Why Hiring Up Pays Off

SteveJobs

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Hire up.

 

 

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Never Settle

RichardBranson

Having a beginners attitude is a difference maker for great leaders.  They approach life with curiosity, questions, intrigue.  They believe anything is possible. They’re not afraid to try new things.  Their interest in learning and exploring is genuine, and it sends a strong signal to others who have a passion for innovation and invention, acting like a magnet.  These are the leaders that attract the best and brightest talent.

Real leaders are always preparing. They are in constant “getting ready” mode. They are always “on their way”, having not yet arrived, and as far as they’re concerned they never will.  In fact they believe if they finally do arrive it’s game over.  They never settle.  They never check the “all done” box. Real leaders are constantly looking for new challenges, new problems to solve, and new roles that push them out of their comfort zone – because that’s where the learning happens.

Nothing worth while in life happens without risk. No home run has ever been hit without taking a swing. The light bulb wouldn’t be here if Edison didn’t take a risk, both financially and scientifically.  Great leaders are comfortable with taking risk.  These risk-takers are not careless.  Far from it.  Rather they are prepared for it.  They believe in themselves, the skills they’ve developed, and their intuition.  They are comfortable with being uncomfortable.

So when someone offers you an opportunity do something different, think about it.  Push yourself to get comfortable outside of your comfort zone. Don’t shy away from a challenge.  It’s far more risky to remain static than it is to change. Don’t settle.  Be curious.

Why Failure is Your Friend

Failure

Years ago I read the book Failing Forward by John Maxwell and it had a profound impact on my life. I grew up in an ultra competitive home where me and my sisters were raised to believe that failure was not an option. As I entered the workforce and began my career I carried this belief with me only to learn, in short order, that failures can happen regardless of the actions taken.

From bad bosses (you know who you were), to poorly run companies (you know who you were as well) to jobs I simply didn’t like, failure began to approach my doorstep uninvited. I worked hard, pressed forward, acted with persistence and determination and still experienced my share of failures.  I’ve missed sales numbers, hired the wrong people, and had sales and marketing campaigns fall flat.  Yup, I’ve seen my share of failures.

Sometime after turning 40 I began to view things differently. For the first time I was able to look back at my failures not as failures but as critical learning events that took place at a moment in time. I’ve been battle tested, failed at times, yet have come out stronger each and every time.

We learn when we fail. In fact I’d argue the quality of education we get from failure is vastly better than the education we get from success. Success is simply the culmination of multiple failures. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. The greatest inventions ever were the result of countless failures. Many of the world’s most deadly diseases were cured only after countless failures while looking for a cure. Thomas Edison once said he it took more than 10,000 tries to invent the light bulb.  What if he gave up at 9,000?  I’d hate to think I’d be writing this in the dark.

The point is that we learn from our failures…if we allow ourselves to.  Here are 3 things that failure helps to improve:

  1. Decision making.  Making decisions is a tough business.  It requires speed, thoughtfulness, intuition, and experience.  Experience comes through both failure and success.  The more you have of both the better decisions you will make.
  2. Mental health.  The sooner you embrace failures as your friend and not your enemy the quicker you’ll be able to look at failure for what it is…a teacher.  You fall off your bike and you know it’s not the end of the world so you get back on.  You get laid off from a job and find another so now you know that losing a job isn’t a life sentence.
  3. Leadership.  Personally I want to work for someone who’s failed…at least a few times.  I’m much more willing to march into battle behind a battle-tested leader than someone who is entering their first rodeo.  Leaders who have lived the highs and lows are typically more stable offering a steady hand in times of stress as they’ve seen it before and know they can navigate through it.  While it may sound odd to say, failure is one of the biggest ingredients to building confidence.  The more you know you’re capable of handling the more confident you will be in yourself.

So rethink your opinion of failure.  It really is your friend if you let it be.