Get the Top Button in the Right Hole

The Importance of Understanding and Evaluating Others for Success

To be a high-performing leader, it is important to understand what it means to lead others. In order to do that effectively you have to be able to lead yourself and to think clearly, but your ability to understand and evaluate talent in the right way, and then organize that talent within your company, is going to be a major factor in your success.

It’s similar to buttoning up a dress shirt. If you don’t get the top button in the right hole, then the shirt is never going to look right. Understanding and evaluating others is like getting the top button in the right hole.

Peter Drucker discusses this concept in his book The Effective Executive, in which he lists the six disciplines that an executive should nurture. One of them is organizing around strengths. He makes the argument that you should only assemble people in a way that will exploit their strengths and neutralize their weaknesses.

When it comes to understanding and evaluating others, leaders need tools, methodologies and wisdom to help them recognize their people’s talents and strengths, and how to organize them accordingly.

Hiring & Promoting for the Long-term
When you’re hiring or promoting someone, you should be considering how to give that person a career inside your company so that they don’t have to leave you in order to grow and develop. Companies tend to pigeonhole good talent, and the only way they can get a promotion is to leave.

The other mistake that companies often make when it comes to promotion is moving employees into management based purely on tenure, which can often be the wrong move. This concept is called the Peter Principle, which states that companies promote people to their highest level of incompetency—an employee does a good job so they are promoted until they reach a position where they no longer do a good job.

The Peter Principle is a management failure when it comes to understanding and evaluating people. The classic example is taking a great sales person and making him or her a sales manager. Suddenly this person isn’t such a star performer because there are a different set of motivations and skills needed to be a great sales manager.

The Part That Instinct Plays
In today’s world, managers who only depend on their gut feelings are setting themselves and their people up for failure. Michigan State did a study on entrepreneurs and executives who used their “sixth sense” for hiring decisions. They found that people who used gut-level instinct were right in identifying superior performers only 14 percent of time. That means that 86 percent of time their judgment was wrong!

Instinct is valuable and important, but if you want to be an effective leader you need to rely on more than just instinct.

Understanding Past Performance
Getting an accurate picture of what a person has done in the past can help you develop a deeper understanding of their successes and failures. But to truly understand past performance, you need to go deeper than simply reviewing their resume. The society for HR management reports that over 50 percent of general resumes contain false information, and over 25 percent of executive resumes contain false information!

The first step is to audit a perspective employee’s resume. It can be as simple as calling past companies and asking, “Knowing what you now know about this person, if a similar opportunity opened up in your company would you hire them today?” Then call their university and confirm their degrees, and make reference calls.

During the interview process you can dig deeper by asking them to tell you stories about past accomplishments, such as their role in a project or their unique contribution to an organization. Asking them what worked on their team and what didn’t will give you insight into their past performance.

Measuring Future Potential
The most important tools for measuring future potential are a good battery of assessments that identify employees’ patterns of thought, motivation, and behavior. Assessments can show you how they go about solving problems, how they make decisions, where they get their greatest sense of motivation and engagement, how they respond to problems, and how they influence people.

We use TTI Success Insights assessments because they draw from six different sciences. We can measure behavioral styles, workplace motivators, acumen capacities, subconscious decision making biases, levels of the 25 competencies that we cover in The Complete Leader, emotional intelligence, and even selling skills in some instances. These are all things that help us predict the future.

Recognizing Cultural Fit
It’s also critical to develop an understanding of how the candidate will fit into your culture. If you have a high-performing, high-urgency culture, you need to understand whether it will be motivating or discouraging for the candidate. Some people thrive in certain environments.

Understanding the person’s talent, understanding what the job is asking for, and understanding the culture you will be putting them into are all an important part of understanding and evaluating others.

Once you have someone on board, the truth is that understanding and evaluating never ends. Evaluating how you can have the best relationship and be the most synergistic is a career-long journey. You will get your best business results the more you understand the whole person and figure out how to deploy the whole person in a way that brings great satisfaction and reward to them as well as the company.