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Recruit Great People

One of the rules for having a great company, and being a great leader is that you recruit great people, the best people to surround you. That sounds simplistic, like something that doesn’t even need to be said. But actually, most of the problems a leader eventually encounters within the company start somewhere during the hiring process. They arise from poor decision, or less than the best selection of people in the initial selection.If you want to build a great company and lead a successful endeavor, it starts right here. The first leader of leaders must:

  • Know yourself very well. Know your strengths and weaknesses.

  • Concentrate on developing your strengths.

  • Recruit the best possible people to surround you.

  • Look for and pursue team members that are smarter than you.

  • Look for and hire people who compliment your weaknesses. It is far better to hire people who are already strong in the areas where you are weak than to spin your wheels trying to grow in an area where you are inherently weak. Unfortunately, we tend to like the people best who are like us, and we feel more comfortable with people who share our strengths. If we are not careful tend to hire people to compliment us, when we should hire people better than us in areas where we are weak, even if it makes us uncomfortable, structuring for weakness and failure.

If we are honest, we know we can get over-anxious or even desperate when we are looking for leaders, so we find ourselves looking for reasons to hire someone, reasons why this person is good enough. We rationalize the challenges they will bring.John Francis "Jack" Welch Jr., born November 19, 1935, is an American retired business executive, author, and chemical engineer. He was chairman and CEO of General Electric between 1981 and 2001. During his tenure at GE, the company's value rose 4,000%. In 2006, Welch's net worth was estimated at $720 million. When he retired from GE he received a severance payment of $417 million, the largest such payment in history. Clearly, he was doing something right.One of the many areas in which he excelled was his ability to find and hire exceptional leaders. In his book, Straight From the Gut he discussed the system of evaluating leaders he developed at GE. The system he started for sorting the best was called “4 E’s and a P.” Let’s check it out:Energy: High personal energy of the manager is important. Actually, the speed with which a person walks is a pretty good clue. Sounds weird, but someone who is mostly lethargic in walking does give off a “low energy” vibe. This characteristic means the ability to thrive on action and relish change. People with positive energy are generally optimistic. They make conversation and friends easily. They start the day with enthusiasm and usually end it that way too. They rarely fade in the middle. They don't complain about working hard; they love to work. Welch says, “They also love to play. People with positive energy just love life.”Energize others: Do you brighten up a co-worker’s mood? Or do co-workers feel down after interacting with you? Positive energy is the ability to get other people revved up. People who energize can inspire their team to take on the impossible — and enjoy doing it. In fact, says Welch, “people would arm wrestle for the chance to work with them.” Now, energizing others is not just about giving “Braveheart” speeches. It takes a deep knowledge of your business and strong persuasion skills to make a case that will galvanize others.Welch shared an example of an energizing leader. “A great example of an energizer is Charlene Begley, who started with GE as a financial management trainee in 1988. After several years in various jobs, Charlene was selected to run GE's Six Sigma program in the transportation business…. It’s hard to unpack Charlene's ability to energize because it's a brew of skills all mixed together. She is a great communicator who can clearly define objectives. She's dead serious about work, but she doesn't take herself too seriously. In fact, she has a good sense of humor and shares credit readily. Her attitude is always upbeat: No matter how hard the job, it can get done.” Sharing credit is a big deal. You cannot recruit, encourage, or keep team members unless you are energizing others by giving credit and props for their part. It is more important that you acknowledge their work than letting people know YOU worked hard.Edge: Are you able to make tough decisions that are a flat Yes/No without fear of being disliked? Undoubtedly, it is a skill to be able to look at an issue from every different angle. Some smart people can — and will — analyze angles indefinitely. But effective people with the edge know when to stop assessing and make a tough call, even if they aren’t able to get all the prior information they would like.Little is worse than a leader at any level who can't pull the trigger, the type that always says, "Bring it back in a month and we'll look at it again." Even worse, some leaders say “yes” to you, but then someone else comes into the room and everything changes. These are leaders who are always most influenced by the last person who talked to them, fickle and undependable.Mr. Welch illustrated, “Some of the smartest people that I've hired over the years — many of them from consulting — had real difficulty with edge, especially when they were put into operations. In every situation, they always saw too many options, which inhibited them from taking action. That indecisiveness kept their organizations in limbo. In the end, for several of them, that was a fatal flaw.”Execution: Can you deliver? Welch outlines how execution works. “Let us say that you are a supply chain manager who is responsible for engaging a few small high tech innovative suppliers for a new component development for a new product project. You asked one of your buyers to send out emails from the supplier data base, and perhaps none of the suppliers responded. When you show up for the new product top team meeting you just say that suppliers are not responding. But the truth is, you are not executing.”The “execution” focused leader would have figured out why suppliers were not responding, and chase it down. He would make sure to show up at the meeting with the information, no excuses. These effective leaders do not promise anything easily. But when they do, their supervisors know that they can consider it done.Many people are high-potentials never become leaders because of this area. They score well on the other E’s, but they just don’t get it done. It turns out you can have positive energy, energize everyone around you, make hard calls, and still not get over the finish line. Being able to execute is a special and distinct skill. It means a person knows how to put decisions into action and push them forward to completion, through resistance, chaos, or unexpected obstacles. People who can execute know that winning is about results. No excuse works for them.Passion: This is the “P” in the 4 E’s and one P. A leader who is passionate loves to learn and grow, and they get a huge kick when people around them do the same. They’re not only passionate about work, they just have a “juice for life in their veins.” (Welch) If a candidate has the four Es, then you look for that final P: Look for a heartfelt, deep, and authentic excitement about work. People with passion care – really care – about collea­gues, employees and friends winning.The funny thing about people with passion, though, is that they aren't excited just about work. They tend to be passionate about everyt­hing. They are sports nuts or they're fanatical supporters of their alma mater or they're political junkies. Passion is a characteristic that most people notice about them. They feel strongly, and commit deeply, and you notice it.These are the kind of people you are seeking. If you recruit them you are going to succeed. They will help you stay on your game, because they will not want to work for you if they are out-performing or outgrowing you. If they sense more commitment from themselves than from their leader, they will quit.Andy Stanley, effective leader of the North Point Churches who are shaping much of contemporary church world, says while you are looking for these great people to recruit, to make sure also to look for:Character—a person with great ability but inferior character will destroy more in one action what you have worked tirelessly for years to build.Chemistry — the new leader needs to be able to fit with others on the team.Competency — a leader must be skilled in the areas where you need help.Capacity — how much can they grow? Can this leader take us to a new place?Culture — how well do they understand and embody our culture and DNA?No one can lead well without recruiting great leaders. Make it your premiere strategy. People are always more important than program.

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