relief from the double edge of hiring

Hiring and building teams is something I think I do fairly well. I have hired a fair number of people over the last ten years. Thinking about the processes I have learned for hiring and the types of people who have been on my teams, I have come to see a common thread. I hire people I like personally. This is a good thing to think about when building a team – you want people who get along, people who will want to work together, who can be friends and work through the tough problems and then come back to work the next day.

So far this point of view has worked for me. In the last four years, my hiring practices have fit within the larger Yahoo! way of hiring – phone screens, design presentation, design exercise, one on one interviews – and the collective wisdom of the team influences and has a say in the final hiring process. We tend to bring people into the team that are a good fit with the team, which means we like them personally. All other things generally have been well filtered – portfolio qualifications, experience. But team fit is invaluable. Politics, group dynamics and interpersonal relations are critical to the success of the team in meeting it’s goals.

As I prep to leave my full-time in-house job at Yahoo!, I have been thinking about how much I will miss my team and the people that I brought into the company. The daily interactions, the shared joking, the hard work and projects completed as a team, etc. On the one hand I am sorry to go and leave them behind. On the other hand, I am glad to be changing roles, because now I won’t be “the boss” but can be colleagues and friends with many of these people.

As a manager it can sometimes be tough. I have to create a separation between myself and these people that I like. While the team can be friendly with each other, I can’t “really” be friends as there lies a conflict of interest should issues arise or at performance review time. It’s a double edge sword. You don’t want people on your team that you can’t stand to be around so you hire people like yourself that you like being around but you also must maintain a level of objectivity when dealing with personnel. I sometimes even find myself “glad” when someone moves out of my team to go to another group or another company and we can finally be on equal footing.

I genuinely care for many of the folks that I have worked with over the years and am looking forward to shifting the dynamics of our working relationships as I leave Yahoo! and move into a new role.

current: experience matters design :: senior level interaction design and systems strategy consulting former partner, tangible user experience; Yahoo! founder of the public and internal Yahoo! pattern library. design director of ued teams responsible for designing solutions across key yahoo! platforms: social media, personalization, membership and vertical search.