One of the many great things about working in the staffing industry is that we get to serve as a trusted advisor to our clients. In addition to providing quality candidates, we may be called on for our expertise on a range of other hiring and employment issues to help our clients’ businesses achieve greater success. In the best-case scenarios, we can draw on our experiences as owners and leaders at our companies when consulting with clients.
That may involve helping a client assess the roles and responsibilities that are needed as the company evolves. It may involve conducting a workforce skills audit to determine if upskilling current employees or adding new team members is the best way to fill gaps. Or, it may involve providing guidance to a client about one of the most pivotal decisions a company faces as it charts a course for the future: filling leadership positions.
When hiring for the leadership team, there are a number of factors to consider — some typical, some unique — when assessing candidates, whether they’re internal or external. A demonstrated high degree of competency in the profession, such as marketing, HR, sales, or finance, and a track record of results are key criteria. Experience in the industry is nice, but not a requirement. And compensation is always part of the mix.
At the same time, it’s reasonable to assume when hiring at the executive leadership level that you’ll find qualified candidates with great credentials and that you’ll reach agreement on salary and benefits. With those types of considerations being equal among candidates, what should be most important when evaluating someone for a leadership role? Our experience shows that attitude and approach ultimately make the difference.
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The defining characteristics of attitude and approach will vary at every company, so it’s essential to know what they are before beginning the hiring process. Keeping the list to five or fewer traits is ideal. We’ve identified three at our company.
- Entrepreneurial spirit. We want leaders who have experience building a company and will roll up their sleeves to do whatever needs to be done, in every aspect of the organization. For example, the night before our first group of employees returned to the office recently, a couple members of the local management team went in to sanitize workspaces one last time as an extra measure of safety.
- Enthusiasm. This is a must-have characteristic. We want leaders who are excited, passionate, and energetic about growth for colleagues, clients, and candidates.
- Empathy. Perhaps most important at this moment in time is empathy. The ability to genuinely understand what an employee, client, or candidate is experiencing and expressing, and tailoring how you engage with an individual based on that awareness, is always essential in a relationship business. That’s especially true in the era of Covid-19 when there’s more uncertainty and anxiety than ever.
The second part of the equation when building a great leadership team is making sure that you cover all your bases in thoroughly vetting candidates. Conduct a personality profile assessment using a testing tool, ensure people from all departments are involved in the interviewing process, arrange a small group dinner, and take similar steps.
Hiring for leadership positions is one of the most important decisions an executive makes. By identifying the traits that are required in every leader at the company in order for everyone to be successful, you’ll be well on your way to building a great leadership team.