Hiring a member of the c-suite is not an isolated action taken in a silo, but rather one taken toward optimizing your team at the top to drive business performance.
Here are three things to consider when hiring
for the c-suite:
1. Do you have a clear business strategy and cultural context that you are asking your hire to execute against?
So often, executives are brought into situations where the strategy is not clear or there is a lack of alignment around a strategy and culture (how the work actually gets done). For example, asking a CHRO for a people strategy when the business objectives are not clear or agreed upon is a recipe for what I call “the infinite loop of disappointment.” The business asks the CHRO for a people strategy, only to be told when they get it, “No, not that strategy,” because they have not thought about what they actually and specifically want their people to achieve at a macro level and how. A Chief’s strategy for a vertical is only as good as its connection to broader, clearly articulated business objectives. Without that, all you have is an executive proposing programs and initiatives against a moving target with no predictability of what will stick or what won’t. This pattern replicates across all verticals and can demotivate your c-suite, not to mention stymie your business with inefficiencies and opportunity costs.
2. Have you considered how your new executive hire fits in with the rest of his/her/their c-suite colleagues?
Hopefully, you are assessing a possible addition to the team with a well-constructed, meaningful job specification. And maybe that spec even says that the person must be a "good collaborator" or "able to work effectively on a team." But beyond that, are you thinking specifically about how a candidate would (or would not) integrate with your existing c-suite? It is a mistake not to incorporate this into your search process, even informally. Psychometric assessments like the Hogan, for example, are an excellent way to more tangibly evaluate how the candidate will mesh with others. So often, these searches are done in a “black box” without a lot of visibility to the existing team. This is a missed opportunity and a risk that can be readily mitigated by considering the strengths and development opportunities of the existing team, and appropriately involving the team in the selection process. A highly talented candidate who cannot effectively mesh with your existing team will not optimize your c-suite.
3. Are you constantly evaluating and calibrating your c-suite compensation?
While it is true that jobs are market priced on an individual basis, your c-suite compensation strategy must make sense in the aggregate. On the one hand, in today’s highly competitive talent market, you need to be prepared to pay for top talent, but you must also consider the impact of a package in your existing compensation structure and be willing to make adjustments in the interest of equity. Do this homework before you start an executive search. Asking your search partner for the compensation range for the target position is just the beginning of the analysis. You should evaluate not only how high you are willing to go within that range, but what does that mean for your existing c-suite? While we are loathe to admit it, people talk. If members of your c-suite are asking about their compensation after a new executive joins, you have missed an opportunity to align and motivate your top team with an attractive compensation strategy. There are few things that drag motivation more than a executive who believes his/her/their compensation is not equitable on its own or compared to a peer who has just joined.
A thoughtful executive search process has many facets beyond what is discussed here. But these are a few of the more salient considerations that you should work through with your search partner as you seek to build a successful team at the top.