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Building a Leadership Team

Grace Blue Partner, Debra Sercy, on how to make sure you get the most out of your new executive hire.

Bringing in a new executive team leader has huge implications for your company. You can’t make a shift in leadership at the top level without sending a ripple effect through your entire organization, so making the right choice is extremely important. The right skills are obviously a requirement for any new hire, but what’s often overlooked in the process is a consideration of how a new person fits into and complements (or perhaps hinders) the ultimate success of your existing team. Whether it’s a new CEO, strategic lead, or senior creative – there are a few simple guidelines that can help you ensure that you’re getting the most out of a new executive addition to an existing team.

Never Hire for an Empty Role – Hire to Solve a Business Problem

We never approach a new hire brief with a position to fill. Instead, we begin with a conversation with our partner about the business problems they hope to solve with the new hire. The end result is often a discovery that what they need is something different from what they’re asking for. The business world (and communications space especially) is changing at a rapid rate. When a position opens, especially at the senior level, use this as an opportunity to be agile and think about how your team is structured, and make adjustments if necessary. And don’t overlook the opportunity to refine the makeup of a team and the mix of complementary skillsets when making adjustments.

Define the Veto Power

If you’re the leader of your company (or team), it’s important to retain control of the search for a new member. While it is helpful to get insight from the current team on the brief for a new hire, you have to guide the search and be brave enough to make the call. Once you decide on one or two top candidates, you can introduce the team to make sure the chemistry fit is strong; but be crystal clear who does and does not have a veto on the hiring decision.

Dig Deeper

While this may seem like a no-brainer, it’s important to remember that just because you know a new hire’s background doesn’t mean you’ll know about other unique, and often valuable skills and interests that could be put to use in their new role. Define these skills and make sure they are taken into account when determining the candidate’s success metrics and opportunities to grow. For example, if you’re looking to hire a CSO, they probably have the strategic insight necessary to assist with company positioning in partnership with a CMO and may find the opportunity to use their expertise to guide the company’s positioning. Don’t forget that every leader you hire brings something unique to the table. Dig deeper to discover those unique bits and use them to your advantage.

Stay Close

It’s important to stay close as your new employee begins work. Some employers wait months – or even years – to conduct a performance review on new employees. We check in with talent we’ve placed on a regular basis to ensure that they’re getting the support they need from an employer and are feeling challenged. Employers should be doing the same thing. The more frequent communication with the new hire, the better. Not only will you improve the employee’s impact on your business, but a new employee can often give unique insight on the company’s way of working and opportunities to evolve for greater success.

Reference Wisely

Most people still treat reference checks as a last chance to catch any problems they might have missed in an interview. That’s going about it all wrong! References aren’t just for checking to ensure that the person’s skillset is a match: it’s much more about getting tips and hints about how to make them a success at the new company. Identifying tactics that helped propel – or hinder – the person in previous roles will help you ensure the new employee will be successful in their new role. You should use referencing as a chance to ask past employers and peers about a candidate’s real strengths. The themes that emerge through referencing are invaluable in creating a plan that takes the best advantage of those attributes.

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