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Just Do It, But Do It Right

Successful companies hire people whose values are in alignment with their organizations. That practice is critical when filling leadership positions. Yet there's a disturbing trend in : Rather than recognizing the best within our organizations, it's fashionable to believe that the choicest employees are somewhere else--"out there." Perhaps employees from the outside hold added intrigue, as if, once hired, they'll eagerly divulge the trade secrets of their former employers, or introduce refreshing, unwavering attitudes. But, as recent events at Nike show, problems arise when newly hired leaders demonstrate values different from those professed by the organization.

Little more than a year ago, Nike's founder and board chair Phil Knight was ready to relinquish his chief executive duties. Two life-long Nike veterans, Mark Parker and Charlie Denson, were vying for the CEO position. But Nike's board decided to look outside its culture for someone with experience managing multiple brands and international markets. So they hired Bill Perez from household-products giant S.C. Johnson & Son. On January 23, Perez agreed to step down after only thirteen months.

What went wrong? "The cultural leap was really too great," said Knight. In fact, Nike's cult-like culture, made up of creative designers and budget-busting marketers, stood in the way of any outsider's successful assimilation into its upper ranks. But Nike is not the only company with a strong culture, or the first to face this challenge.

When a company hires a leader from outside the culture, employees might conclude that the company's have changed. For example, with Perez focusing resources on Nike's international business, designers probably wondered if the company still valued great design. If so, why did they hire Perez instead of Parker, an insider who was one of Nike's top shoe designers? Out of alignment with what they perceive as the organization's new values, employees stop producing their best work.

I've witnessed situations just like this in all levels of management. In their haste to attract managers, company recruiters neglect to consider their organization's culture. Often, disenchanted employees leave the new manager. And, just as frequently, the new manager leaves the company after a fairly short stay. So stop looking out there for good leaders. Your best candidates are likely right here, already a part of the culture!
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Now, something related to the post...

I see this happening where I work all the time. I'm at a YMCA camp. YMCA Camps in general all have a pretty well-defined and out of the ordinary culture. Ours is even different to most YMCA camps.

The desire to hire in a leader from another camp to see what those camps do and what the new leader can bring in is sometimes overwhelming to our "hirers". The problem is they have never fit in. They don't get how things work, they don't understand why things don't work exactly the same as the last camp they worked at. Their usual solution to this is to change the way things work here so they're comfortable. Then they have a revolt on their hands as their staff lose everything they've worked towards.

That was probably long winded, but I thought I'd agree with you whole-heartedly and try to start a conversation with your readers.

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