Senior executives who have built an impressive track record of consistently meeting or exceeding performance expectations in every position they have held, be on the alert. Failure could be right around the corner — with your new employer.
CEOs and other leaders amass a certain level of complete confidence that they know what they are doing and they are reluctant to change their tried and true formula for success. This “I have always been successful and I see no reason to change now” is a crap shoot when you change jobs and corporate culture. Our anecdotal research over more than 20 years confirms that this is one of the primary reasons why a new executive suddenly disappears from the senior leadership team within the first 12 to 18 months. Their confidence/ego that their approach was tried and true so why change slammed them into the brick wall.
This is why our Firm digs deep into an executive’s ability to adapt. We spend a lot of time with the client at the start of each search, developing a deep understanding of their culture, their style of getting things done, their performance expectations and the inevitable obstacles to success. In our candidate interviews, we construct a multiple of questions on these important issues. We challenge answers, we even push — in a nice way, of course — to test the authenticity of the answers.
As I have written in the past, it is stunning to me how many otherwise accomplished executives do not ask questions about the hiring organization’s culture and, more importantly, how decisions get made. Every organization has its cultural and style markers, some might qualify as quirks, from the governing board down to the hourly workforce. Not knowing these — I mean really understanding them — is a recipe for a potential nasty career setback that might take years to overcome. When you start believing that it is all about you — whether real or perceived — trouble is on the way. Guaranteed.
When I cover this point in my career lectures, I always see heads nodding in agreement even though the underlying feeling may be, “We all know this. Tell us something we do not know.”
OK, so here is today’s takeaway: The majority of those people shaking their heads at the lectures do not practice what they think they know.
When you start a new job — it is probably a safe bet this did not come up in your interviews — do your homework. Take the time to get to know your people and your peers. Ask questions about how things get done, where the sacred cows and meadow muffins can be found. Ask about their biggest job concerns and their hopes for the future. Write it down.
Then do not dismiss what you were told.
© 2021 John Gregory Self