Leaders Know How to Select

Gerwig 2015-08-31

Have you ever had to select the person who would replace you? Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to work in a variety of industries: semiconductors, specialty & commodity chemicals, electronics, recycling, fulfillment operations, distribution, and coatings. I’ve also had the pleasure of working full-time in the United States and the Philippines during which time I’ve traveled to over 30 countries and managed multiple plants, factories, and assembly operations. And you know what? In nearly every situation, I was asked, even expected, to select my replacement.

That can be a bit intimidating, right? You’re still in the job, but you’re asked to find someone who can do the job. Do you select a person who can do the job better than you, the same, or worse? What are the implications if you select the person too soon or too late? After selecting them, do you have to train them? Do they work alongside you? Or do you serve as a mentor of sorts until they’re needed? Which, by the way, means that you’ve moved on.

This week’s article won’t attempt to answers all those questions. But I do want to point out that leaders know how to select. Although the key to a strong replacement (or any other member of your team for that matter) includes the behavioral process called “shaping” (basically helping the person grow and develop via behavioral consequences), proper selection certainly helps.

Allow me to explain it this way. A great baseball player, say Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays, had great coaching along their path to Hall of Fame success, but they also had talent. Someone along the way recognized they had talent, perhaps a scout, identified them and passed them along to a coach who helped hone and develop the talent. It takes both, shaping and talent.

The takeway for this week is to remember to look for and select talent. Great leaders surround themselves with great people. They begin with selecting great talent. You may have a natural talent for it or you may have to use some objective criteria, but regardless of your method, you need to be on the lookout for great talent, for your replacement and for your team at large.

The black-eyed susans pictured above serve as a reminder. You may see a field of these beautiful flowers, but you have to select a few for a bouquet you’ll give your wife. How do you select them? Randomly? By the handful? Or do you inspect each one, giving it a careful and thorough review? You can do it however you chose, but when I’m selecting flowers, I inspect each one. When I’m interviewing a candidate for a job, I don’t just take the first person available, I reflect on their character, their experience, their fit for the position, their growth potential, etc.

Once that person is selected, they still need shaping. They still need coaching. You have to take care of them. But you’ll make your job a lot easier if you select well. Don’t get in hurry. Think about it. Select carefully. You’re making an investment.

You don’t have a choice in everything. You don’t select the color of your child’s hair or their gender. You don’t select tomorrow’s weather. You don’t select which team will be victorious. But you can select your spouse, your friends, and your replacement. Many of you either directly select or indirectly influence your team at work. Do so carefully. Think about your choices. What are you basing your selection upon?

However you chose to do make the selection, my biggest word of counsel? Make the selection deliberately, with thought. Don’t allow time or cost pressures to force you to make the selection hastily or without thought. It’s an important decision, to you and to them. Don’t just randomly grab a handful of black-eyed susans for your bouquet. Select each one intentionally and deliberately, and then take care of it. Nuture it. Water it.

How about you? Do you know how to select talent? Are you good at it? Do you truly know how to select or do you just default to those who are available? Have you honed this skill or do you select talent based upon seniority? What success stories (or failures) are you willing to share with others?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.

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