The Costly Consequences of Hiring the Wrong Person: A Case for Fractional Leadership and Executive Coaching

Once upon a time in the bustling city of Startopia, a young and ambitious startup called InnovateX was on the hunt for an Executive Vice President. They believed that hiring someone with experience from a mega-billion dollar company would be the key to their success. After an extensive search, they found the perfect candidate: Sarah, a highly skilled HR manager from a renowned corporation. Sarah's impressive background and strong track record made her the ideal choice for InnovateX. However, as Sarah started her new role, it quickly became apparent that her previous experience had not prepared her for the challenges of a startup. Her narrow focus and limited exposure, as well as built in bureaucracy of large companies as her point of reference, to various agile aspects of startups left her struggling to adapt to the broader responsibilities of her new position. The once-thriving InnovateX started to experience decreased engagement, poor onboarding, lack of people strategy, and missed opportunities for growth. It seemed as though their decision to hire Sarah may be causing more harm than good. Recognizing the need for support, InnovateX decided to invest in fractional leadership and executive coaching for Sarah. With the guidance of an experienced fractional leader and personalized coaching, Sarah could begin to develop the skills and confidence she needed to lead and partner effectively. Gradually, she could start making strategic decisions, improving team engagement, and driving InnovateX towards success, thanks to the power of fractional leadership and executive coaching.

In today's fast-paced business environment, hiring the right person for the right role is critical to an organization's success. However, sometimes even the most promising hires can turn out to be a poor fit, leading to detrimental consequences for both the individual and the company. This article explores the implications of hiring a lower level talent from large, mega-billion dollar companies as strategic department leaders in a startup, and how fractional leadership and executive coaching can bridge the gap and support their success.

The Problem: Hiring an Inexperienced Executive

Imagine a startup company that decides to hire a manager level candidate from a large, highly complex and matrixed organization as an executive level strategic department leader. On paper, this candidate has an impressive background from a reputable company and decent experience in managing teams and projects. However, their lack of organizational awareness, business acumen, executive presence, and the knowledge and skills that comes with many more years’ experience can create significant challenges in their new role.

It's important to note that working at large multi-billion dollar companies can provide great talent and training opportunities. However, roles within these organizations can be myopic and narrow, especially when there are hundreds of people in a department doing ‘their part’ of the whole. This can cause candidates to struggle in other roles that require a broader understanding and more extensive knowledge than their previous roles could have exposed them to.

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Top and Bottom Line Impact

The consequences of hiring the wrong person can be far-reaching, impacting both the top and bottom lines of a company's financials. Here are some potential implications

  • Decreased Productivity: The lack of organizational awareness and executive presence can result in the new EVP struggling to navigate the startup's culture and dynamics, leading to decreased productivity and inefficiencies.
  • Increased Turnover: A mismatched executive may struggle to lead and engage their team effectively, resulting in increased turnover and recruitment costs.
  • Lost Opportunities: Without the necessary business acumen and tenured knowledge, the new EVP may miss out on strategic opportunities to grow the business and generate revenue.
  • Damaged Reputation: Hiring the wrong person for such a high-level role can damage the company's reputation, both internally and externally, affecting its ability to attract and retain top talent in the future.

Examples of Roles

  • Marketing Manager to CMO: A marketing manager from a large corporation may have had a narrow focus on specific marketing channels or campaigns. In a smaller organization, the CMO role may require a broader understanding of all marketing aspects, including strategy, budgeting, and team management.
  • Operations Manager to COO: An operations manager from a large company may have been responsible for a specific function or department. In a smaller organization, the COO role may require overseeing all aspects of operations, including supply chain, logistics, and process improvements.
  • Human Resources Manager to CHRO: A human resources manager from a large company is usually aligned to a singular business unit or may have been responsible for a specific function, like total rewards or talent acquisition. In a smaller organization, the CHRO role may require overseeing all aspects of People and Development, including People operations, People Experience, and Organizational Design.

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The Solution: Fractional Leadership and Executive Coaching

To mitigate these risks and support the success of inexperienced executives, organizations can consider two key strategies: engaging fractional leaders and providing executive coaching.

Fractional Leadership

Fractional leaders are experienced executives who provide part-time guidance and support to organizations. They can bridge the gap for inexperienced executives by:

  • Sharing Expertise: Fractional leaders can offer their extensive knowledge and experience to help the new EVP navigate the complexities of the startup environment.
  • Mentoring: As part-time mentors, fractional leaders can provide guidance and support to the new EVP, helping them develop the skills and confidence needed to succeed in their role.
  • Strategic Planning: Fractional leaders can work alongside the new EVP to develop strategic plans and initiatives that drive business growth and success.

Executive Coaching

Executive coaching is another valuable resource for inexperienced executives, offering personalized support and development. Some benefits of executive coaching include:

  • Skill Development: Executive coaches can help the new EVP develop critical skills such as organizational awareness, business acumen, and executive presence.
  • Performance Improvement: Coaches can provide ongoing feedback and support, helping the new EVP improve their performance and achieve their goals.
  • Increased Confidence: Executive coaching can help the new EVP build confidence in their abilities, enabling them to lead more effectively and drive business success.

Hiring the wrong person for a high-level role can have serious consequences for an organization. However, by engaging fractional leaders and providing executive coaching, companies can support the success of inexperienced talent and minimize the risks associated with hiring the wrong person. By investing in these strategies, organizations can ensure they have the right talent, at the right level, with the right experience, at the right time in place to drive growth and achieve their goals.

Check out these articles to help better understand the impacts of these short term decisions. "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater." "Don't cut your nose off to spite your face." "You can't judge a book by its cover." All idioms that tell a cautionary tale. However, hope is not lost. Simply consider a fractional leader with the necessary experience to ensure your company's success.

The Young and the Clueless (HBR)

The True Cost Of A Bad Hire (Forbes)

Reimagining People Development to Overcome Talent Challenges (McKinsey)

This Fixable Problem Costs U.S. Business $1 Trillion (Gallup)

Reach out to C4 Talent to support your company's People and Culture needs. Our Fractional Leadership can help you, your leaders and your organization build a strong foundation to see your strategy come to life and ensure your greatest asset, your people, are aligned and engaged.


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