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Trusting Your Gut

Trusting Your Gut

In my role as executive recruiter, I sometimes hear from clients that the candidate they like just “feels right – and know in my gut.”  This sounds great, but how can you be sure that this person will perform? When over 40% of external executive hires fail in the first year, you need to raise your odds of success and get it right. The candidate not only needs to have the ability and the desire to meet your needs, but also has to fit in with the rest of the team in order to perform.
Here are four steps to help validate your gut feelings and improve your odds of making a successful executive hire:
  1. Know what you need to accomplish and define it within the position description. Make sure your candidate covers at least 80% of your requirements. Is this person truly capable of meeting or exceeding your job requirements?
  2. As yourself:  will this person fit into the existing team? What is it about this candidate that confirms how I feel about them?
  3. Listen carefully to the feedback from other interview jury members, and your team.  Take any dissension seriously and explore further with the candidate, and the team.
  4. Validate all of your findings about the candidate with references. You need to be sure you get at least one prior manager, one or two peers and one or two subordinates. You want to know what this candidate is really like to work with from all angles.
Trusting your gut is good, as it is typically a function of your collective experiences.  Validating your gut instinct ensures successful hiring. It is very hard to explain to your board of directors that you feel great about this candidate without substantiation. It is too risky.
Working with Laura and her team also ensures you won’t make the mistake of hiring someone who cannot perform well within your team –or who has a checkered past. Our role is to see all sides of a candidate, keep your hiring decisions objective and assuring your success through hiring top talent.
Potential vs. Capacity

Potential vs. Capacity

Sometimes, when we initiate a search project, the client requests sound similar to this:  “We want to hire an ‘up and comer’ or a ‘high potential’ candidate”. Generally, the motivations are along this thought process: The candidate will work harder for us, they will not have expectations or limitations and biases from their past similar roles, and the client can pay a lower salary and bonus to get the job done. Efficient thinking, right?

This can be true of many C-Suite hires, VP roles, where the client believes a senior director,  who is ready to step up,  would work very well, especially in a smaller company. While I agree with the logic of this, many times this is not how it plays out in real life. You need to be certain of the candidate’s capabilities – that they are not just “high potential” but also highly capable. We tend, as humans, to be enamored by potential. What is important is capability. So, how do you measure capability?

First you need to clearly define your business goals and objectives for the role you intend to hire for – in other words – if you hire a great candidate, what outcomes do you expect? What do you want to accomplish with this hire? Then you need to look at what the candidate has already accomplished to date in their current and previous roles to see how they measure up to what you want to accomplish.

For example, you want to commercialize a novel and disruptive technology, in doing this, you will replace or improve a standard of care treatment protocol? Has this person done this before? Did they set the strategy for the launch? What were the results? Did they hire a team and consultants or use partners and distributors? Were they on target with sales? What was their spending budget? How well did they coordinate with other key members of the leadership team?

For C-Suite hires you also need to examine the candidate’s leadership capacity. How well is this person able to establish trust quickly, build strong relationships based upon mutual respect with your other leadership team members, how well do they communicate ideas, negotiate good outcomes for all, focus on advancing the company more than their personal agenda, you need to know –  will people follow them? If you want to grow your company, these are critical capabilities you need to understand in your candidate. It is easiest to determine when the candidate has executed this in their previous roles.

If the candidate has not demonstrated mastery of these skills and abilities, then they will not be able to bring that to your company. However, if they have hired and led teams of people, mentored and developed subordinates, and demonstrated key leadership capabilities while they executed well, then they could step up into a bigger role.

When defining capacity, it is very important to conduct thorough reference checks – from the people that the candidate has worked for, with and supervised. You need to understand the candidate’s “in the trenches” strengths and weaknesses, not just the surface person you meet in the interview process. You also need to understand how this person’s skills have evolved and grown over past roles, that will also provide insight into how this candidate will grow with you. It is especially important to understand how the candidate manages pressure and unexpected events. This information will allow you to learn just how to motivate, and manage the candidate, as well as their capacity for growth and execution.

Remember, hiring potential can lead to unmet business endpoints if the person does not have the capacity or capability to perform to your needs. It is very important to learn as much as you can about the candidate – their strengths as well as their weaknesses and capabilities before you hire.

Working with a seasoned executive search consultant can help you not only identify strengths and weaknesses, but also help you rank candidates with their peer group, ensuring that you make a great hire every time.

This is part of the value a seasoned recruiter brings to you and your company. We understand how the right people influence the success of a company. We follow strong performing companies and their key players. With 20 years of experience placing candidates in top C-suite positions in the health care technology industry, we can help you find the right candidate who has the decision-making experience and skills to continue the growth and success of your company. Contact us to start the conversation.
Three Steps to Calibrating Talent for Fit

Three Steps to Calibrating Talent for Fit

When I was in elementary school, I became frustrated working on teams selected by a numbering system. Some people understood the project goals and got to work. Others focused their effort on destroying what we built or picking fights. Some simply goofed off.
I would come home discouraged and explain my experience to my Dad. He listened patiently, then said, “It’s hard to soar like an eagle when you’re surrounded by turkeys.” So often in life, we are randomly selected to work together. Clearly some people are of the same caliber, while others were not. It is nearly impossible to perform at your highest level when working on teams where everyone is not an eagle.
How do you calibrate talent? As the CEO, how do you make sure the team you put together consists of eagles?
Here are 3 steps that help:
  1.  Identify core values you want your team to share.
  2.  Identify 6 key goals you want to accomplish by adding to your team. Ferret out what accomplishments your candidate needs to have met or exceeded, for example, running a $50 million division versus a $5 billion division.
  3. Identify 4 key attributes in your current team that makes them successful in your company. For example, how do they manage tough situations? How do they communicate vision for their teams? Is there a bias towards execution or building consensus before execution?
A good professional recruiter helps you identify these personal attributes and prioritize them. Armed with this information about your context, the recruiter can identify and present only candidates who meet or exceed your criteria:
  • The recruiter knows people and the entire pool you are looking at. It’s easy for us to calibrate talent. The best recruiters remember great talent, and often keep them top of mind.
  • Good recruiters then vet people for “fit”. We know whether someone will work well with you, and only send the right people your way.
Our job is to know the universe of talent in the C suite and to calibrate that talent. To be sure we have a list of A Talent ( eagles), we not only dig into our network, we also continue to identify, source, and screen talent for each and every search, providing you fresh talent for each role we are hired to help you fill. This ensures you get new – and likely unfamiliar – candidates to assess on your own. We make it possible for you to hire the very best talent available.
Assessing an Executive’s Ability to Make Good Decisions

Assessing an Executive’s Ability to Make Good Decisions

Why are some executives considered great decision makers and others are only good or adequate? Great decision makers know when to delegate decisions, understand the risk of not delegating decisions, and when it is critical to make the call themselves. These great decision makers are also great listeners. They are careful to consider other viewpoints, especially strongly opposing ones, and are free to explore how the other side feels about the options.

CEOs are often perceived as having all the answers, when in fact, they simply cannot know everything that is happening in the company, the industry, and with their board of directors. They must learn to build a trustworthy team that fills in the gaps. Great decision makers simply delegate decisions to people who do have the information and answers when they can.

Another decision making misperception is that one bad decision will end a long career. This is simply not true if the CEO has established credibility. We all know everyone makes mistakes; if the decision causes your team to lose respect and diminishes your credibility then sure, you are in trouble. But if you have credibility and make a judgment error, you can and will recover, especially if you make another decision to quickly re-route the results of the last decision.

Credibility is the key to an executive’s ability to execute – it helps you gain access to the right people, the right information, investments, support, customers, etc. allowing you to ultimately make better decisions.

Credibility is built upon a track record of execution, integrity (yes – this is still alive and well in business), the people you surround yourself with, and managing your board communications.

The best decision-makers are recognizable from the people they surround themselves with, their track record of success in a certain area, their ability to gather assimilate information, and the knowledge of when to delegate decisions and when the buck stops here. They also operate with the utmost integrity and people will tell you how great they are to work with. At the bottom of it all is how they manage their working relationships to make the entire system work to their benefit. These are the CEOs you want on your team.

Search Completion Announcement – JJDC

Search Completion Announcement – JJDC

JJDC Hired Asha Nayak MD PhD  
Vice President Investor Consumer Health
Asha Nayak MD PhD
Asha joins Johnson & Johnson Development Corporation with over 20 years of experience developing medical technologies. Throughout her career, Asha has focused on game-changing breakthroughs that move the needle for large numbers of patients in life-changing ways. As a practicing physician, she is especially interested in technologies that cure, prevent, and deliver therapies with precision. In addition to her work in development, Asha brings 10+ years of corporate and venture investment experience to JJDC. 
Prior to her start at JJDC Asha served as a board of director at Sage Therapeutics, HD Medical, and Stanford University. She has assisted numerous startup companies in the Silicon Valley while maintaining her position as an ER Physician at Stanford VA Hospital since 2001.
Welcome to The JJDC team Asha!
Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Inc. is the strategic venture capital arm of Johnson & Johnson. JJDC pursues opportunities to solve critical healthcare needs. Their portfolio companies benefit from the full global capabilities of Johnson & Johnson as they collaborate to drive innovation. JJDC finds transformative ideas and helps them mature into real solutions for today’s patients. Guided by a clear, consistent investment strategy aligned with scientific goals, JJDC works hand-in-hand with partners to navigate the path to creating breakthrough health innovations. They invest across sectors-pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and consumer healthcare-and at all stages, from seed-level startups to Series B and beyond.  
Learn more at www.jnjinnovation.com/jjdc

 

Can a Nice CEO still be Effective?

Can a Nice CEO still be Effective?

I recently had lunch with a serial successful CEO (more than 1 successful company he led to significantly increased shareholder value). We talked about the requirements for successful CEOs. I was curious, I wanted to hear his point of view. What was important to him.  The CEO role is a lonely job, and he felt he needed to be comfortable with who he is, the decisions he makes, the board communications, and the results he was getting due to his leadership capacity.  A few concepts surfaced: authenticity, generosity, level-headed behavior, developing and mentoring talent, focus, open communication, and highly developed emotional intelligence.  It is important to understand that kindness is not synonymous with weakness and can be considered a competitive advantage.  Let’s explore this concept further.
This CEO suggested strength in these key attributes helps him perform at his highest level and build trust and credibility with his team at every level.  He suggested that at times, being nice means being firm, and keeping the team on track.  It does not mean to acquiesce or defer to not offend someone because they think differently. This CEO believes that it is nicer to be direct, to keep everyone on track, and focused on the right activities to drive the right results.
The CEO role is complex and requires many skills and diverse activities:  raising money (public and private markets, or generating revenue), manage the Board communications and feedback, set strategic direction for the company, communicate goals to the team, manage the people to the goals, and set the tone for how work is accomplished. Every CEO is measured both by the results they get and how they manage their relationships at all levels.
There is some misconception that being an effective leader is to be difficult, abrasive, demanding, or curt.  However, the most effective CEOs are considerate, transparent, and firm.  The more consistent and emotionally even the CEO is with communications, the more trust one builds, and more is accomplished with their teams.
You are probably thinking, this sounds like a lot of soft skills, right?  It is, being true to yourself is also important.  Authenticity builds trust quickly at all levels.  It is about possessing the emotional intelligence and honing this skill over time, leading small teams, learning what does and does not work, and applying that learning to each assignment.
When assessing CEO’s for clients, I want to know how they approach leading a team – both with an inherited team and one they choose. I want to know their capacity for mentoring and leading.  Their tolerance for development and how they make hiring/ firing decisions.  What their preferences are for building and leading teams, and working with the board (communication style, setting strategy, etc.). Understanding their approach is important to the selection committee on the board of directors because hiring the RIGHT CEO is the most important job a board has. The Right CEO makes all the rest of the work of being on a board much easier. It is also critical to the success of the organization.
When we help clients find the right CEO we dig as much into understanding the candidate’s soft skills and abilities as we do the technical – we know leadership is an art as much as it is a science and getting the right fit is critical for our clients’ success.

 

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