Can you help choose your boss?

Choosing a leader for a team is a massive responsibility. When filling vacancies, it is always important to pick a candidate with right skills, experience, personality and cultural fit. It is commonly accepted that a candidate has to fit well into the job and the job be right for the candidate too.

When we recruit someone to lead a team, there are other subtleties beyond those well-known considerations. When there are groups involved, we can turn this two-dimensional view of the matching process into a three-dimensional cube. The success of that candidate doesn’t only depend of their fit to the role but also their fit with the team, especially their direct reports.

In my experience, the recruitment process can be a great opportunity for a future leader to take the first steps in building relationships with their team and also ensuring they are keen for them to succeed in the role.

If we want the new leader to have the best possible chances to be accepted by the team, it is good to involve them in the recruitment process. In particular, the people that will be reporting into the role, letting them be involved and have a voice in the selection process. You might think that this is a little risky. “Why should I let other people interfere in my decision?” “They might complain or put barriers in my way.” “They might not like the person I want to recruit.”

Yes that is a risk. However, it is probably better to end up taking a little bit longer to recruit someone into a role, knowing that they will be a good fit and also accepted by the team, than put whoever you prefer in the role and then face a lot of resistance.

Resistance will translate into difficulties, more time for the person to start making changes and unnecessary fears in the team. The emotional state in the department is also an important consideration. Sometimes the team may have quite a lot of attachment to their old manager, or they can be particularly sensitive to a change because they had a bad experience with a previous one.

Allowing direct reports to be involved in the selection process has some advantages:

  • They will feel empowered and motivated by having a voice in the matter.
  • They will share some of the responsibility in the choice.
  • They will realise that there is always a compromise in the recruitment process hence managing their expectations.
  • They will be more likely to do what they can to help their new manager succeed.

When someone or something is put in front of us, it’s easy and tempting to pick faults. When we have helped made the decision we are more likely to support that choice and focus the advantages instead of the shortfalls.

I have followed this approach in a number of occasions and it has been a total success. If you are a hiring manager of managers, why don’t you have a go and see what results you get?


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