Courtesy of Marc Barros
When you're searching for the next member of your leadership team, it can be difficult to distinguish between an inflated resume and a truly gifted executive. But this one question cuts straight to the core of the matter.
Tell me about the last person you fired.
"Of all the ways I interviewed executive candidates, this question and the discussion that followed proved to be the strongest indicator of the candidate's leadership ability," writes Marc Barros, co-founder and former CEO of camera company Contour, in a recent post for Inc.
Barros believes a candidate that claims to have never fired anyone is clearly a bad choice. "You can't build a great team without occasionally deconstructing and rebuilding it," he argues.
If your candidate has fired someone, then focus on how the process went. This will teach you a tremendous amount about your candidate's communication skills. Was the employee he or she fired surprised? If so, that would likely indicate a poor top-down communication process. If the employee wasn't surprised, how did the termination go? Did your candidate offer feedback to the person and explain his or her reasoning for the decision? " Great leaders," Barros notes, "are often like coaches, providing consistent and honest feedback."
Finally, Barros says to tack on one follow up question: What did you do after they were let go? This is a window into how empathetic your candidate is. Mediocre leaders typically offer severance and a positive reference — the minimal amount. Great leaders, Barros says, often do everything they can to help the fired employee bounce back from the blow.
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