How to Find Executives that Fit Your Company’s Culture
Culture–what is it and how does it impact our executive hiring decisions?
It happens all the time—an organization hires for a critical executive level role or even the President or CEO, and he/she doesn’t work out. All the time and money expended recruiting, training, onboarding and so on didn’t work out. Why does this happen when the executive candidate was great on paper, interviewed well with the selection team, and even passed some testing you put them through? When asked that question and why the hire didn’t work out, the answer often is, “they just didn’t fit.” Usually, that means they didn’t fit the culture. If so, what does that mean and how do you avoid the same mistake again?
What many organizations do is answer these questions from a “gut feel” perspective. You’ve heard the statements: “we’ll know it when we see it,” “they just don’t seem to fit, but I can’t put my finger on it.” Sometimes companies are trying to change their culture and bring in a “change agent” but find out that the new hire was too different and the organization wasn’t ready for that fast of a change.
To keep from making this mistake follow these 5 steps:
1. Define what your culture or subculture is
Build an understanding of what your corporate culture or subculture is. For example for a Vice President of Sales search, the culture of the executive leadership team may be different than that of the field sales force; you need to understand both and find an executive who can work successfully in both.
2. Assess how the organization works and makes decisions
This is really another culture assessment. Companies are often defined as being sales-driven, financially driven, engineering-driven, etc. If you and your organization are sales-driven, that is, the leader and the culture are driven by and make decisions about sales first; then you should consider finding another leader with the same mindset and background that thinks and manages the business in the same manner. At M&A Executive Search we’ve seen many instances where an organization brings in a new leader that doesn’t fit the company culture, and they struggle. In one example, a sales-driven company hired a President that was operations-driven, and while operations metrics improved, sales were down. Another company was engineering-driven, and the COO that they hired was financially driven, but it was difficult to get things done in an environment that was engineering- and data-driven and the COO struggled to make a difference in this culture.
3. If the organization is attempting to change cultures then what?
If you’ve defined what your culture is, often you can use the assessment tool to help determine what you’re looking for in candidates when you’re trying to change the culture. What we recommend at M&A Executive Search is finding an executive candidate who bridges both the culture that you currently have, but also leans toward, and has the leadership skills, to bring about organizational change. Remember this takes years, and sometimes more than one leader to embrace and drive.
4. Don’t forget to follow your strategic plan
When hiring for C-Suite and VP level executives don’t forget to follow your strategic plan and find someone that has experience in the direction the organization is going AND fits your culture. Don’t make the mistake of hiring for what your current challenges are and lose focus on the future plans of the organization.
5. Have an objective approach for evaluating candidates
It’s critical to define and communicate an objective approach that the organization will use to evaluate candidates to fill executive and leadership roles. Without doing this, an organization tends to gravitate to hiring professionals that are like them, like the person who was previously in the role, and not the professional the organization needs for the future.
It can be very difficult and sometimes inaccurate assessing what your organization truly needs 3-5 years down the road, but the organizations that get these key hires right, and have a future-looking, and a competency-growing mindset will have a distinct competitive advantage over their competitors over time.
M&A Executive Search encourages clients to plan for the future and helps clients through the key steps of hiring for future transformation. We have both competency and cultural assessments, and other evaluation tools that help clients through this process and truly hire for what they really need.