Sunday, August 21, 2011

Hire Smarter Than You to Succeed

The entrepreneurs and business owners in my network by and large already know that they need to hire folks who are smarter than them in key areas in order to build their businesses.  As their businesses grow to a certain point, they know full well that they need to hire the talent and the subject-matter expertise (SME) they don't personally possess as the CEO in order to take their businesses to the next level.

A key success factor for these entrepreneurs is their status as life-long learners.  As Tom Peters tweeted over the weekend:  "Came to agreement with very senior team that one of 2 or 3 most important traits in a senior exec is childlike compulsive curiosity."  In other words, the most successful entrepreneurs love to learn, and they especially love to learn from their SMEs.

These go-getters are clearly secure about their own accomplishments and their roles as business owners and leaders, so feeling threatened by say, an Accounting SME or a Logistics SME they hire (whether they're an employee, a consultant, or a temp-to-perm SME), to bring structure and consistency into their business isn't even on their radarTheir hunt is to build the team that's going to make their business successful and grow.

Unfortunately, this model is not yet consistently endemic to the employee-leadership paradigm, e.g. non-owner managers and leaders who hire employees.  And they didn't start the fire, frankly.  Most organizational performance / compensation paradigms still reward just individual performance, not the badly needed manager-employee team and/or organizational performance incentives.  In other words, most managers are still held accountable just for their own performance, which creates an inbred culture of finger-pointing at subordinates and ultimately, abstaining from accountability to the performance of the organization as a whole.

I have been lucky enough to have worked with a few non-owner employee managers who chose to put out the fire of that mediocre paradigm and hire SMEs who were smarter to support mutual and organizational success.

It was woven into the fabric of the GE culture.  The manager who hired me into GE saw me eventually becoming the head of GE Public Relations.  "You're a mini-Joyce,"  Chuck would often say to me.  Chuck's prediction did not come true, but I always appreciated his faith in my abilities.

Another GE manager, Bill (who at this writing, is the best manager I've experienced in my career), firmly believed that the success of his employees equaled his success.  And as I mentioned in an earlier blog post lifting up Bill's leadership qualities:  instead of keeping me in position to ensure that his work got done, his goal was to get me promoted:  the merit badge of a manager's / mentor's success.  And he did, pushing me to a promotion at another business unit, even though I wanted to stay in my job, as a member of his team.  But he was right, as usual.

Consequently, I seized the opportunity to pay it forward when I was in a similar leadership role.  When the time came for me to hire a Recruiting Manager, I hired Alison, who is an AIRS-trained recruiting maven and SME.  A great deal of my knowledge base as a Recruiting SME is thanks to what I learned from Alison.  I'm happy to report that Alison subsequently followed her entrepreneurial bliss as the owner of her own successful recruiting firm.

I am a grateful student, indeed.

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