Sometimes, we can’t switch our brains out of work mode. Like when watching office-based scenes in movies where characters interact with their bosses. As the leader bullies, annoys or drones on without a point, we wonder why the business didn’t vet top executive search firms that could deliver top-notch leaders.
You can spot the bad boss in a Hollywood movie a mile away. Poor leadership at the executive level can hide in plain sight – especially on remote teams.
How Easily the Wrong Leader Can Wreck a Team
The typical “go-getter” can foster burnout or worse
As a society, we heap praise on the “go-getters” – the people who come into the office early and stay late. This is not a new issue, but the increase in remote and hybrid work pushed the problem into overdrive.
Employees want to get ahead and be liked by their managers and bosses
The more they see the executive team working odd hours and all hours, the more they’ll feel compelled to do so as well, assuming that’s what it takes to get ahead.
People blurred the lines between work and home before 2019
Back then, it was entirely possible that someone couldn’t work on a late-night request because their computer and necessary documents were back at the office.
Now, our offices are everywhere and anywhere. Even if a manager doesn’t expect an answer at 9 p.m., their direct report will feel like they ought to respond.
Burnout isn’t the only downside
Even if this behavior doesn’t create burnout, it will generate resentment as notifications ping at all hours of the day.
Yes, you still want smart, ambitious leaders
You deserve A-players at every level of your organization. But leaders need to know how to set the right tone and create work-life balance for their team.
Use the qualities and screening advice below to hire an executive who knows how to build an environment that retains talent.
10 Characteristics Top Executive Search Firms Vet for to Find Exceptional Leaders
1. Recognizes and ignores proximity bias
Your sales or marketing teams might not be fully remote. A leader could live near enough to some of the team to meet up with some members occasionally. There’s nothing wrong with that, unless the leader lets this proximity influence how they view an employee’s work ethic or capabilities.
As you screen executives, ask about how they decide who to promote and when.
Even in person, company leaders can feel distant.
Discuss team-building strategies during the interview
Listen to see if they’ve tried any of these tactics to flatten artificial, digital barriers:
- Ask-me-anything sessions
- Virtual and in-person team lunches, coffee breaks, or happy hours
- Mentorship programs
- Celebrations for birthdays, milestones and holidays
3. Receptive to feedback
Leaders need feedback, too. You want to know before you hire that your executive recruit will take it in stride and follow through with the advice.
A savvy candidate will anticipate this
They’re waiting for a question like: Tell me about a time you received constructive criticism from a supervisor.
Switch it up
Ask about the most valuable piece of constructive feedback they received and how it shaped their career.
4. Possess a strong mindset
You know that positive salespeople are more productive, and an optimistic leader can spread their cheerful demeanor throughout the team. But mindset is about more than positivity. You’re also looking for someone who is resilient and a creative problem-solver.
No single question reveals a person’s outlook
Instead, opt for a simulation that tests how a person would act in different scenarios they’re likely to encounter in the role.
Our simulations reveal mindset
Every candidate we evaluate goes through simulations that reveal mindset. Among other factors, we get a sense of their:
- Willingness to help others
- Leadership style
5. Knows how to motivate teams
It’s not enough for your leadership team to possess an optimistic outlook. Executives and managers should actively motivate their teams, too.
Again, you’re not going to figure this out with a straightforward question. You’ll want to build it into your mindset simulation.
Pick a Top Executive Search Firm and Hire the Best of the Best
Thanks to the uncertainty of the past few years, we’ve been treated to a crash course in adaptability. Not everyone passed. Use the interview to get a sense of how the leadership team steered the company through lockdowns, re-openings, and work-from-home.
Don’t just pay attention to logistics
Find out how your candidate felt and what it was like for them.
7. Actively listens to their team
Just because they’ll be at the highest level of your organization doesn’t mean they have all the answers. Innovative ideas can come from anywhere. Exceptional executives know this and seek input from everyone.
8. Helps their team adapt to new ways of working
In 2020, there wasn’t much choice. We all had to learn Zoom. Now that we’ve mastered taking ourselves off mute (most days) we’re at the risk of becoming entrenched in one way of working.
Technology will continue to improve
Dig into how they handled the change to remote work. Ask how they’ll guide their teams to adopt new technologies and processes to improve productivity for remote, hybrid, and in-person workers.
9. Exceptional communicator
Tone, body language and clarity quickly go out the window when you shift to digital-only methods of communication. In the office, a cheery, “Hey, let’s talk at 2 p.m.,” as you pass a colleague in the hallway turns ominous as an email.
Get your candidate to describe a remote communication mishap they had with a team member and how it was resolved.
10. Destroyer of silos, creator of communities
A well-document drawback of remote and hybrid work is a feeling of isolation and loneliness. Figure out what your candidate did (if anything) to combat this and foster a sense of community in their previous position.
Fast-Track Your Executive Recruiting with ProActivate
It would be nice if you only had to consider 10 qualities during the executive recruiting process. But that’s not the case. We barely scratched the surface on mindset, and this list doesn’t include any job-specific skills your ideal executive will possess.
You could continue to build out your list of hard and soft skills, write a job description, post it, and sort through the candidates. Or you could hire us to find an exceptional executive for you.
Together we’ll define the characteristics of your ideal executive. Then, our talent managers will find and vet candidates who meet your requirements.