Leaders get too confident and too cocky, and they just fly up there without taking lessons with them, or they freeze, and they get paralyzed in the terror of a different orientation and a different view of the world. So here are some of the– five of the numbers of things we found on the way up. How many of you have been involved here at Google in interviewing people for other jobs? Now, I know a little something about your selection process. You actually do a decent job of asking people for evidence-based behavioral events of their accomplishments. But many organizations still interview people using what? Their resume.
And what is it they do with the resume? This is the part where you talk. They go through it. Right. And then you hear eerie statements like this. Wow, look at those great apps you built at your company! That’s what we need! Or, my gosh, look at this incredible sophisticated coding and engineering work you’ve done at your company. That’s what we need!
Or, wow, look at these great brands you were part of building. That’s what we need! What’s happening in that statement? You’re setting somebody up to fail, because here’s the message you’re sending. You’re saying to them, you have a formula. You have a recipe for success that we would like you to bring here. How many of you have watched people enter the organization– maybe not here at Google, but maybe other companies– and have it not go well? And what’s the term we use after about six or seven months? They’re not a good fit. Right? Which is code for all kinds of things, usually not the issue of a fit.
It’s a failure of context. Right, this person failed to read the tea leaves. They come in with this mythical mandate to prove themselves. You told me this is what you wanted. Right? So they take the bait, and they come in, whether they’ve risen up and got hired by somebody inside, or came in from the outside, they have a mandate. So they took it seriously.
Well, the mandate is devoid of context, right? I don’t want your success formula slapped on my organization. I’m assuming there is some wisdom you can bring with you from those experiences that you can contextualize here. But if you fail to learn me before you try and change me, that’s not going to go well.
So from the very beginning, many of these leaders with promising talent and otherwise important contributions failed because they had this mandate that they believed they had to follow, that they should have never followed. Well, so let’s play this out.
So what happens when I’m trying to slap on this formula of success you told me you wanted, and it’s not working? What have you seen happen to the person who’s not being able to get traction? What do you see in them? They get frustrated. And why are they frustrated? They’re not making impact. And they were told to make impact.
So my first conclusion about why I’m not making impact is usually not, it must be me. Right? It’s usually you didn’t– I go to the hiring manager. You didn’t tell me it was this bad. Or, you didn’t tell me they were this resistant. And so now my diagnosis of what’s not working becomes an indictment and a judgment of why they can’t get this brilliant thing that I brought. Right?
What happens when those around this person feel indicted by their presence? And usually it sounds like this. Well, at Apple, we– or, well, at Microsoft, what we did was– and what are people saying in the hallway? If I hear one more story about where they came from– right? So now, the minute they start talking, when I was– that’s it. I’ve tuned out. What comes next could be brilliant. It could be an amazing solution to the problem we’re solving. I am not going to hear it, because I don’t give a crap about where you learned it.
And what you’re telling me, whether you mean to or not, is you don’t give a crap about where you’re applying it. Right? So now, this could have all happened in three months, six months, whatever. But look, the death spiral’s already begun. And I have had no impact.
Totally unnecessary. You still could have great things to offer that we need. And that’s the one thing we’re missing. So then, if I’ve risen up, or I now don’t trust you to handle my brilliance, I’m going to start to exert control. So if I’m in a managerial position, and I fear I’m not having impact and I’m being judged for it, I’m going to exert control.
So my ability to let go of decisions, my ability to let go of information, my ability to let go of influence that those I lead should have, is now impaired, because I fear if I let it go, I’ll be set up to fail. What I’m not seeing is, you’ve already begun to back away. We all see that back away, that sort of virtual or physical withdrawal of, OK, we know where this is going to go. I don’t want to be anywhere near it when it happens. Maybe you’ve had that experience.