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Two good candidates? Grab them both

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in Leaders & Managers

As New York City mayor, Rudolph Giuliani at least twice found himself considering evenly matched candidates vying for the top spot of an important job. Here’s how he chose without losing good people: 

Create a new position. When choosing his first budget director, the mayor asked each leading candidate if he could work as deputy under the other person. Giuliani discovered that whoever ended up as No. 2 would feel that he had “lost.”

So, Giuliani picked a budget director based on the candidates’ philosophical alignment. But he felt he needed both candidates, so he created a position of finance commissioner and gave the runner-up a group of department heads—including the new budget director—to develop budget policy. Neither of them reported to the other, and the mayor enjoyed the advantages of having two first-rate minds on board.

Stack the deck. Giuliani’s staff and advisers split right down the middle over two final candidates for police commissioner. Both were eminently qualified. One was the highest-ranking uniformed officer, a healing presence and a 31-year veteran of the force who was respected. His rival, a former cop, had successfully managed the corrections department, reducing inmate violence by 80 percent while curbing officers’ overtime and decreasing their sick days.

Faced with a deadlocked staff and a press leak, Giuliani took over the decision. He met extensively with each man. This time, each said he’d be willing to work with the other in either capacity.

The mayor picked the outsider—the riskier choice—based on chemistry and familiarity, but also to guard against insularity and keep the force’s rapid improvement going. As a big bonus, the veteran officer agreed to work as No. 2 cop. Giuliani felt that if the two men could work together, the best of both would emerge.

Result: The boss manufactured four excellent hires when he might have had only two.

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