When it comes to appointing leaders, we just can’t seem to help ourselves from naming the wrong person for the job. And this is as true for internal appointments as it is for outside hires. There are several reasons for this mistake:
1.Appointing Individual Contributors to Leadership Roles. This is a common occurrence. It happens most often in companies that don’t have rewarding career paths for individual contributors. So, they promote them to be managers. After all, whom better to learn from than the subject-matter superstar, right? Wrong. These people often make terrible managers. They tend to be weak on emotional intelligence, expect their direct reports to be as brilliant as they are, miss the benefits of softer business skills such as relationship building and customer focus and, in lots of other ways, lack the business acumen and the network to help their people succeed.
2.Interviewing for Demonstrated Skills Rather than Expected Behaviors. People act differently when they are being interviewed than after they are hired. A well trained candidate will do an impressive job of explaining his or her past accomplishments including their meaningful business impact. They will describe the team they led, the product they developed, the customers they grew and so on, freely answering all questions posed by the interviewer with impressive and responsive answers. But talking to an interviewer has little to do with behavior as part of a team, treatment of peers and subordinates, willingness to accept others’ input or key values such as trust, integrity and respect. And, while reference checks can potentially get at some of these issues, they rarely do. After all, how can a reference based on behaviors in one culture predict effectiveness in a new culture?
3.Failing to Examine Team Fit. This problem can occur with new hires and internal appointments. Every leadership team has its own dynamics and mixes of personalities. There is just no way that interviews of candidates by existing team members will reveal the impact on team performance of a particular new appointee to the team.
If you want to stop making these mistakes, you need to start using personality assessments in considering candidates for leadership roles. In our experience, these assessments reveal characteristics that are difficult, if not impossible, to surface through interviews. It is actually possible to know which individual contributors will make effective leaders as well who will not. It is also possible to understand how a candidate will behave if hired and, by assessing existing leaders within the company and comparing these assessments with the candidate’s assessment, whether these behaviors will be productive. Finally, team assessments will reveal the strength of relationships within a team and how each potential candidate will impact team effectiveness.
It’s time to stop appointing leaders who fail for predictable reasons. The cost of these mistakes is far too high.