Ponder this question with me. When you need to make a new hire, what pool do you look to? In other words, where do you go for the new blood you need?
Hiring is a tremendous opportunity. It is not just a chance to fill a void, but to broaden, to deepen, to add freshness and creativity. It is a moment in which you can both redefine your firm a bit but also take it closer to your vision.
Yet most leaders hire lazily, fearfully. I hope this isn’t you.
Many leaders play it too safe when they bring in new people. They draw from the same old sources, hire the kind of people they already have, and do whatever is quick, easy, and certain. I want to push you to reconsider if this is you.
Now, if you run a firm requiring people with specialized skills, then you are somewhat limited in your options. I understand. Still, don’t stay narrower than you have to. I realize that you might need a finish carpenter or a surgeon or a tort specialist or a certain kind of IT expert. Still, think big.
I know a firm that could really re-invent itself in some wonderful directions if it would not use the same old headhunters and limit them to the same old boundaries for new hires. Given what they produce and sell, they could add real flash and genius not just to their brand but to their internal culture. Yet they hire in fear. They’ve had a few hires go badly and so—like burnt lovers— they won’t stretch out and try again. It’s hurting them.
I know a church that has pretty wonderful senior leadership but has a policy of only hiring from its own pews. Now, think about this assumption. A church of this size hires a hundred different skills and utilizes a thousand different gift mixes, yet it assumes that all it needs is going to walk in the front door and plop down in a pew. It won’t happen. I think this church could be twice its current size, but it has A-level leadership with C- level or less staffing. Why? Narrow, fearful hiring.
One more. I know an amazing university that had to traverse some rough terrain. So it went retro when it came time to hire a new president. Rather than pressing boldly into the future, it hired an older, rough, stubborn, self-important president instead of risking young, bold, inventive, and, maybe, a bit messy. It went safe, and it sacrificed part of its future in so doing.
You have to hire smart. That’s a given. But smart comes in all personalities, all colors (and I mean that in every way!), all levels of risk tolerance, all ages, and all degrees of fiery. Decide what you need but make sure you’re deciding within the broadest boundaries that are possible for you. Just don’t automatically hire narrow, safe, and more of the same. In short, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll have what you’ve always had.
Is your next hire a chance for a change? I don’t know, but you will if you’ll think about that hire more broadly than perhaps you have in the past.