Peter. Dilbert. Katie, Putt’s Law. All well-known Principals when it comes to promotion. Well, maybe not the Katie Principle. Regardless, all good satire is based in reality, and these principals and theories of promotion and advancement point out the all too common mistake of placing the wrong person, in the wrong role, for the wrong reasons. Hiring, promotions and advancement should be based on what the person can do at the next level, not what they have been doing at the current level.
When one looks at some the best college football head coaches, the Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops types, the one’s who have enjoyed long-term, lasting success, there is a common theme. Yes they are smart “football” guys, but much more importantly, they are great leaders and organizers, salesman and relationship managers. If these guys were not at the top of their profession in coaching, they would be running multimillion dollar businesses. Let’s face it, they are running multimillion dollar businesses. With every one of those guys, you can just tell, they are just that sharp, they have the “it factor”. They are smart, articulate, level-headed, passionate, committed, driven, focused, impressive and above all, natural leaders.
And the universities that hire folks like that, folks who you can just tell “have it”, continue to have success when change comes. Look no further than Stanford – David Shaw is as sharp as they come; bright, articulate, polished, driven, focused, and clearly a leader. No surprise Stanford knew how to replace Jim Harbaugh when he went to the NFL. They are Stanford after all. Know your organization and culture, what the role you are hiring for requires, and then find someone who fits the role and the organization.
Then there is the classic mistake of assuming someone who was good at one level is ready to make that jump to the next level. It is the pitfall of head coach hiring: promoting the assistant coach or coordinator. Look no further than the Florida Gators and their ongoing struggles with Will Muschamp. Muschamp was a very highly respected Defensive Coordinator while at Texas when he took over for Urban Meyer at Florida. Watching him as a head coach at Florida, well you can just tell he is not in the right role. Being emotional, fiery, and other such things is great as the number two person in an organization, but it is not what one needs in a head coach. Ed Orgeron at USC is another great example – the perfect Defensive Coordinator, and a phenomenal person to serve as in interim head coach to lead the Trojans through a turbulent transition period, but not a long-term head coach. Again, you could just tell.
Contrary to Human Resources, Legal and the general PC nature of our world, there are things that just cannot be quantified. The more senior the role, the greater the scope, the larger the strategic impact, leadership and interpersonal skills become paramount. The “it factor”, the polish and poise, the organizational skills, the management and leadership skills, the ability to plan and prioritize, and above all, the emotional maturity all trump technical skills or job experience. More often than not, when it comes to great hiring, if you truly know what you need, you will just be able to tell who is the right fit. Go with the tell.