Monday, January 23, 2012

Katherine Hays of GenArts discusses two hiring mistakes

If you count the number of mistakes people in business talk about, hiring is one of the top categories. There must be something about trying to assess someone's strengths, weaknesses, and cultural fit that exposes many of our weaknesses and biases. This story is from Katherine Hays, CEO of GenArts, a visual-effects software company. The interview is part of the Corner Office series by Adam Bryant in the New York Times.

Hays gets right to the meat of discussing learning and improvement ("what a shame if you're not continuing to build on them very deliberately), and volunteers a mistake story straightaway - and what she took away from it.

[Bryant] What else have you learned about leadership?

[Hays] It’s important to keep things in context, whether it’s good news or bad news. Either can be very distracting to the team. I’m pretty good at keeping those in context and focusing on the task at hand. Some of the boards I’ve worked with are really good at that as well. They just don’t overreact, no matter what the news is.

Those things came naturally to me. That being said, I think being a great leader is like being a great athlete. You can start with some natural abilities, but what a shame if you’re not continuing to build on them very deliberately, and continuing to kind of push yourself out of your comfort zone, trying to understand what you’re missing, and what you can learn from other people.

[Bryant] Any other lessons?

[Hays] Being very good at hiring people is key. And I would say I made two mistakes in hiring. Both times they had all the right answers to the questions, amazing backgrounds, really strong résumés, but my gut just said, hmm, this doesn’t feel right. And I didn’t listen to myself, and I hired them, and it was a mistake. I couldn’t articulate what it was that didn’t feel right, which is why I think I convinced myself to hire them. But something felt less than genuine about them.

So the lesson there was, at the end of the day, even if everything seems to check out, you listen to your gut. And I’ve given that guidance to a lot of my team. If they come in and they say, “You know, something doesn’t feel right,” I say, “Don’t hire them.” Far better to pass on someone than to bring the wrong person into the team.

No comments:

Post a Comment