Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hiring superstars: Men vs. Women

The Harvard business review has published an article How Star Women Build Portable Skills and it is summarized as:

"According to Groysberg, talented women who switch firms maintain their stardom, and their new employer’s share price holds steady. Groysberg provides two explanations for this discrepancy:
• Unlike men, high-performing women build their success on portable, external relationships—with clients and other outside contacts.
• Women considering job changes weigh more factors then men do, especially cultural fit, values, and managerial style.

These strategies enable women to transition more successfully to new companies. And that has crucial implications for all professionals. By understanding successful women’s career strategies, women and men can strengthen their ability to shine in any setting."

I found this article chasing links through Bob Suttons's blog and his book The No Asshole Rule.

Bob's conclusion is that if you want to hire superstars hire women, not men. I can imagine that when studied over hundreds of people this advice would be useful since so often superstar men fall into the ego trap and both act as, and want to be treated as, superstars - which leads to bad behavior in teams. However, I think it is an over generalization. I've hired superstar women (YY Lee is COO at FirstRain and this is the third time she's come to work for me) and they're spectacular and very portable - so I agree there. And I have hired superstar men, some of whom are very difficult and destructive to work with, but a few of whom were/are not.

I think much of the responsibility also lies with the hiring manager. If you hire a superstar and allow him to behave like a jerk unchecked you are as much to blame as he is. However, if you hire a superstar with an up front, frank discussion about your culture and what behavior is and is not acceptable you can give him the opportunity to play by your rules. Then, if he says he won't don't hire him, or if he comes on board and clearly doesn't respect the culture, you or other team members let him go. It's just not worth it - go find someone who can give your company the talent you need and help build the culture at the same time.

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