Project Practitioners > Hiring Better Than You

Hiring Better Than You

By Ed Reynolds

The current environment levies huge taxes on any leader. The economy is forcing business model changes. Technology continues to evolve at breakneck speed, at once increasing and confusing options. Digital marketing and social media are changing the way you create an image and how it is perceived by customers, suppliers and competitors. No leader can stay in front of all that by him/herself. Skilled employees can help you to navigate the turbulence without losing momentum.

I had been out of the mainstream of systems management for a few years when I joined a major OEM to lead their systems management business. While I was out of the industry, the core customer requirements had changed. To complicate matters, my new team was tired and the product line was a major source of customer dissatisfaction. (They never tell you this stuff in the interviews!) I was overwhelmed. A good hiring strategy for me has been to identify areas where I am weak and find candidates that can fill in the holes. I knew I could build alliances to fill in some of our product gaps but there was fundamental functionality we had to develop ourselves. I needed somebody that could replace the years I missed in the technology.

I found a candidate who was a closet software engineer with superior self-taught product management experience in the systems management space. Within a matter of a few short months, he implemented an intuitive methodology to take new product ideas from concept to actionable development plans. He also fine-tuned the process we used to track our requirements to completion in the finished goods. The resulting products met customer needs better and were of higher quality.

He was better than me – he understood the technology better, he was better at identifying customer needs and better at actually getting the ideas to finished goods. It was scary at first because people sought his advice more than mine. But that freed me up to develop partnerships and an ecosystem that broadened our solutions. Ultimately it enabled our products to fit into customer environments easier than our competitors’. I turned the product management function over to him and added a business development team to our department’s function. We doubled revenue and dramatically improved customer satisfaction.

Ronald Reagan said, “Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don't interfere as long as the policy you've decided upon is being carried out.” I couldn’t agree more.

Not all comments are posted. Posted comments are subject to editing for clarity and length.

I couldn't agree more but it seems that there will always be infighting, jealousy and bullying when the subordinates know and / or are more capable than the leader. A wise leader would embrace it and have the team engage and learn and the poor leader would fight against it. Unfortunately I have seen the latter too many times. Maybe it should become subject matter for leadership programs?

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