leadership lane-assist

This My Leadership Lane-Assist series now turns to a couple of key prompts related to hiring employees. I’ll offer one in this post and another in my next.


Prompt #10: When it comes to hiring, wait rather than settle.

Prompt #11: Adapt your structures to your people, not the other way around.


Again, I’ll elaborate on the second prompt in my next post. For now, allow me to explain why I strongly advise waiting for the ideal person to fill a key role as opposed to settling for the proverbial “bird in the hand.”

I am inclined to agree with leadership pundits who assert that essential and central to executive effectiveness is selecting mission-compatible and values-congruent people who are better than you at what they do, then resourcing and releasing them to pursue excellence. I’m leery of that sort of reductionism on any subject, but I nevertheless believe that simple success formula has a lot to commend.

What Can You Afford?

The following corollary is at least equally true: weak or incompatible key employees limit your effectiveness in exponential measure. They diminish the effectiveness of everyone in your institution. Can you afford that?

patience when hiring employeesHere is where smaller and lower resource institutions (a fair characterization of most ABHE member colleges) are often severely tested and sorely tempted. We are told that we are at an insurmountable competitive disadvantage in terms of compensation and perceived “brand equity” factors when it comes to attracting top-flight personnel. If we are not careful, we may find ourselves in a state of resignation to that false narrative.

Of course, we do have some genuine competitive disadvantages, many of them economic.

On the other hand…

They recognize they are rich in some ways their counterparts may be comparatively impoverished.

Moreover, volumes of research about motivation substantiates that, while compensation may constitute a floor for many potential employees, it is by no means a primary motivator. You can attract top-flight talent. I implore you to quit your “poor me” self-talk and tune out that of your peers to the contrary.

Educational Credentials

Perhaps another factor that lurks in the background of your thinking is the specter of accreditation standards that might incline you to place a higher premium on educational credentials than other “mission-fit” considerations — particularly if your institution is pursuing accreditation recognition or seeking repair of its accreditation status.

If you are a postsecondary institution, you do have minimums to meet when it comes to credentials — as a rule, faculty members have earned accredited degrees at least one level above the program level at which they are assigned to teach. Even so, capitulation to credentials over compatibility and competency considerations is an impulse to be avoided.

In addition to the fact that ABHE accreditation standards allow for exceptions and require “substantial compliance” rather than absolute compliance, there are temporary work-arounds available when you are tempted to compromise mission quality for superficial compliance. You can employ faculty on a trial or short-term basis, engage adjuncts, or assign a “professor of record” to oversee the work of an inadequately credentialed instructor.

What you cannot afford is to make a long-term faculty hire that burnishes your academic reputation and meets or exceeds the external credential requirement but actually diminishes mission congruence and educational effectiveness. Don’t make yourself have to undo harm by hiring a weak or misfit faculty member — or any other employee.


How can you tell when you are in danger of “settling” rather than waiting? Conduct an “A-Player” exercise. In his book, How to Hire A-Players, Eric Herrenkohl suggests the following exercise relative to any key hire. Rather than ranking potential candidates based on a job description, engage in the following thought experiment.

patience is the companion of wisdomAsk yourself the question, “What could our institution (or a particular sub-unit) look like in 5 years if we landed an A-player in this role?” In considering any potential candidate, then, ask yourself, “Based on what I can discern about this person, how likely is it that this person can get us to where I could imagine an A-player could take us?”

If you are not persuaded it is highly likely that person can get you there, take a pass. Keep praying. Don’t settle. Suffer a little longer.


When it comes to hiring, wait rather than settle.


Next time, I’ll take up another key prompt related to selecting the right people. Let’s keep the conversation going.

If you’ve missed any posts from my Leadership Lane-Assist series, you can find them in our 4ThoughtLeaders blog pages.  Or, if you’re just tuning in, you may want to start from the beginning of the series with my Leadership Lane-Assist introductory post.

Fresh gleanings to fuel your leadership awareness, reflection, and conversations …


  Enrollment: Is your strategy one of “wishing” or “hoping” (hint: there’s a huge difference)

If you are glibly optimistic about your institution’s potential enrollment growth you need to come to grips with the grim picture our good friend Bart Caylor lays out based on a National Student Clearinghouse Research Center study. Bart also offers a set of enrollment strategy keys that can support genuine hope, not just groundless wishful thinking. You and your entire enrollment team are subscribed to Bart’s blog, right?

  When people face discrimination, am I called to do something?

Apparently not. This Barna research study conducted in cooperation with The Reimagine Group, reveals that only 22% of practicing American Christians agree or mostly agree that observation of discrimination obliges them to do something about it. I guess I’m not surprised, but I am sad and ashamed — beginning with myself.