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"Tales from a Headhunter Deep in the Bush"

The StoneWood Blog is one of Canada’s largest executive search blogs dedicated to the latest executive search news and technology sector issues. Follow the postings from Robert Hebert, PHD - a Headhunter Deep in the Bush.


Why Selecting Leaders Is So Difficult In Practice – Reason #1: Companies Often Don't Really Know What They Need

August 19, 2016 at 9:30 AM

Most selection systems work best in steady state situations. Think of air traffic controllers or call center agents where many people perform identical, repeatable, measurable tasks and where the attributes for excellence can be extracted from those who do it best to help select others into the job.

Unfortunately, most hiring is not so straight forward. Companies, industries, markets are highly dynamic and complex systems with many moving parts. Context, ownership, culture, industry, competitive landscape, pace of change, life stage and many other factors all inform the requirements for hiring leaders.

Consider a company whose high velocity growth has slowed, profits flattened, its stock has been battered, shareholders are anxious, and the board of directors is feeling the pressure to do something. But what?  Boards often lack visibility into their companies – they meet quarterly with summary binders in hand. They often have only one primary touch point into the company, the CEO. Some board members are financiers with limited operational acumen. All they know for certain is that the fortunes of the company need to improve. Change is viewed as decisive and buys time.

Unfortunately, this sets up all manner of potential problems for invariably what is judged to be broken, correct or otherwise, will drive the skills believed necessary for the fix.  Hiring the right person for the wrong job is as plausible an outcome as any.

About the Author

Robert Hebert is the founder and Managing Partner of StoneWood Group Inc., a leading executive search firm in Canada. Since 1981, he has helped firms across a wide range of sectors address their senior recruiting, assessment and leadership development requirements. 

Contact Robert by email at rhebert@stonewoodgroup.com or call (1) 416-365-9494 Ext. 777