What Could Go Wrong? Part 2: “Great Athlete, Wrong Game”

by Stanley H. Davis, Standish Executive Search, LLC

To better appreciate the extensive recruiting challenges that confront business leaders, Standish interviewed a cross-section of 20 leaders* who acknowledged that their next failed hire won’t be their first. As C-level executives, business owners, corporate recruiters and consultants, they all appreciated most of the right steps to secure great new leaders. Thus their revisiting their own recruiting missteps was particularly instructive.

This is Part Two of a Three-Part Series of recruiting errors made by seasoned business leaders.
Part One (“The Thrill of the Hunt”) has already been posted. Part Three (“Spiking the Ball on the Five-Yard Line”) will be posted in the coming days. All three parts appear in a full article on our website.

PART 2:  Great Athlete, Wrong Game

In too many placements, some corporate leaders recounted the hiring of talented, knowledgeable, successful people who then found themselves lost in a strange new culture (beliefs, practices, behavior, customs, history).

One CEO recalls his company’s captivation by a candidate’s intelligence, industry experience and track record, ignoring the cultural mismatch that was eventually destructive. More than one of our executives still regret having done a poor up-front job defining company culture so that they could have avoided the wrong candidate. Another added that the use of a formal assessment tool could have been helpful.

Once on the job, those new executives who were inadequately matched to the culture had difficulty collaborating with peers, marshaling the support of subordinates and establishing their own credibility. They clashed with bosses or Boards. A former CEO, now consultant, cites the new hire who was intentionally engaged as a culture misfit to quickly and single-handedly change a flawed culture. He failed.

Many wrongly assumed that an executive successful in one culture could easily adapt to a new one. This assumption commonly ended in termination or resignation, often within six months.

Sometimes it was leaders or their recruiting departments who ignored this variable. One executive recalls the search firm that didn’t take the time to understand his culture.

*Participating executives for this post included industry leaders from aerospace, biotech, business services, logistics, transportation, retail, government contracting, plastics, consumer products, industrial equipment, healthcare, chemical products, business.

Stanley H. Davis is the founding principal of New England-based Standish Executive Search, LLC. Standish works with company owners, executives and boards of larger and smaller companies to recruit the right leaders for business growth, change and succession.  www.standishsearch.com