I was recently reflecting upon 2014 many thoughts and emotions crossed my mind. It was our firm's biggest growth year with over forty percent increase in revenue. More importantly, we significantly improved our value proposition to clients by deepening our solutions, improving our delivery, and enhancing client support. Although at times it was exhausting, it was incredibly exhilarating to see our firm move forward and continue to evolve. In the end, my strongest emotion was gratitude. Not for the growth of our business but for the great team of people at Cornerstone. The feeling of gratitude and pride made me think about those emotions that leaders have when they know they have the right team in place. The sense of confidence that comes with having the right people in the right seats and who are committed to team success. It also made me think about what I've learned from clients and how the best leaders build great teams. When thinking about this one thing really stands out. Great leaders hire great people.
While hiring great people sounds like a simple concept it is clearly not easy. Some would say that certain leaders have a knack for making excellent hires, others might say that they got lucky when they hired so and so. My observation is that great hires are more a function of discipline and if we all followed these three simple disciplines we would all make better hires.
The Discipline of What: The best leaders understand what it takes to succeed in each job. They pay great attention to what has worked and what has not and are able to identify the critical success factors for each position. They don't get sidetracked by the nice to have's and focus on what is most important to success in each role. What's most important generally falls within three key areas; those being skills, values and behaviors. Great hiring managers are better at identifying these attributes when assessing candidates. Here are some tips as to how they do it.
The Discipline of Who: I was meeting recently with a client who is the Chief Banking Officer for a large community bank. This bank has grown tremendously over the last ten years, especially on the commercial side. I asked him how they have been so successful in hiring great Relationship Managers and he pointed to a yellow piece of paper on his desk. On the paper was a list of names, names of the most successful bankers in their footprint. Many of the names had checkmarks next to them so I asked what those were. He replied that the ones with checkmarks are people that he has met with who showed an interest in someday working with him. He went on to explain that he does the following to build his talent pipeline:
Building this leadership pipeline allows you to make better choices, knowing who is out there and receptive to a change. This talent pipeline puts you in a position of strength when adding or replacing employees.
The Discipline of Discipline: Last but not least my most successful clients are the most disciplined. They don't allow pressure to influence hiring decisions, knowing that it is better to wait to hire the best possible person than to settle. They understand that each person they hire either strengthens or weakens their team, there are no neutral hires. (My 15 words for 2015) They stay committed and don't fall into the hiring traps that some of us do, namely:
Using these three guiding principles can help you to hire smarter and build stronger teams. Stronger teams give you the confidence to take on any challenge and thrive in situations that would be daunting to other leaders. Smart hiring is just smart business.
Steve Cundall is CEO of the Cornerstone Group, a consulting firm that helps leaders to improve the way that they acquire, manage and develop talent. Cornerstone works with over 75 organizations, many of which are financial institutions.