Insightful, contextual, questioning in executive hiring is critical to long term success.

By Rupert Lion
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Strategy Before Execution

In today’s digital age, technology is driving business transformation, and fast-growing tech companies are reimagining their operating models. More traditional companies across multiple verticals are re-engineering their businesses to leverage technology enablement.

This calls for a fresh look at traditional approaches to organizing executive teams and managerial hiring. Companies today operate differently from their predecessors, embracing autonomy and experimentation while challenging conventional structures.

This fresh look can rapidly lead to confusion and lack of clarity around the nature and mandate of key roles, how to share knowledge and where responsibility sits (to name a couple of specific issues).

Part of the problem is that CEOs and leaders often rely on their own career experiences and seek advice from peers. Specialized expertise in developing the structure of this new world of tech-enabled businesses is hard to come by – it’s a less well-trodden path than one might hope.

Consequently, senior hiring decisions are often made with little consideration to broader organizational impact – often even job mandates can be overlapping with those of existing team members.

Effective Hiring Strategies

Neglecting proper thought and strategy ahead of hiring can hinder long-term growth and contribute to business failures. Founders and CEOs need tailored guidance to address organizational imperatives.

Whilst we could leave it up to our clients to decide, as Executive Search practitioners we have privileged access to multitudes of situations where hires have been successful, and unsuccessful. As a result we believe it is our responsibility to support these leaders in getting important hires right first time. We, as trusted advisors, must define new approaches and thinking that align with the dynamic needs of high-growth tech businesses.

We do this through asking questions first. Not just surface-level questions, but real, insightful, relevant and probing questions.

A simple approach but often missed, focusing on the context and whys of the hire before going to market is critical. That doesn’t just mean understanding the number of people working in the incoming executive’s team, but deeply appreciating the connections between the business strategy, outlook and approach, alongside the management team’s unique individual decision-making, responsibilities, mandate and style.

From a process perspective, this means those engaging Executive Search firms should ask them to be very clear about their approach to understanding the role and requirements. In particular, make sure that they are focusing on unpicking the context for the role: how the role will drive value and how it is linked to the numerical performance of the business, what decision-making rights will the mandate have, what is different about this role vs the same role at a competitor, what are the “cultural norms” (e.g. when attending an exec meeting, is there a pre-read? Is there any expectation of certain levels of planning beforehand), and a myriad of other deeper questions that arise from probing further.

So please, when hiring, ask questions first. Then shoot later.

Take a moment to reflect on your hiring process. Are you asking the right questions? Are you considering the broader context and implications of each hire? By adopting my mantra of "Ask Questions First. Shoot Later," you can steer your organization toward greater clarity, effectiveness, and long-term success. Contact me to discuss how I can work with you to integrate this approach seamlessly into your hiring strategy and organizational culture. 

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