As the economy slowly heats up, we turn our attention to the hiring process. You can find Part One of this series, How to Hire Effectively for Lawyers : Understanding Your Culture by clicking here.
Have you read Good to Great? It’s arguably the most celebrated business book of the past ten years, and for good reason. Author Jim Collins and his research team painstakingly stitched together real-life data from a handful of successful companies and boiled down common-principles.
Chapter Two, “First Who, Then What”, is worth the price of the book alone. The whole idea is this: if you get the right people in place in your business, they will be committed to building the best law firm possible. Great companies consider traits such as inherent intelligence, work ethic, and character over specific knowledge or education, which they consider also important, but teachable.
Great companies also eschew the notion of having a singular leader drive the vision of the company. The team, not the head honcho establishes the “path to greatness.” Most companies rely on a single individual’s vision, which works okay as long as the leader is around and is making sound decisions. This means that in hiring, you need the A+ candidates, not just those that follow orders.
However, finding such talented individuals in this regard is easier said than done, so Collins and his team distilled three hiring priciples:
1) When in doubt, keep looking. You may need to hold tight on your growth until you can find the right fit. It’s better to hold off on growth than to grow in the wrong way.
2) When you know you need to make a people change, act. And before you fire someone, make sure you just don’t have them in the wrong role.
3) Put your best people on your biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems.
Collins’ ideas are challenging, and this blog post cannot do justice to the conclusions he and his team came to after years of research. What I find interesting is the recurrence of the idea of hiring people not first for their skills but for their inherent abilities. This was reflected in Part One, concerning hiring for culture, and is also echoed in the ideas of Joel Spolsky in his book on hiring, Smart and Gets Things Done.