Who Are You Really Looking For?

“When you go looking for something specific, your chances of finding it are very bad.  Because of all the things in the world you’re only looking for one of them. When you go looking for anything at all your chances of finding it are very good. Because of all the things in the world you’ll be sure to find some of them.” Daryl Zero, World’s Most Private Detective, in The Zero Effect

A client was looking for an executive. An executive who met very specific criteria. Criteria so ridiculously specific that after looking for months my client hadn’t found a single person who met them. Yet, he remained convinced that only someone who possessed his precise list of qualifications would be able to do the job well.

Over lunch, my client disclosed to me the large expense and the countless hours he and the recruiters he had hired had put into looking for this person. Since this was a position that was critical to both the future of his company and his personal future, he was at wit’s end about what to do.

We talked for a bit about the accountabilities of the position, the candidates the recruiters had found, and what was causing him to reject them all. Then I asked a simple question. “What would make you happy about a candidate?”

It turned out that none of the things that would make him happy were on his list of criteria.

I suggested he think about the position differently, ignore most of his criteria, and widen his thinking about what he was really looking for. He sat back, gazed at the ceiling for a few minutes, and suddenly said “I know exactly who I want if he’ll move here and take the job.” Then he shared the name of someone across the country whom ironically, I actually know. A person whose leadership and actions pleased him. He even met some of the criteria on his list.

Three weeks later, after some long calls and a couple of meetings, this person accepted the position and was planning their move. I’m pleased to report both parties are exceedingly happy with the way things have turned out and the company is continuing to prosper.

Too often we search for something so specific that we greatly limit our ability to solve our issue. We get so focused that we become unable to broaden our vision and notice that there are lots of possibilities out there for achieving our goal. I see this all the time in people looking for executives. They zoom in on specific criteria and forget the big picture: to hire someone who can do the job extremely well, realize the vision, and make you happy you hired them.

As Daryl Zero ends his wise quote, “And the most important rule is often the thing you are looking for is right in front of your nose.”



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