Thursday, December 18, 2014

Book Review: Don't Hire the Best


I have been catching up on my reading of late after my “to-read” list crossed 50. The most recent book I completed is Abhijit Bhaduri’s (@AbhijitBhaduri) Don’t Hire the Best. Intrigued by the title, I approached the book with some amount of curiosity. After completing it, I can say with conviction that it is a book all recruiters, HR and L&D personnel, leaders and managers ought to read.

The subtitle of the book is: An Essential Guide to Picking the Right Team. However, the book per se is much more than that. It weaves theory with case studies and narratives with effortless ease making what would otherwise have been a rather academic subject, fast paced and interesting. In his trademark style of simple writing (i.e., minus bombastic jargon) without being simplistic, Bhaduri breaks down the roles and skills required of those in a leadership position before going on to write about assessing those skills and organizational fit.

The thrust of his book is on, as the title says, “don’t hire the best”. While it focuses on guiding organizations to select the right people at the top, the lessons can be applied to recruiting, coaching, developmental feedback and team building. More than ever before, organizations need to build the right culture to retain the right people, be on the cutting edge and meet the flux of change. Hierarchical or not, all organizations are driven by people at the helm. And it is utterly critical to ensure that those recruited to lead the organizations are the right people. Bhaduri quotes stories of rock star CEOs and executives recruited from outside who failed to integrate into the culture and wreaked havoc without intending to. The loss incurred can go deep and permeate multiple levels from lost talent and credibility to irate customers. Hence, it’s not the best resume but the right hire that makes a difference. He doesn't leave us with theories and observations but deep dives into the details of how to conduct the evaluation providing many practical insights, implementable suggestions and heaps of learning.

The four areas assessed during the evaluation process are education, experiences, competencies and personality. The first two are relatively easy to glean from a resume, and a well-designed interview can assess the third aspect, competencies. However, evaluating personality is a different ballgame. And personality is the defining factor in how successful or not an individual will be in a position of authority and power in an organization. Without an appropriate organizational culture and personality match, the relationship is likely to be doomed. “The measurement of personality is the greatest predictor of fit with the role and the culture. The role operates in the context of the organization’s culture.”  This sentence underlies the main theme of the book.

The assessing of personality requires the use of appropriate psychometric instruments and individuals skilled to do so. Using the Hogan Assessment System as the base, Bhaduri highlights two aspects of one’s personality – the enablers and the derailers emphasizing that each of these must be assessed in the context of the role for which the individual is going to be recruited. The enablers in one organization and role may be derailers in another. Supporting each personality factor with a narrative drawn from his experience, he illustrates how each enabler and derailer works in the real world.

Hogan Performance Indicators (HPI) in the Hogan system are the enablers – “the characteristics that facilitate or inhibit the person’s ability to get along with others and to achieve his goals”.  While one would need to be formally trained in using the Hogan Assessment System, the book is a good introduction to the system, its applicability and benefits. HPI has seven scales, which the book explains in some detail: 1) Adjustment reflecting the degree to which a person can adapt and show resilience; 2) Ambition exemplifying the extent to which a person seeks status and values achievement; 3) Sociability representing the degree to which an individual likes to interact and be around others; 4) Interpersonal Sensitivity showcases a person’s sensitivity, tact and perceptiveness; 5) Prudence illustrates degree of conscientiousness and self-control; 6) Inquisitive typifies curiosity, vision and imagination; and finally, 7) Learning Approach reflects the degree to which an individual appreciates academic activities for themselves. Each individual will have a mix of scores on the seven scales mentioned. “All personality elements have to be interpreted against a role and the culture of the organization”.

Hogan Development Survey (HDS) lists 11 performance risks that can derail a person, his/her career and the organization if s/he in a position of power and authority. “Derailers are deeply ingrained personality traits that affect leadership style and action”. I won’t detail out the derailers; I highly recommend this book to all L&D and HR professionals, executive coaches, and leaders who are building or coaching their teams to become more effective – both for the org as well as for themselves. I have listed the derailers here: 1) Excitable, 2) Skeptical, 3) Cautious, 4) Reserved, 5) Leisurely, 6) Bold, 7) Mischievous, 8) Colourful, 9) Imaginative, 10) Diligent, and 11) Dutiful. At senior levels, leaders inevitably fail not because of competency issues but because of the derailers that make up the “dark side” of their personality.

The final section of the book gave me my Aha! moment where Bhaduri elucidates how to determine organizational fit using MVPI (Motive, Values and Performance Inventory) – the core beliefs that drive one’s behavior. “The values that leaders hold are important indicators of the culture that they create in the organizations they lead.” The MVPI has 10 scales like recognition, power, hedonism, affiliation, and aesthetics and so on. “…You will often see the organization mirroring the values of the most influential leader of the organization,” writes Bhaduri.


All in all, this slim book with its quirky title packs a punch. Thoroughly researched and eminently readable, it offers many practical advice and contains Bhaduri’s synthesized experience made accessible for all. 

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