Once, following a lengthy interview process for a senior role, I sent a written job offer to the impressive successful candidate. That person accepted my offer, replying with a smiley face emoji.


I was crestfallen, for I knew that I had hired the wrong person. Sound judgement is a prerequisite for senior roles, and that person proved not to have it.

And as predicted, the successful candidate lasted only a very short period, for they were ill-suited for the role – something I had known from their unusual approach to accepting my offer.

If this situation were to happen again, I would spare both employee and employer all the faff by instantly rescinding the offer.

A similarly bizarre incident occurred recently during the Euros. Following yet another dreadful display, England manager Gareth Southgate said that they hadn’t solved “the Kalvin Phillips” question. Now, I know that most readers of this blog aren’t football fans, so I shall explain.

Kalvin Phillips is a decent central midfielder, who previously played in tournament football for England. Phillips was one of the weaker players of previous squads, but he served a purpose. In the run-up to the Euros, domestically Phillips hadn’t played well, hence Southgate chose not to select him. But Philips could have been selected, because he isn’t injured. And Southgate has had ample time to change systems and try other players, for England are blessed with an abundance of footballing riches. Trust me, Southgate’s comment was most odd – but insightful. At the very least, the “Kalvin Phillips” question could have been solved by selecting Kalvin Phillips!

Now England fans, like me, doubtful that Southgate was the right person for the role, on hearing the “Kalvin Phillips” comment, knew that our previous doubts had been way off the mark: Southgate is even more incompetent than we feared. He needs to be replaced now, in the middle of the tournament.

By way of analogy, the “Kalvin Philips” comment is akin to Field Marshal Montgomery blaming the failure of Operation Market Garden on the absence of one lowly tank commander, who Montgomery himself opted not to select, out of a pool of 40,000 brave Allied soldiers. Had Churchill asked Montgomery why the 1944 Operation had been a failure, and the reply was “because I didn’t select one lowly tank commander,” then Churchill would have known that the reason for failure was because Montgomery’s judgement was flawed. Undoubtedly, Montgomery would have been toast.

So, when I’m advising and mentoring today, I recommend that my clients are highly attuned to spot bad judgement. Such people, in senior roles, can sink any organisation. Please don’t shy away from moving such people on, even if – like Southgate – they are wonderful people. Too many senior people cling to their positions by being “nice” and it’s hard to sack a nice person.

I therefore recommend, whenever possible, using long interview processes and working with people with whom you have a long-standing relationship and who have proved to be of good judgement.