5 Ways To Stop Hiring Managers That Suck!

posted by WMC

North America spends $14 billion a year on leadership development and over two million leadership articles and books have been published.

And what have we got to show for it? The results have been truly staggering, the application of trillions of dollars and countless man hours sees employee engagement falling or stagnant and workplace stress at record highs. Most of us, most of the time, have a boss who sucks.

We should blame Darwin. Consider homo sapiens evolutionary history as a single day; 23 hours, and 59 minutes – 500,00 years – were spent doing a spot of hunting and gathering on the African savannah. At 1 minute to midnight – 5,000 years ago – someone decided to do a bit of farming. Fast forward through the rise and collapse of classical civilizations, feudalism, slavery, colonialism, and a couple of world wars, and you end up sitting in a cubicle contemplating the uselessness of the guy in the corner office. The problem is we have taken the human out of the stone-age but we haven’t taken the stone-age out of the human.

let’s hire the big guy!

After 30 years of working in HR I have never heard anyone say ‘let’s go for the biggest guy who looks like he might be related to me.’ But…. take a look at Fortune 500 CEO’s and what do we end up with? You’ve got it, tall white men. Less than 15% of American males are over 6 feet compared to 58% of Fortune 500 CEO’s, even more strikingly 3.9% of men are over 6’2” against 30% of CEOs.

On the African plain favouring height made sense. If you want to go hunting, or the tribe in the next valley is picking a fight, choosing the biggest, boldest, strongest, and most experienced male is the way to go. If he is also related to you, well the mastodon gets killed and you get your share of the meat.

Our instincts are the unconscious drives that made stone-age humans successful. Our obsession with sex and nurturing our children ensures our DNA survives. We seek to dominate, but hate to be dominated – the strong and bold get to eat the lion’s share of the meat and attract the best mates. We fixate on romantic jealousy to ensure that the kids we bring up are our own.

In the modern world, acting on your stone-age instincts and appointing the big guy who looks like the people who usually get to choose – white – and who can’t have enough money and status, gets us into all kinds of trouble. If someone says, ‘he looks like a natural leader’, reach for your spear. Don’t believe me…..google Donald Trump, he comes in at 6’2”. Fortunately, he is also humble, empathetic, cares about others and is not overly fixated on his children and their success – ok, ok – you have the point!

Just because evolution has designed us for the stone age doesn’t mean we must act on those instincts.  Evolution has also given us amazing cognitive abilities to make rational choices based on evidence and facts. Our weakness for tall leaders is like our love of chocolate and sugary snacks. We have a strong urge to shovel these down despite the obvious damage to our health and waistlines. As a hunter-gatherer, it made perfect sense, you might go days or even weeks without eating. The ability to gorge huge amounts on high energy food in double quick time meant that you got to survive and reproduce.

Just as we can decide not to munch through the third Boston cream doughnut, so we can apply our rationality to our appointments, and choose leaders that have the right knowledge and emotional and cognitive intelligence. Doing these 5 things will help us make the right choices:

  • Set clear selection criteria based on the knowledge and experience required
  • Rigorously use psychometric and cognitive testing to understand their emotional and intellectual competencies
  • Understand how they apply their knowledge and skills through robust behavioral interviewing
  • Carry out thorough background and reference checks
  • Continuously look for, and challenge conscious and unconscious prejudices

It works and it’s not really that difficult!

Or…….. we can just keep on doing what we are doing. Go ahead and pick the big white guy with a huge ego, no relevant experience, a propensity to show off and boast about assaulting women; or a female with decades of public service, who wears pant suits and is,….errrr…… 5’4”.

Mike Davies of Western Management Consultants (WMC) speaks, writes and consults to help teams be great, leaders engaging and work safe. He is a columnist for Troy Media where this article originally appeared. He has worked for over 20 years as a senior executive in HR in North America and Europe.

See Mike’s original LinkedIn article here.

The opinions represented here do not necessarily represent WMC’s views as a whole.