Renee’s Rule™: If you can’t understand what someone is saying, he may not be saying anything.May 27, 2009
I’ve seen some pretty scary hiring mistakes. Here is an example in which “The Emperor Had No Clothes.”
In the 1990’s, I became Interim CEO of a company that was experiencing the worst production problems I had ever seen. The company had hired a new Director of Materials Management. He had been referred by a management team member who had worked with him elsewhere, and his references from former employers were excellent. Everyone told me–and seemed to believe–that this guy was a genius. During meetings, he typed on his own notebook computer (fairly unusual at that time), looked impressive, and made “pronouncements.”
I, however, couldn’t understand a thing the guy was saying (plus, of course, materials management was still totally out-of-control.). I said to myself, “I have an MBA, am pretty darned bright, and have run more than 10 companies. If I can’t understand him, maybe he isn’t saying anything. Something is wrong.”
HR had checked his references, but I asked them to contact the universities listed on his resume to verify his degrees. Surprise, surprise: this fellow had lied on his resume and had no college degree. Needless to say, that was the end of his employment with the company. (The company, by the way, was successfully turned around.)
The question in my mind remains: Why in the world hadn’t someone else called his bluff? (A question to be explored in a future blog..)
At least three of Renee’s Rules™ apply:
- If you can’t understand what someone is saying, he may not be saying anything.
- Too often, people are afraid to speak out when they think something is wrong.
- Check references thoroughly.