professional male sitting at computer rubbing his temple

Skills Matter but Culture Always Wins

My friend Jeff, a CEO of a mid-sized company, and I sat in his favorite restaurant, swirling a Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2019 vintage was one of the best, and the ribeye on our plates was still sizzling. We were both in foody heaven.

Despite the scrumptious food, our mood was somber. Jeff was contemplating a tough decision. After a meticulous six-month search, my friend bragged that he had chosen one of his most experienced and competent employees for an important position. However, despite her technical prowess, she could not deal with clients and employees in a way congruent with the company’s primary core value: RESPECT—we treat each other and everyone with dignity and honor. Relationships soured, sparking complaints of bullying that threatened the company’s commitment to growth.

My friend’s sigh cut through the quiet clinks of cutlery and low hum of distant conversations. He realized that the decision wasn’t just about rectifying a hiring mistake; it was a profound learning opportunity. Next time, the cultural fit will trump everything.

Training someone to get the skills and competence needed for this job would take less than a year. However, teaching someone to fit into our culture is much more work. Jeff understood now that the essence of leadership extended beyond just filling positions with competent bodies.

As we discussed the lessons and insights, it became clear that authentic leadership isn’t just about steering the company toward financial success. It’s about embedding a culture that resonates with everyone involved.

For over twenty years, I’ve guided clients in pivoting from hiring based primarily on skills and competence to prioritizing FIT as their core strategy for attracting and integrating new team members.

Why? Employees who resonate with the “HERE”—the values, symbols, and behaviors celebrated within a company—thrive and contribute to a flourishing workplace culture. Defining “HERE” means vividly describing the intangible essentials of a company’s culture.

Imagine creating an environment where employees move beyond competence to align deeply with your company’s ethos, where innovation, risk-taking, and collaboration are encouraged and embedded in the fabric of your organization.

I love working alongside leaders to crystallize what “HERE” means for their companies, ensuring their corporate culture’s essence is understood and lived daily.

As we sat in quiet reflection, the weight of the decision before my friend became a testament to the courage and resilience inherent in the CEO role. It’s a journey fraught with tough choices, yet these moments forge the strongest leaders. My friend’s resolve to prioritize cultural fit over sheer skill in future hiring decisions marks a turning point for his company and a celebration of the unwavering spirit that defines authentic leaders.

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