Executive Search: Alignment of Organizational Goals and Values

Executive Search

During Acumen Executive Searches’ 16 years as an executive recruiting firm, we have supported numerous leadership recruitments. Whether it is a CEO, President, CFO, CTO, CIO, CHRO, COO, or a key director/manager, finding the right blend of technical skills and industry expertise is important, yet the biggest indicator of long-term success is the ability to identify and attract candidates who align with organizational goals, values, and culture.

For the sake of this discussion, goals and values include your mission, vision, strategic plans, and values. Culture is how these aspirations show up in your organization daily. Your culture can be different for some divisions or departments and culture is always a work in progress. When bringing in new leaders there are three main points to consider in cultural alignment – a leader that can add value now, a leader that can get you where you want to go, and someone who gets you from now to the future in a way that aligns with your organizational values.

Neglecting the importance of cultural alignment can have far-reaching consequences – “Companies tend to hire for skills, but they fire on fit” Suzanne Hanifin, President, Acumen Executive Search. “…leaders should set the tone for an organization; if you have misalignment, you are not going to thrive.” Cultural misalignment is often evident in hindsight. So, let’s talk about some ways to proactively assess alignment of organizational goals and values in an executive search and interview process.

Understand your organizational goals and values and how they show up across an organization: Ideally, organizational goals and values are lived every day as your organizational culture. Yet, no matter if you have a very evolved and aligned culture or if this is a work in progress, it is important to understand the current state. How? Ask. The stakeholders that interact with the role you are hiring for (their direct superiors, direct reports, aligned peers) to consider the skills, experiences, values, goals, leadership style, etc. that would be most important for the person filling this role. It’s ok if everyone is not saying the same things; that tells you the leader that you bring in will need to be able to flex, have experience in building culture, and can meet people where they are to bring about change.

Document an Ideal Candidate Profile: Consolidate the input you receive into an Ideal Candidate Profile and refer to this as a road map throughout the outreach, screening, interview, and decision process. Be specific. Be bold. Think about the leader you need now and into the future and how your organization’s values will guide this process.  

When documenting what aligns with your organization’s goals, values, and culture, be careful you are not just checking a box. It is easy for a candidate to say they value “transparency” or “innovation” etc. It is valuable to go a step further and translate goals and values into behaviors, leadership styles, motivations, and preferences.

Ideal Candidate Profiles can perpetuate dominant cultural or other biases, so always review this through an equity lens to ensure that the profile supports inclusive hiring practices. Ask who this Ideal Candidate Profile leaves out. What can we do to elevate people with different lived experiences or who did not have access to the same opportunities? Can we offer support to overcome skills or experience gaps to provide a more equitable process?

Do not sugarcoat it! Candidates should know what they are getting into. For example, candidates for a recent county Department Director role would be charged with merging two divisions. Not everyone was in favor of this change within the divisions and some staff were very vocal about their concerns. The Director assuming the role would walk into this charged situation. This should be a question that comes up in the interview, how do candidates feel about this? Do they have an example of how they have dealt with a similar situation? Your organization’s culture is lived, not aspirational – can the candidate deal with a “real world” scenario in a way that aligns with your organization’s values?    

Think beyond those that apply. Avoid a scarcity mindset – only choosing from a limited set of candidates that apply. If you feel that you are not seeing candidates that fit your Ideal Candidate Profile, consider other ways to engage and attract leaders to the role. As an example, approximately 80% of Acumen’s placed candidates come from our intentional outreach to our networks and many of these candidates were not actively looking for new roles.

These are just a few key areas to consider when looking to bring new leaders into an organization. Please feel free to reach out if you would like to discuss a particular situation – we are always happy to have a conversation about bringing aligned and impactful leaders into organizations. Remember, hiring for skills alone may fill a position temporarily, but hiring for cultural fit builds high-performing leadership teams that drive sustained success and growth.

Acumen Executive Search – named a “Most Admired Company” for multiple years, Acumen provides equitable, customized, and impactful executive search and advisory services that benefit our clients and positively impact the communities in which they operate. With staff across the West Coast, we welcome a conversation to help you navigate executive and managerial transitions.