Great Ones Elevate

In 2003, ConocoPhillips ran a TV ad that was inspiring. It said, "The great ones elevate their performance on the biggest stages, at the highest stakes. They’re able to summon something extra and, by sheer will, produce wonders.” The words resonate. What’s not explicit and yet perfectly clear is that no one can elevate and perform their best without being surrounded and supported by a great team.

This is especially true in businesses that rely heavily on intellectual capital, such as finance, particularly investing. Still, some people are so competitive and consumed with themselves, they fail to realize or remember that it takes a team to win. Investing is not an individual sport. It’s a team effort. The all-stars who score are backed by a remarkable group. Strong leaders and true friends elevate others. You cannot achieve greatness alone or by pushing and pulling others down. You elevate yourself by elevating others. You lift the team by empowering people to rise.

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, Wall Street feels smaller. Experts estimate that the number of finance jobs has nearly recovered to pre-crisis levels but the atmosphere is different. There are fewer firms with fewer seats. The business is now more regulated, with much of the job demand in areas like compliance. Hedge fund asset growth has stagnated and there is a fight for market share. But there are talented people who can create value whom you should consider hiring or recommending in order to achieve and promote greatness.

Elevate others

1.    Leaders support their team. Keeping others down diminishes you. It doesn’t reflect well and ultimately limits your own career. You will be measured and judged on the success of your people. Consider how much more you achieve by hiring professionals who are smarter than you and giving them whatever they need to succeed. That’s leverage. That’s success. That’s leadership. That’s a legacy

2.    The investment business is not musical chairs. There is no finite amount of possibility. Finance is inherently destructive, creative and regenerative. You can’t predict the way someone will add value to your fund. They may transcend filling a role and build the firm beyond what you imagine

3.    Success is not zero-sum. In addition to being the right thing to do, you lift yourself when you lend someone a hand

4.    Helping others helps you. Introducing a friend to a contact is good for you, too. There is no limit to the number of times you can ping someone. There is, however, a limited number of times you can contact them without saying something meaningful. Consider the other person’s perspective. Do you want to hear from someone who says nothing substantive or someone who introduces you to a talented person? The best leaders seek professionals who can help them win. If your contact doesn’t have that perspective, how valuable a contact are they anyway? If you know a talented person who may add value to a firm, your introduction benefits all of you

5.    A relationship that’s guarded jealously will wither and die. It’s inorganic, inauthentic and unsustainable. The connection is not deep, dynamic, current or multidimensional. It lacks life, energy and exposure to the thriving elements of change and progress. It’s inherently stale, selfish and useless. Relationships need to be vibrant, evolve and grow in order to gather value and lead to new ideas and connections

6.    Pick experts for the back office. For accounting, compliance and controls, the candidate must have direct prior experience and expertise. I wouldn’t hire an apprentice accountant or pick a novice brain surgeon

7.    Hire the best athletes for the front office. Roles involving imagination, such as investing and marketing, are learned on the job. Great athletes emulate and then elevate. They learn, perform and lift your firm to new heights. Strictly hiring people who have had the same job previously is recursive. You will never break out and break away from the pack like this. Don’t hold back in hiring any more than you do when you invest. Be bold, take risks and hire people who think creatively and audaciously

8.    Having strong colleagues does not threaten you. They empower you to reach higher and make your team stronger, allowing you to focus on what you do best

9.    Pick a person the way you pick an investment: Before someone else does. Have the confidence in yourself to hire people based on what you see in them, not because they’ve had the same role elsewhere

10.    Hire for the unteachable qualities: Intelligence, drive, endurance, integrity, passion and the ability to work well with others. The rest can be taught and learned. Job-specific knowledge is a commodity. Brainpower, character, values, ethics and judgment are not

Great ones elevate

Wall Street is competitive. The best and brightest battle here, and hedge funds have the toughest hiring standards in the industry. They are the elite, the special forces of finance. Great ones elevate on this big stage, at the highest stakes, by empowering others and surrounding themselves with a great team.