The 2001 best seller, Good to Great (Jim Collins), is an important modern business book about how companies become great. Collins examined 1435 firms, but focused on 11 from different industries that went from good to great based on stock price improvement with sustainability for at least 15 years. To help understand why these companies were so successful, Collins compared each to a similar, but less successful, competitor in the same industry.
Stay with me here- we are getting to the point about hiring!
Collins found that the great companies had CEO/leaders with a blend of humility and professionalism, and a strong desire to build a great company. These CEOs tended to be modest and understated, as opposed to CEOs at their competitors who had less humility and big egos. CEO humility, it turned out, helps to build trust and allows employees to contribute without fear. As a manager, humility is a good trait to have.
But the other major finding, more pertinent to this blog, was that leaders who took their companies from good to great focused first and foremost on placing the right people into the right jobs. Lacking that, all other efforts are futile.
Therefore, arguably your most important duty as a manager, and before you do anything else, is to hire exceptional people into the right positions- or find them internally.
Collins concluded that with the right people in the right positions, other challenges, such as managing and motivating employees, require little effort. The right people can change direction more easily and are motivated by their inner drive to produce superior results.
People are not your most important asset- the right people are! So look for character, basic intelligence and work ethic- in addition to the specific knowledge and work experience required to get the job done.
As the department manager, putting the right people into the right jobs is your most important responsibility. Ignore it and your department will always be mediocre. To succeed, you must hire top-quality people into key positions; conversely, anyone who is not right for a position should be replaced.
Based on my experience, most managers do not devote the necessary time and energy to the hiring process. But now that you understand why proper hiring is so important, you can take this process very seriously.
When you hire someone you are adding a spoke to your department wheel, and a weak spoke will drag down the entire department. It makes no sense for you to plan and coordinate departmental work if you do not have the right people in place to get the job done. So take the time to get the right people on the bus and into the right seat.
Do not be penny wise and pound foolish when hiring. Be willing to invest enough money and effort to get the level of talent the position deserves. Set the pay scale high enough to attract the best qualified people.
Your job is not to be best at the technical or professional work being performed in your department; it is to hire the best people possible. They, not you, will be doing the work. If they are good, you will look very good. And the better they are, the more you can sit back, watch productivity grow, and feel great.
I’m won’t spend time here on how to plan and implement the hiring process. That is covered in depth in my book, Managing for Success: Practical Advice for Managers, available at Amazon.