So, how do you build a great cul­ture?

Finweek English Edition - - MANAGEMENT -

It starts with you, the leader, us­ing it as a fil­ter for hir­ing. My model is Egon Zehn­der him­self, who founded our firm and gave it his name. From the be­gin­ning, he vowed to con­sider only the strong­est can­di­dates to join him: peo­ple with dou­ble de­grees from top schools, in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence, high emo­tional in­tel­li­gence and re­mark­able ca­reer tra­jec­to­ries. More im­por­tant, he would never, ever, hire any­one who was not dy­ing to work in a highly pro­fes­sional, eth­i­cal, col­lab­o­ra­tive firm. Be­fore I joined, I was in­ter­viewed by some 35 part­ners, in­clud­ing all ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee mem­bers, in five dif­fer­ent coun­tri es, over a sin­gle week. Zehn­der per­son­ally checked my ref­er­ences with McKin­sey, my em­ployer at the time. That’s the stan­dard process, and it re­mains in­tact to­day. Un­til he re­tired as CEO, Zehn­der met with and ap­proved ev­ery sin­gle con­sul­tant who joined any of our 68 of­fices around the world – for 36 years. To­day his suc­ces­sor, Damien O’Brien, con­tin­ues the prac­tice, no ex­cep­tions al­lowed. al­low­ing peo­ple to learn and de­velop new healthy habits and com­pe­ten­cies. In con­trast, coach­ing that fo­cuses on weak­nesses arouses the sym­pa­thetic ner­vous sys­tem and does just the op­po­site. Com­pas­sion­ate coaches are not just pos­i­tive cheer­lead­ers but also com­mit­ted guides, con­scious of the state and progress of their team and the in­di­vid­u­als in it. They are also timely provo­ca­teurs, of­fer­ing the right dose of tough love when nec­es­sary. Th­ese hir­ing and coach­ing prac­tices de­mand ex­tra­or­di­nary dis­ci­pline. But it’s worth it to cre­ate a cul­ture of un­con­di­tional love that per­pet­u­ates it­self and binds your team to­gether into a whole much big­ger than the sum of its parts.

Clau­dio Fernán­dez-Aráoz is a se­nior ad­viser at global ex­ec­u­tive search firm Egon Zehn­der and a for­mer mem­ber of its global ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee. He is the au­thor of the forth­com­ing It’s Not the How or the What but the Who: Suc­ceed by Sur­round­ing Your­self with the Best.

© The New York Times 2014. © 2014 Har­vard Busi­ness School Pub­lish­ing Corp. Dis­trib­uted by The New York Times Syn­di­cate.

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