Why the best leaders hire better and their business units perform better
The best leaders naturally focus more on an applicant’s potential when they hire. Managers who are only okay as leaders tend to focus primarily on an applicant’s past and how they appear today. We can learn a lot about how to hire better by studying the best leaders. We can also become more effective at hiring simply by becoming better leaders ourselves.
Too often, we can hire someone who meets all the criteria based on their job history, references, skills and test but they don’t deliver what’s really needed. Maybe they do enough so we keep them but that’s not what we really wanted. We want to hire people who are going to boost our department, store, division, region and company to perform better than it did last year. Competence, history and a good attitude are not enough to get you what you really want.
What great leaders in the restaurant business can teach us about hiring
During my career, I have spent many years involved in some very high employee turnover businesses such as restaurants. I observed a few restaurant chains that have succeeded over many decades by delivering consistently exceptional service and food quality. Those restaurants all experienced employee retention often in the 90% range which put them in the top 1% of the industry.
Now, if a restaurant can maintain employee retention above 90%, what does that mean for those us in technology, manufacturing, healthcare, professional services and other industries? Clearly, hiring employees who perform at a consistently high level for long periods of time in a high turnover industry tells us there are hiring and leadership practices that we all could learn from.
The managers of those restaurants were exceptional leaders who hired what they saw an applicant could evolve into and what that applicant wanted to become. As a leader, they were primarily focused on how to help their employees grow and develop into something more than what they were when they started. That more wasn’t just about doing their job well. It was about becoming a better person, a better parent, a better leader themselves. It was about growing in a way that would benefit them for life.
I noticed that sometimes these leaders would hire someone whose job history was spotty or there were other blemishes. They might even hire such an individual over another applicant with a pristine work history. These leaders were able to discern the individuals who would do the most good for the restaurant, the job would do the most good for them and they would blossom under good leadership.
The attitude that can help us uncover hidden gems in our applicants
Leaders look at the total individual to uncover hidden gems of potential they can help grow and develop on the job. A leader looks at ways they can help their people get what they want out of life by growing into something more than they are today. When we focus on what’s best for the employee, we can tap into their full potential and help turn them into an extraordinary and loyal performer.
True leaders do not see the employment relationship as a transaction that trades money for work. They give their all to serve, support and help their employees grow and develop in all kinds of ways. When employees feel they are benefiting from their work in ways that will positively impact their entire life and not just their paycheck, they trust management much more.
It is through this prism that leaders evaluate applicants and why they sometimes hire people that average managers don’t. It’s the difference in who leaders hire that often enables them to produce far superior results compared to average managers.
What type of potential to look for in an applicant
Here are some areas to explore when looking for an applicant’s potential. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list. Rather it is meant to spur your own thinking about ways you could uncover the hidden potential in your applicants.
1. What are their passions in life, not just about work related issues?
What are they looking forward to doing with all aspects of their life? How to they see their life unfolding. What does their ideal future look like? This could include their role as a parent, improving their house, gardening, traveling, doing volunteer work and more.
2 What would they like to become as a person?
What types of traits, qualities, skills, and knowledge would they most like to learn and develop? How will these help them with where they want to go with their life?
3. Do they have a desire to improve and grow?
What have they done in the past to help themselves improve? What are they working on now?
What about ambition and drive?
Some hiring experts will talk about the importance of ambition or drive when they consider an applicant’s potential. Those aspects of potential are relevant for certain positions especially in management and sales but even then not all the time. Companies do need great people who want to stay in the position they started with whether that is a software engineer, bookkeeper, retail clerk, account representative, cook, restaurant manager, or business analyst.
So it is important to consider what potential means in terms of specific job functions and whether it is okay if a person doesn’t aspire to more responsibility. Putting together an effective team means balancing people with varying levels of career drive from none to a lot. You never want your team to be all of one and none of the other.
This doesn’t mean an applicant lacks passions. Maybe their passions deal with things involving their personal life be it kids, coaching soccer, Toastmasters, running the marathon, gardening, cooking, reading or playing in a band. Someone who is driven to excel in these and other types of areas can exhibit a similar focus performing their job. To them, it may be more about the joy of doing that job than in moving up. Every company needs employees like that.
The best leaders hire better
No matter how much a hiring manager learns about how to hire, what to look for on the resume, how to interpret test results, what questions to ask and how to interpret those questions, none of that will turn them into a superstar at hiring employees. They will be competent but not exceptional. This highlights the difference between the art and science of hiring.
The art of hiring starts from deep within us. It is all about who we are… our character, our attitude toward people, and how we see our role as a leader. Leadership isn’t about titles and techniques. It’s all about character. A true leader can sense things in a person the average manager can’t. They interpret everything they see and hear differently. They evaluate the applicant through a different lens. The art of hiring is really about the deeper core within us. It’s not a mystery.
For companies to boost their hiring effectiveness, productivity and financial performance to a much higher level, they need to turn everyone involved in the hiring process into excellent leaders. For all the focus on hiring skills, techniques and methods, not enough attention has been given to the person who is screening applicants and making hiring decisions. When you build hiring from the inside out, you end up hiring a team that can run circles around the competition.
Schedule a phone conversation with Don Shapiro, President of First Concepts Consultants, to answer your questions and explore how this discussion could help your organization.