Don’t have a black hole in your team where a star should be

Jack Welsh makes the case that managers should expect to bat .750 or worse on hiring.

Look, hiring great people is brutally hard. New managers are lucky to get it right half the time. And even executives with decades of experience will tell you that they make the right calls 75% of the time at best

What’s the big deal?  Poor performance can bring down the team – especially when the hiring failure is a poor cultural fit.  And high performers exceed average performers by multiples – especially in software development…

Every smart idea matters. Every ounce of passion makes a difference. You cannot have a black hole in your organization where a star should be.

But managers – especially new managers – are slow to recognize, face up and deal with these errors….

The real reason most managers don’t act is that they fear looking stupid and worry that admitting they made a hiring mistake is career suicide. In any good organization, that logic is exactly backward. Any company worth its salt will reward managers when they acknowledge they’ve hired wrong and swiftly repair the damage.

I’d like to think that we get our hiring right at Bazaarvoice more than 50% – 75% of the time.  Especially in R&D where we have 4 or 5 separate interviews where we try to assess: (i) can they do the job (with excellence)?  (ii) will they do the job (with excellence)?

But this article reminds me not to be too discouraged or deny reality when I find myself with a poor fit.  So what to do?  Fix it.  I try to give important critical feedback quickly, and set clear expectations about expected behavior and performance.  But if things aren’t working out, it’s best to part ways.  Jack has some good advice:

Remember: You made the error. Don’t blame the person who persuaded you that he was right for the job. Break the news candidly, take responsibility for what went wrong, make a fair financial arrangement, and then give the departing employee time to look for a soft landing somewhere else. Both you and the person you hired need to feel as if you handled everything properly, especially should you ever meet again


About brendansterne

Sr Director, Product Incubator
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