The People Who Know Things Should Get to Make Decisions

After preparing for vacation, taking vacation – and then recovering from vacation – I am hopefully back on a regular schedule of posting here.

The topic of this post is on the importance of building a great team and a great organization. If you manage people, the single most important thing you do is make decisions. Of all the decisions you make, the single most important decision you make is who you invite to join your team. You should always aspire to hire people who you feel can grow to perform the job as well or better than you could in that same position. Then be willing to mentor them, protect them from distractions, clear roadblocks for them, provide them with the resources they need – and then get out of their way and let them do their job. This is a recipe for success.

If you don’t trust your leaders to make the tough decisions within their domain of expertise, you don’t have the right leaders in place. Or perhaps you are not the right leader – don’t forget to consider whether you need to vest more trust in your leaders. Make sure that you are not part of the problem (yes, I’m talking to you, Mr. or Ms. Micromanager).

My goal is to always hire people who are currently, or have the potential to be, more qualified for the position than I am. This should be the goal of everyone who makes a hiring decision. If you want to feel like the smartest guy in the room when you hold your staff meeting, then you aren’t building the right leadership team. If you are the smartest guy in the room during your staff meeting, then you need to immediately begin finding ways to improve your team. Again, don’t overlook the possibility that the improvement may need to begin with you.

Note that often it is better to hire based on potential than on expertise. Be willing to take a chance on great potential even when the candidate may not have extensive experience or deep expertise (yet). Ambition, passion, hard work and the ability to learn quickly are traits that will lead to success.  If you can find an experienced candidate who has ambition, passion, a good work ethic and the ability to learn quickly then count yourself lucky and make sure you hire them immediately – or be assured that somebody else will. However, if you have to choose between expertise and potential, you are usually better served to go with potential. The knowledge and expertise that a person has already acquired is rarely the most important characteristic to look for in a leader, especially in industries like technology where the half-life of expertise tends to be 1 or 2 years.

Hire people smarter than you are, and expect them to do the same.

Here is a link to a great interview of Richard Branson of Virgin Group that demonstrates why you should be motivated to hire the smartest people you can find.

Richard Branson on the Art of Delegation

The title of my current blog post is a quote from an interview of Alan Trefler, founder and chief executive of Pegasystems. He makes the comment in the context of thought leadership, but I think it applies equally well to leadership best practices for decision making at all levels of the organization. He also relates how his experience playing chess when he was young taught him the value of making mistakes, and the value of learning from mistakes so as not repeat them in the future.

The full interview is here: Your Opinions Are Respected (and Required)

Expect to make mistakes with decisions you make.  If you aren’t making mistakes you aren’t making tough decisions. If you aren’t making mistakes you aren’t making decisions at the time when they will have maximum impact (because the time for maximum impact always comes before the time you have all the information needed to guarantee you won’t make a mistake). Not every decision you make will be correct, but the more decisions you make correctly the more effective and efficient your organization will be.

All decisions matter, both big and small. You should be getting nearly every small decision you make correct; if you are not you are probably struggling to keep your projects on track. Big decisions – strategic decisions – are important for the mid and long-term success of your organization, but because these decisions are about things in the mid and long-term future, you have more time to recover from a decision that isn’t 100% correct. Be willing to make mistakes, but be quick to acknowledge and correct them immediately when you recognize an adjustment is necessary.

In my next post we’re going back to the butcher shop for a lesson on how to create an environment that fosters creative and innovative problem solving. The title of my next post will be To Spur Out of the Box Thinking, Don’t Create a Box.  Watch for it here later this week.

I hope you are enjoying (or have already enjoyed) your summer vacation. BTW, do you face the same problem as I do of how to recover from vacation without taking another vacation? What is your solution for finding the right conditions to terminate this recursive loop?



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