I find it ironic when people talk about “hiring the best” and then set up those roles to be the worst use of “the best”.

I get asked all the time: what do you look for in a successful candidate? I wish I was asked something else more important: what about this role makes it successful for the ideal candidate? Quite frankly, what I’m looking for in a team member is pretty cookie-cutter criteria by now. Mind you, cookie-cutter criteria is still tough to fill:

1) Analytical horsepower
2) Intellectual curiosity
3) Creativity
4) Attitude

But what happens when you get that ideal candidate? It is very important to make sure they are set up for success. And that can be as tough as getting the right candidate in the first place. Because the right candidate will:

1) Question the status quo
2) Set personal stretch goals
3) Follow through with their ideas

All these positive behaviors require a culture that rewards dissent. And that is challenging in a company unlike a startup. If a startup is in search of a scalable business model, a company is constantly executing against one. That brings with it a certain amount of structure to ensure execution against rules. But if company leaders don’t reward dissent, before long, you’re left with a wilted culture and sub-par results.

I say reward because anything less is just lip service. There are three degrees of action or inaction in my experience:

1) Tolerance – a passive reaction to dissent
2) Communication – a verbal call to dissent as duty
3) Reward – as in to recognize the value of dissent

I have seen way too much of 1) and 2) and not enough of 3) to ascribe much value to the former. To be fair, I am not saying reward dissent for dissent’s sake. What I am saying is that if you set up your organization to absorb new ideas, kill bad ideas early and measure success early and often, rewarding dissent becomes a path to creating shareholder value.


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