Tom Peters Transcript

Of all the tasks and strategies businesses can employ to get ahead, author and Thinkers50 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Tom Peters says it comes down to hiring and promoting good people.

“Hiring and promoting are the two most significant things that are done in any organization,” Tom says. “But most people aren’t very good at it. And most people haven’t studied it.”

Tom says great leaders can sense if someone is the right candidate during the interview, which means interviewing is critically important. This is the organization’s and leader’s chance to learn about potential employees, evaluate how they would fit in the role and team, and see how they respond to various situations.

Tom shares a story about doctors and healthcare providers interviewing to work at the Mayo Clinic, one of the world’s premier medical centers. The person conducting the interview will count how many times the applicant uses the word we and how many times they use the word I. The organization’s approach is that no matter how skilled the doctor is, if they use I more than they use we in the interview, they don’t have the team mentality to succeed in the Mayo Clinic.

Other leaders interview candidates at restaurants, baseball games, or other public venues to see how they treat the servers and people around them. A job applicant is likely trying to impress the interviewer, but how they act around other people can be telling of their character and personality.

But interviewing and hiring is just one piece of the puzzle. Tom believes companies have to promote the best people to succeed. But that doesn’t necessarily mean promoting the loudest people or those with the most impressive resumes. Organizations need to consider the full picture and a person’s potential to develop the people around them. Tom points out that introverts are often more humble and vulnerable, which can lead to strong leadership skills.

Tom once spoke with a general in the Indian military, who said he looks back three or four promotions to find the people who worked for the leaders and looks at the degree to which they grew under their leaders. Looking at how employees change and develop under certain leaders is a powerful and accurate way to see someone’s leadership ability. Because as Tom says, it’s not about if the leader got a few more cars off the manufacturing line at the end of the year but if they developed and encouraged their people. Tracking how employees grow and improve under leaders gives organizations a good idea of if they are promoting the right people.

Organizations often take a passive approach to hiring and promoting. But prioritizing finding and promoting the right people significantly impacts an organization. Considering the full measure of a person’s character and leadership abilities can help companies thrive with the right people in the right roles.

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