How to Stack the Deck for Success

02/10/2014 02.57 EST

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I recently read a very interesting piece by Jean Martin, a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review: For Senior Leaders, Fit Matters More than Skill.  Jean writes about the need to evaluate an executive’s “network fit” when considering him or her for hire.  By “network fit,” she means “how well the potential hire will fit with the way his or her new colleagues work.”  This is distinctly different from “cultural fit,” which predicts how well the executive will align with the corporate culture more broadly.   Jean points out that executives who fail often do so because of a problem with “network fit.”  She goes on to examine whether internal recruiters are better able to sense network fit when compared to external search partners.  I think it’s fair to say that she doesn’t think either party does a particularly good job on this critical aspect of evaluating external executives for key leadership positions.   The article got me thinking – always dangerous – so I thought I would share a couple of reactions.   First – the obvious.  You can’t evaluate network fit if you haven’t met the network!  For all of our searches, we try to meet as many stakeholders as possible when we begin the search.  It takes time to do this, and sometimes clients push back, wondering why it matters.  We generally are pretty insistent about this step in the process.  We have always known how important chemistry is with the team; if you...

Are Great People Overrated or Just Under-Evaluated?

08/18/2011 01.45 EST

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I just finished Bill Taylor’s blog on HBR, entitled “Great People Are Overrated”.  It’s quite an interesting read.  While I encourage you to take a look at it yourselves, at its barest essence, Taylor’s position is that if offered the choice between having one superstar in his organization versus a group of solid contributors who can work as a team, he’ll take the team every time.  He posits this assertion in opposition to Mark Zuckerberg’s statement in a New York Times article earlier this year that “Someone who is exceptional in their role is not just a little better than someone who is pretty good.  They are 100 times better.”  Although it’s my job to recruit star performers for my clients, I generally think Taylor is right (but perhaps not for the reasons he thinks he is).   Throughout my career, I have seen smart people fail in organizations more times than I can count, especially in my early days as an outplacement consultant for Right Management.  They rarely failed because they were technically incompetent; in fact, they often were brilliant in their fields of expertise.  So why did they fall short?  In my opinion, their disappointing performance was based on the fact that they lacked the people and communication skills to lead an organization.  They were virtuoso performers miscast in roles that required conductors; in the end, really not their fault, but a huge indictment of the assessment and selection practices of the firms that hired...