An eye for talent
Everybody makes mistakes when hiring or promoting people, especially because people have a preference for promoting from within. So, it’s important to know when somebody is ready for more responsibility.
Give your people opportunities by observing them in different sets of circumstances multiple times, such as under stress or running a meeting. Put them in situations with planning and team building to see how they respond.
Also talk to their peers about their strengths and weaknesses.
“What I’ve done many times is I’ve hired an outside trainer and sent some of my managers to classes,” Fox says, “and then I use the outside trainer to evaluate my team based on how they perform within the meeting.”
He says if you promote someone too soon, you do him or her a disservice because the person can’t handle the responsibility. But if you don’t promote the employee on a timely basis, you run the risk of losing him or her.
“So, it’s a delicate balance, but I think the employees see how much effort you’re putting into the training and continuing education and the circumstances that you provide them,” Fox says.
“If you have an honest conversation with people on a two-way street — that they can talk to you, you can talk to them, which is a part of what that open-door policy really is — you know, they’re not surprised, but they know where they stand in the process.”
They may disagree with you, but the point is having that honest conversation, he says.
“I have found that people give me the benefit of the doubt and recognize that I’m an honest broker of talent,” Fox says. “There are people who have been promoted within and they’ve done well. There are people that I brought from outside and they have done well.
“But at the end of the day, people are working for people from whom they’re learning and have respect for.”
- Match personality and leadership attributes to your culture.
- Give staff space to make mistakes and learn as part of their development.
- Monitor your employees closely to ensure they are ready for more responsibility.
The Fox File:
Name: J. Jeffrey Fox
Title: CEO, managing member
Born: Anchorage, Alaska, where his father served at Elmendorf Air Force Base
Education: Bachelor’s in accounting from King’s College, a master’s degree in business administration in finance from Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh.
What was your first job and what did you learn from it? I delivered The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer for four years. I got up at 5 in the morning and delivered newspapers on my bicycle in Westlake (a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio).
The Plain Dealer got delivered every day — rain, shine, whatever. People counted on me to get their newspaper, and I had people up at 5:30 in the morning waiting for me to hand them their newspaper. I think the concept of responsibility, being able to take responsibility and being dependable is something I learned at an early age.
I had very supportive parents, such that if there was a foot or 2 feet of snow, my father or my mom actually helped me deliver newspapers. I learned early in life also that in difficult times you can rely upon key people in your life, and that is a tremendous comfort as you’re going out and being a risk taker.