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Great People Decisions: Why They Matter So Much, Why They are So Hard, and How You Can Master Them 1st Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0470037263
ISBN-10: 0470037261
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Exclusive: Q&A with Author Claudio Fernández-Aráoz

Q: Can you define great people decisions?
A: Great people decisions are great appointments, whether promoting someone from within or hiring someone from outside. Great people decisions produce extraordinary job performance, great personal development, and strong organizational morale.

Q: What inspired you to write this book?
A: After more than 20 years of global practice as an executive search consultant I became convinced that nothing is more important for our career success than making great people decisions, because everything we achieve as managers will depend on the people we’ve chosen. In addition, having traveled many times around the world as a consultant and a speaker, meeting thousands of CEOs, senior executives, middle managers, and young professionals, I realized two things: First, the most successful leaders are incredibly focused on people decisions. Second, most of us find these decisions extremely hard, and are quite clueless about the best practices.

Q: Why are these decisions so hard?
A: Great people decisions are very hard because we have the wrong brain and the wrong education. When making people decisions, we fall pray into a series of unconscious psychological biases, such as surrounding ourselves with similar people with whom we feel naturally comfortable. Many of these biases were very effective for our primitive ancestors, but they are no longer useful for building great teams which require complementary and highly sophisticated skills. On top of this, most of us have not studied how to make great appointments, despite their crucial importance.

Q: But can you actually learn how to make great people decisions?
A: Of course you can! In spite of what most people think, making great appointments is not an art or the result of an intuition or a gut feeling. It is a craft, and a discipline, that can be learned and should be learned for our career success.

Q: How can you measure the impact of great people decisions?
A: For knowledge-intensive jobs, the difference between the productivity of an average worker and a top performer can be in the range of 1,000% or more. That is the value of making great people decisions! At the organizational level, they are the foundational condition for building lasting greatness, and the most important controllable factor for company value.

Q: What would be your three recommendations to master these decisions?
A: They are about awareness, knowledge, and discipline. My advice would be to:

1) Avoid the usual traps – These include, among others, postponing difficult decisions, overrating capability, making snap judgments, branding, saving face, sticking with the familiar, and going with the crowd.

2) Learn the best practices – The good news is that there is a proven, step-by-step process, to master these decisions. The best practices are rigorous, yet simple and accessible. They cover the whole spectrum from deciding when a people change is needed, what to look for in a candidate, where and how to find the best candidates, how to assess them, how to attract and motivate the best, and how to successfully integrate them in the new job.

3) Invest enough time – As one CEO has put it, we spend 3% of our time recruiting, and then we need to spend 75% of the time managing our recruiting mistakes! It is hard to think about any other activity where the combination of awareness, knowledge, and discipline would have a higher return in terms of personal and organizational success.


Praise for Great People Decisions

"Fernandez-Araoz has captured the essence of building great teams with a masterful and entirely practical study of what goes into getting people selection right."

"Fernandez-Araoz does a great service with this wonderful book, teaching us how to accomplish the first task of any exceptional leader: get the right people on the bus, and into the right seats. His enduring passion, deep practical experience, and analytical methods make his approach refreshing and powerful."
--JIM COLLINS, bestselling author of Good to Great

"Too many people say 'people are our most important assets' but then don't act on it. In this important and eloquent book, Fernandez-Araoz provides compelling evidence for why making great people decisions is essential for anyone who aspires to become a great leader or build a great company. If you follow the sage advice he offers in this book, you are sure to make great people decisions."
--NITIN NOHRIA, Dean, Harvard Business School

"No matter your business or product, your service or strategy, it's all done with people. Great results only come when great people fill the right roles. In Great People Decisions, Fernandez-Araoz clears away the fog of myth and fad that has long clouded people decisions, bringing passion, sound experience, and wisdom to these all-important questions."
--DANIEL GOLEMAN, bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence

"Great People Decisions is a groundbreaking, myth-busting, and standard-setting work. To prepare yourself for the dramatic workforce changes that are expected in the next decade, the first thing you should do is read this book. The second thing you should do is put Fernandez-Araoz's advice into practice immediately."
--JIM KOUZES, bestselling coauthor of The Leadership Challenge and A Leader's Legacy


What Is Your Talent Strategy?
Read a Q&A with the author to learn how you can improve your people decisions.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (May 25, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470037261
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470037263
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #332,621 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gwendolyn Doden on June 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Great People Decisions (Claudio Fernandez Araoz)
A clear statement up front: This book ought to be mandatory reading for human resources professionals and managers, from first time managers to the Board Room. It is the "nuts and bolts" of getting the right people into the right jobs and ensuring that people are the solution and not the problem.
If you are already a senior executive, I would recommend that you rapidly get beyond the first 50 pages, which are mostly about why great appointments matter so much - certainly not unimportant but somewhat tedious when you are searching for a quick answer. From there on the author underpins his observations from practice with evidence-based examples of what works and what does not and the book becomes much more of a "how to" handbook. There are easy to use tools like a decision tree matrix and clear advice on basic principles for when to hire, how to hire, integrating a new recruit, how to recognize potential when you see it, promotions and how all of these issues tie into the bottom line success of a company. He puts a price on the value of good decisions and the cost of wrong ones. Fernandez Araoz is generous in sharing the learning from his own experiences - the good and the bad - and provides the data to back up the conclusions he draws from applied theory. In essence, Fernandez Araoz delivers a sequential step-by-step guide to getting tough people decisions right the first time. It is reassuring to know that this is a skill that can be learned and polished.
A key take away is his advice on timing in terms of making people decisions. He is absolutely right when he talks about the common error in searching for the "ideal" candidate.
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There were a number of things that impressed me about this book. Starting with the author: He is one of the top executives at one of the best worldwide executive search firms, an in demand lecturer, and an accomplished writer with famous articles in Harvard Business Review and MIT Sloan Management Review (directly on the subject of people decisions). So he has an impressive resume, but the book makes clear that he has spent the last 20 years dedicated to becoming a world-class expert in this area. The book is backed up with many references and summaries to the best academic and industry studies, this is not just one man's war stories (although there are interesting stories to back up points) but it is instead a carefully thought out and researched framework utilizing his own extensive expertise but also that of other experts in the field. He is successful at taking a very fuzzy subject and organizing it, simplifying it, making it understandable and actionable, and even providing key "watch outs" based on his experience.

It is interesting reading with a number of interesting points made along the way. Some of my favorites include a description of how dramatic an impact a good vs. bad CEO can make on a company's performance, and as a side note he remarks that this may justify relatively high CEO pay (although he is careful to point out that it does not justify some of the outlandish packages that have been in the press in recent years). My other personal favorite was a comparison of the disciplines of personnel decisions and advertising, the later of which decades ago was also thought of as purely an "art" but over time has become more and more based on "science", and his prediction that personnel decisions will also bend to science over time.
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Lesson 1: People Decisions Are Vitally Important to You and Your Organization

"If you prove to be skilled at solving "people puzzles," your career prospects will almost certainly get brighter. Conversely, if you repeatedly fail to get the right person in the job your career will suffer(...)Mastering great people decisions will do both. It will enhance and improve your personal relationships, and increase your professional satisfaction."

Lesson 2: The Success Formula

"...The formula for career success includes at least four other factors (besides luck). They are: 1) Genetics, 2) Development, 3) Career decisions, and 4) People decisions. I am convinced that these factors reinforce and build upon each other, and create a multiplier effect. I also believe these different factors have different weights in our life."

Lesson 3: People Decisions Are Hard

"Collectively, these factors help explain why making people decisions is so damnably difficult: 1) Statistical Odds 2) Difficult Assessments a) Impact of assessment errors b) Unique jobs c) Changing jobs d) Intangible traits e) Inaccessible candidates 3) Psychological Biases a) Procrastination b) Overrating capability c) Snap judgement d) branding e) Evaluating people in absolute terms f) Seeking confirmatory information g) Saving face h) Sticking with the familiar i) Emotional anchoring j) Herding 4) Wrong Incentives a) Candidate circumstances b) Political pressures."

Lesson 4: The Great Paradox

The majority of us are not equipped with the right tools to make great people decisions - "...
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