This is the next installment in a series of posts in which I speak to a topic or question submitted by a leader somewhere in the world. Today, I’ll share a few thoughts on an issue faced by virtually every leader at some time in his or her career. Today’s Challenge: How do you find the right leader for an open position?
You probably know the feeling – it’s not a good one. You have an open leadership position and need to find someone to fill that key seat. The pressure is multi-faceted: your team feels the pressure because we’re talking about an important position; you feel the pressure, because you may end up having to personally fill the gap until a replacement is identified. So what do you do? Here are a few suggestions.
Be sure your profile is clear. Do you know exactly what you’re looking for? Be precise. Prioritize your list of wants and desires. Identify the non-negotiable skills.
Look inside your organization – not just your department. Depending on the strength of your leadership pipeline, there’s a good chance you’ll have someone in your organization who can fill the role.
Cast a wide net. If you need to go outside, look across the nation; better yet, why not look across the globe? I’ve long believed to build a world-class organization, you probably need a global talent base.
Invite your team to help. If you’ve got clarity on the profile, have you enlisted your team to help find the person in question? Many of our best people are referred by our existing people.
Leverage your personal network. Have you called your peers in other organizations? Have you contacted your mentors? Have you reached out to people you know who do similar work? Have you asked your friends to help?
Invest the time. I once had a leader tell me finding talent was his number one priority. I asked him how many hours he had invested on this issue in the prior week. He said, "None." If you have a vacant key seat, your calendar should reflect the significance of the task.
Be patient. More than once, we’ve gone over a year with an open position. I’m not advocating that -- we’ve just learned over time, the only thing worse than an open position is filling a position with the wrong person! Don’t compromise.
One more thought - While working to find your new hire, decide who on the team will step in and do the critical work. If this is indeed a key seat, a vacancy can have staggering consequences. Two mistakes I see in this arena on a regular basis: Not getting the critical work covered by someone, or the leader assumes he or she must fill the gap all alone. Both of these mistakes are avoidable.
Finding the right person to fill a key seat should be your top priority. As Peter Drucker said, the most important decision a leader makes is who does what. [GLS_Shield]