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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