Hire Successors Not Underlings

Several years ago I heard Wolverine World Wide’s CEO, Blake Krueger, give a speech at an Association for Corporate Growth event. During his speech he touched on a hiring philosophy that started at his former law firm, Warner Norcross & Judd, LLP and continues at Wolverine World Wide. It was premised on the theory of hiring people smarter than you are. Too often law firms hire underlings – individuals who do not demonstrate the potential to blossom into successors. If you hire individuals who demonstrate so much promise that those immediately above them in seniority feel threatened, you are doing it right. Young talent benefits everyone in a firm. It ensures that senior partners will have a viable exit strategy and associates talented enough to perform quality work for the firm’s best clients. It sharpens younger attorneys through healthy competition and it promotes a more vibrant work environment. So the next time you are considering a candidate, ask yourself “Will anyone feel threatened by this hire?” If the answer is “yes” you are on the right track.

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