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Think Bigger by Michael W. Sonnenfeldt

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LESSON 13Hire for the Good—the Bad Comes at No Extra Expense

My partner David Fromer and I built a staff of almost 100 people to transform the Harborside Terminal into the Harborside Financial Center, while thousands of people continued working for our tenants in the facility on a daily basis. Undertaking a major construction project with people working all around you adds immense complexity and risk, but we had no choice. Today I am willing to concede that managing people is not my greatest strength. Back then I thought I knew what I was doing—or at least how a good manager should operate. After all, I had a master’s degree in management.

Fortunately, I started out with someone who really did know what he was doing (or at least he knew a lot more than me). When David witnessed my frustration with one employee or another who just wasn’t delivering, he offered one of his pithy sayings: “You hire for the good. The bad comes at no extra expense.”

As any manager knows, when you’re upset about something, it’s hard to think about anything else. But David repeated that catchphrase enough times that when an employee’s performance angered me, I was increasingly able to step back from my emotions and ask myself, “What is it that’s good about this person? Why did we make the hire?” Focusing on the value that particular person was adding to our business helped me put what I didn’t like into perspective.

Perhaps I was expecting the employee to achieve something that was beyond her expertise; ...

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