How to Prepare for an Executive Transition

What Are The Risks Of Hiring The Wrong Executive?


What are the risks of hiring the wrong executive?

We’ve long approached the old adage that “people don’t leave companies, they leave managers” with some skepticism. This is because research has shown that if you have a bad company people will leave, no matter how great their direct manager.

In a bad company, with a flawed vision, strategy, policies, and processes, even the most empathetic of managers can’t make a top performer stay. And staff turnover is costly – here’s an estimate from Forbes:

“Off-the-shelf estimates are available, which might set the cost of an entry-level position turning over at 50% of salary; mid-level at 125% of salary; and senior executive at over 200% of salary,” writes Bill Conerly.

A great deal of what makes a “good” or “bad” company rests on the decisions taken at the executive leadership level. Therefore, hiring an executive is a high-stakes venture.

In fact, according to Business Insider, research from insights company, Corporate Executive Board shows that 50% to 70% of executives fail within their first 18 months on the job (the study also says that, of these, 3% fail “spectacularly”).

Why do so many executives fail?

The reasons that surfaced in the piece about the survey of more than 2 500 Fortune 100 executives are somewhat intuitive. Executives who failed in a position say:

  • They didn’t get enough feedback or coaching
  • The development path in a company didn’t prepare them for the challenges that lay ahead
  • Subordinates sanitized information that they reported to an executive, leading to faulty decision-making
  • They were expected to replicate the success they had had elsewhere almost immediately

So how do you improve the chances of your executive hire being able to hack it?

The first and perhaps best piece of advice we can give is: consider letting professionals mount the search for you.

Finding the right executive is part art, part science. At Flexability our executive search process is comprehensive and collaborative. Our discovery phase doesn’t just involve sitting down with your executive team; we seek out opinions from all corners of your organization.

Getting an external party to lead this search is also helpful because it’s near impossible for an internal team to identify the blind spots from within in your organization. Being aware of potential challenges is one way to ensure that the executive you hire is prepared and has the right skills to lead your team.

Look beyond past success

The fact that an executive has done well in a previous position is good to know, but should not be a major deciding factor unless you have inside knowledge of how that success was built.

A thorough executive search has to be interrogative and insightful. Consider whether a particular leadership style would work as well in your company. Did the executive have more or less of the same resources to work with as they’d get with you?

Diversity is a real strength

Successful, resilient companies often have a diverse leadership team that is able to work together. This diversity can be a source of extraordinary strength as it allows insights into a variety of demographics, helps you avoid pitfalls, and brings with it the innovation that can only come from having people with different worldviews and backgrounds working together.

At Flexability we prioritize diversity, but also stress the importance of creating and maintaining an inclusive environment so that people from different backgrounds feel comfortable and accepted in your space.

If you’ve got an executive position that you need to fill and think we can help, head over here.