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August 12, 2019

It’s Not the How or the What but the Who

Succeed by Surrounding Yourself with the Best

In October 2011, international executive search consultant, Fernandez-Araoz addressed the World Business Forum, a group of 4000 senior executives and middle managers in New York. He asked his audience the question: “How many of you have made major mistakes while making crucial people choices?” All 4000 people raised their hands.

“Have any of you studied how to assess people for the purposes of selecting them as teammates?”

If you are like those attending the forum, the answer is no. Less than half of 1% of attendees had studied how to select the right person for the job.

Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric (GE), was widely regarded as one of the greatest managers of the 20th century. He reports that as a junior manager at GE 50% of his appointments were wrong. 30 years later, as CEO, 20% were wrong.

If this legendary manager took 30 years to reduce his error rate by 20%, little wonder the rest of us have such trouble.

The problem of selecting the best is that people are not designed to make great people decisions. We are hardwired for unconscious biases and other decision impairing errors.

Fernandez-Araoz posed this hiring situation: “Mary graduated from an Ivy League university five years ago, and has since worked at an outstanding consumer goods company, where she has been promoted twice… Joe took twice as long as required to graduate and has worked for the last four years for quite an unprofessional family company, from which he was recently fired.”

You put Mary through an unchallenging interview and employ her. You throw away Joe’s resume.

Mary, in fact, was only a C student, and was employed because of family connections. She is mean and abusive to colleagues. Joe worked night-shifts to put himself through college, and was fired to make room for the owner’s son.

The difference between a typical performer and a highly productive one on an assembly line is about 40%. The difference grows with the complexity of the job. An exceptional software developer/consultant outperformed most peers by 1,200%.

We cannot rely on the typical interviews as these are usually “a conversation between two liars.” The company is lying about their attractiveness and the candidate about their competence.

In one of the most famous books ever – “Think and Grow Rich” -Napoleon Hill tells you what Andrew Carnegie told him about the secret to success…its a Mastermind team. No matter how good the strategy, or no matter how good the method, you cannot be A-grade without an A-grade team.  

Who is on your team? How were they selected? What is the question to find out what makes them great…ask – How? If the answer starts with talking about themselves, it is almost always the wrong answer. The right answer is Who… is on a critically selected Mastermind Team to serve you.