The boss of Dell computers Michael Dell said “Start with smart executives and keep them smart”. A great piece of advice and most of us will be able to see the wisdom in those words.
All too often however we ignore them in practice when employing people. All too often we hire people for their track record or their experience rather than for their potential or their “smarts” and once we have hired them we do very little to “keep them smart” let alone increase their level of “smarts”.
Part of the challenge of course lies in understanding precisely what we mean by smart. In the complex world of business it is never a simple measure of intelligence, or even emotional intelligence, qualifications or experience. It is a complex mixture of all of that, with a large helping of attitude and outlook and an understanding of the cultural fit between the individual person and the organisation you are trying to build. In my experience a detailed understanding of precisely what you are looking for will take a lot of the chance out of hiring.
I do not want to write specifically about recruiting today, so assuming you have a smart executive, or hopefully a team of smart people, and your business is growing at the rate of, say, 20% per annum, how long will do you think it take for the business to outgrow the smart people we have on board? This can happen frighteningly quickly given the added complexity that a business generates when growing. If the executive we have employed is already somewhere near his or her own personal rev limiter, our “A” player can very quickly find themselves ranking as a “C” player, and being part of the problem rather than part of the solution. If we do not have the strategies, resources and if we cannot see the importance of enabling the growth of our executives we are almost certainly condemning them to mediocrity at some point in the near future.
I am sure that would not be what we would intend, but it is very often what we do. Businesses are all about people and if we want to grow the outputs of our businesses we have to grow our people first.
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