Building a high performing team is the #1 responsibility of all leaders. It requires vision, skill, intuition, conviction and a clear understanding of the company’s objective and purpose. It also requires courage.
Early in my career I received some hiring advice that was worth its weight in gold from my boss. She said “hire people you wouldn’t mind working for in the future.” I have lived by this advice throughout my career and it has served me well. Here are the two major take-aways from living this hiring philosophy:
- Your focus should be the candidates capacity, and desire, to learn new things and not based solely on what they know today. To a large extent your focus should be on their attitude not their aptitude. With the right abilities, the proper does of desire, and some passion, any one can accomplish anything.
- The circle of life is more than just a famous line from the movie Lion King. Work in a management or leadership role long enough and you’ll experience people coming and going, and moving up and down. I see it as a blessing that I have been able to provide leadership to many who have risen in the ranks, some even faster than I. Being able to develop a new generation of leaders is something I’m most proud of.
By hiring up, you demonstrate confidence as a leader. We’ve all seen leaders (I use this term loosely) who hire a warm body. A robot. Someone willing, and able, to take orders but not capable of having an individual point of view. And then there are those leaders who everyone else wants to work for. These are the people who hire up. They look for those that are smarter than they are, have more ideas than they do, and who see the world through a different lense.
Assembling a team of talent that surpasses your own, demonstrates your leadership strength. I’d much prefer to be surrounded by people smarter than me than to be the only one with any answers. There’s great truth to the saying, “if you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room.” Build a team that can teach you as much as you teach them. A team that can generate ideas faster than you can on your own. A team that is willing to take on any issue, problem, or challenge because they know they have a better chance of winning by leveraging their collective brilliance versus trying to win with a single idea from just one person. Hire really smart people and then get out of their way. I think Steve Jobs was onto something here.