So you've had some hires that didn't work out. What do you consider a successful hire?
Someone who delivers more value than they cost, a positive ROI. Someone who is committed to continually improving the organisation, to challenging us to get better and better. Someone who is pitching in, unasked, to make it happen. And someone who is constantly growing, but growing at a pace that is in line with the pace of the organisation.
Are there particular hires who stand out? Ones who had a highly significant impact on you, your career and your organisation?
My most interesting hire took place many years ago at Glaxo Wellcome (now GlaxoSmithKline). I was in IT and was moved into a role supporting a particular segment of the R&D organisation. This IT organisation and the corresponding business unit had a poor relationship. Simplistically, one of the key reasons for the tension was that the IT organisation for the most part had come from Wellcome and the business part had come from Glaxo, and the two units' different cultures didn't mesh. I got the job supporting the R&D segment over a fellow who was running a rogue IT organisation in the business unit. My getting the job reinforced the tension between IT and the business unit.
For reasons I won't ever fully know, at that moment [after I moved into this new position] I had the inspiration, desire, energy and determination to fix this tension. I reached out to this fellow who had lost the job to me. I had heard nothing but bad things about him. For my first meeting with him, I went across town to his office, with "hat in hand," looking to find a way to connect. Thankfully, as I entered his office, I noticed he had huge pictures of sailboats all over his walls. I too was a sailor, and it gave me a topic that I could talk to him about. It gave us common ground.
While talking with him, I could see all the bad things that everyone [in IT] had told me about him. But I also could see the passion he had, the fire in his belly. I knew that the business unit thought he nearly walked on water. In due course, I designed an organisation where I could bring him into IT as one of my direct reports. I talked to him about the need for change within IT and how he could help make that happen. At the same time, I talked to him about the need for him to become an IT professional and not a rogue hacker, and he bought into it. He came over to my organisation, and in that one action we dissolved years of tension and started these two organisations on a path of working together and being effective. It was a big gamble for me on a number of fronts, but it paid off huge.
Jane Howze is managing director and founder of The Alexander Group, an executive search firm based in Houston, Texas