𝗕𝘂𝗶𝗹𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗮𝗻 𝗘𝘅𝗲𝗰𝘂𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗲 𝗧𝗲𝗮𝗺
Updated: Feb 11
Hiring a new executive for your growing startup is both exciting and daunting.
You are investing in the company’s future by adding someone who can have an exponential impact in driving and sustaining growth.
This role will have a large impact. You want to manage expectations across the company including:
𝘊𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘪𝘥𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘴: Emphasize your success and the growth plan, the expanding opportunities, and the company’s values and culture. You want them to meet many members of the team. Openly share any challenges they may face to build a long-term relationship.
𝘓𝘦𝘢𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘩𝘪𝘱 𝘛𝘦𝘢𝘮: Discuss the expansion plan and where this person will complement the management team. With the new role coming, clarify responsibilities going forward, how to encourage teamwork, and ways to convey culture.
𝘐𝘯𝘷𝘦𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘴: Ask their opinion on priorities, background, and recommended candidates. You may want them to meet finalists.
𝘈𝘭𝘭 𝘌𝘮𝘱𝘭𝘰𝘺𝘦𝘦𝘴: Share your journey and plans, explaining how this new position fits into your evolution and will improve the business.
𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝗦𝗲𝗲𝗸
The executive should be bright, capable, and skilled with a diverse background across responsibilities. Hopefully, they've made mistakes and learned important lessons. Success is a weak educator.
Other aspects to evaluate:
Shared Values. You want someone who can advance the company while grounded in your culture and purpose.
Complementing Skills. Based on the current strengths of you and leadership, what expertise and styles will help the team dynamic.
Immediate Impact. Seek someone who can make significant, fast improvement (e.g. knowledge, management, or reputation).
"𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙢𝙤𝙨𝙩 𝙚𝙛𝙛𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙫𝙚 𝙡𝙚𝙖𝙙𝙚𝙧𝙨 𝙨𝙘𝙤𝙧𝙚 𝙝𝙞𝙜𝙝 𝙞𝙣 𝙗𝙤𝙩𝙝 𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙛𝙞𝙙𝙚𝙣𝙘𝙚 𝘼𝙉𝘿 𝙝𝙪𝙢𝙞𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙮." - Adam Grant
Self-Awareness. Confidence in knowing that failure is not trying. Humility in realizing there is always better and never best.
Effective Leadership. Will this person encourage productivity and collaboration both within their team and across all teams?
Focus on the Mid-Term. Avoid the temptation to find someone amazing but will not start to add huge value for a couple years.
Entrepreneurial Mindset. Identify someone who will treat the business as their own.
You want to find a leader with the experience to take the company to the next level and the ability to balance strategy and tactics.
𝗛𝗼𝘄 𝘁𝗼 𝗙𝗶𝗻𝗱 𝗟𝗲𝗮𝗱𝗲𝗿𝘀
Expect a long recruiting process. It will be tough to find the right person for all criteria and you want a lot of people to meet them.
One way to get a better idea how to find the right person is informational interviews with amazing people already in the position. Ask them the best place to find candidates, how to distinguish great leaders from good ones, and effective screening techniques.
Rely on investors and key stakeholders to introduce current experts and then to recommend potential candidates. You may also ask other founders, especially if they are two steps ahead in their growth and recently went through a similar process. Finally, check with your team, vendors, and maybe even clients if they know of potential candidates. Your success is in their interest too.
I’m biased, but consider the option of an interim or fractional leader who can show you how the role will function at a lower cost and risk.
𝗔𝗳𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗗𝗲𝗰𝗶𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻
Circle back to all the stakeholders once the new executive is chosen. You want to be really clear about their role and expected impact.
Check with the team around the new leader's goals, duties, and onboarding plan. Explain if the leader will immediately tackle projects and build a team or will they seek a lot of feedback in their first few weeks before making decisions.
𝗔𝗿𝗲 𝗧𝗵𝗲𝘆 𝗪𝗼𝗿𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗢𝘂𝘁?
You may not know if someone is going to be a strong fit until it’s been a couple of months.
Some early signs to watch:
Are they effectively describing a realistic plan for the next year?
Have they learned the motivations for everyone on their team?
Do they own their decisions? If these decisions are coming back to the founder, then determine and address what is happening.
Are employees going to them for help? If not, that is a bad sign.
Are they balancing strategic plans and tactical actions? Someone weighted to one side may not make an impact in a startup.
If someone is struggling, dig in immediately and try to correct course. Even experienced leaders may come out of the gate slowly. Explore if they have thoughts how to improve. Be supportive but agree on an action plan.
If it’s not going to work out, make the decision quickly. The larger impact of the role means more damage can occur over time.
Hiring a new executive is exciting as you leap forward. It’s also scary as people wonder about their value and the coming changes.
Openly discuss your growth and the possibilities for everyone. This is a large step – take it thoughtfully.