Never outshine the master

My lunch partner last week is a senior business executive. with regional (AP) scope. The conversation was long, engaging, and fun. At one point, it turned to hiring practices. He looked at me and said, “My boss and his boss [at global HQ in the US] just did a telephone interview with someone out here [Asia]. As I’m the main person on the ground and know the job scope the best, they asked me to hop a plane, meet the guy, and assess him.

“OK, I’ve got a hundred other things to do, but I’m the loyal soldier. Flew there, had a nice meeting with this guy, and the country head also introduced me to someone else he knew, thought he’d be a good fit for the job. And you know, I thought he would be too.

“So I wrote up a long email back to them [and here he read it off to me from his Blackberry] in a lot of detail, saying why this first guy was alright, but didn’t have the right skills, and the second guy did but didn’t think we could tempt him to leave his company. And I put a lot of thought into giving them as much constructive feedback as I could–it has been such a hassle trying to find the right person to fit this job..

“And here’s the kicker. I wrote it all up, sent it back, and you know, I’ve gotten nothing back from them, not even a ‘thank you’. Nothing. What does that tell you about what they think?”

I looked at him and said, “Don’t you see now what you didn’t do?” That was the first sentence I asked him. And before I could continue, he suddenly changed tones.

“Yeah, I should have gotten hold of them first and found out what they were looking for, what they liked about this guy, what they were assessing him on. I didn’t do that, just did what they asked me to, and thought I was doing them a favour by giving them the name of someone else I thought was better.”

The light went off before I could tell him that, almost like he needed to talk it out and immediately understood how he sabotaged himself, how they were not aligned in their interview process, how he was not part of the inner working of the hire, and no surprise they didn’t answer his email recap.

He does not feel the company values him, but he is not strategically promoting himself to the people he needs to–and will either figure it out damned quickly and thrive, or get pushed out.
I’m not sure which it will be, but the first law from Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power is “Never Outshine The Master”.

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