dreamstime_3563964.jpgI just witnessed a new client make a classic mistake.  Its not the first time, I’ve seen this soooo many times before, but it always gets my goat.  They just hired a manager who fits right in!

The thing is, you just can’t afford to dothat these days.  Organisations survive and grow by pursuing change.  You MUST aim for every day to be different.  You MUST continually challenge convention.  Ideas are the currency of business, but you’ll ONLY have ideas if you have wild-cards on your team.  Clones just don’t do it! 

The irony here is that this client knows his organisation desperately needs new thinking (That’s why they are talking to me), but when it came to the crunch they turned down a really great candidate in favour of someone who is going to deliver the same old, same old.  And the excuse – because that’s all it is – “we needed someone who would fit in from day one” – WRONG!

Recruiting is a great and exciting opportunity to bring some new thinking into you organisation.  Sure there are basic must-have skills that’ll keep the transactional stuff rolling and any candidate with these will be able to make a contribution from day-one, but you should be looking for people who have skills and experiences beyond that.  Most of all, seek out people who have different charactersto the people who they will be working with and if you are a boring fart of an organsation and some whiz kid applies for the job, be thankful, hire him and most of all, give him scope!  This is the approach that makes a place great for everybody to work in and that means better all-round performance.  It will drive new thinking and generate new ideas even from your old lieutenants.  I’ll steal a quote from Mr Starbucks himself Howard Schultz that was highlighted by John Maver on his blog before the holiday.

“Recognise the skills and traits that you don’t have and hire people who have them”

Notice the word “traits”.  Howard Schultz knows that its about personality as well as skills. 

There’s only one reason why hiring managers choose people who “fit in” – they aren’t really up to the job themselves!  Play-it-safe mangers are usually insecure, afraid of being challenged (with just cause if this is their thinking) – but handling and channelling mavericks and their thinking is a primary requirement of any, manager!  So celebrate original thinkers, hire the wild card and think instead about how, as a manager, you will “manage” them and learn from the process.

I just ran a Brand Discovery Programme with another client (see the Brand Discovery tab above) that I was really happy with, because I realised that it genuinely liberated the managers in the organisation from the straight-jacket constraints of senior partners who had made it impossible for managers to contribute.  They’d achieved this, as is oten the case, by keeping everybody in the dark and feeding them s***t for years.  The reason I was there at all, not uncommonly, is because the partners had run out of road.  The business is stagnating (at best) and they know they need some fresh thinking.  They just didn’t know where to get it (How about looking around your own place first?). 

Sharing information is central to the Brand Discovery Programme so my first box was ticked and this was confirmed by a manager who came to me afterwards and said “That was great,  I feel like I’m telling them [the partners] what to do now”.  From a dozen delegates we came away from the second workshop with a mountain of prioritised initiatives, every one of which would move the business in the right direction again, and the start of a new management style.  And the partners – they were pleased as punch and celebrated in style by filling their Ferraris up with petrol – a real sign of success in today’s UK!

On the basis that “you win a few and lose a few” I’m going to focus on this small triumph while I work out what to do with the other problem!

Michael Weaver
January 1, 2008

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