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Leadership Development 22 June 2015

Do you keep hiring yourself?

You’re a great leader aren’t you? You lead a high-performing team, you’ve got a strong vision for the future, and any issues that arise are dealt with head on, and with humanity. You’ve got it all going on.

But now you need to hire new people to join your team. How do you decide what kind of person you need? And how do you stop subconsciously hiring yourself over and over?

It’s a fact; leaders hire themselves

74% of leaders surveyed by Corporate Executive Board said that the person they most recently hired was ‘in their own image’. This, apart from a startling lack of humility, might also betray an inability to appreciate strengths in others which are different from their own. So, what does all this mean?

Let’s imagine you’re a leader brimming over with Sunshine Yellow energy. Your team love you because you’re brilliantly visionary, you initiate projects with uninhibited enthusiasm, you love trying new solutions to old problems, and you’re a real people person – interested, engaged and easy to talk to.

However, the team also gets frustrated by your lack of purpose – you are juggling so many projects that none gets the deserved amount of focus. You’re (admit it) prone to flights of fancy which have no basis in pragmatic reality, you don’t always appreciate the finer details of reports, and you just won’t stop talking!

If you keep hiring in your own image, what is the result going to be? A team which is unbalanced – lacking in planning and forethought, not keen on heavily detailed pieces of work, and, yes, maybe a little on the noisy side. It’s also going to be fun, engaged, enthusiastic, creative and brilliant at kicking off new projects, but you see my point. Inadvertently, over time, you will have created a lopsided team which gets a reputation for being fun, but not always delivering.

And trust me – I’m not picking on all you Sunshine Yellow leaders out there! Each leader has their own natural gifts and challenges. For example a leader with dominant Cool Blue energy who is hot on painstaking research but slow to embrace new ideas. Or, an Earth Green leader who is a great mentor and support to the team, but who finds it difficult to come up with new solutions to old problems. And of course, the Fiery Red leader who, yes, gets the job done, but leaves a trail of quivering team members in their wake.

So, do you keep hiring yourself? And what are you going to do about it?

Getting your balance

As ever, at Insights, everything starts with the individual. If you, as a leader, understand your strengths, what you bring to a team and what you’re not so great at, then that’s a great jumping off point. Working through your Insights Discovery Personal Profile is a vital first step. Make an honest assessment of your weaknesses, and acknowledge the gaps that you need to fill. It’s only by doing this that you’ll know what you need, rather than what you want.

During the recruitment process, take a mental step back. Fight the urge to dismiss skills that you don’t instinctively rate, or that fall outside of your comfort zone. For example, if you’re a Cool Blue leader who makes decisions based on thorough research, then a risk-taking innovator may not be your cup of tea.

But they just might be critical to the creative success of your team. Similarly, you might want to run screaming from the room at talk of spreadsheets and deliverables, but hiring someone with those gifts might just be the best thing you could do.

Avoiding groupthink (conformity of a group in their decision making without challenging each other to think critically) may actually be pivotal to the success of your team. A homogeneous team makes bad business sense and can even be perceived as discriminatory. A variety of experience, backgrounds and approaches can only stand you in good stead.

So, the next time you’re putting together a new role profile, don’t ask for what you want; ask for what you – and your team - really need. The objective is not to build a team of people you can have cocktails with on a Friday night. Your challenge is to build a balanced team that is smart and creative, but also committed to getting the job done.

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