Why you do not need an outstanding CEO, CTO, CFO and other CxO

You need good and competent management to make your company grow and develop. But, you don’t have to entice Satya Nadella from Microsoft.  When you hire a CEO, CTO or a manager for another important position you have to use an individual approach. The head of Indigo Tech Recruiters Ekaterina Osadchuk told us how to choose a top manager according to your business needs, and why he does not have to be an Elon Musk.

When hiring top people for your team, get rid of the thought that there is a “better CMO,” “great CEO,” “Sales Guru” and “outstanding CTO.” They, of course, sometimes occur nature, but these rare individuals are not like to do your specific business much good. You need a person who will solve your company’s problems during the next 1-2 years. That’s why you do not need to hunt CTO from Google or Facebook.

The reasons for an urgent search of a new top manager can be several:

  1. The former top manager can not work at the new scale and pace of business growth.
  2. Your startup is growing rapidly. That means it’s time to move on to a professional system of company management.
  3. A mistake in hiring: a person leaves the company during the first year of work because the tasks and culture of the company do not coincide with their expectations.

And you need to figure out how to cope with the first two points in case you do not want to face the third one.

Managing a company with modest turnover and a local team of 30 people is not the same as leading an international company of 300 employees or a business that went public on an IPO.

If you grow fast, your leaders need to be either developed or changed. It is impossible to choose the best way here. If you have a couple of years left and your manager is smart, experienced,loyal to the company, , and has good development potential than you would be better off giving them a chance for self-development. But remember that you can’t improve than two competencies annually, and you have to develop only those skills that are “in the zone of proximal development.” So you definitely should not start from scratch.

If you are the owner of a start-up that broke into the market with a cool and in-demand product, you do not have a year or two left for developing top managers from current team members. In their case because your top people need to be able to guide the company through a stage of rapid growth painlessly.

If you understand that your manager cannot cope with a team of 30 people, and you need to grow quickly, then there are two options. Either you both agree, and the employee stays in the company, but he needs to take different role and position, or you need to say goodbye to each other. Such is life: in a fast and changeable world,  companies are either fast, or they die.

How to say goodbye to an employee who went with you through hard times, while you were growing and fighting for every dollar? That is a topic for another article. However here’s a vivid example of how a company’s top manager can hinder business growth because of some personal ambitions. Once we had a client who was trying to hire a Senior Python Developer in Kiev for months. He had interviewed 30 candidates. It was amazing because the task is not that difficult. Over one month we showed the CTO of their company 13 candidates, and he rejected all of them. Moreover, the candidates themselves did not want to continue communication.

We gathered candidate feedback, and it turned out that all the guys were shocked by the quality of the interview. Questions were at the university level, and the overall manner of the interview was strange. We did a survey and discovered statistics on the market. It turned out that everyone had known about their vacancy for a long time, but no one wanted to deal with a company that has such a bizarre approach to processes. In the end, the owner of the company decided to hire a new CTO, and interviews were assigned to another person. As a result, the whole technical team was completed in a month.

Anyway, it is worth starting with a clear understanding of the tasks for the future top manager of your company for the next year or two. Then it becomes clear what competencies they should have. Ttheir is the background for forming the structure of interviews for future candidates. Just develop a list of questions for each skill or ask HRD and/or Executive Search specialist for help.

The main things for you to understand are:

  1. Is the candidate a talented and motivated specialist or not?  
  2. Will they be able to ensure the activities entrusted to their department are at a high level?
  3. Are they able to determine the strategy and draw up an operational plan for them according to the company’s strategy? Or, if they are a CEO, are they able to develop the company’s strategy according to the owner’s wishes.
  4. Will they be able to join the existing team easily and work effectively together with the team?
  5. Will they be able to manage their team effectively?

I offer a few questions that could help you to understand how the person will cope with your tasks and fit your team.  

  1. What makes you an excellent CTO, CFO, CEO, etc.? What do you think are your core competencies? What are you especially good at?
  2. Which project/task could you name as the most significant achievement in your career?
  3. What real results did you achieve? Why do you call it your achievement?
  4. Why were you chosen to complete it?
  5. What are 2-3 challenges you have faced during your work? How did you manage to cope with them?
  6. What was your plan and what resources did you have?
  7. How did you understand that you coped with the project/task well?
  8. What skills did you need to achieve your goal?
  9. What mistakes were made during the work on the project, how did you cope with your mistakes?
  10. What would you do differently if you had such an opportunity?
  11. What was the most challenging thing for you?
  12. What drove you while working on the project? And demotivated you?
  13. How did you drive the team? Give a few examples of employee motivation during the work. How did you manage those who were not motivated or did not cope with the tasks?
  14. How did you grow professionally after their achievement?
  15. If we called your supervisor and asked for recommendations, what would he say about you? And what would the team members say?
  16. If you created your company, what would be its core values?
  17. What will you do during the first month at their position?

These are just some of the issues that allow you to understand the competencies, motivations, and values ​​of the person with whom you are talking. The last question will make it possible to realize the pace of a person (for example, if they plan a month to learn the ropes, their is not the pace of a fast-growing company), whether they expects instructions or will be active themself, whether they correctly understand the tasks you have outlined.

When looking for a manager, it is important not to overdo it and not to take a manager with a “bag of competencies.”

If you are thinking about growing 10 times in 3-5 years and being present at different markets, it does not mean that you already need to hire top manager that has experience of working in an international company of more than 1000 people. If they did not grow with the company to its current scale, and they experience working only for a large business, they will not know how to cope with your current tasks and problems. And the rest of the team will be confused about why their person is here and why they get a lot of money.

You should make sure that the top manager you hire has the necessary experience and qualities to manage the company at the growth stage and not just the one that came up inside a large company to the level of top manager. If you still think it is worthwhile to aim big and immediately build a massive company by hiring such people, consider the following scenario.

You get the ideal CV of a perfect top manager with brilliant recommendations. They tell you how successfully they coped with thousands of employees and multimillion-dollar contracts. You think “That is it. We must hire them. ” You offer an excellent compensation/benefits package to attract their “star” and you are expecting incredible results. Time passes, and the incredible results do not happen.

Why did that happen? The top manager of a large company is used to working in a company with developed  processes, where incoming letters and emails already have descriptions of problems and lists of solutions. Someone appoints meetings, and it is always clear who is responsible for what. In that company, their main tasks are to improve, to complete, to rebuild.

In a growing company, every day is a fire. Here you need to be able to build processes from scratch with one hand, while setting appointments with the other one. You need to put out the fire with your right foot and fight your competitors with your left foot. And when a new top manager does not have their sort of experience, there is a serious risk of losing employees who consider it unfair that someone is paid a lot more than they are despite performing much less. .

Another mistake is to concentrate more on the candidate’s lack of skills rather than on their advantages. When you become an adult and get experience, you realize that perfect people do not exist. Therefore, during our communication with the candidate we often focus on their advantages and talents, that could be useful to the company. If you need an excellent CTO, ask them about what makes them  stand out from the crowd in their job. Try to understand how their qualities will help solve the required range of tasks for a couple of years. And rely on those results when making a decision, even if in some other way the candidate is not ideal.

When you choose an appropriate person, there is one more step. You need to ask for recommendations. When selecting top managers, it is essential that the owner or CEO themself check the recommendations of the finalists. And you need to do ttheir according to the same criteria that you have already defined at the very start and used during interviews.

You need to ask for recommendations not only from people who were mentioned by the candidate. Such recommendations will be positive for sure. Ask also from those people who were not mentioned by your candidate, but who worked directly with them. But of course not from the current employer, if you are headhunting. Their goes without saying..

So, everything has gone well and you feel you’ve found your person. Congrats! . But now comes the most important task. You need to integrate the new top into the team correctly. You must devote a significant part of your time to their process. Make sure that the new team member understands your expectations precisely.

  • agree on their monthly, weekly and daily tasks, so that the employee began to benefit the company immediately. It is also about the fun and motivation. If an employee immediately sees the result of the work, the team also will notice and will appreciate the benefit of hiring a new person.
  • provide maximum information about the company, product, technology, market, customers, competitors, strategy. The new top manager should get to know all aspects of the business as quickly as possible.
  • make a list of people he needs to meet. Help them to make appointments with other top managers, department heads and, of course, with your team. But make sure that the new top manager comes to the meeting with the prepared list of questions about the work processes of every department, about current difficulties, expectations from them, etc. Their will allow them to get acquainted with the team and understand everything quickly

If the new employee does not have questions if he does not want to learn the documents and get acquainted with key people in the team, fire them during the first month.

Hiring a top is a unique challenge. And if you made a mistake, then firing them during the first year of their work is a bad signal to the market, it is a negative experience and a loss of the team’s trust in future top managers. And of course, there is a significant loss for your business. In a modern rhythm, fast and sometimes aggressive in its speeds, you can not waste a year working with the wrong person.

Make sure that you take the time to find a manager who will be outstanding because he will solve problems and generate ideas precisely for your company.

Author: Ekaterina Osadchuk, CEO at Indigo Tech Recruiters