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Best Person Or Best Available Person

by David Brock on September 23rd, 2014

People issues are the most important areas where managers and leaders need to invest their time.  More specifically, managers need to make sure they are putting the best people possible into each role, and they are coaching and developing people to maximize their performance in the role.

Yet too often, I find managers investing too little time in making sure they are recruiting and putting in place the best person possible, instead bowing to expediency, convenience, or simply laziness.

Doing this is the sure route to failure.  It’s a disservice to the organization, to the team, and to the individual.  Making a move for expedience, rather than the right person is creating problems from the outset.

It often happens in the most innocent and unintended ways.

We have a long term employee who is in a role that’s no longer needed.  We want to be loyal to that person, so we move them into a different role, without addressing the issue, “Do they have the skills/competencies/attitudes/behaviors to be an outstanding performer in this new role?”

Sometimes it’s a misplaced sense of reward/acknowledgment, “Joe’s been a great performer and a long term loyal employee.  Let’s reward him with this new management job.”  We don’t “reward” people with a job.  We put the most qualified people for the job in that role.

Sometimes we are in a rush to fill a role.  We know it will take months to find a recruit the right person, so for expediency, we draft some individual in our organization and put them into the role.  I see this all the time with first line sales management–we take our best sales person, even though she may have no desire to be a manager, or few of the skills/attitudes/behaviors to be a great manager–and we put them in the role.  Within a few months the person may be failing as a manager, her people may be failing, and we have lost a top performing sales person.

Sometimes it’s laziness masked as expediency.  Recruiting and interviewing is time consuming and often a hassle, it’s so much easier just to take someone and move them into a role.  So what happens is we just take someone who is available.  Someone in the company, or perhaps some outsider we ran across, without doing a systematic search.

People decisions are among the most important decisions a manager makes simply because the way things get done is through our people.  If we have the wrong people in place, we don’t get the results we need, regardless how great our strategies, programs, processes, tools or how great our products and services are.

So what do we do?

Well first we have to know what we are looking for.  What skills, competencies, experiences, behaviors, attitudes to we need in each role?  What does our ideal candidate look like?

Then we have to look for the closest fit to that ideal that we possibly can get.  No one will be a perfect fit.  But we want the closest possible.  If we can source the best candidate internally, then fantastic!  We should have a practice of developing our people so they can move into greater responsibilities.  But if the fit of our internal candidates to the requirements of the job isn’t good, then we are doing everyone a disservice–our company, ourselves, and the employee.  If the employee isn’t a great fit, then they will struggle, possibly failing.  We have to devote more management time than we should in coaching and dealing with the person.  And the bad performance has an impact on the organization.

It’s our job to find the best possible people for each role, not just the most available person.

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2 Comments
  1. Martin Schmalenbach permalink

    Nicely said Dave… and again your post has me reflecting on my experiences in the air force. I know some of your readers may have a sense of disquiet about references to the military, and I’m sensitive to this. And yet, for me as a junior officer in my mid 20s, it was an incredibly formative experience. Much of the time my squadron was engaged in providing aid, whether to our own or Coalition troops, or to the local population, in the form of food & water drops (and yes, ammunition too, when needed), and also medical evacuations – including the odd local inhabitant who needed medical attention at an operating theatre facility for example.

    In these situations you simply can’t afford to have the wrong person in the wrong job. You have to plan for, and allow for the fact that sometimes, perhaps often, you won’t have the best person, ‘only’ the best person available… so the organization had better make sure that no matter who is available, no matter who is ‘the best person available’, that person is good enough for the task at hand.

    That means selecting & recruiting to very clear and high standards – standards that actually bear close relationship to the reality of the front line… and that the organization properly trains, retrains, motivates & retains such people, and their fantastic attitude and values.

    Why should a sales organization be any different? Is it because it is not a matter of life and death? Perhaps it is a matter of life and death in the sense that, getting this wrong can lead to the death of the organization, and the dream it aspires to.

    When you put a person in to a role who is not up to the task, then you do a severe disservice to that individual, and those he or she is there to serve, or service… be it the military, or any other organization, commercial or voluntary sector.

    For me this is about professionalism being created and maintained by the very structure of the organization itself… I think this is an aspect all too easily overlooked in today’s dynamic, often turbulent sales world. Hiring the ‘best person available’ because of fear the head count requisition will be taken away in a down cycle is not what I would associate with being professional, as understandable as it may be. Being a sales manager is so much more than ‘just’ being the ‘super sales person’ who parachutes in to save the day… in fact, it shouldn’t be that either – how will your team members ever get to be better at creating value with the client and asking for an equitable share of the value created, if you, the sales manager, won’t (not same as can’t) develop them to do this themselves in the future… How can you expect to be promoted if you’ve made yourself seem indispensable to your region/team’s success?

    Just a thought!!!

    • Martin, great observations.

      1. First, I love the lessons we can learn from the military. I know there is sensitivity to that, but I don’t really care. There is so much we can learn about discipline, process, ownership, being brutally honest in confronting the facts, etc One of my favorite “sales books” is Warfighting–it a standard US Marine Corps Manual about developing and executing strategy. It’s application to selling and other areas is awesome.

      2. I may be a little cynical, but I think we treat people decisions far to lightly. Part of it, we don’t train first line managers well on hiring, performance management, people development. Part of it is lack of attention at all levels of management to the people issues. It’s so amazing, and disappointing, but people is the job of management, but too few recognize that.

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