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Robert Trigaux

HSN CEO Grossman: Hire 'energy-givers' -- and if they can bounce on their tails, all the better



Tiggereeyore Wake up and good morning. What does HSN  (Home Shopping Network) chief Mindy Grossman have to do with Winnie the Pooh characters? A lot, according to a Q&A interview with Grossman which appeared recently in the New York Times. Here she is talking about hiring philosophy:

"There are a number of things that are really important to me. One — and people laugh that I have this philosophy — is that you only hire Tiggers. You don’t hire Eeyores.

"It doesn’t mean they have to be loud, but I need energy-givers and I have to get a feeling that this person is going to be able to inspire people. Are they going to be optimistic about where they’re going? Are they going to attract people who are like that?"

MindyGrossman09newphoto Makes sense. Tigger is bouncy and hyperactive and a positive force in the Pooh tales, while gloomy Eeyore probably needs a Prozac boost. And hiring any other "types" from the Pooh pool gets you either hesitant workers like Piglet ("Oh d-d-d-dear") or Pooh bear himself whose image of his hand in the honey pot means he probably should not work in payroll.

What else does Grossman (see photo), whose HSN empire is based in St. Petersburg, have to offer in this NYT Q&A? Here are the 5 best take-aways:

1. No Yes Men: "Will they be able to stand up to me when they believe in something? I’m very passionate. I need people who are going to be able to make me look at things in a different way. So, I have to ask those questions, like, 'Give me an instance where you really believed in something and you were able to change the course and it was successful, whatever that was.' That’s really important, because you don’t want people telling you what you already know, or not telling you what you need to know."

2. Lead for the long haul:"The company had had about seven CEO’s in the previous 10 years. What happens in that kind of situation — where you have a lot of leadership changes, changes in strategy and perhaps not the best leadership style — is that everybody freezes. It’s like Miss Havisham from 'Great Expectations.' And when someone new comes in, most people think, 'O.K., we’ll wait this one out.' So there’s an impact when someone says: 'I want to be here. Here’s why I’m here. I’m here to listen and understand what we need to do.' To create change, I knew I was going to have to change the culture down to every single person in the company. You can’t do that if you’re not accessible to every person."

3. Why do you still work here? "One of the first questions I would ask is, 'What’s HSN?' Anyone who said, 'Oh, it’s just a television shopping network,' was not going to get where we were going. I asked what they thought of our customers, and anybody who talked down was never going to get it. I asked what drove them, what they were passionate about. You wanted to hear, from someone inside, why they were here, why they came and why they stayed. I still ask that question. I have lunch every month with people who have celebrated 5-, 10-, 15- and 25-year anniversaries. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I ask the same questions: 'Why are you here, and why are you staying?' " 

4. Know why you get up in the morning: "One, take the time to absolutely find what makes you excited to wake up in the morning. Take the time. You don’t have to decide in five minutes. Two, don’t be afraid to take risks, but know when there’s a difference between risk and suicide. Know what that line is for you, because everybody is different. Three, be very, very watchful, careful and cognizant of who you want to work with and for, and make sure that that is aligned with your values, because that’s going to make you feel whole."

5. Look for leaders: "I’ve hired incredible, top-school M.B.A.’s and I’ve had to fire some, too. It was never because of intelligence. It was never because of business acumen. It was because of their inability to motivate, relate to and inspire people. When I hire people, I love to see practical work experience, even prior to an M.B.A., so people who have lived in the real world don’t see the job as a hypothetical case study. Business is a case study every single day, but you have to be able to get the nuances."

Here's the full interview with Grossman.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:26am]


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