In their new book, "You Need a Leader—Now What?" Jim Citrin and Julie Daum offer advice and insightful case studies on how organizations can develop a process to select the best leader for a unique culture and set of needs. Here, they describe how a small New England medical office made the right hire by following a set of essential truths about choosing a leader. Read an excerpt.
Dr. Jerome Barton, the senior orthopedic surgeon at the Norwalk, Connecticut, offices of Coastal Orthopaedics called asking for advice on how to recruit a new doctor to his practice. Four senior doctors had been partners for years, and it was time to bring in the next generation. There were a few problems. First, they hadn’t found a way to agree on the ideal skill set. Should it be a hand, shoulder, or knee specialist? Or should it be a generalist? Second, they were terrified of bringing in a young doctor who had great credentials but who would turn out to be a bad fit with the cohesive and collaborative culture of the office. Third, how would they actually interview candidates to come to agreement and ensure the best result?
After some discussion, the approach became clear to Barton. He spent the weekend drafting a briefing document that would be both a road map as to what the four partners should be looking for and a selling document for prospective candidates. The paper provided background on the history of the practice, the key metrics of the office, the types of patients served, specialties covered, and the team-oriented structure and culture. Next, it articulated the desired professional experience (shoulder or knee specialty) and the interpersonal characteristics sought in candidates (collaboration, responsiveness, strong work ethic, positive disposition).
Then Barton sent the four-page document to his partners and suggested they discuss it in the office on Monday morning. With the first draft of the “spec” in hand, it made for a constructive and relatively even- keeled conversation and they quickly achieved consensus on what they were looking for. Later, the finalized document was sent to each of the candidates in advance of their interviews. None of these up-and-coming doctors had ever seen any other medical practice be so strategic in their hiring, which presented Coastal in a positive and highly differentiated light. When it came to the interviews, rather than having relatively unstructured conversations with variability from one candidate to another, Barton and his partners developed specific questions linked to the requirements to ask each candidate. They also agreed to interview as a group so that they would all experience the candidates in the same way, and while one partner was asking questions, the others could listen. This had the additional benefit of bringing to life the collaborative and cohesive culture that was so important at Coastal. After each interview, they spent fifteen minutes comparing notes about what they liked and didn’t like about the candidate. Finally, at the end of the long day, the four doctors completed a rating sheet scoring each candidate on the specific professional and personal attributes listed in the spec. After about an hour of discussion, presenting and defending various candidates and scores, a unanimous choice emerged. Their top choice was hired, and in the time since he started he has brought a new energy and positive dynamic to their practice.
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The thought process and approach of "You Need a Leader—Now What?" helped four highly experienced doctors come to agreement on what they were looking for and how to pursue it.
As a result, they successfully solved a succession decision that could otherwise have been emotion charged and risky.
Now think, on average, how many people decisions do you make a day? Decisions such as: Who is the right person for the job? Who is the best colleague to lead a work group? To whom should I assign a particular project? Whose judgment do I trust with a sensitive piece of information?
At least five, no matter whether you work in a corporation, not-for-profit, consulting firm, bank, health- care facility, or school. That means about one thousand people- related decisions over the course of the year, not including weekends, evenings, or vacations when you may also be deciding who should head up the parents’ committee at school, whom to hire to plan the wedding, or whom to entrust with your finances.
People decisions— especially those involving leadership jobs— have exponential consequences on both the upside and downside; and the more senior the leadership appointment, the greater the ramifications. When you get these decisions right, you achieve better results and do so with much less time and angst. You lead a more satisfying and balanced day-to-day life because you attract better people who work more independently and produce better results. The most important work gets done well and in a timely fashion. It is even better when these are people whom you both respect and enjoy spending time with. You create and reinforce a culture in which you and your colleagues can do your best work and you unleash a virtuous cycle in which strong performers attract other strong performers and good performance leads to better performance.
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On the other side of the coin, getting it wrong can land you in a quagmire. When your employees are weak, you are forced to spend more time and emotional energy explaining what needs to get done and how to do it. You’ll soon be looking in the mirror and seeing that micromanager you’ve always detested and resented. Choosing the wrong people forces you to spend more time adjudicating issues that others should be capable of resolving. That client report that you were counting on doesn’t meet your standards and you find yourself having to send it back or, more likely, redoing the work yourself. Project teams turn dysfunctional and argumentative rather than vehicles for getting things done.
Whether you are involved in helping to recruit a new corporate chief executive, selecting the next president of a museum, or hiring any senior manager, there is a core set of three principles— essential truths— about what to do, how to do it, and what not to do. Applied together they will dramatically improve your rate of success in making important people leadership decisions.
We believe that the lessons of "You Need a Leader— Now What?" will also help guide you in your own professional career. When you have the opportunity to consider your next job, you will have greater insight into how decisions are made at the highest levels, which will in turn help you get the positions you want and support you in achieving your goals.
From the book YOU NEED A LEADER—NOW WHAT by Jim Citrin, published by Crown Business, a division of Random House, Inc. Copyright © 2011 by Jim Citrin Reprinted with permission.
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