4 Non-Negotiable Traits in a General Manager
My partners and I own a moving franchise. We set out to build this business as an investment of money, not our time (Our first questionable decision) and so we needed to find someone to lead this business. Our first hire didn’t go so well, I won’t get into details, suffice to say it was a very expensive miss-hire. Our second General Manager was better, but still not what the business needed.
Our third General Manager is outstanding (and on his way to becoming an equity partner), because we hired for different qualities. That example hits me close to home for me but over the last 10 years I have seen or been a part of hiring many GM’s. 1 thing is for sure, it’s a really difficult hire, but I’ve also learned there are some traits I won’t budge on. Here are the things that I’ve learned are non-negotiable in the General Manager of a small to medium sized business;
Curiosity – A great GM loves to learn. They aren’t excited about the role because it is a new title, or more money. They’re excited because it means they get to learn more. They may not have a plan for their life but they know that, they want more. To get that they know they need to learn and to ensure their development keeps up with the growth of the business they’re going to need to be really curious (Assuming you’re growing fast). But don’t just take my word for it, check out this HBR articleon why this trait is so critical.
Integrity – This is especially true when you are hiring for a remote Manager, but it’s always important. You need someone who will speak up and say “I really messed that up. How do I fix it?”. Also on the more obvious side, someone who is going to steal from you or you or your customers is certainly not good for business.
Grit – Or as I sometimes refer to it, earned confidence. They have suffered some set backs before, gotten up, dusted themselves off and gotten back at it. They know in their hearts that they can be successful and although it might be tough for them to see it sometimes they’re eventually going to win.
Locus of Control – I’m going to borrow straight out of the Organisational Behaviour text book for this one, but I think this is extremely relevant here. Having lived through a couple of GM’s I would consider on the external end of this spectrum I can tell you an internal locus of control is probably the most important quality on this list. You need someone who is going to find ways to better theirs and the businesses situation rather than feeling they’re at the mercy of the wind. (If you’re not familiar with this concept read a little more about it in this article here)
It’s not easy to uncov these things out through an interview process. Your best bet is always hiring through a referral or hiring internally where at all possible. If you can’t do that then put your candidates through as many real world tests as possible and consider using a tried and tested interview methodology such as Top-Grading (Well referenced wiki page if you want more info on that) . Look for patterns in their role changes and the reasoning behind their decisions. This will help you to make a good decision. Happy hiring.