Sheep Dip Hiring and kicking the can down the road.

05 Oct 2021

Sheep Dip Hiring and kicking the can down the road.

The difference between opportunistic hiring of new technology leaders and taking the time to design and orchestrate an executive search process can be dramatically different in the outcomes for your organisation.

John Kotter is the Professor of Leadership, Emeritus, at the Harvard Business School. He is a globally-renowned thought leader in business, leadership, and change. He is the author of 21 books, 12 of which have been bestsellers and 13 of which have been selected on lists of best business or management books of the year.

Hugely influential in his background story was his doctoral thesis, in which he studied a group of 20 American city mayors, who held office in the late 1960s, a tumultuous time in U.S. city history. What Kotter found most interesting from this study was the galactic distance between the 3 highest performing mayors and the rest of the group. It dawned on Kotter that if the lower-ranking mayors performed even a little better, then it would have had an immensely positive impact on the lives of millions of people, thousands of businesses and society as a whole. This realisation inspired John Kotter to dedicate his life to helping people of all kinds to become leaders, and to nudge them closer to the best versions of themselves.

When I read about this study, it resonated strongly with me. It is exactly what we strive to do in Odgers Berndtson. We understand that hiring a top-tier CTO, CIO and even tech sector CEO (the top 3 mayors so to speak) has an immense impact on your organisation’s performance. If you are lucky enough to have one of these executives, oftentimes you may not realize how good you have it. If you do realize how good you have it, then you also realize how long it takes to find the right person for the job.

Finding these leaders takes a considerable investment of your time to craft a suitable job description. It takes time to sit down with your executive search partner to orchestrate a compelling search process. Ultimately, it takes time to find the right candidate and shortcutting the process is simply papering over cracks, very rarely you might get lucky, but most of the time the cracks will eventually emerge. I highly recommend you avoid what I call, Sheep Dip hiring.

Sheep Dip Hiring

Sheep dipping refers to the immersion of sheep in a liquid formulation of insecticide and fungicide to prevent disease. Each sheep is quickly dipped into this solution and then released back into their environment.

The term is used in business to refer to a tick-the-box approach to important aspects such as training, innovation, digitalization or transformation efforts.

In my work in executive search, I use the term “sheep dip” to refer to opportunistic hiring, when organizations just want to hire someone as soon as possible to tick the box and get on with business. With “sheep-dip hiring” talent acquisition teams are encouraged to “just find whoever is available, ASAP!” Sheep dip hiring may indeed tick a box, but it is not sustainable. By finding anyone, someone rather than “the one” for your specific situation, you are simply kicking the can down the road. We want to find you the right person and bring them to you.

Just like our fingerprint is unique, so is the CIO fingerprint. Each technology leader has a unique approach and their approach has to align with your vision, your challenges and your culture. Our goal in Odgers Berndtson is to find you the right person, individualized to your requirements and your stage in your organizational journey. Taking this time will catapult you ahead of competitors and ensure that, just like John Kotter’s mayors, you are in the top 3 and not an also-ran.


PS - Thank you  Business & Finance Media Group for naming me as one of Ireland’s top 100 Digital Leaders in Ireland in the CIO 100 Index 2021.