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Having a Fit

He was a superstar. A tall, dark-eyed, voice of thunder, leader of leaders…or so he appeared. He could be the new pastor of our church, but we better act quickly before a larger congregation scooped him up. The vote was expeditious and unanimous.  Every deacon, elder, leading woman and child, of hand-raising age, were in one accord. The small church of my childhood got the perfect leader. About two years later the congregation split and so did the superstar.

There is nothing that will deeply damage an organization’s effectiveness faster than hiring a key leader who is not a fit. It is easy to see how some country church folks could be taken in, but it is amazing how often a similar scenario plays out with some of the smartest business teams in the world. Research by PWC and Saratoga Institute affirms that the average tenure of 60% of newly hired executives across a wide range of industries is two to three years.

Act Sooner

Whether in a non-profit or publicly traded organization, within the first six months most people intuitively know when a key leader is not a fit. Instead of admitting the error and quickly correcting that error, most of us placate the misfit manager hoping he or she will see the light. This seldom happens. An HR officer I know has a mantra about such a challenge as this, he says, “It is easier to change people than change people.”  In a small organization change most often means outplacement.  In a larger company a well-designed transfer to a new role can sometimes be a win for everyone.  The point is, do something sooner than later. The longer we put off the inevitable, the more time it will take to recover and rebuild what is left of our team.

Act Slower

As important as it is to act quickly to correct a bad decision, it is better to avoid the mistake altogether. By slowing down the selection process, the emotional pull to close the deal is lessened and a wiser decision can be made.  There is no magic formula, but I believe there are three areas every hiring team needs to carefully confirm when selecting the right person for key leader role:

1.Skills – Intellectual and technical capabilities that match the position profile

2.Motivation – Passion for the organization’s mission and a keen interest in the management skills inherit in the role

3.Fit – Balance of humility and confidence that facilitates effective personal conversations about difficult issues and energizes a team toward a shared vision or noble cause

The majority of bad hires excel in #1 and #2…so much so that #3 is rarely discussed until the deal in done. “She is so smart, it will be easy for her to get the people leading part ” is the hopeful chorus that an astray hiring team will sing aloud to support their erred decision. This refrain soon becomes a hum.

Journal Entry: A perfect leadership fit seldom happens in a business, a civic group or even a family. The ideal is picking the right person and having a team that is sincerely committed to helping her or him make their best contribution. This has been and will always be the formula for having a fit in leadership and life.

It is not good to have zeal without knowledge or to be hasty and miss the way. – Proverbs 19:2

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