Hiring Issues: Follow-Up To “One CEO’s Definition Of A Perfect Day”

December 22, 2011

I received a lot of positive feedback on the blog I wrote about a discussion I had with a successful former CEO I promoted and mentored as a management team member at Oracle, followed throughout his career, learned as much from them as I gave and consider a great friend.

After I wrote the blog (which you can read about here), I have been thinking a lot about the Manage Talent point that the CEO made and one of the takeaways I discussed at the end of the blog that hiring the best and retaining the best people is how great companies are built.

I believe that the only real strategic advantage a company has is its people. I have written about this a few times in the past.

I also know that one of the biggest challenges founders, CEOs and their management teams face is managing that talent and more importantly identifying current management team members or employees that are holding back the company from being more successful. This means coaching and in many cases counseling these people out of their role into a new one they can be successful in or out of the company — weeding the garden so to speak.

Below are some common hiring issues many companies’ management teams face as they deal with rapid growth:

  • The mis-hire… This is the easiest situation for most founders, CEOs and their management teams to address since the employee has not been with the company long. This situation commonly occurs when companies are hiring for skill set and have not established the company values and the individual turns out not to be a fit with the culture or when the hiring process does no make sure the individual understand the processes and activities they will be held accountable for in the role. Making sure the hiring process covers these areas and also making sure you have a rigorous 30-60-90 day review process for new hires with the team to ensure they are successful. If there is a doubt within 90 days, you likely have made a mis-hire and need to counsel them out.
  • The long-term employee… This may be one of the founders or the first 10 employees, for example, whose role has outgrown their skill set. We all know that as companies deal with rapid growth, some employees may not be have the experience, skill set or desire to deal with their new and increased responsibilities. They may be great as part of a small team wearing multiple hats, but they are not comfortable managing teams of being deep in an operational area. These situations are as tough as they get. You have a respected individual who has contributed to the company in a significant way, has valuable institutional knowledge and long term relationships with employees and customers, but now is holding the company back. It requires you being honest with the person about what they are good at, whether they are really enjoying what the job is today and whether they are really prepared with the skill set and emotionally committed to do what is needed to be successful in their role. It requires them being honest with you as well as themselves. It often means they may have to take a smaller role doing what they really enjoy or leaving the company — both of which can be a good thing for the company and the individual if handled properly and all parties are treated with respect.
  • The New Management Team Member… This is very similar to the mis-hire above, and as such you should also have a defined review process of 30-60-90 etc until you are satisfied they have assimilated and performing as expected.
  • You may have hired an individual who had big company experience without a proven track record in a small company. It is easy for people to tell you they can deal with small company challenges and lack of processes. But often times, when they get in the door they want to manage from their desk or build up a big staff rather than rolling up their sleeves and finding solutions to the impediments and defining and driving the right processes that expansion stage software companies need in order to scale successfully.
  • They don’t play well with the team. This is often a values mistake in the hiring process. They can’t work collaboratively with the current team and want to drive all decisions and win all the battles over all the other management team members at all costs. If you can’t coach them beyond these issues then you need to counsel them out as quickly as possible before you lose momentum because of the friction this creates.
  • They play politics. This is also a values mistake. When talking to potential management team members you need to be clear on the need for them to be honest, transparent and collaborative within the company and with the team. Politics should never be tolerated within the management team or the company and they should be counseled out if the behavior persists.

People are the only strategic asset you have because they build the products and services, sell them to your target market, implement them for with your clients and service your customers.The wrong behavior needs to be corrected ASAP and the wrong people need to be identified and counseled out as quickly as possible before they distract the team and impact your execution if they don’t modify their behavior after coaching. However through the whole process they need to be treated with the respect everyone deserves.

I wish I never made a promotion mistake or hiring mistake but when you are in fast growing  expansion stage software businesses it happens more than anyone would like to admit. You can mitigate through the proper hiring process that combines not just a skill set match for the role but also a match with your companies values.

When you make a mistake you need to fix it. From experience, I can tell you the one mistake that haunts me to this day was not fixing a mistake 90 days sooner than I did and losing some great employees because of it.

If you are interested in the other blogs I written on people you can check them out below;

All the best!


Venture Partner

<strong>George Roberts</strong> is a Venture Partner at OpenView. He enjoys partnering with companies and helping them achieve their goals through strategy, focus and operational execution. From 1990 to 2003, George spent 13 years at Oracle Corporation, most recently having served as Executive Vice President of North American Sales. While at Oracle, George was responsible for over $1 billion in revenue and more than 2,000 employees, reporting directly to the company’s CEO and Chairman, Larry Ellison.