- Owen Grover recently became a CEO, but he spent most of his career at iHeartMedia learning from its famous CEO, Bob Pittman.
- The best advice Pittman ever gave him was how to hire for genius.
- “These are people who are so quirky that their genius is often completely missed,” Owen told Business Insider.
- It’s the polar opposite of what most managers do today when they hire for “cultural fit.”
Owen Grover spent most of his career at iHeartMedia studying under its famous CEO, Bob Pittman, an icon of the music industry who founded MTV and went on to hold various CEO and executive roles at places like Six Flags and AOL Networks.
Grover’s career has been a wild ride – zipping around the country on Pittman’s plane putting together unusual deals, rising inside iHeartMedia to general manager, and, most recently, leaping to become CEO of Pocket Casts, a podcasting app recently bought by a coalition of public-radio stations.
The best piece of management advice Grover ever got came from Pittman when Grover was a young manager in the company’s fledgling digital unit, Grover told Business Insider.
“Bob told me to always accept people with towering weaknesses as long as they are accompanied with towering strengths,” Grover recalled.
“These are people who are so quirky that their genius is often completely missed,” he said. “It’s easy to want everyone to get along, or to hire people that are easy to manage. But doing so is how you get B’s hiring C’s hiring D’s.”
That’s the opposite of how many think about hiring with today’s emphasis on “cultural fit.”
Managers these days are repeatedly warned to be wary of hiring a “toxic” person. They’re looking for “superstars” who are not only bright and capable, but socially suitable.
Pittman’s view is contrarian.
“If people have strong strengths, encourage them, even if they don’t fit in,” Grover said.
The author and former Netflix chief talent officer Patty McCord agrees. She wrote in a recent Harvard Business Review article that “finding the right people is also not a matter of ‘culture fit.'”
She wrote about hiring outside the box, like taking on a humble programmer from an Arizona bank who didn’t have the ego of the Valley rockstars he would join, or the manager with a stutter who struggled through the interview but could take the most complex ideas and make them simple.
The key part of Pittman’s strategy is a “no a–holes” policy, Grover said.
People have to be respectful, even when they disagree. But if someone with great ideas isn’t great at maths, someone else can do the maths for them. If they are technically brilliant but not good at words, someone else can do the words for them.
Everyone contributes just their strengths and isn’t judged, berated, or required to shore up their weaknesses.
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