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Avoiding the Trap of “The Big Hire”

June 6, 2024

No matter the size of your business, at some point there may come a time when you feel like you just need to find that one mythical person, the unicorn of executive talent, to join your team and solve all your problems. The thought can be a tempting one. However, it’s a dangerous trap to fall into, and, in all likelihood, it won’t lead you down the path to a successful hire.

When CEOs start looking for “the big hire” to fix everything they see going wrong in the business, the chance of an unsuccessful placement increases significantly. On one hand, this idea sets expectations that one person, no matter how successful, could never fully meet. On the other, even if someone claims they can do it all, they’re likely wrong. On top of that, fixating on finding the perfect person to solve a problem means you’re potentially missing other challenges in the business. 

Going for the “big hire” is not a recipe for success. Instead, when you find yourself thinking about that one person who can solve it all, there are a few steps you can take to focus your search and improve your chances of finding the changemaker you need. 

Step back and evaluate your entire leadership team, including yourself.

When the myth of the “big hire” starts to look appealing, it’s time to take an intentional look at your existing leadership team. Taking the time to assess the functional and leadership competencies of each individual, including yourself, along with the health of the team as a whole, can be a powerful step towards identifying the root cause of the issues you’re seeing. 

A process like an Executive Team 360 can help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your existing team, and begin to understand what you need to achieve your collective goals. A structured evaluation allows you and the team to have open and honest conversations about where things are going well, where there’s friction, and where there may be untapped opportunity.

Focus on the most important problems to solve right now.

Once you’ve evaluated your team and identified the areas that need attention, it’s important to zero in on the most important challenges for your business, rather than trying to solve all of them at once. A more narrow focus allows you to clearly define the skills and experience you’re looking for. 

As you go through this exercise, you may discover you don’t just need one executive; you need other talent too. That may look like adding a new executive to fill multiple gaps, but it might also include finding mentors for other leaders on your team, tapping a fractional executive for specific work, or bringing in talent at a VP or Director level. 

Find a partner who can help you uncover the best talent for your needs.

When you’re faced with the task of finding a transformational executive for your business, partnering with an executive search firm is critical. Executive search partners provide expertise, time, and resources your team may not have access to, giving you a better shot at finding, recognizing, and hiring the right talent. 

A strong executive search partner will help you fine-tune your job description, structure your interview process to effectively engage your team, and keep the process moving so you can hire quickly. They can also advise you on the types of questions to ask to ensure candidates have the skills you’re looking for, and provide an unbiased opinion as you compare candidates against the outlined requirements.

The myth of the big hire is just that—a myth. While a new executive can bring valuable skills and insights to the table, real success comes from building a strong and resilient leadership team and approaching challenges with realistic expectations and clear objectives. 

At Bolster, we’re reinventing executive search by combining the power of experienced recruiters with our intelligent sourcing platform. Built by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs, Bolster matches CEOs with transformational executives for full-time, fractional, and board roles—without the hassle of traditional talent sourcing. It’s smarter search done faster and with more confidence.

When you work with Bolster, our extraordinary team will work alongside you to make your search a success. We take the time to listen, understand, and respond to your needs, support you throughout your search, and offer our expertise as a resource. 

Want to know more about what it’s like to work with us? Let us know what you’re looking for.