Picking Your Own Team

Who is the best judge of talent in an organization?  The HR department?  The most experienced manager?  The manager closest to the employee in question?  Or do some managers have an inherent talent for judging people, and their opinion should prevail? 

In my experience, there is something to be said in favor of all of these viewpoints, and if the employee is yours, you should at least listen to and carefully consider the counsel of all of the above. 

But who is responsible to recruit, select, and judge? 

If you operate in an environment where managers are held accountable for results, it's hard to imagine ultimate responsibility resting with anyone other than the employee's direct manager.  Being accountable means owning outcomes, not rationalizing and defending individual decisions.  Ultimately recruiting, assessing, and judging your employees is one of the most fundamental tasks of a manager, and is very closely connected to the outcomes you produce.  If you substitute another's opinion for your own, abdicate the responsibility to select a team, or are over-ridden (possibly against your will) by superiors, then you're not really managing.

Does this mean that these staffing decisions are yours, and yours alone? 

Of course not.  At the very least your opinions will be tempered by the law -- discriminatry behaviors, for example, being forbidden.

Most of us are also impacted by corporate policies and politics which limit what you can do.  For example, at one of my employers, it was absolutely impossible to promote an employee more than one grade when moving them to a new job.  No matter how talented they might seem to be, it was a strict policy that they had to "move through the chairs" in a step-by-step fashion.  At another employer, it was politically expedient to bring in new people for key management roles, rather than promoting from within. 

And while I didn't necessarily agree with either of these policies/practices, I wasn't in a position to ignore them. 

Broadly speaking, however, beyond these general restrictions, managers should be free to (and have the responsibility to) pick their own team.  They should win or lose based on their own decisions, and not be over-ridden by those higher up. 

Alas, experience also tells me that this ideal is seldom seen. 

At one employer, my boss conducted several campaigns to force me to oust employees in whom I had complete confidence -- sometimes for his own purposes, occasionally due to a difference of opinion.  Fortunately it was outside of the company's norms for this senior manager to simply order me to fire the people in question, offering me the opportunity to resist.  In a couple of instances that led to a campaign of backstabbing and character assassination that ultimately led to the departure of the employee in question.  I found the behavior to be frustrating, irritating, and demeaning. 

It also led to feelings of disconnection from my responsibility for results, the rationale being:  "How can I be 'responsible' if I can't even keep the good people already on my team?" 

In another instance, my selection for various positions were over-ridden by a psychological profiling tool the company had fallen in love with.  Ultimately, the tool became yet another reason to say "no" to otherwise qualified people.

And after  some experience, it became clear the tool wasn't particularly accurate either, despite the claims by the man that sold it to us.

In fact, in one instance a manager who received an unreserved endorsement for a particular job, turned out to be a disaster.  When I quizzed the sellers of the profiling tool about this, I had one of those out-of-body experiences where I thought I was listening to a soothsayer re-interpret his obviously wrong prediction of the future in an attempt to get it to fit what happened.

If you're lucky enough to be in a job where you have freedom to pick your team, however, make sure you do so wisely.  When performance slips, there will be no one to hold accountable but you.  16.2

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If you are intrigued by the ideas presented in my blog posts, check out some of my other writing.  Novels: LEVERAGEINCENTIVIZEDELIVERABLES and now HEIR APPARENT (published 3/2/2013) -- note, the Kindle version of DELIVERABLES (a prequel to HEIR APPARENT) is on sale for a limited time for $2.99.

Julia McCoy smells a rat, but maybe she should have waited until she was back in the U.S. to say so...

Julia McCoy smells a rat, but maybe she should have waited until she was back in the U.S. to say so...

To the right is the cover for INCENTIVIZE.   This novel is about a U.S. based mining company, and criminal activity that the protagonist (a woman by the name of Julia McCoy) uncovers at the firm's Ethiopian subsidiary.  Her discover sets in motion a series of events that include, kidnapping, murder and terrorism in the Horn of Africa.

My novels are based on extensions of 27 years of personal experiences as a senior manager in public corporations.