planning and execution. Together, we deliver great results. Your job as a leader is to ensure that you have the right mix of skills and aptitude to deliver great results that no one individual could deliver.

Please share your own experiences of:

  1. Excellent work from a member or members of your team; or
  2. Consequences of making poor hiring decisions.

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Ronald Jackson - Reply

This is valuable insight into how we should approach recruitment. I have found that this is not always the approach taken in the public service in particular. People are usually afraid to staff their weaknesses for fear it will reflect them as been inadequate or weaken their perceived control. Rather this should be seen as good practice, a hallmark of a wise leader. 

The 1,2,3 shared is an approach I practice the challenge now is how to determine whether the prospective recruit has the right attitude during the interviews.

Lois Parkes

Thanks for your response, Ronald. One way to ascertain right attitude is to do in-depth reference checks, and where possible, do checks among former peers or direct reports, as opposed to supervisors only. That can yield much more accurate information