Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, senior adviser of leading executive search firm Egon Zehnder, is a regular guest lecturer at Harvard Business School and frequently advises CEOs of many of the world’s largest corporations and governments. He believes the most successful leaders are incredibly focused on people decisions, and that these decisions are quite challenging. Great appointments are not the result of intuition or gut feeling; it is a craft and discipline that can be learned and should be learned for career success.
More than anything else it is people decisions that determine the success or failure of an organization. He cited Amazon’s Jeff Bezos as saying “having a high hiring bar has been key to Amazon’s success.”
The new era for talent spotting includes competencies but more important is potential. The world, businesses, technology, our very way of life is changing faster than it ever has before. Past performance is not indicative of future success. Jobs are changing too fast now, making potential the critical factor in future performance. It is one’s ability to grow and adapt that allows for career and ultimately business success. “Even if someone is a good competency fit today, the job will change and that person’s success will be short-lived. What got you here won’t even allow you to stay here if you don’t have high potential, said Claudio.
Uncovering executive potential comes down to four hallmarks:
- Curiosity: Asking questions and constantly seeking feedback, an insatiable desire to learn.
- Insight: Making connections and seeing possibilities.
- Engagement: The ability to sell new possibilities, gathering necessary support and momentum.
- Determination: The ability to strive toward challenging objectives in good times and in bad.
Claudio advised leaders to surround themselves with the best, the high-potentials, and to help them excel. Help them thrive and in turn thrive yourself. The people who are asking questions are the ones you want to surround yourself with and help move into positions of influence in your organization. People who ask many questions and are able to envision possibilities are halfway to being the best. If they also have the ability to pitch an idea and keep working when the chips are down… hire them and help them find the right challenges.
Having worked with and advised leaders from companies around the globe, Claudio believes everything managers achieve depends on the people they choose. He said, “Look for fierce commitment combined with deep humility in the people you hire.”
Graphic by Dean Meyers
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