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New leaders: Hire right and delegate

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Hiring,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Melissa Dyrdahl, a former executive at Adobe, sums up pretty well the essence of taking on a leadership role:

You get rewarded in a company by doing your job really well. But when you get promoted into management, you have to stop being the doer and start being the leader.

For some people, that is a difficult transition because you have to paint the vision, help divide up the tasks, and delegate them to the people who can most successfully execute. You then have to support the team and let them do it the way they do it, which is not necessarily going to be your way.

Some people never make it to the other side because they’re more successful at being doers. This is a critical point in determining if you’re going to move up the ranks.

You’ll still need specialized knowledge and skills as a leader, of course, and those skills will vary by industry. But the bigger the company, the more delegating you’ll need to do.

So aside from delegating, the most important factor in leading is hiring.

For this, communications executive Tracy Eiler offers some key questions, including: What is the biggest mistake you’ve made in the past three years?

“Usually I get the answer, ‘Oh, I just work too hard and I don’t know how to pace myself.’ Forget it; you are out,” Eiler says. “But if you tell me the truth, then I know how senior you were because if your screw-up was a really bad one, then I know you had a lot of responsibility, and then if you show me how you recovered from that mistake, you are in.”

For example, “a gal I hired to run our big events—big users conferences that are multi-thousands of people from all around the world, very complicated events with multiple days—told me she was working on the JavaOne conference and she forgot to order the electricity. All of the electricity! That is pretty bad.” The candidate then described how she bribed workers and did a bunch of other things to make the show happen.

Eiler’s response: “You are in! You know how to fix that kind of problem. I want you on my team.”

— Adapted from Getting to the Top, Kathryn Ullrich, Silicon Valley Press.

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