You see it all the time.  A new executive joins an organization, and within a few months there is an exodus of people beneath them.  “They are just bringing in their own team” we all say.  “They have their own style and are just holding people accountable” we all say.

The people who quit (instead of working for the new manager) say “I just did not like the new direction of things” or “We did not work well together.”   Add it all up and the cost of a hiring a new executive can go far beyond their salary – even when they are successful.

Of course, when a new executive fails, it can be catastrophically expensive (some estimates are in the millions) , customers can be lost, and whole business units must sometimes be rebuilt after a toxic manager finally leaves.  Some suggest that the psychological costs of a bad hire far outweigh the measurable financial costs.  One study showed that almost all leaders have “dark-side characteristics” that place their organizations at risk.

With so much at stake, why is executive hiring often left to “gut instinct” and why does so little attention get paid to making a cultural fit?   In my twenty years of work in executive search, I think the problem results mostly from jump starting the search before taking the time to really think about the position and write down what you are looking for.  Most executive searches are doomed from the start because the executive team did not take the time to reconcile their differences, define their expectations, and write down what attributes they really wanted in a new hire.

If betting hundreds of thousands of dollars on a hiring project without a solid plan sounds reckless to you, I would have to agree.  So, to reduce your chances of making an executive mis-hire, you might want to read: