Do You Promote Talent, Or Hold It Back?

Do You Promote Talent, Or Hold It Back?

We recently conducted a search for a client in a very difficult area of the industry. The feedback from the head of the department was positive, however, the rest of the group had hesitations because the candidate had been a fast riser in their career, but almost too fast. Which was partially true. Based on years of experience, he seemed to have risen quickly. What those group members didn’t take into account was the success that candidate had during that time that prompted such a rapid rise to their current level. It made me think. What is other fast risers were not given the opportunity, strictly based on other’s perception that you need to “put in your time” or “earn your years” to hold such a role?

A couple names came to mind.

Theo Epstein

On November 25, 2002, Theo Epstein became the youngest GM in the history of Major League Baseball when the Boston Red Sox hired him at the age of 28. In 2004, with just two years as GM, the club that won the first World Series championship by the Red Sox in 86 years and was in the position when the team won another championship in the 2007 season. Theo was also a fast riser. Sometimes, great leaders like the Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, have the ability to filter out the noise and go with their gut. Sometimes, those decisions pay off in immeasurable ways.

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook from Harvard’s dormitory room in February 2004, at age 19. Former PayPal CEO, Peter Thiel, led the first formal Facebook investment round in September of 2004 with a $500,000 investment. Peter, and other investors after him, chose to invest in Facebook even though the CEO was an unproven business leader.

Steve Jobs

In 1976, a 21 year old Steve Jobs started a company named “Apple Computer Company”. It was one year later, in 1977, that Mike Markkula made an $80,000 equity investment in the company that allowed them to launch the company that we now know simply as Apple.

Does this mean that every talented person should be considered the next superstar? Not exactly, but you have to agree that there are different levels of talent. Then again, who do you credit more in these situations? The talent or the person that identified the talent? Without a lead that was not afraid to buck status quo and rejecting other’s opinions, these talented people never would have been given an opportunity to become great.

It begs the question in business: How do you fit that obvious superstar into a structure that is designed to reward based on tenure and not merit? If you are in a position to make a critical hire for your team, but others in the company don’t have the same instinct as you, would you have the fortitude to move forward against others opinions and hire anyway? Or do you fold and follow the norms because “that’s how it’s always been done?”