Employers, Just Say ‘No’ to the Yes Men (and Women)

Leadership isn’t about making all the decisions. It’s about empowering talented people to make many of them for you, and utilizing their talents as effectively as possible.

What's the Big Idea? 


 Scalability in business is not just about being able to distribute products and services efficiently to as many people as possible. It’s also about the DNA of the business itself – its ability to remain lithe and innovative no matter how large it grows. 

In a marketplace that’s changing faster than ever, the flexibility and creativity of giants like Google – a company where managers are viewed as support for the teams they manage – puts them leagues ahead of competitors with bloated, top-heavy bureaucracies, where every innovation requires a ream of paperwork before seeing the light of day.  

The solution is simple, but tricky to implement. It begins with the hiring process. Tom Glocer, former CEO of Thomson Reuters, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a respected advisor to business leaders worldwide, says that smart leaders avoid the temptation to hire automatons – obedient workers with no ideas of their own. Obviously a smooth-running business depends on employee loyalty and competence, but equally important, says Glocer, are “curiosity, willingness to challenge, and honesty to speak truth to power.”

But identifying workers with this rare and subtle balance of traits is easier said than done. Glocer says that the typical job interview – a carefully managed exchange of information – is ill-suited to the purpose. Instead, employers should invest a good deal of time during the hiring process to ensure that they’re getting the best people. “Get a variety of data points.  Have several people from the senior ranks of the company meet the candidate.  If possible, do it more than one time.”  Doing so, he says, saves businesses significant time, money, and problems down the road. 

 

What’s the Significance?  

Leadership isn’t about making all the decisions. It’s about empowering talented people to make many of them for you, and utilizing their talents as effectively as possible. Not only are top-managed businesses difficult to scale in a marketplace that demands constant innovation – they’re also vulnerable to turmoil or collapse with the appointment of each new successor. 

For driven people accustomed to taking charge, as many leaders are, relinquishing control may be a challenge. It’s tempting instead to hire “yes men” and women who you can count on to carry out your instructions to the letter, and to stay out of the way the rest of the time. 

But successful businesses in this economy will be those that take a “leap of faith,” finding the best employees and making them masters of their own domain, and creating systems that allow them to test out their best ideas, and allow the business to absorb and adapt to the ones that will make it stronger.

About “Inside Employers’ Minds”

 “Inside Employers’ Minds: Confronting Critical Workforce Challenges” features a dedicated website (www.mercer.com/insideemployersminds) which contains a number of resources focused on addressing each key issue.

 

Image Credit: Butler/Shutterstock.com

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As you vote, keep in mind that we are looking for a winner with the most engaging social venture pitch - an idea you would want to invest in.

Lumina Foundation and Big Think have partnered to bring this entrepreneurial competition to life, and we hope you'll participate! We have narrowed down the competition to four finalists and will be announcing an audience's choice award and a judges' choice award in May.

The creator of the winning video — chosen by Big Think's audience, the Lumina Foundation, and an independent panel of experts (bios below) — will be flown to New York for a taping in the Big Think studio as a way to further promote their vision for a new, disruptive idea in post-secondary education.

Thank you to all of the contestants who spent time submitting applications, and best of luck to our final four competitors.

Finalist: Greater Commons - Todd McLeod

Greater Commons, founded by Todd McLeod and Andrew Cull, is an organization that helps people live happier, more successful and fulfilling lives through agile learning. The current education system is inefficient and exclusionary, in which many students who end up earning a degree, if at all, enter a career not related to their field of study. Greater Commons solves this problem and gap in post-high school secondary education in a variety of ways. Passionately and diligently, Great Commons helps others obtain skills, knowledge, wisdom, motivation, and inspiration so that they may live better lives.

Finalist: PeerFoward - Keith Frome

PeerForward is an organization dedicated to increasing the education and career success rates of students in low-income schools and communities by mobilizing the power of positive peer influence. PeerForward works with partner schools to select influential students as a part of a team, systemizing the "peer effect." Research in the fields of sociology of schools, social-emotional learning, adult-youth partnerships, and civic education demonstrates that students can have a positive effect on the academic outcomes of their peers. PeerForward is unique through its systemic solutions to post-secondary education.

Finalist: Cogniss - Leon Young

Cogniss combines technology and best practice knowledge to enable anyone to innovate and share solutions that advance lifelong learning. Cogniss is the only platform to integrate neuroscience, through which it solves the problem of access by providing a low-code platform that enables both developers and non-developers to build sophisticated education apps fast, and at a much lower cost. It addresses the uneven quality of edtech solutions by embedding research-based learning design into its software. App creators can choose from a rich set of artificial intelligence, game, social and data analytics, and gamification to build their perfect customized solution.

Finalist: Practera - Nikki James

Practera's mission is to create a world where everyone can learn through experience. Today's workplaces are increasingly dynamic and diverse, however, costly and time-consuming experiential learning is not always able to offer the right opportunities at scale. Many students graduate without developing the essential skills for their chosen career. Practera's team of educators and technologists see this problem as an opportunity to transform the educational experience landscape, through a CPL pedagogical framework and opportunities to apply students' strengths through active feedback.

Thank you to our judges!

Our expert judges are Lorna Davis, Dan Rosensweig, and Stuart Yasgur.

Lorna Davis is the Senior Advisor to Danone CEO and is a Global Ambassador for the B Corp movement. Lorna has now joined B-Lab, the non-for-profit that supports the B Corporation movement on an assignment to support the journey of large multi nationals on the path to using business as a force of good.

Dan Rosensweig joined Chegg in 2010 with a vision for transforming the popular textbook rental service into a leading provider of digital learning services for high school and college students. As Chairman and CEO of Chegg, Dan commits the company to fulfilling its mission of putting students first and helping them save time, save money and get smarter.

Stuart Yasgur leads Ashoka's Social Financial Services globally. At Ashoka, Stuart works with others to initiate efforts that have mobilized more than $500 million in funding for social entrepreneurs, engaged the G20 through the Toronto, Seoul and Los Cabos summits and helped form partnerships with leading financial institutions and corporations.

Again, thank you to our incredible expert judges.

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