Lies, damn lies and little lies: who are you hiring?

The Daily Maverick (Thursday, 25 March 2021), recently quoted Frank Herbert:

‘Good governance never depends upon laws, but upon the personal qualities of those who govern. The machinery of government is always subordinate to … those who administer that machinery. The most important element …, therefore, is the method of choosing leaders.’

This is not only true of government; it is true of every initiative of every business. However excellent the idea, however well intentioned, however well planned, the execution depends on individuals in the chain of command, from top to most junior – individuals you hired.

Whether it is a new project, improving existing processes or engaging with customers, the employees you hire will be responsible for missing deadlines, disrupting the project or ensuring you reap the rewards of success.

Your success (whether you are a team leader or a CEO) depends on the people you hire. Make every hire count. Take Google’s golden rule to heart: ‘The urgency of the role isn’t sufficiently important to compromise quality in hiring.’

There is always a conflict between speed and quality in hiring. Choose quality (values) every time.

A South African politician is in trouble for having lied in his CV about having a degree. He compounds his error by blaming everyone else for his misfortune and then claims that it wasn’t a ‘big’ lie – he didn’t pretend to be a doctor or anything.

I do not want to hire someone who believes there are small lies and big lies in his employment relationship, and nor should you.

I am reminded of a story told about Sam Walton. He apparently hired a young man as a personal assistant. Soon after, the young man answered the phone. It was someone Walton didn’t want to speak to, so he told the young man:

‘Tell him I’m not here.’
‘Certainly,’ said the young man into the phone. ‘He is right here.’ And he passed the phone to Walton.
Walton was furious. When he put the phone down, he said, ‘I could fire you for that!’
‘Certainly sir,’ said the assistant. ‘But if I start lying for you, you will never know whether I have started lying to you.’

How will you make your next hire count?
What values will you look for?


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Ian Webster

From Methodist minister to Customer Relations manager in a computer bureau to HR Manager in a newspaper printing and publishing company. Now focussing on training and developing people, people-management consulting and writing and editing.

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