What criteria would Nelson Mandela use to choose his employees? Written by Rainer Tischler
Would he look for years of “industry” experience and general Competencies or more for results, tenacity, discipline, tolerance and people skills? This is a hypothetical question since we will not get an answer from him.
Senior leadership positions need the same “ingredients” irrespective of the industry. All organizations live by delivered results. One should then be interested in how somebody achieves his or her results and how long it takes for somebody to achieve the results. Lou Adler stated in one of his articles that “To assess potential, ask candidates to describe their greatest accomplishment with the least amount of experience. Reason: aren’t the strongest people those who can accomplish more with less?
Industry knowledge and specific experiences contribute to achieving results but are not the key success factors of leaders who achieve results.
Why is it then so difficult for ‘result delivering leaders’ to move into other industries? Is it because recruiters/hiring managers subscribe to the theory that in order to reduce risks, they need to focus on hiring somebody with industry experience?
Leaders deliver results by aligning and managing employee behaviours of their organization and by being coaches. The employee behaviours at all levels must focus on achieving agreed business results. Managers are coaches for their supervised employees and as such coach them to improve the result driven behaviours for the next level. The focus must be on doing more of the behaviours which “work” for us (bring positive results) and refining them (make then better). It is important to recognize achievements and communicate them in a brief and precise manner to the team. Feedback is crucial. Helping somebody to improve a result driven behaviour by asking the right questions is motivating and encouraging. Being told that we made a mistake without help/advice on how to improve is counter productive and is demotivating.
How can we find out whether somebody is result driven , disciplined, decisive and team focused (to name some “ingredients”)?
The right questions must be asked, after which some guts is required to make a hiring decision. Ascertain what behaviours the leader showed when he/ she had:
– Major achievements (results) and role in achieving them
– Demonstrated discipline
– Was decisive
– Donstrated leadership
– and implemented plans
It is more difficult to evaluate the relevance of such examples for a recruiter then the years of industry experience and other qualifications.
Not having had sufficient working experience, I remember the interview with my first boss. All I had were my certificates to prove that I would be the right person for the job. However, he did not want to see my certificates and papers (they had already been reviewed by his admin department during the shortlisting process). He was more interested on how I achieved my degrees as this was a clear indication of discipline to him. The hiring was based on his personal assessment of my demonstrated behaviours (what you can see, hear or feel) and the behaviours he thought I would demonstrate in order to contribute towards delivering results within his team. It worked out to be a very successful relationship and I was fortunate to have been given the opportunity to shine!
My guess is that Mandela would have tried to hire people with perseverance, discipline, tolerance and a main focus on achievements. A lawyer with 20 years of experience in a prison would be difficult to find.