It’s Not the How or the What But the Who: Succeed by Surrounding Yourself with the Best by Claudio Fernandez Araoz, Harvard Business Review Press, 244 pages, $28.00, hardcover, June 2014, ISBN 9781625271525
At it’s simplest, It’s Not the How or the What But the Who is a guide to hiring, developing, and retaining the right people. That seems like a fairly straightforward proposition, but if you’ve ever had to hire people you know it is easier said than done.
But why is it so hard to find the best people for your organization? Araoz tells us the challenges are many, “both internal (your unconscious biases) and external (organizational and societal pressures).” So the first thing he does is help the reader identify those obstacles, because there are “ unprecedented opportunities available if you can overcome them.” And that’s exactly what It’s Not the How teaches you how to do next:
To that end, later essays will teach you how to identify the best—the people who have the right motives, qualities, and potential to help you excel—with effective assessment tools and strategies … [and] how to expertly develop the people you’ve chosen by encouraging them to become more agile and versatile and putting them together in great teams.
Perhaps the most difficult decision leaders must make with regards to personnel is letting go of the people who are holding you back. But why is it so hard. Araoz tells us it’s because:
Three powerful psychological forces work against us: procrastination, loss aversion, and compassion.
In other words, putting ourselves, our company, or other people in distress is difficult, potentially risky, and unpleasant emotionally. But, Araoz reminds us, “Tough decisions are what make you a leader.” Another difficult decision is whether an open leadership postition should be filled by someone from inside the company or hired from outside it. In many cases, Araoz shows that it pays big to hire an outsider, and that growth and success occurs in much smaller measure when the company promotes an insider. How to insure that whichever approach you take results in success? Don’t hesitate to thoroughly vet insiders just as you would outsiders.
As I mentioned at the open of this review, in some ways, It’s Not the How or the What But the Who is a simple hiring guide. But Araoz’s book stretches its boundaries further than most, tackling sensitive issues like those that occur within family businesses, and even delving into his considerations on how to intelligently and objectively vote during a presidential election. Ultimately, it will assist you—whether you are a leader or a participant—in making sound assessments of the people you rely for your own ultimate success.