Ten Lessons From Great People Decisions

I recently finished reading Great People Decisions – Why they matter so much, Why they are so hard, and How you can master them – by Claudio Fernandez Araoz.

The book’s main premise is that “Making great people decisions is a craft, and it can be taught and learned”. Here are ten lessons I learned and excerpted from reading Great People Decisions:

Lesson 1: People Decisions Are Vitally Important to You and Your Organization

“If you prove to be skilled at solving “people puzzles,” your career prospects will almost certainly get brighter. Conversely, if you repeatedly fail to  get the right person in the job your career will suffer(…)Mastering great people decisions will do both. It will enhance and improve your personal relationships, and increase your professional satisfaction.”

Lesson 2: The Success Formula

“…The formula for career success includes at least four other factors (besides luck). They are: 1) Genetics, 2) Development, 3) Career decisions, and 4) People decisions. I am convinced that these factors reinforce and build upon each other, and create a multiplier effect. I also believe these different factors have different weights in our life.”

Lesson 3: People Decisions Are Hard

“Collectively, these factors  help explain why making people decisions is so damnably difficult: 1) Statistical Odds 2) Difficult Assessments a) Impact of assessment errors b) Unique jobs c) Changing jobs d) Intangible traits e) Inaccessible candidates 3) Psychological Biases a) Procrastination b) Overrating capability c) Snap judgement d) branding e) Evaluating people in absolute terms f) Seeking confirmatory information g) Saving face h) Sticking with the familiar i) Emotional anchoring j) Herding 4) Wrong Incentives a) Candidate circumstances b) Political pressures.”

Lesson 4: The Great Paradox

The majority of us are not equipped with the right tools to make great people decisions – “…we get little formal training in making the right people choices, both because of a lack of initial awareness about its importance and because of the false belief that this skill is not learnable. Then, when we’re in a position to learn from experience, we often can’t learn from experience. And to top it all off, we think we’re far better at people choices than we really are(…) And great people decisions need active management. They are less like a physical infrastructure, and more like money: They achieve their true potential only if you figure out how to deploy them effectively.”

Lesson 5: Knowing When a Change Is Needed

“In order to successfully implement a strategy, not only do the right leaders need to be chosen, but those leaders need to be aligned across the different hierarchical levels of an organization(…)Even when people changes are justified, it’s usually very difficult to implement them…your goal should be to define your decision-making process in advance, so that it will be as disciplined and objective as possible.”

Lesson 6: What to Look For

“1) Knowing what to look for is important because a) Some characteristics are better predictors of success. b) You need to focus youefforts. c) You will avoid discrimination. d) You will be faced with difficult tradeoffs among real candidates. 2) All of the following characteristics are important a) IQ (although most candidates for senior positions already have high levels b) Relevant experience, particularly for senior positions c) Emotional intelligence-based competencies, particularly for senior positions d) Potential, particularly for junior to middle-management levels e) Values, in all cases 3) A highly disciplined process must be followed a) Confirming the managerial priorities b) Identifying the key competencies required c) Clearly defining them in behavioral terms d) Agreeing on the required levels and relative weight for each key competence.”

Lesson 7: Where to Look: Inside and Out

“Large companies should continually invest in succession plans and inventories of talent and key competencies. In addition, special internal and external efforts should be made for specific needs, particularly at the top. Despite the proliferation of advertising options and the promise of the Internet, direct contacts continue to be extremely powerful. Clever sourcing is both an extremely effective and efficient way to identify highly qualified real candidates. In many cases you can generate most candidates on your own. Professional help can be useful for senior positions, new jobs, when you need to cast a wide net, or for confidentiality reasons.”

Lesson 8: How to Appraise People

“You can significantly increase your organizational capability in this critical area by: a) Selecting the right assessors b) Training them following proven practices c) Reviewing assessments before confirming the hiring or promotion decision d) Following up over time the results of these decisions, for individual as well as organizational feedback purposes.”

Lesson 9: How to Attract and Motivate the Best People

“Best practices for attracting and motivating the best people include a) First, understanding the candidate’s motivation, concerns, and alternatives b) Sharing your passion about the opportunity c) Paying competitively for the relevant market, without overdoing it d) Setting up the right incentives, with great care in their design e) Properly dealing with any special risks f) Having enough courage to do exceptional things in exceptional cases.”

Lesson 10: How to Integrate the Best People

” a) Companies can do several things to support integration: 1) Being proactive at internal communication and candidate preparation 2) Properly preparing the ground within the organization 3) Closely following up the process at regular intervals, monitoring the level of organizational support, relationship building, working of the business model, and setting the stage for early wins. b) Candidates should also take charge of their successful integration: 1) Ensuring the right sponsor 2) Realizing that the integration work is harder than expected 3) Asking up front for the type of organizational support required 4) Focusing on a few key areas 5) Properly managing expectations 6) Confirming the new team 7) Spending enough personal time with all relevant stakeholders.”

What are some lessons you have personally learned with regards to making recruitment and hiring decisions?


Omar Halabieh

Great People Decisions

Great People Decisions

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