|Volume 1, Issue 5||August, 1999|
Selecting tomorrow's leaders
The process of choosing new executives varies greatly from one organization to another and among different hiring managers. Recruiters are frequently surprised at the difference between the stated expectations for a job and the background and skills of the individual selected for that job. Sometimes the selection process takes days; other times it seems like years. Here are a few stories of recent selections and some questions to ask yourself about your approach to the selection process.
A big new hole in the glass ceiling
Carly Fiorina played down gender when she was selected as Hewlett-Packard's new CEO. Good for her. HP's Board picked her because she's the best person in their estimation to lead HP, and gender didn't appear to be a criterion in the selection process. In the context of Ms. Fiorina's peers, gender remains a huge issue. She is one of just three female CEOs at Fortune 500 companies, and Fortune referred to her as "the most powerful woman in American business." (From HP press release July 19, 1999) We expect the number of female CEOs to continue to grow, especially now that such a large company has acted. Our favorite quote came from Marilyn Laurie, a former AT&T executive, who commented that Carly "has wonderful leadership skills. She swims like a fish in the male and female environment." (The Wall Street Journal, July 22, 1999)
Not all the gender news about the workplace is positive. The New York Times reported on July 14 the results of a study indicating that corporate diversity programs are ineffective at getting minority women to the top of organizations. "Even joining in a simple game of golf can be challenging& .I never have been given an opportunity to play with the men." (Karen Fukuma, CFO of Lotus Development).
What proportion of men and women hold executive jobs in your organization? How about minority men and women? When you last selected an individual for a job, how diverse was the pool of candidates? What are you doing as a manager to help prepare individuals for increased job responsibilities? To what degree do your actions create obstacles for individuals to succeed? To what extent is your organization blind to the skills and talents of those who might be considered different? How is mentoring working within your organization? What can you do to break down stereotypes and make your company less monochromatic and more representative of society as a whole? How well do you listen to the many different voices inside your organization? Do you know and understand what others are saying? When you conduct important business in non-business settings, who is invited?
Who is this guy?
Compaq's Board picked their new CEO from inside the company when they announced recently that Michael Capellas would take on that role. Hired last August as chief information officer and named chief operating office in June, Capellas is barely an insider. Many Compaq observers expected the Board to choose someone with name recognition from outside the company. After considering 75 individuals and interviewing 12, the Board announced the best candidate was Capellas. Chairman Ben Rosen commented "We set out to find the ideal CEO and we discovered him right here at Compaq, hard at work. As COO, Michael has already mobilized the organization, moving us forward at Internet speed." (Compaq press release, July 22, 1999) Now Capellas will have to become better known to more players as he leads Compaq in facing its challenges.
Is there someone inside your organization hard at work, but not visible or obvious to you as being ready for increased responsibility? Have you slotted some individuals in certain roles so that you. re unable to see them perform other roles? How much exposure do you and other individuals receive outside your organization? If you were selected for another role, would too many people say "who?" When do you know you've found the right person for a job? Can you overcome your preconceptions and select an unexpected individual?
Your search is ended
Public service can often bring great challenges in finding leaders for key jobs. The Washington Post reported on July 22 that the chair of the D.C. Zoning Commission, Jerrily Kress, formed a search committee to find a new staff director. Instead of the commission interviewing the finalists that came out of the search committee's recommendations, Kress resigned as chairman, and her former commissioners picked her as the new staff director. She may well be the best person for that job, but there's a pending complaint of conflict-of-interest about this selection before the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance and Ethics.
Do your hiring processes and practices take into account any real or perceived conflicts of interest? How sensitive are you about avoiding placing people into roles that could be viewed as conflicting? Have you heard through the grapevine that certain able candidates have not pursued jobs because of a perception that a particular person has the inside track and is likely to be chosen no matter who applies? When was the last time you had a conflict of interest conversation with other managers? Is it time for another? How should you improve your practices?
Waging war with the status quo
The July-August issue of Harvard Business Review contains a thoughtful article by Donald Sull titled "Why Good Companies Go Bad". This is must reading for executives who are enjoying current success. Using paired industry examples including Goodyear and Firestone and Laura Ashley and Gucci, Sull explores how leading companies can become stuck in the methods that made them successful in the first place. When conditions change, the old methods fail to work and once weaker competitors prevail. Some highlights from the article include:
Instead of focusing on what to do, Sull recommends a focus on what hinders a company.
Are two heads better than
Beginning the end of segregation
James Farmer died in Virginia in early July, leaving behind a legacy of accomplishments that provide a foundation for building a more integrated society. He led non-violent actions through the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), an organization he founded. He risked his own life, and CORE followers lost their lives demonstrating for equal rights for African-Americans. He observed how entwined the lives of blacks and whites are in America, and worked to break down the laws that segregated citizens. While most remembered for Freedom Rides and sit-ins in the 1960s, Farmer's pacifism started in the 1940s with his role at the Fellowship of Reconciliation. In the 1950s, he worked in the South at school desegregation. He worked briefly in the Nixon administration, and taught college. He taught a generation that common action with clarity of focus produces change.
It's a small world after all
Thomas L. Friedman tells dozens of stories from around the world in his new book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization. His previous book, From Beirut to Jerusalem, won the National Book Award around a dozen years ago, and helped unravel much of the complexity of the Middle East. In this new book, Friedman tries to make sense out of what he's observed around the world since the Berlin Wall came down, and what that means for us. He chose the Lexus as the symbol of technology, modernizing and progress, and the olive tree as the symbol of what roots us and identifies us in the world. Through multiple stories, Friedman helps readers gain insight into how the post cold war system operates, and how some individuals and countries are fighting against the system, and where America fits into the puzzle. One of our favorite stories was the sale in Moscow in 1996 of Matrushka dolls of the Chicago Bulls and other NBA teams. Another was the frustration of Friedman's octogenarian mother when her fellow bridge players on the Internet excluded her when they spoke in French among themselves. It is a small world, connected in seconds, and Friedman helps make sense out of connections and consequences. One side benefit involved many quotes from Larry Summers throughout the book. Summers and Friedman have spoken on and off the record for many years, and some perspectives of the new Treasury Secretary may foretell his actions on the job.
Everything looks like a nail
We've taken a pass on reading Bob Woodward's new book, Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate. Watergate might have been the defining life event for Bob Woodward, but we don't really think it was as monumental for the rest of us, including each U.S. President since Nixon.
Are you now or have you ever been?
We. ve enjoyed William F. Buckley, Jr.'s Blackford Oakes novels, so we were willing to give a chance to his latest novel, The Redhunter: A Novel Based on the Life of Senator Joe McCarthy. Nobody except Buckley could succeed in putting such a human face on a character portrayed in a single dimension for the 40+ years since his death.
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