Don’t Delegate Recruitment – Think About Your Legacy!

As you get older, you can’t help but think about your legacy. One thing that has struck me is how tenuous most business legacies really are. Derek Wanless was CEO of NatWest when I joined in 1997, a major figure in British business, and a good man. Yet by the time he sadly died in 2012 at the age of 65 he was primarily remembered as the man who got fired during the takeover battle that saw NatWest eaten up by Fred Goodwin’s bunch of chancers – and maybe for an inglorious role as a non-executive for Northern Rock when they crashed. His achievements are less celebrated.

So when you move on from your current role, to another corporate job, retirement or to run a bar on a beach somewhere, what will you leave behind? Great deals, contracts, innovative ideas, a new category management strategy? Will those achievements be remembered? Well, in business, unless you actually invent the next iPad or Dyson, or build the next Microsoft or Google, the likelihood is your work will be largely forgotten, I’m afraid.

But before we all get too depressed, you can do something worthwhile. You can be a good person to work with, for a start, so you will be remembered fondly by colleagues or even suppliers – that has to be worth something. You can help others grow and develop, pass on your knowledge and skills, mentor and support other people. That is something that will linger too.

And if you are in a position to do so, you can work to recruit the best people you possibly can into your organisation. Even if you are the CPO (perhaps especially if you are the CPO) there is nothing you can do that is more important in the medium and long term for the organisation than bring great people into the fold.

But you have to take it seriously. I’d suggest you actually need to get involved right from the point of sifting applications. Delegating that can lead to interesting people being eliminated before you even get to know they exist. You don’t have to handle every stage of the recruitment personally, but you need deep involvement.  I interviewed everyone who joined the procurement team when I was CPO at NatWest, including the junior analysts or assistant buyer. (One of those people became a CPO in a large financial services organisation within ten years of joining us, which pleased me immensely!)

Yes, it’s time-consuming, but if you are serious about talent, serious about leaving the organisation in a better place than when you joined, and serious about your legacy, there is no better use of your time I can think of than recruitment. And if you are a senior person, we’d suggest your candidates are more likely to be impressed and accept an offer if they see you deeply involved in the process too – another advantage.

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