It’s Beth Axelrod’s job to spot top talent. The Senior Vice President of Human Resources for e-commerce giant eBay Inc., she’s responsible for hiring and cultivating the company’s global leaders. Here are her tips for how to succeed in Silicon Valley – or anywhere else.
Embrace agility. “Agility is at the top of the list” when it comes to workplace success, says Axelrod. “Companies are working hard to figure out how to keep up with the world and changing customer needs, and that’s what we’re asking of employees, even if it’s not explicit.” It’s not just the structure of companies that needs to change, she says. “At an individual level, it’s about ‘how can I teach myself to learn and grow and shift in ways that enable me to be very successful in this changing environment?’” Some people will find it exciting and others will find it uncomfortable, she says – but we all have to adapt.
Understand your limitations. We’d all like to think of ourselves as perfect leaders –technical maestros with the ability to inspire our employees and facilitate global success. Unfortunately, says Axelrod, that’s a tall order: “The challenge for highly-scaling Internet and tech companies is how to find the right mix of global general management skills, along with product vision and technology skills. Our conclusion is that it’s been rare to find that in the same person.” (For more on this subject, see my Forbes piece “Why Innovative People Fail.” ) There’s a strong tendency to hire staff “in our own image,” creating an army of Mini-Mes with identical skill sets. But Axelrod says we must resist. Instead, get clear on what you need by focusing on the end user: “What we try to do as a company is try to be very clear about ‘what do our customers need, and what does that imply for the products we have to develop?’” The key is ensuring a complementary leadership team that respects each other’s talents.
Align your values. You’re unlikely to thrive at your company if it’s a bad cultural fit. So whether you’re interviewing for a position, or are in the process of hiring others, pay close attention to whether the individual’s values line up with the organization’s. “It’s so important to listen to people tell the story of how work got done, or how a certain performance was delivered, or how change was orchestrated,” says Axelrod. “It’s [asking] not only what they did, but how they did it. Is it consistent with the company’s values, and is it likely to set them up for success in our organization?”
With the ability to adapt quickly, embrace colleagues who can fill in your blind spots, and select an environment that meshes with your values and style, you can succeed no matter what changes roil the marketplace.
This post originally appeared on the Forbes website on December 13, 2012.
Dorie Clark is CEO of Clark Strategic Communications and the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013). She is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the Ford Foundation. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.