4 Counterproductive Habits of Talent Acquisition Leaders and How to Change Them

Most talent acquisition leaders I meet are conscientious, wanting to do right by their team. In an attempt to do so, they sometimes end up getting the wrong results. Their behavior as leaders contributes to common staff problems including lack of autonomy, change that doesn’t stick, and a failure to get buy-in.

Why does this happen? Shared habits. Many TA leaders keep doing the same things because that’s how they’ve always done them. They share those habits with their direct reports, some of whom go on to be leaders. These new TA leaders end up leading how they were led, repeating the cycle.

You can break this cycle by changing your habits. Here are 4 common counterproductive leadership habits of talent acquisition leaders and what to do instead.

Leadership Habit No. 1

Maintaining an open-door policy

In an attempt to be present and available, TA leaders allow direct reports to access them on demand. This fosters a dependent relationship. Wanting to avoid mistakes, staff get in the routine of going to the boss for the answers. Instead of developing autonomy, team members become overly dependent on the boss’ intellect. Managers end up bearing a heavy burden. They become the “helicopter” and “lawnmower” parents of the business world.

What to do instead

Maintain an occasionally open-door policy

Closing your door is healthy. It gives you uninterrupted time to get things done. More importantly, it gives your staff space to do their jobs—independently. Yes, making yourself immediately available for true emergencies is prudent, and you should remain in the loop about what’s going on. But remember this—no one benefits when you enable and participate in co-dependent behavior.

Engage with your team daily. Schedule weekly one-on-ones with each staff member. Keep regular office hours, and don’t be afraid to close your door.

Leadership Habit No. 2

Answering staff questions

Another habit that creates unhealthy dependence is answering staff questions. Team members, wanting to do what’s right, tend to believe the boss has the answer. Every answer given reinforces that the boss knows best.

What to do instead

Let staff answer more of their own questions

Use one of more of these questions next time someone on your team comes looking for an answer.

  • What could you do about this?
  • How have you solved that in the past?
  • What’s a possible next step? And the next? And the next?
  • I don’t know. How do you think this should be handled?

Staff members, without realizing it, often know the answer. They’re closest to the situation at hand and, because of that, have better insights than you. Sometimes they just need help unlocking their own wisdom.

Leadership Habit #3

Telling people what to do

There are times when staff do need direction. New hires require training and insights. Tenured staff confront situations for which they have no experience.

Many TA leaders mistakenly tell people what to do, forgetting that talk is cheap. What’s said goes in one ear and out the other.

What to do instead

Show people what to do

Showing sticks. The employee sees how it’s done. You can then watch and help her make adjustments.

When a new hire needs to understand how to do something, show, don’t tell. If a tenured employee is facing something new, demonstrate, don’t pontificate. And if you’re lacking the expertise needed, have someone else do the showing instead.

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Leadership Habit No. 4

Attempting to create buy-in

Creating buy-in is a form of selling. TA leaders attempt to sell their team on the latest strategy or idea. The hope is that the team will buy in. Sometimes they do. Other times they don’t, creating an uphill battle as the leader attempts to drive things forward.

What to do instead

Let people talk themselves into buying in

Remember that buyers of anything, including ideas, always believe themselves. But may or may not believe you. Let the better salesperson sell. That’s your staff, not you. Your job as a TA leader is to point the way. The job of the team is to discuss how you’ll get there together.

You can say something like:

“As a leadership team, we’ve decided to <BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF STRATEGY OR IDEA>. Let’s discuss how we’re going to do that. What do you suggest as our next steps?

Scott Wintrip

As president of the Wintrip Consulting Group, Scott Wintrip has helped thousands of companies improve their ability to hire talent on demand. He helped these organizations to grow faster, increase revenues, improve profitability, and expand market share. In the process of advising, educating, and coaching his clients, he has created more than $1.3 billion in positive economic impact for them. An astute strategist, he is respected for his strong leadership and practical advice. He is also the author of High Velocity Hiring: How to Hire Top Talent in an Instant (McGraw-Hill, April 2017). You can learn more about him and his services at WintripConsultingGroup.com.