A senior team of executives sits around a table discussing the strategic plan for growing the business over the next 12 months, and at the end of the process, it’s high five’s all around. The outcome? 2-5% planned growth. How uninspiring!
Sadly, this is the norm in many mature businesses. Many leaders of mature businesses believe that market share has all been divided up and that there’s no more business out there to be had and so innovation if any, is focused on taking a couple of share points, on raising prices, on lowering costs, and/or on minor tweaks to the product, service, or the customer fulfillment process.
Show me a business like this, and I will show you an organization that is lacking in transformative talent. Transformative talent uncovers and is driven to deliver on new, different, and materially beneficial ways of bringing growth to your business.
Transformative talent exists within your organization, at all levels, and in all functional areas of the business. Sometimes though, it’s been beaten into submission or has been driven out of the organization through non-supportive and oftentimes downright hostile leadership, opposed to questioning the existing business model.
If you need to go outside the organization to bring in transformative talent, it’s very important to unlearn everything you believe to be true about recruiting great new talent to your organization.
Old Rules of the game:
1. Hire someone from your industry
2. Hire someone who’s shown steady advancement in their career
3. Hire someone with relevant skills, knowledge, & experience
4. Hire someone who’s remained with one employer throughout their career, or at the very least, has been with only a couple of employers; each for several years.
5. Hire someone who’s never had a challenging relationship with their leader.
6. Hire someone from a similarly sized business to your own.
7. Hire someone whose compensation fits with what you’ve budgeted for the role.
8. Hire someone who fits with a very detailed job description.
9. Hire someone who’s only known success throughout their career.
10. Hire someone who’s a workaholic or at the least, a “Type Triple A”.
11. Let them convince you that they’re the one whom you should hire.
New Rules of the game:
1. Hire someone who has diverse industry experience and who can bring valuable outside (your industry) perspective to your business.
2. Hire someone who’s taken steps back, or sideways in their career, if these have helped the individual to become more knowledgeable; more self-aware; better able to put themselves in others’ shoes and show empathy and provide support.
3. Hire someone without relevant skills, if what they bring to the table is what’s needed going forward, vs. what has gotten you to where you are now. Think digital marketing; think data analytics; think agile engineering; think uber economics.
4. Hire someone who’s worked with different employers and who brings an ability to be effective quickly in different cultures and whose core values are rock solid, regardless of where they work.
5. Hire someone who’s had a challenging relationship with a prior leader and who has the courage to share this with you; and a logical explanation for how that challenging relationship came about, and how this reinforces that they are exactly the kind of transformative talent that you need to hire.
6. Hire someone who’s worked in different sized companies than your own. They will have a valuable perspective to bring to the table. If coming from a small company to your larger company, they likely know how to get things done quickly, and with very little budget and few resources. If coming from a large company to your smaller company, they likely know how to help you scale up as your company realizes its potential, and also bring the polished processes you’ll need to keep operating effectively at your much larger size.
7. Hire someone at whatever price they are asking. If they are transformative, you have so much to gain. Simply put, compensation is a subset of revenue. If you pay more for the talent, the ROI on this investment should be larger too. Imagine paying $10 vs. $5 and getting a 10X return. I’d rather have $90 in my pocket than $45 after paying this talent.
8. Hire without a detailed position description. Instead, be clear on what you expect as outcomes and how you’re going to measure success. Be clear on some key responsibilities and relationships, and be transparent. The old saying that no job description gets written until someone is hired into the role, holds especially true for transformative talent. Be prepared for them to provide a beneficial whole new way of imagining the role.
9. Hire someone who’s had both success and failure in their career, so long as they don’t have a habit of repeating the same mistakes. A CIO I worked with once, shared a story of how he had failed on a project, costing his company $25M. He went to his boss to tender his resignation and to his surprise, his boss tore the resignation letter up saying, why would he ever fire his most valuable employee, having invested $25M in his development. How fortunate for you as an employer if you gain an employee who’s already failed at and learned how to avoid in future, what you’re now needing them to lead.
10. Hire someone who leads a balanced life. With all due respect to the “Type A’s” out there, the most magnificent transformative talent I’ve worked with over the course of my career, came in and left during regular office hours, and had both time while at work and before and after work, to spend with loved ones, and at outside interests. There are only so many hours in a day; days in a week; weeks in a month; months in a year; and years in a life. We work to live; not the other way around, and transformative talent is effective at maximizing the return on your investment in them while minimizing the labour required.
11. Have a compelling Employer Value Proposition (EVP); sell effectively; and convince them to accept the position with you. Transformative talent is self-aware and knows that what they bring to the table is immensely valuable and scarce. Failure to convince them that yours is the organization that they should join, will have them choose to work with someone else.
Changing the paradigm for hiring is uncomfortable, and possibly downright scary. It requires you as a hiring manager, to take risks. There are few rules for identifying transformative talent, and you may get it wrong. But then, hiring by following the old rules, is no more likely to aid you in hiring the right person, and in fact, is likely to ensure that you don’t hire truly transformative talent.
It’s time to rethink the rules for hiring transformative talent and to unlearn much of what we believe to be the rules for hiring. This talent exists inside and outside of your company, and it’s waiting for you to seek them out.