Recently I have been reflecting on the crucial importance of recruiting for skills and fit to maintain and encourage a spirit of challenge within an organisation while still ensuring that shared values are maintained.
Get it right and an organisation can accelerate growth by spotting opportunity and resolving endemic problems that may have been overlooked. Yet, on the other hand get it wrong and as I have seen first-hand, progress can be slowed through misalignment of values; specifically the importance of empathy and putting people first. We may live in a digital era, but people are an organisation’s primary assets and it is essential to create change that is congruent with the broader team unless of course there is some form of systemic business or cultural issue to be addressed.
To illustrate the challenge, I recall a client recruited a new team member based upon rational, skills-based criteria. These skills were I acknowledge not without merit. Following the appointment systems and processes have improved. The ‘what’ & ‘why’ for change were sound; the ‘how’ was not. In this scenario, the overall was harmful, in spite of the short-term gains. Key people, the sense of togetherness and harmony were damaged.
What followed were increased levels of staff attrition and a worrying lack of challenge through the reporting line. The sense of positivity and energy declined, crucially so, did collaboration and creativity in problem-solving. Probably the biggest consequence was the reduction in the spirit of empowerment that had been powering growth. This one example is not unique and I’m sure many can reflect on similar circumstances.
None of this should stop recruiting to encourage challenge and fresh-thinking; this is vital to keep an organisation on its toes and avoid complacency. There is no place for; “group think” and “Yes” people, especially at any form of leadership level. The impacts of this have been well documented; look at the big organisational declines, i.e. Kodak or Xerox. The real question should be how to recruit for and encourage fresh thinking that is aligned with the culture. Key to this would be to start at purpose and then agree the key values that are required to deliver it, i.e. Integrity, Bold, Collaboration, etc.
We have often commented on the paradox that is the confident that seem to rise to the top of organisations faster than the competent. The impact of this is obvious, but recognising the value of genuinely testing for aligned values to your business before taking new leadership on board, I would suggest is far more important.
This approach requires discipline and a high quality Talent Acquisition process that examines alignment at the values level; then tests for creativity and ability to challenge at a behavioural level.
Quick fix appointments always look good in the moment, much like that tempting doughnut when you buy your coffee. Better to take Jim Collins approach in his Good to Great book and recognise that the first step in a successful business is to have the right people on the bus. Considering the alignment between organisational purpose and values will deliver far greater satisfaction that the quick sugar rush.
We continue to work with businesses, helping them to balance the challenge/fresh-thinking alignment conundrum and are always keen to discuss how other organisations develop their high-performance culture.
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