He’s Not a “Fit for Our Culture”

“He is just not a fit for our culture.” How often do we promote or hire the “best and brightest” person only to have them flame out in a matter of months? The simple reason is that we misunderstand “fit” and therefore set them up to fail.

Don’t Blindly Follow Company Culture

The first mistake is thinking of “fit” as “fitting in” with the perceived, prevailing style or culture of the group. This approach reinforces the status quo and never sparks the new ideas and energy we are really seeking when adding the new person to the mix. Therefore, they never deliver anything different or new (nor does the team).

Hire for Complementary Capabilities

The second mistake is that we hire for “credentials” rather for the capabilities and mindset needed in the role that will complement and improve on the current team and culture. For example, we hire a CFO from a big firm into a small, growing enterprise in the hopes of providing structure we think is needed to scale the operation. What we hire is someone who knows how to manage multiple layers of process, systems and reporting that are typical of a large, established firm. And that person imposes all the systems they know on our small firm, crushing it in the process.

Instead, we need to find someone who understands how to teach colleagues how to think about the business from a financial perspective. We also want someone who likes to build an accounting team that uses appropriate accounting tools to help management make informed decisions as the business gets bigger and more complex. With this mindset the person will implement the right processes at the right time. And more importantly, the firm will understand and appreciate the new processes when they are introduced! In other words, that mindset “fits” for the real need in the business.

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A Cultivated Fit is a Better Fit

Finally, we make the mistake of thinking that culture and fit manage themselves. “Fit” is something that must be cultivated. Constantly remind the team of the values and goals they share so they appreciate how their differences enhance the culture and the firm’s goals.

Encourage the different perspectives in the team and celebrate when those differences add to success of the firm. Now “fit” no longer becomes a problem. Rather it becomes a source for new energy and a new, stronger culture.