Managing people stronger than yourself – should you employ a strong candidate?

An ex-Navy SEAL, Leif Babin, has once said: You need to be able to look inside yourself and check your ego. Always think how to be better.” When selecting a candidate for any given position, we should always be driven by the good of the company. Sometimes there shall be concerns and doubts: “this candidate is so strong that over time he or she will take my place”.  This is the time, when one should calmly consider potential benefits for the team. Ask yourself a question: will my company be able to go further thanks to this person? If the answer is “yes”, it is worth to stand up to the challenge and we will be able to learn a lot ourselves.

Some time ago we recommended a candidate to a client, with qualifications fitting the bill.  We were sure that person will be employed. We never expected the client to call us and decline the recommendation, explaining that the candidate could potentially take his place. A qualified employee must not be treated as a threat. First of all, such person is a great opportunity for company’s development.

We asked Marta Kliszczak-Jezior, Operations Director Poland of AA Euro Recruitment, about her experiences of recruiting candidates with strong competences and how she managed a well qualified team.

In your career, have you ever employed a person more experienced than you were?

I still remember an interview I had with a candidate applying for the position of a manager of a branch, which I was responsible for at the time. I was looking for a person with few years of experience in managing the temporary work line. A mature lady with 20 years of experience in HR turned up. From the very first moment I knew she could replace me as a manager – not only of that branch, but the entire region I supervised at the time. For a brief moment I was in doubt: what if she turns out better than me? Maybe the company I devoted so much to will see her huge potential as well and she will simply replace me?  These were mere seconds, but I remember this feeling until this day.  Of course I chose the good of the company. I was also simply curious of our cooperation. I decided to give us both a chance and my intuition did not fail me. She turned out to be an excellent employee and manager. She brought plenty of added value to the company and substantially developed the business line. In a year she was no longer my junior, but a partner in the region, where I still worked – she got promoted. For more than two years we had a very effective cooperation. I must admit I learned a lot from her. Though I do not work for this organisation any more, I know her management board appreciates her very much. Thanks to her experience and knowledge that company completed a lot of profitable recruitment projects.

How do you choose your team?

Good succession plan, thanks to which employees complement one another and are ready to take over their respective duties is essential to functioning of any company. Thus, naturally I look for people, whose views on business are similar to mine. The most crucial competence include: self-discipline, independence, ability to multi-task, creativity and being objective driven. In terms of soft skills I would add: huge optimism, empathy and ability to listen and draw conclusions.  

How do you manage a team with strong competences?

First of all, I give them the freedom to act and I let them learn from mistakes. I very much respect their individual approaches to attainment of goals. Thus, they have real influence on their self-development and development of the organisation they work for. I am inspired by the management strategy referred to as “a teal organisation”, it is a concept where there is no strict hierarchy and company’s operations are based on functions rather than positions. In an organisation managed in this manner, employees have their minds set on self-discipline and self-motivation, they know the importance of the role they have been given and they feel responsible for their work; their are partners in attainment of business objectives. With this approach, both me and my colleagues have the opportunity to learn from one another each day.

What characteristics are most important for skilful team management?

I believe it is crucial to be humble, we are then able to look at ourselves with criticism and remember that it is not ourselves in the limelight, but these are our co-workers who are the brightest stars. One should always continue to be responsible for team members, as then we shall be able to design a strategy for their development, so that they can develop in line with their interests and capacities. In consequence, one shall be able to align their competences to their positions and not the other way round. It is also very important to be open, not only to changes, but to ideas of other team members and to be able to listen and draw conclusions, added Marta Kliszczak-Jezior.

 In conclusion, we should follow the advise of ex-marine Leif Babin and “…check our ego and continue to work on being better and better” as then we can develop and achieve things we have never dreamt of before. By employing ones “stronger” then ourself we can only bring benefits to the company and the entire team. You will then get not only a valuable new member of the team, who will very soon be able to fully perform their duties, but also a person with a fresh view of the company’s situation. Such person shall be able to point to improvement or solutions of problems. Team members will save time, while owners will save money. Such employee shall be happy to share knowledge, thus bringing added value, supporting co-workers and motivating them to act.