Saturday, June 27, 2015

Hiring A President

A few years back I wrote an article called “Hiring the Best and Avoiding the Rest.”

Recently I have been thinking about how we “hire” a new president. So, I am going to make an attempt to apply good Psychological principles to the process of hiring a president. Please note that throughout this rambling I will use “hiring” and “electing” to mean the same thing.

As citizens today we are faced with the difficult problem of electing a qualified person to be our president. We have a real problem because unlike hiring an employee, we cannot place “help wanted” signs everywhere and just pick the best qualified candidate. We cannot post a job description on and wait for the best to apply. Unfortunately most of the time, we just wait until election time and vote for one of the people on the ballot, a ballot determined for us by the political parties. But given that we don’t have much say in the “pre-screening” process (or do we?), what could we all do to improve who we end up with as our president? In fact, there really is not pre-screening...anyone can declare him/herself a candidate in the primary.

Elections are always a gamble. We can never know the outcome of our decision until after the election and actual on-the-job performance occurs. Many presidential candidates sounded wonderful, until they got into the job.  However, we can increase our probability of electing (hiring) a more qualified president by improving the process we personally use when we mark our ballot. Elections are a high stakes game of chance, the future of the country is at stake. We as citizens need to be prepared to make sure we have the odds on our side. Think of it this way:

An election is a game of chance.
Smart citizens (electors) know how to play the game
by using a systematic process to
maximize the potential for choosing a successful president.

Most of us do not take the election (hiring) process as seriously as we should. Smart voting (hiring) not only gets a good person in the job, but it helps avoid problems down the road. Hiring the wrong person is a costly mistake for a company, but it can be even more costly for an entire nation! Smart voting won’t avoid all mistakes, but it will improve our odds. 

Electing a Leader

Perhaps the most important thing that Psychology tells us about human performance is that:

The best predictor of future performance is recent past performance, especially performance in the same or similar skill areas.

I would never hire someone to fill an accounting position who had never done accounting, even though she was a very successful salesperson. Nor would I hire someone to be a leader who has never led anything before. So, why would we hire someone to lead the most powerful nation in the world without looking at leadership ability? Am I being too harsh? I don’t believe so. That’s why the success of our presidents (and all political leaders for that matter) is so unpredictable…the process is done so poorly! I am not blaming the candidates; I am blaming the system that brings us those candidates, the media, and the voters.
So, I will state it again...

The best predictor of future performance is recent past performance, especially performance in the same or similar skill areas.

When we vote we should be thinking about who can lead us based on how well they have led throughout their lifetime. 
There you have it. Pretty simple. Will this happen? Probably not. Why? Because the media are too invested in the "likeability" factor of the candidate,  And I would maintain that most often we have elected the more "likeable" of the two candidates. And, frankly, that has not served us very well. 

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