Hiring, Is it a Leader Thing, or a Team Thing?

Teams are by nature very territorial and possessive, especially high producing, quality teams. Often these types of teams don't initially want others on the team. Why? Well, sometimes for some really good reasons. Quality will suffer, time will be spent training rather than producing, personalities will be different, etc. If a leader doesn’t understand these concerns and deal with them, the team will often sabotage a newcomer’s success. All of this can be avoided, but it takes a leadership choice and action to do so.

I learned a great lesson by watching Terri, my wife, hire staff. She would run the candidates by the team, get their input, positive and negative, and narrow down the candidates. She respected the high quality work and dedication to excellence that her current team possessed and wanted to add to it, not subtract from it by hiring the wrong person. Terri would have the last say, but she did include the team in the hiring process. Once the team had an opportunity to weigh in, they did everything they could to help the new person succeed. Why? Because they had part ownership or at least got to weigh in on the decision to allow the new person onto the team!

Teams sometimes do end up wanting a “warm body” to join the team when the team has been overworked for a period of time. In desperation, they will agree to allow just about anyone on the team just to get some relief from the current workload. When it has gotten this far along, leaders will often feel the pressure to hire just about anybody to relieve the pain. When this happens, it’s a critical sign of heartache and pain for everyone moving forward. Why? Several reasons:

  1. The wrong hire disrupts a good team and unhealthy conflict arises.

  2. The wrong hire brings confusion to the team about values, priorities, and boundaries.

  3. The wrong hire gets confused him or herself. Disunity, wrong expectations, and disillusionment sets in.

  4. The leader loses the faith of the team. Respect is hard to gain and easily lost.

  5. A precedent is set for future hiring.

  6. It is a lot harder to get rid of a bad hire than it is to hire one.

What are some ways to avoid making a bad hire?

  1. Always, always have a few people in mind to recruit.

  2. Communicate with the team about their perspective: their fears, doubts, or hopes concerning the potential prospect.

  3. Do a little inconspicuous snooping; check out their social media, and make an exception this time concerning gossip and listen to what others have to say about them. Look for the good qualities, but don’t be naïve and ignore the warning signs either.

  4. Communicate with the team and get their insight about timing of the hire.

  5. Revisit the company’s vision or purpose statement, mission statement, core values, and build your interview questions around them. Don’t be too obvious and leading with your questions; this will take some thinking time.

  6. Let the leaders of your team do the second interview and decide if it would be wise to do the third and final interview.

Remember, a bad hire may alleviate some pain today, but will definitely increase your pain in the future. A bad hire will also lengthen the time you and your team will have to endure that pain. So, do yourself a favor. Allow your team to lead. Team leadership is a lot different than a leader with a team. A leader with a team sees involving the team in important decisions in a couple of false ways:

  • He or she may see it as being a weak leader; irresponsible and dumping on the team instead of involving the team.

  • The leader may falsely believe the team is incapable of making unbiased decisions. (This may be true if the leader hasn't been clear about the boundaries. As a matter of fact, the team may help the leader see his or her own biases.)

If a leader feels like he or she must protect the team and always make the right decisions, too many assumptions are made that disable the team rather than empower it. Be vulnerable enough to ask your team to help, they will jump at the chance. Rather than see you as incompetent, they will see you as a leader who cared enough to really protect the team by being part of the team!

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