Great leaders often give much of the credit for their success to the people around them. While this is often a sign of humility (which we all like in a leader), it’s also true that strong leadership is about surrounding yourself with people who excel at their jobs. In other words, hiring smart and delegating.
Here are a few examples of how sales and service leaders can learn from other parts of the business world.
Earlier this year, Fortune magazine compiled a list of the world’s 50 greatest leaders, and the top honor went to Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein. Epstein became the youngest general manager in the history of Major League Baseball (MLB) in 2002 when the Boston Red Sox hired him at age 28. Two years later, the Red Sox won their first World Series championship in 86 years and won another championship in 2007. He moved to the Chicago Cubs in 2011 to become that team’s president, and last fall, the Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years.
People Over Power Numbers
Epstein’s job is to assemble great teams. Clearly, he has a knack for it. According to the Fortune magazine profile on Epstein, while he built the championship Red Sox teams by adhering to the analytics craze that swept MLB front offices at the time, he focused on character and chemistry to build the championship Cubs squad.
Epstein asked Cubs scouts to collect information on how each prospect handled adversity – on the field and off it. Scouts were told to learn more about the player as a person by talking to parents, coaches, guidance counselors, teammates, siblings and anyone else who knew them.
“Epstein made a bet on the importance of the makeup of the players he acquired, not to replace the edge in analytics he once wielded in Boston but to enhance it,” the Fortune profile states. “The brilliance of what the Cubs did was to put their faith not just in numbers, but also in the type of people they acquired.”
What A Win Looks Like
Not surprisingly, I’ve read about similar hiring strategies used by business leaders. In The New York Times’ weekly Q&A called “The Corner Office,” reporter Adam Bryant poses poignant questions to business executives. In a recent interview with Autumn Manning, chief executive of YouEarnedIt.com, makers of a software as a service (SaaS) platform to encourage employee engagement, Bryant asked Manning about her hiring approach.
“Once you start hiring for function only, I think you build a bloated organization with people who don’t have a broader perspective of what you’re trying to accomplish,” Manning said. “I want to know what drives them, what a win looks like for them personally, and how they’ve overcome things in their career. I’m really looking for whether they’re in it for the big-picture win as a team or are they in it for themselves. You can get a sense of that just by the questions they ask.”
Bryant posed the same question about hiring to Mike O’Neill, chief executive of BMI, a music rights management company. “When I interview people, I want to know if they have those same qualities that my parents expected from us: trust, respect, accountability and watching others’ backs. And I learn more by asking them about the people they surround themselves with than I do by asking them direct questions,” O’Neill said.
The irony in that approach is in order to surround himself with good people, O’Neill chooses job candidates who surround themselves with good people. It’s a continuous loop that reaps infinite rewards.
Paul Nolan is editor of Sales and Marketing Magazine.