Hiring the best vs. hiring the familiar – Mark MacLeod

November 3, 2020 - Mark MacLeod

Hiring the best vs. hiring the familiar

It is usually a good sign when people that have worked with a CEO in a past company follow that person to the next company. You only become a leader when people choose to follow you. So if they are willing to follow someone again, then that is a true endorsement of leadership.

Still, the very definition of a startup is to create something valuable out of nothing in a compressed timeframe. The context, challenges and key success factors are typically different each time. I don’t take it as a given that the people who helped you succeed last time are the exact right people for the next challenge.

For one, your new company may be at a different stage than when you brought on your past leaders. Are the leaders who helped you achieve an exit before the right people at the startup stage? Can they roll their sleeves up and execute individually as well as through others, given how small the team is at the start?

Moreover, because of your past success, the people you can attract as a leader are likely of higher calibre than in your past company.

The obvious, consensus decision is probably the wrong one when it comes to defining a new market opportunity. There is a risk that pre-existing teams will too quickly form consensus due to their shared history and established patterns of operating. This is not universally true. Just a risk.

New DNA in the form of new leaders you have never worked with before, with diverse backgrounds, experience sets, points of view and networks can bring a lot to the table.

I’m not saying it is, by default, a bad thing to bring the band together again. Just do so on the merits. Do so because you have thought about exactly what skills and capabilities you need and have realized (by interviewing new people as well), that your past colleagues are the absolutely best people for you.

Never settle on talent. Especially at the senior leadership level. Don’t default for the familiar. Only allow for the best.

Questions to consider:

What process did I go through to assemble my senior leadership team?

Did I think about the unique challenges and skills needed for this company? Or did I look at who I worked with in the past?

Did I meet enough candidates to feel confident that I have hired the best?

Am I too comfortable with my senior team and vice versa?

If I had a do-over, would I make any changes to the team?

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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