How to find the right people?

“Khun Kriengsak, how can I have more of the right people?” Nick asks me during our recent coaching session.

Nick had been reading How the Mighty Fall, the management best-seller by Jim Collins, who wrote that having the right people is one of the key factors in success or failure. In the perfect world, these right people would share six key characteristics:

– They fit with the company’s core values.

– They don’t need to be tightly managed.

– They’re accountable for their responsibility.

– They fulfil their commitments.

– They are passionate about the company and its work, and

– When things go right they give credit to others, and when things go wrong they take the blame themselves.

The world isn’t perfect, of course, so finding enough of the right people is a never-ending challenge. I ask Nick how he thinks he might go about the process.

“There are at least two possible ways. Unleash talent from within and hire from outside,” he tells me.

“What’s your plan?”

“I like to start from the within first.”

“How, Nick?”

“My organisation needs to be explicit about our core values. We haven’t done that yet. Which organisation can I learn from?”

“What do you want to learn?”

“How to make our core values visible?”

“One organisation I’d recommend is, a successful online shoe and clothing company that relies heavily on building its corporate culture,” I say.

In his book Delivering Happiness, CEO Tony Hsieh recounts how, after he had successfully built up Zappos for a few years, he started to compile the culture book. He wrote the following e-mail to all of his employees asking them to share their views of the company’s culture:

“We will be putting together a mini-book as part of the orientation package for all new hires about the Zappos culture. Our culture is the combination of all our employees’ ideas about the culture, so we would like to include everyone’s thoughts in this book. Please e-mail me 100-500 words about what the Zappos culture means to you. (What is the Zappos culture? What’s different about it compared to other companies’ cultures? What do you like about our culture?)”

After all the e-mails were submitted, all of the ideas were consolidated without editing (except for typos) and the booklet has become a bible for hiring and working ever since.

“Thanks coach. That’s quite a practical approach,” says Nick. “I can modify it to fit with my organisation’s culture.”

“Nick, once you have a set of core values, what’s next?”

“I have to communicate them to all of my people.”


“We’re in the screen age _ every one of us can be reached on a screen of some kind _ computer, laptop, mobile, tablet. I’ll use all possible media: face-to-face, town hall meetings, and also Facebook. How often do you think I need to do this?”

“The real answer is, I don’t know. You would know much better than me. But from my experience, most organisations do these things with limited frequency.”

“Coach, I will do it as much as I can. When it comes to core values internally, I’d rather be over-communicating than not communicating enough.”

“I agree Nick. What else?”

“I like to discuss hiring the right people from outside. I have a strong head of HR. Unfortunately, recruitment is not her forte. What do I need to do?”

“What do you think?”

“I have three ideas in mind.

– I look outside for a couple of key positions.

– I hire an executive search firm to help.

– I create a new recruitment head _ since having the right people is a major part of our critical success factors.”

“Sounds like you already have a good plan. Is something about it bothering you?”

“I did have a bad experience with a headhunter once.”

“Tell me more.”

“A few years ago, we hired a search firm to fill one key position. We got a high-calibre candidate with a strong background. But after three months, he left us because he didn’t feel that he fit the organisational culture. That search firm didn’t do a good job of checking for cultural fit in my opinion.”

“Nick, you need some help with executive search. That’s inevitable. You can do your own search for only some key people. If you could go back in time and do it again, how would you do it differently?”

“I would be more careful about selecting the right search firm. I would ask potential firms how they check the fit between a candidate’s values and an organisation’s values. What are the best practices they have learned about this aspect?

“For my own part, I also would ask more people to get involved in the hiring process. For example, instead of interviews with just me and the HR chief, I would suggest the candidates have lunch or dinner with other key members in the team. I also would encourage the candidates to talk with some of our customers and suppliers: ask them about our company’s approach.”

“Nick, I like that. You’re turning a bad experience into a new lesson learned.”