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  • Christopher Ahearn

Right Talent, Right Time

As a young executive one of my mentors, Joe Liske used to tell me, “Chris I don’t think a donkey will ever win the Kentucky Derby and I’m pretty sure a race horse isn’t the right fit for Mule Train – no matter how hard you try.”

Of course Joe was telling me that I needed to look for people with the skills that fit the job.


Joe’s counsel was reinforced by the book “Sea Stories" by Admiral William H. Mcraven. At the time of publishing, Admiral Mcraven was the longest serving Navy Seal in history. As I read about the many significant missions Admiral Mcraven led, I was always impressed with how he assembled teams. As Admiral Mcraven assessed each mission he would choose the most capable soldiers to join the team based on the mission. Many times Admiral Mcraven chose Army Rangers or Green Berets over Seals. He was hiring for the competencies needed to be successful.

Business is no different. But all too often executives hire talent they know and trust. This doesn’t always line up with the mission. Instead of hiring talent for today, hire for where the organization is headed; or in Special Operation’s, the Mission. This holds true whether you are hiring leaders or are looking for your next role.


For example, the business lifecycle has several stages. While each stage requires

some core leadership and management competencies, there are also specific

capabilities needed to get the business to the destination and once more to manage the business once there.


So before skimming your contacts, making calls and engaging a recruiter, it is better to start by understanding where the business is and then understanding where the strategy has the business headed.

There is a big difference in “growing” vs. driving efficiency to reduce costs and improve cash flow as the organization enters “maturity.” Imagine recruiting for or applying for a job at a company in these two, difference stages.

The differences are more nuanced than one would think. Very few individuals have the skills to be effective across all phases. My advice if you are hiring is to find executives that will help you win in the next phase as it’s coming faster than you think. If you are looking for a job, take a personal inventory and gear your resume and search towards those opportunities that will be a good fit for you. It will help you stand out from the crowd.

For more posts visit my blog.

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