The Yin and Yang of CEO Recruitment

Advice to Founders and Venture Capitalists

Mark Lonergan, February 6th, 2020

I love CEO recruit­ment, and I am hap­py to report that sud­den­ly there are a lot more boards call­ing me about find­ing them new CEOs these days.

I’ve been asked why it’s so impor­tant to work with a recruit­ing part­ner who has a lot of CEO exper­tise. There are four things about CEO recruit­ment that make this sort of work unique­ly tricky:

  1. Com­plex stake­hold­er rela­tion­ships There are numer­ous investor and board mem­ber stake­hold­ers who par­tic­i­pate in a CEO project. A recruit­ing part­ner must engage con­struc­tive­ly with all of them to achieve a great outcome.
  2. Ongo­ing strate­gic vision­ing The right recruit­ing part­ner makes sure the board artic­u­lates a shared vision of the future, some­times for the first time! If the board does­n’t do this, they aren’t like­ly to agree on what mod­el of CEO they want to hire.
  3. No fixed job spec­i­fi­ca­tion CEO recruit­ment ought to have an ele­ment of if this, then that.” The right recruit­ing part­ner is work­ing out in advance of the board to line up dif­fer­ent mod­els of CEO based on sev­er­al pos­si­ble strate­gic vision­ing outcomes.
  4. No sell­ing’ the CEO can­di­dates  A CEO recruit­ment part­ner should insist on mutu­al full dis­clo­sure, and ensure there is exten­sive cross-exam­i­na­tion on the part of both the can­di­dates and the board. This lev­el of hon­est exchange is not for the faint of heart.

There are a great many doc­tors in the world, but only a hand­ful of skilled brain sur­geons. If you are look­ing for new lead­er­ship, I sug­gest your board look for an expe­ri­enced CEO recruit­ing part­ner who has board lev­el facil­i­ta­tion skills and the strate­gic intel­li­gence to help you find the next leader for your company.