How to Attract and Retain the Best People

Hire the Best

 

During one of my interviews, someone asked me about my biggest career mistakes.

“That’s easy,” I said, “I have made the mistake of hiring the wrong person. It is an expensive error.”

Since that early career mistake, I have developed a number of strategies and techniques to reduce my hiring errors. And that’s why I loved The Right Hire: Attract and Retain the Best People because the book shares many techniques to get the right person for the job. The book explains that hiring should be both part of the organizational strategy and strategic. I had the opportunity to speak with Lisette Howlett who has fifteen years of global change leadership and business development experience.

 

Make Hiring Right A Part of Your Strategy

How do leaders ensure that hiring is part of the overall organizational strategy?

At its most simplistic, by simply putting it into the strategic plan and elevating it to be part of the leadership and strategic agenda.

The strategic plan outlines where the organization aims to be in the chosen timeframe, typically 5 years, and it should include a section on the organization implications and the hiring strategy required for success.  Adopting an effective hiring strategy is core to the achievement of this plan and will cover different aspects depending on the organization’s strategic intent.  If, for example, the organization is seeking to change direction, expand to new markets or even leave markets and sectors, the hiring plan needs to reflect this.  How will people be hired in anticipation of the future plans, how will they be developed and made ready?  Hiring in this context is not just hiring new talent into the organization from outside but also hiring (or promoting) people from within the organization to new roles and locations.  And similarly, if an organization is exiting a market or geography, thinking about how any key talent in this unit might be retained is critical as well and should be part of the exit plan.

In terms of elevating hiring to be an integral part of the leadership and strategic agenda, one of the best ways to do this is to adopt a balanced scorecard approach and ensure that time is spent on broader leadership topics as well as financial performance.

The less simple way is to invest in the development of what I have called a hiring culture.  This is a culture where the organization is always on the lookout for talent and takes action when it is spotted.  The search for talent, once again, can be internal as well as external.

Additionally, taking a more strategic approach to hiring will go a long way towards ensuring that hiring is part of the organizational strategy.  By this I mean that we need to move away from treating it as a transaction that is forced upon managers due to the need of someone to fill a vacant position in the organization.  We need to think of hiring in the medium term and even long term and start to develop hiring plans to support this.  At the organizational level, think of the competencies and attitudes that you will need for ongoing organizational success and start hiring for them now.  Plan the numbers and skills you will need for your future organization and work to that plan.  For jobs that you know you will always be recruiting, invest in strong talent sourcing systems and hire continually whenever you spot talent.  Hiring ahead of the curve will give you the time to wait for top talent rather than rush to bring someone in just to cover the mounting workload.

 

Don’t miss Skip’s appearance on Atlanta’s Small Business show talking about the 9 Mistakes of an Entrepreneur.

 

The Cost of a Wrong Hire

I’m always surprised at the high cost of a wrong hire. Would you share some of the statistics on making a bad choice? 

A Key Leadership Question: Who’s Holding Your Ladder?

Who’s Holding Your Ladder?

Walking through a busy convention floor at Book Expo America, I nearly bumped into him as I dodged through a publisher’s stand on my way to an appointment. It was one of those chance meetings, the ones you don’t expect but you figure somehow it was arranged or planned to happen just that way.

Dr. Samuel R. Chand and I collided, and it started a conversation about leadership and what makes it possible. After our meeting, I had the opportunity to read his books and soak in his ideas. I’m delighted to introduce him to you and share some of our conversation.

 

“The best use of power is to give it away.” –Sam Chand

 

The Story Behind the Ladders

I want to know the story behind your work. How did you first develop the idea for your books?

The story behind my book Who’s Holding Your Ladder? was an epiphany and came from my experience in 1999 in Long Island, NY.

Waiting for someone to call me into the auditorium, I stared out the window. As I meditated on the points I wanted to cover as a featured speaker at this leadership conference, something in the street below caught my attention.

A man stood on a ladder painting—not that uncommon a sight. I smiled, remembering my student days in college. I had spent my summers doing that kind of work. Yet I couldn’t take my eyes off the man. For several minutes, I watched his graceful motions as he moved his brush and roller across the surface.

As I watched, I noticed that this painter was only covering a limited area. He stretched as far as he could to the left, to the right and even reached above his head. It also occurred to me that he was only going to the height that he was comfortable at, even though the extension ladder he was using could reach much higher.

From my painting experience, I remembered that once I was on the ladder and had the necessary resources, I painted a much larger area before taking the additional time needed to climb down and relocate the ladder. It was an efficient method.

 

“Those who know how will always work for those who know why.” –Sam Chand

 

“Why isn’t he going higher to paint all the way up? What would allow him to go higher?” I asked myself. Then I saw the reason—no one was holding his ladder. By himself, the painter couldn’t go any further. He had done everything he could by himself. He needed help.

samchand 2As I watched his graceful strokes, I realized the leadership parallels. Whether we’re talking about churches, businesses or non-profit organizations, the effectiveness of a leader depends on the person or persons holding the ladder—those who are in support roles.

The height that a visionary leader reaches on the ladder to their vision is not controlled by the leader’s capabilities. It’s not even controlled by how inspiring their vision might be. It’s controlled by who’s holding the ladder.

Then another thought struck me: Those who hold the ladders are as important as the leaders themselves.

The visionaries could have all the training possible, the most expensive equipment, years of experience and knowledge about painting, and a blend of expertise and passion about their craft. But that’s not the deciding factor. The ladder holder determines the height to which the ladder climber ascends. “That’s it!” I cried aloud. “Those who hold the ladder control the ascent of the visionaries.”

 

“When you’re 100 percent certain, you’re too late.” –Charles W. Robinson

 

Additionally, a ladder holder who may be very capable with a 20-foot extension ladder (or vision) may not be the person you want holding your 45-foot extension ladder (a new or enlarged vision). Old ladder holders are rarely adequate at holding new ladders.

My book Who’s Holding Your Ladder?: Selecting Your Leaders: Leaderships Most Critical Decision explains this powerful concept. It explains the need for qualified ladder holders and the necessary qualifications, differentiates between leaders and managers, and describes how you can turn your ladder holders into ladder climbers.

 

“The only time you start at the top is when you’re digging a hole.” -Sam Chand

 

Acknowledge the Ladder Holders

I love your focus on those who hold ladders. How should leaders acknowledge the ladder holders?

The greatest acknowledgement is for leaders to recognize that no one would be the leader that they are today had it not been for someone holding their ladder. There’s no such thing as a “self-made” person. Someone gave us our first break. Someone took a risk and believed in us. Someone leveraged their credibility for our sake. Someone forgave us and gave us another chance. Someone knew we had messed up yet defended us to those who wanted us vanquished. Someone funded that shaky idea. Someone gave us our first job. Someone…

Therefore a spirit of humility and dependency will be the attitude that exudes appreciation for our ladder holders.

 

“More than anything, leadership is about managing expectations.” –Sam Chand

 

Pick the Right People to Hold Your Ladder