Finding Your Person
In executive search, candidate finalists start to resemble one another. They all are incredibly accomplished. They all have stellar reputations. All should have a track record of outperforming their peers. Everything else being equal, candidate fit ends up being the determining factor — how well the candidate fits in and how well the candidate clicks with the senior leadership. At the end of the day, if you are a CEO, you must “find your person”.
More Than Cultural Fit
Finding your person is not about cultural fit. From where I sit as the head of the retained search firm The Good Search, cultural fit sets the bar too low. As the CEO or another C-suite executive, you deserve more than someone who forges a connection with your company. You deserve someone who forges a real connection with you.
Steve Wozniak was Steve Jobs’ person.
Steve Ballmer was Bill Gates’ person.
Your Person Has Your Back
Finding your person is about finding an executive who shares your vision and always has your back. It’s about unshakable trust. It is also about finding someone who is smart and capable enough to challenge you to make you better than we would have been had you not found your person.
Where “You are My Person” Became a Thing
Grey’s Anatomy Made It a Thing
The television series (and my guilty pleasure) Grey’s Anatomy made “You are my person” a refrain. It is used repeatedly throughout the series to describe the deep professional and personal friendship of two women surgeons Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang. It starts when Cristina lists Meredith as the person to call in case of an emergency. It evolves to mean so much more.
Your Person is a Friend and Colleague
For the best possible leadership hire, look for more than cultural fit or chemistry. Your person is the alchemy that enables us to get out of our own way and to transcend.
Your person is someone who gets you in a business context. A trusted partner in the C-Suite. An executive wingman, The yin to your Cristina Yang. As she points out in the final scene before exiting the series, your person makes us brave.
Finding Your Person is Easier in Startups
Finding your person is easier to do in a startup than in a large corporation where challenging the CEO is usually a shortcut to being shown the door. For Fortune 100 CEOs, their person may come in the form of a consultant who is hired to say what the troops cannot. Bob Benson, the Chairman of RLBenson & Associates and Founder of Canaan Ridge put it this way,
When you start thinking about this, the person could be a lawyer or outside counsel or it could be strategy consultant from BCG — someone with prior relationship with a CEO in the advisory sense where there has been a process of challenging the CEO. It makes it safer. The consultant can tell the boss things no one can tell them from the inside.
With Your Person, The Sum is Always Greater
Ultimately, your person is a brilliant truth-teller whose insights help you and your organization achieve greatness. But it is the partnership between the two that is what really matters. Apple lost its way shortly after the Woz left. Ballmer did not accomplish all that he sought to do after Gates exited. On those rare occasions that you do find your person, the sum is always greater than the parts.