“In our firm we get the cart ahead of the horse by deciding what we’re going to do without considering how the people will respond”
These are the words of a partner in leadership with a firm experiencing a significant amount of change. Considering how the people feel about a strategic initiative is more critical in a professional services firm than in corporations. Their corporate counterparts have a little more leeway with top down directives. Partners leading peers in a matrix organization have a more challenging hurdle to clear.
All the more reason for being strategic in the selection of leadership for that new initiative or venture. If you have been tasked with building a high performing team of professionals to roll out a new strategy or program, here are a few key steps for making strategic hires.
First, get the people in the room who know what the specific job requirements will be for each position you seek to fill. Get people who understand the culture, complexity and competencies necessary for success. Challenge them to identify the key deliverables that will be expected of the job holder. Know what success will look like when accomplished.
Second, do your homework and find the professionals who stand out as thought-leaders and who have a following. Interview people who have worked with them and have first-hand observation of their technical and interpersonal skills. At this stage it will be important to include people they report to, peers and subordinates. You will want to listen for consistency in leadership practices regardless of the reporting relationship. Multiple candidates for each role is also a good idea.
Third, use a predictive psychological assessment against a set of validated competencies specific to the position. The traditional interview process can become a popularity contest and objectivity compromised. The right instrument can provide you with objective insight into how the person thinks, approaches their work and relates to people who will be critical for executing the plans. The best instruments provide you with a targeted interview guide.
Do not get the cart ahead of the horse. Be deliberate in your selection of leaders who appreciate the importance of connecting with the people on whom the real success will depend. Leaders who are collaborative and inclusive, who know how to think broadly and anticipate the reaction of people and groups across the firm, before they take action.
You win, and the firm wins, when you start by selecting the best leaders possible. Commit to doing it well.