TALK | Top management consultant Assig + Echter: The selection of executives suffers from the control madness

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Best of HR –® Dorothea Assig and Dorothee Echter act as Assig + Real Top Management Ambition to advise top international managers. In the interview you will tell what goes wrong in the selection of executives and top managers.

Dorothea Assig, Expert for Outstanding Careers and Dorothee Echter, Topmanagement.Wissen.weltweit, have been specializing for over two decades in advising top management worldwide. They lead outstanding management personalities with their organizations and Company to sustainable reputation. With their ambition management theory they make sure that the top management offers direct and effective orientation and initiates successes.

Here writes for you:

Simone Janson Simone JansonSimone Janson is publisher, German Top20 blogger and Consultant for HR communication.


From the interview partner:

Best of HR Berufebilder


Best of HR Berufebilder


Which requirements does a good leader have to meet today in order to be successful and create benefit for the company?

Today only the best of the best become leaders in companies, they have all the prerequisites. Never before have managers been so well trained, so carefully selected, so committed and so enthusiastic. They love their work, they get involved to make a difference. Everything is perfect: they are willing to perform, experienced in their different fields, they are strong communicators, well connected and able to tune into teams. They want to drive companies forward and they can do it. All this is necessary today - even at the lowest management levels - and is available, too.

What is additionally needed for them to be successful? It is the ability to find the right place where everything she or he wishes, everything she or he can bring about is welcome and needed. For some people it is especially difficult to identify their ideal role – just because they are so outstanding. They do not know that finding the perfect match is not about their quality or achievements, but about creating the right stage for themselves by identifying their ambition and communicating it.

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What goes wrong with the selection of executives in many companies?

Control mania has run rampant. Instead of asking the right questions in the selection interviews, taking time for the exchange, letting intuition take effects, trusting the gut feelings and finally making a quick decision, companies need months, sometimes years, of allegedly systematic, allegedly objective and allegedly rational selection procedures, such as evaluations, assessment centers, biographical interviews, intelligence and personality tests, classification in competence clusters, potential portfolios and so on and so forth.

Their need for security has grown into infinity and yet cannot be satisfied. Once someone has run through this machinery of measuring, comparison and competition, she or he cannot get rid of the feeling of mistrust and control that has established during all these procedures. This does not promote performance - on the contrary. People who have been trusted from the start of the selection process feel completely different. They will be able to contribute freely, without fear, at once.

Therefore, none of the control mechanisms have led to better results in personnel selection. The opposite has been achieved. The hiring processes in management are slowing down, the transfers and dismissals, on the other hand, are being decided faster and faster: “She could not put her horsepower on the street”, then it says, or “what has become of this talented start-up entrepreneur with us?”

Complaints about the increasing narcissism in our society are heard more frequently, but you speak of the necessity to believe in one's own self-efficacy. Please explain the difference.

Self-efficacy belief is based on the experience of being able to achieve something. A feeling that is not familiar to people who feel weak and powerless.

But it is a feeling that is needed to be able to exert influence. Without power and influence it is not possible to change anything for the better. To percieve oneself as capable, empowered and outstanding in the own field is what we call the the healthy narcissism. This does not mean to rise above others, as this would be arrogant. Arrogance does not lead anywhere.

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How important are the right education and the right stations in the CV?

The basis of every ascent is skill. Nothing works without skill. It takes professional and personal substance to be effective. First comes the training, first experiences - and from there everything is possible. Many people have access to top positions that were neither in the “right” universities nor in the “right” stations. Careers are not planned, but someone follows their inner concerns and is looking for more and more tasks to perfect their own talent.

The path is unique and original for every human being. A doctorate, an MBA degree, a degree in Cambridge or at MIT does not hurt. More importantly, someone has a strong self-will, a great ambition, and the ability to win people over for their own ideas. We see that any extrinsic motivation, the effort to meet external criteria, does not lead to reputation or fulfilling work, but makes it unhappy. Nobody needs an unhappy professional life.

In your book you focus the importance of the right contacts. There may be some doubts if the right contacts count more than e.g. measurable achievements …

Contacts are no substitute for achievements. Achievements are basic. Only at a certain point, when someone has moved up to the top management, ability and successes are regarded as proven. Performance does not lead any step further. We specialize in top management – these people are all excellent. All of them have had a hard career path to go.

In the top league there are no objective criteria whatsoever for personal performance. Companies have tried to find some again and again, and have established all these absurd control procedures like assessment centers and performance evaluations. Too many people and complex interdependencies contribute to individual successes or failures. What was considered a great success yesterday is normal today and will lead to failure tomorrow. If in top management someone considers something a great performance, it has always been a well communicated performance – no matter of how great is really was. Reputation arises when other influential people talk about somebody – without really knowing in detail what they do. That's why the right positive contacts are so important, first inside the company, then outside it.

In your book you also introduce the Ambition Management Method - what is it all about?

It's about how to achieve peak performance, leaps in growth, innovations and transformations – beyond all measurement. So far, companies still trust too much in the cycle of planning, goal setting, control, feedback, correction and new planning. There are countless tools and instruments that arise from an exaggerated sense of security. They lead to ever more adaption to these extrinsic standards. New ideas are never created with old methods, nor can they be ordered or controlled. No start-up would ever have been successful with the old controlling traditions. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Marc Zuckerberg would not have been able to set up large companies. No company would have been saved this way. These methods only lead to the same bureaucracies. A vicious circle.

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Ambition management trusts the inner drive of the individual. We do not rely on collective instruments and guidelines. All leaders want to move the company forward and want to be successful themselves, in their own original way. Ambition Management shows how companies can support them. Success needs the individual person. They are the ones to drive transformation projects, innovations and growth. It`s all about their greatness and ambition. Companies must appreciate their excellence and help them finding individual „brands“ for each manager. A practical example of how to do this is the Assig+Echter Uniqueness Dialogue, a regular discussion of supervisors and employees, replacing the yearly performance evaluation meetings. The Uniqueness Dialogue focusses exclusively the individual strength, values and purpose. It brings about an explosion of individual ability and results.

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