“All creation is a mine, and every man is a miner.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
A while back, I was working with a group of leaders from a gold mining company to help them strengthen their Coaching Skills.
Towards the end of the week I had an opportunity to tour the mine. My guide Jesse was navigating though the various tunnels when all of a sudden he stopped the vehicle, killed the lights, and shut-off the engine. While we sat there 2500 feet underground in complete and utter darkness it hit me LIKE A TON OF BRICKS!
Mining for gold is a lot hiring great leaders.
- Hiring a great leader at times can feel like you are underground, in the dark, and hoping that the data (past experience, resume, skills, etc.) are going to lead you to the jackpot.
- No matter how high the grade of the ore (how much gold is in the rock) it doesn’t guarantee you will be successful in extracting the gold. Having great potential as a leader isn’t the same as being a great leader. Potential doesn’t equal success. It all comes down to having a process to develop one’s talents and that takes times.
- Sometimes you have to change the direction in which you are digging because the gold has run out. It is okay to shift directions and hire someone with a new perspective from another industry instead of retreading some of the same talent that has been cycled around your industry for years. Industry experience doesn’t always mean they will be a great leader for your organization, especially if they are stuck in their ways and unwilling to change.
- The more exploration you do upfront, the greater your chances of success. Making sure you take the time to hire the right person with the right skills for YOUR culture is critically important. Rush this part of your search and you may find yourself coming up empty-handed or facing the repercussions of a bad-hire.
- Mining is not just about the digging. It takes a whole lot of people to make a gold bar. Make sure the leader you’re going to hire is multifaceted and not just a great producer. If he can’t get along with his colleagues or leaves a trail of bodies behind him in his quest for results it will cost you more in the long run.
- One hap-hazard move or mistake while mining and you can do some serious damage to yourself, the equipment, or your team. Hiring errors when choosing a leader are far more costly than if you are hiring an individual contributor (IC). Why? Because leaders impact others in a more significant way. Sometimes the damage is noticeable and other times it is not. At times it can be hard to see the short-term damage to morale, your retention level, & your succession plans. Sometimes the damage isn’t visible until it’s too late.
- Pyrite (Fools’ Gold) isn’t gold. Authenticity can be hard to determine upfront and yet it is one of the single biggest factors that will determine the long-term success of a great leader. Take the time to check references beyond the initial 3, talk to their customers if possible, understand the whole picture and not just the work picture, take them and their spouse to dinner, notice how they treat others (ALL OTHERS, the wait staff, your administrative assistant, etc.) don’t leave any rocks unturned. It is worth taking the time to make sure you’re getting the real deal and not a leader who is faux real.
While the gold rush of 1848 instilled a spike of activity in the economy of California, it eventually settled back down to normal. If you fail to do your exploratory work, if you get caught up in the like-ability of a candidate because they are just like you, or you feel the need to get a body in the position asap, you may run into some unseen problems that could cost you dearly in the long run.
Mining…like hiring is an art as much as it is a science. Be sure to balance both. Leaning to far to the right and just using your gut can lead to a poor choice. Lean to far to the left and rely solely on the resume and past experience and you can make an equally poor choice.