Selecting, Retaining, and Developing 
Executive Leaders and Teams

October 2016

  • If you hire right, you will not need to fire smart.
  • Executives derail when they are hired to fix one problem and don't evolve into fixing a completely different problem.

Years ago, when I was going to hire a business development person to help me grow my business, I asked around for recommendations. I was referred to Jerry (not his real name) who was a very affable, engaging, energetic, and unemployed sales professional. He had recently been laid off and was in the process of finding another job.
I interviewed Jerry and thought I asked all the right questions. He kept saying "I will do whatever it takes to make you successful." I was "sold." I hired Jerry and the first week, he asked, what do you want me to do. I said, prospect to find 5 businesses who are having trouble hiring the right people. Find businesses where the CEO is frustrated because the majority of hires simply fail.
Then the next week, Jerry asked the same question. "what do you want me to do?" I answered the same way. This went on week after week.
Within three weeks, I started using an assessment tool called the Profile XT. I gave it to Jerry to learn about how I could best motivate him. I found out that Jerry's learning style was to use repetition. He preferred to learn in small steps repeated over time. He also showed a need for a lot of structure and management time in order to be motivated. I was shocked. What I needed was someone who could grasp quickly what I needed and was very independent.
Since I liked Jerry and asked all the right questions, I realized the power of an assessment tool to uncover what is hidden below the water.
Here are five steps to help dive "below the surface" when hiring.
  1. Never hire someone because you like them. Some people are simply good interviewees. Liking someone is different than living with them as an employee.
  2. Never trust "hyperbole." If someone is too expansive in their self-promotion zest, beware.
  3. Always gather information and data about a person from at least three different sources. Use interview data, background checks, on-line assessments, and legally appropriate reference checks.
  4. Assess each candidate by using a valid and reliable assessment tool. Like not being able to see the iceberg under the water, many times you will not be able to uncover the submerged behavioral or cognitive traits that will sink your hiring decision.
  5. There is always someone else. Unless the person has a skill or ability that is the only one in the world, remember there are many other candidates. Taking the time to prospect for additional candidates is less time consuming and frustrating than making the wrong hiring decision.
Using any assessment also requires the consultation of a seasoned expert. Psychologists are trained in the science of assessments called psychometrics. Consult a psychologist with extensive experience interpreting assessments.  A consultation will save you the considerable expense of making the wrong hiring decision. 
"Finding the Next Steve Jobs-
How to Find, Hire, Keep and Nurture Creative Talent"
by Nolan Bushnell 
This is one of the most provocative books on hiring.
Nolan Bushnell founded one of the original gaming companies - Atari. Two years after founding the company, Bushnell hired Steve Jobs. The lessons Bushnell learned by hiring Jobs became his counter-intuitive advice for hiring creative people.
Here are a few of Bushnell's provocative, insightful, and effective principles for hiring the next Steve Jobs:
  • Hire for passion and intensity, and ignore credentials. There are many examples of famous creatives who did not graduate from college. The examples include Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Coco Chanel. According to Bushnell, assess if a candidate has curiosity and resourcefulness, which are critical attributes of creative people.
  • Look for hobbies. Creative people have unbounded curiosity and have a lot of hobbies.
  • Hire under your nose. Look for people outside of the workplace. Many times, highly creative people have a difficult time finding creative jobs. Instead they may go work in a restaurant or a sporting goods store.
  • Beware of "Poseurs." A poseur is someone who pretends to be someone they are not. To uncover the poseur, ask multiple questions about a topic, and continually ask "why." Most people know how to do their job but they don't know the why.
  • Champion bad ideas and celebrate failures. The most effective way of being creative is taking risks, failing often, and even generating bad ideas. However, failure only leads to creativity when an organization learns from the mistake. When there is no learning from a mistake there is no creativity.


In a study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 63% of all selection decisions are made during the first 4.3 minutes of any interview. The result is that an interviewer cannot uncover enough information during those minutes to make the best hiring decision.


Hiring is one of the most critical tasks for any business. As in sports, the talent on the field makes the difference between winning and losing. In business, what is below the surface of a candidate can derail any efforts in hiring the best. Like  hitting the submerged part of an iceberg, not taking the time to truly know your candidates could sink your hiring program.
In This Issue
Solving People and Management Issues

The Heller Group focuses on coaching for senior level executives.  We facilitate change within an organization that results in more effective leadership,  increased productivity, innovative thinking, and improved employee morale and retention.

Learn more about The Heller Group, Inc. at
Dr. Bruce Heller

Dr. Bruce Heller, founder of The Heller Group, Inc., has over 20 years experience consulting with managers and executives on executive education, leadership development, and organizational.   


He is an adjunct professor at Southwestern Law School. 


Dr. Heller is a consulting psychologist and member of the American Psychological Association Consulting Psychology Division. Dr. Heller holds a Ph.D. and Masters Degree in Education from the University of Southern California.  


Dr. Heller is the author of The Prodigal Executive-How to Coach Executives Too Painful to Keep, Too Valuable to Fire.  

Read the book.