Play the Wild Card

His fancy dress costume was a white sheet with trigs and leaves attached! No one can remember what he was meant to be but everyone remembers his costume. He had been an operational manager and before that a training officer, he was experienced, restless, frustrated, at risk of becoming cynical and applying unsuccessfully for middle management jobs in the latest round of restructuring. He was a square peg in danger of being forced into another round whole. 

She had previously been the manager of a large shoe shop and was now applying for a post running a registrars office responsible for recording births, deaths and marriages. With no background in local government and no experience of the service she was to management some would consider her a wild card appointment. 

You would not describe this applicant for a senior management post  as a safe pair of hands. They were experienced, innovative, dynamic if opinionated and occasionally abrasive with a tendency to ask for forgiveness rather than seek permission. Would you appoint them to a senior management post in a high profile role? 


In each case the candidate could have been considered a wild card either because they lacked the traditional career trajectory for the post they were being considered for or because those making the appointment could not be sure how they would behave.  But it was their difference that ultimately made them very effective appointments. 


Interview panels tend to play safe and  appoint  some one with a proven track record in the same area, some one who knows the business, some one with a career path the interviewers are familiar with and comfortable with. However if you employ managers who have the same experience, the same professional background, the same skill set that you always have, you’re unlikely to change the organisations’ culture or change the way things are done. And in a fast changing environment organisations can not afford to be slow to respond.


Blair Mcpherson former Director ,author and blogger 








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