Hiring the Superstar – Shortcut to Improved Performance?

Steve Martin, in his stand-up routine, had great advice on how to become a millionaire. First, you get a million dollars.

There are times when a hiring manager adjusts that advice on how to get improved performance from your teams. First, you hire a superstar leader.

I’ve seen this work, sort-of, and I have seen it fail in a big way.

Imagine there has been some good succession planning, and your top talent knows who is a likely internal candidate, but you choose to hire externally this time. Or the hiring manager knows he wants someone who can “shake things up” but doesn’t understand that “shaking” is just part one. The new leader needs to be able to re-organize the chaos he or she may bring about with all that “shaking”.

Your job is not to convince the hiring manager that he has a bad idea here. But you do need to get him to think about the end result he is looking for, and shaking things up is not a good result. How do you do that? You challenge the leader with questions to help them see the bigger picture.

  • In your initial discussion with the hiring manager, bring any succession plans that have been discussed. If you have labeled anyone as “ready now”, you should challenge why they are no longer ready. What’s really changed?
  • Get at the real desired outcome. Is it improved department performance? Everyone achieving 20% more than they have historically? Or is it a single performance metric like cost reduction?
  • Are you trying to redefine workplace culture with this new hire? What will be the key components of that culture?
  • Are you looking for a leader who is a great coach, or someone who will set a new standard of performance? Who will act as coach if the superstar is too busy shaking things up?
  • If this person succeeds, what is their next role? Will it be clear to them that we do or do not have an idea about that?
  • How do you want to approach the two internal candidates that have prepared themselves for this job? What is their role in helping create the new performance? Are you prepared to see them leave?

I’m sure you can think of other questions or concerns that would apply in your situation. But just hiring LeBron isn’t enough, you have to get the team aligned and ready for this change.

One Response to Hiring the Superstar – Shortcut to Improved Performance?

  1. Lol , steve marting joke, haven’t heard one of those in a long time. Very nice post about hiring the best person or “the superstar”. I learned a lot from it.

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