Four Filters to Avoid a Bad Hire
I've been reading Bob Iger's book The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company. As the title suggests, Iger is the CEO of Disney and has led the company to a resurgence over his fifteen years at the helm. The book shares some of the principles that Iger has used to lead Disney, and they are helpful, but I found one story particularly instructive for churches that are considering hiring someone.
In October of 1995 then CEO Michael Eisner hired Michael Ovitz to be the President of the Walt Disney Company. Ovitz's background was as a talent agent who led Creative Artists Agency, and was a friend of Eisner's. The hire went sideways from almost the first day. It became apparent to everyone that Ovitz was not the right guy and was unable to make the transition from CAA into Disney, and in January of 1997 he was let go. I found Iger's analysis of this hire to be insightful:
He and Michael both wanted it to work, each for his own powerful reasons. Michael expected that Ovitz would come in and know how to do the work, and Ovitz had no idea what kind of adjustments he’d need to make to succeed within the culture of a giant, publicly traded company.
They should both have known that it couldn’t work, but they willfully avoided asking the hard questions because each was somewhat blinded by his own needs. It’s a hard thing to do, especially in the moment, but those instances in which you find yourself hoping that something will work without being able to convincingly explain to yourself how it will work—that’s when a little bell should go off, and you should walk yourself through some clarifying questions. What’s the problem I need to solve? Does this solution make sense? If I’m feeling some doubt, why? Am I doing this for sound reasons or am I motivated by something personal?
According to Iger, the problem that Eisner needed to solve was finding a dependable second chair leader to fill the hole that had been left by the death of Frank Wells in 1994. By the time that the hire was made, Eisner was stretched thin, and began to grow desperate... and didn't answer the rest of the questions.
One of the most dangerous things that can happen in a church's hiring process is to fall in love with a candidate too early. Time and time again I hear stories of churches who have hired someone who they thought was the perfect fit... only to realize that they didn't ask the right questions during the process.
When we work with churches, we advise them to screen for four things before they interview, or fall in love with, a candidate:
- Theological Alignment: Do they line up with you on close-fisted theological issues? Are there any areas that they are especially passionate about that your church is not? Will they attempt to convert your congregation to their theological point of view?
- Church Cultural Alignment: What type of church background are they coming out of? Mega and giga church cultures are significantly different than those of small country churches. Will this person thrive in your church culture, or chafe at the way things happen?
- Personality: Does this person's values and wiring line up with what your church values? One of the biggest reasons that a hire goes bad from a personality standpoint is that a church has not put the time into determining what they truly value. Invest the time here and spare yourself pain in the future.
- Job Skills: Have they demonstrated the ability to do the job in a previous position or do they appear to be ready to take the next step?
As you go through this screening process, candidates with red flags should be eliminated from your search, while candidates with yellow flags are safe for consideration... as long as you faithfully investigate the yellow flags.
Are you getting ready to start this process? I'd love to spend some time learning about your search and sharing some of what we have learned... click here for a free, 30-minute conversation about your search.
P.S. We put together a helpful tool for churches to help screen in these four areas. Click here for a free copy of 20 Things to Know About a Candidate BEFORE Talking to Them.