How To Hire Strategic Thinkers — Not Just Order Takers

Good help is hard to find. You want people you can throw in the deep end on day one and can trust to make smart decisions and understand the context and impact of their choices. In other words, you want strategic thinkers. I work with hundreds of ad agencies every year, and they describe this as their No. 1 challenge. They can easily find great order takers, but these employees don’t know how to independently guide clients, which means the senior staff has to oversee everything. Some people have suggested that Millennials aren’t great strategic thinkers because they’ve never developed the ability to solve problems on their own. They had helicopter parents who overscheduled and over-orchestrated their lives, they were praised simply for participating, and they never developed real communication skills. But, however this happened, we have a glut of order takers who have trouble thinking strategically. The Brain Cocktail of a Strategic Thinker To hire independent, strategic thinkers, you first must understand what that means. Strategic thinkers have: Curiosity. They ask great questions, and they ask a lot of them. Patience. They don’t rush to an answer, but take their time gathering all the facts and talking to all the right people before coming to a conclusion. Big-picture thinking. They understand the context and long-term impact of their actions and are able to connect smaller decisions back to it. Confidence. They’re not afraid to take a stand and defend it. How to Spot the True Strategists It’s a challenge, but you can identify true strategic thinkers in the hiring process. Here are some steps you can take to weed out the order takers. Conduct professional assessments. This is not about personality, but ability, behavior, [...]

How to Intentionally Build Your Company Culture (Rather Than Leave It to Chance)

Culture is like a hairstyle: Everyone has one, even if they’re bald. You can either pursue a style that accurately reflects your personality, or you can pretend it doesn’t matter and end up looking like Edward Scissorhands. If you haven’t been actively focused on your company culture, it can be hard to see clearly. It’s the same reason you don’t understand the quirks of your family when you’re a kid, but as an adult, you can look back on them with clarity. Whether you see it or not, company culture is a big deal for several reasons. 1. Employee satisfaction. An overwhelming number of statistics reveal the negative consequences of low employee engagement. Dissatisfied workers lead to greater absenteeism, lower productivity and higher turnover rates. If your employees are dissatisfied or bored at work, you have a serious problem. 2. Financial performance. Your culture is apparent to outsiders you interact with (vendors, customers, business partners, etc.), and no one wants to work with a negative company. It’s hard to communicate a positive identity when negative things are happening in your organization. For example, GitHub’s alpha-male culture apparently forced a female employee to quit. The PR and financial nightmare that ensued showed outsiders that it’s a bad place to work. A positive culture attracts outsiders while creating excited employees who advocate for the company. Culture increases productivity and boosts your image to improve financial performance. 3. Personal benefits. One of the privileges of running a business is influencing how it’s run. You don’t get to separate yourself from the culture you create: You suffer or enjoy whatever environment develops. Additionally, your personal values and character are reflected by your business, so make that image accurate. Taking charge [...]

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