One of my mentors, Sigi Brauer, frequently said, “Surround yourself with people who will make you successful.” You need to think beyond whether a candidate has the potential to excel in their role, you need to think about who’s the best fit for the culture, and who’s the best fit for you? In this post, I’ll focus on the latter: “How do you know who’s the best fit for you?”
First, you have to be aware of your leadership style. How would you describe it? See if you can write it down. It might be more difficult than you think. Go to associates you trust. Ask them to describe your style, and to describe the ideal direct report for you. Remember, there’s often a difference between whom you want and whom you really need.
Next, think about current and former direct reports who were (or are) a great fit for you. What are the first things that come to mind? What were they like? Why did they add so much value? Why did you look forward to working with them?
When you’ve done all this, see what themes emerge from these diverse perspectives. What did you learn? Have you refined your understanding of your style, and of your ideal direct report?
To make this more concrete, here are some random examples of possible insights. Do you want a person who constantly challenges the status quo? One who wants to execute established processes with excellence? Do you want a person who is highly collaborative? Intensely competitive? Relationship oriented? Thick skinned? Humble? Comfortable with confrontation?
If your style is aggressive and confrontational, the ideal direct report should be comfortable with confrontation and have a thick skin. If organization and attention to detail is not your long suit, seek someone who is strong in those areas.
During employment interviews, ask candidates to describe their style and their strengths. How close is the match to what you seek? Ask them to describe the best boss they’ve ever had. To what degree are they describing you?
You can also use scientific assessments to improve your ability to predict the degree to which a candidate matches your ideal fit.
As you think more about this, I believe you’ll come to the conclusion that your ideal direct reports will share certain values and character traits, AND will bring strengths that are complimentary to yours.
Thanks for reading. As always, I welcome your thoughts.