Many companies have filled their corner offices with mediocre executives. A set of basic practices can help organizations avoid such a crucial mistake.
There are three reasons why companies have trouble finding and hiring top-notch executives. First, even organizations that are adept at selecting winners will have considerable difficulty because of the way in which managerial talent is distributed across a population. Second, assessing people for senior positions is inherently tricky for a number of reasons. For one thing, the differentiating competencies for top leaders are usually in “soft” areas — such as the ability to develop people or manage change efforts — each of which is very difficult to measure in any reliable way. Finally, powerful psychological biases impair the quality of the hiring decision.
Nevertheless, organizations can overcome those obstacles by deploying a set of basic practices: Define before looking, cast a wide net, compare apples with apples, evaluate thoroughly, filter biases, limit the number of people involved, close the deal and facilitate the integration. Although some of those practices might seem obvious, many companies fail to follow them. All too often, for instance, organizations make the mistake of commencing an executive search before they know what they’re really looking for. Or they unnecessarily restrict the search to certain markets, industries or geographic regions. Because of such mistakes, contends the author, the problem of poor appointments for top positions is serious and pervasive at many companies, even blue-chip corporations.