11 thoughts on hiring and promoting talent

1. You don't really know what you have until someone has worked with you for some period of time. I can't tell you the amount of times someone has pointed to a hire and thought that person would be just fantastic and was not. In contrast, the same thing happens on the other side. A person is hired, the expectations are fine and they end up being a total leader.

2. I often hire based on a mix of characteristics. I often erred toward great grades and statistics and prior performance with little job hopping. Regardless of what characteristics you push toward, hiring is an educated guess and a gamble. Going back to the last point, you don't really know what you have for some time until someone works with you closely.

3. Don't judge your hires until you and your team have worked with them for some time. I recall three partners joining a long time ago. All seemed solid for a couple years. One constantly showed a different level of energy, effort and insight. Over time that one became a complete leader. It was critical not to prejudge those three colleagues, all of whom were solid but one ended up unbelievable.

4. When someone starts to show the drive, the contribution and the efforts you want, constantly look to encourage them, support them, promote them and pay them. Don't wait until they push for what they deserve. Get out in front of it. A few of my best colleagues showed such clear promise early on that we kept on looking to put them in charge of more and more even when others weren't so sure. These were some of the top few business decisions I ever made.

5. Even when you can hire people really cheap, don't do it. Pay a salary or amount where the person won't wake up every morning irritated at the company.

6. When someone demonstrates on a consistent basis that they can't or won't do the job, you probably need to nicely ask them to go or to start looking for a new job. I tried very hard to over the years do this with as little harm to the person as possible.

7. The best efforts and best performers tend to get the best opportunities and best assignments. Don't apologize for your best colleagues being put on the most important clients and in the most important roles.

8. Don't promote someone into a title thinking that will change how they act or perform. I am a big believer that promotions and title changes should catch up to behaviors, performance and results that are already exhibited, not vice versa. 

9. The best promotions go to those who often act like they are already doing the higher job. A partnership or VP promotion is simple when the colleague is already performing in that way.

10. Don't punish your team leaders for periodically making bad hires. All of us need to understand that hiring is an educated guess and an imperfect science. You can't allow your leaders to become too gun shy regarding hiring.

11. If people are great people but not excelling in their role, first try them in other roles. When values are aligned, some of our best colleagues changed roles a few times internally before excelling. Your first job is not your last job.

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