If you’ve laughed at the big or small screen in the last several years, it’s likely you’ve come across one of Hollywood’s most creative directors; Paul Feig. Well-known for helming films like “Bridesmaids,” “The Heat,” and “Spy,” along with directing one of the late ‘90s most beloved TV cult classics, “Freaks and Geeks,” Feig has a reputation for not only making hilarious productions, but for taking a unique approach to the hiring, managing, and unleashing of star performers (see: Melissa McCarthy in well, pretty much anything).
One Sunday afternoon, I was tearing through the latest issue of Fast Company over coffee and came across, “How the director behind Seth Rogen and Melissa McCarthy unlocks comedic brilliance,” a short profile of Feig that really resonated with me. It caught my eye not only as someone who enjoys solid (and hilarious) entertainment, but as someone who spends their days solving hiring challenges.
In the piece, Feig shares his casting strategy and on-set behavior, and how his style is designed to empower his team and elicit strong performances. All of the points he makes about succeeding on a Hollywood production bare parallels to effective talent management strategies. Below, I dive into Feig’s tips for encouraging brilliance and delivering strong results, and how they relate to hiring, recruitment, and innovation.
Get out of the Way
Feig shares that he often wants to control things on set, especially when working with actors, but he ignores that inclination and forces himself to do the opposite. His first tip, to “Get Out of the Way,” really struck a chord with me. As an IT recruiter, I educate my partners that they can’t always control the outcome of the recruitment process. Once you have defined a process that works for you, you have to let it run its natural course. Will every candidate you want to hire end up in the role you want them to be in? No. You simply can’t control what will happen, but if you have a prescribed process, you have to step back and trust it will accomplish your hiring goals.
When it comes to management, getting out of the way also is often the key to creative solutions. You have to empower the people that you hire and give them the creative license to do what they do best. Offer them the tools they need, then move out of the way and let them shine.
Make Every Person Count
No matter what role someone plays, everyone is integral to delivering success – whether its movies or business. Feig shares how for him, “even the most minor of characters is as important as the lead.” I believe the same is true when hiring the right people for your team. Understand that you’re assembling a group of people to make things happen and make certain you put the right people in the right seat.
Ditch your Preconceptions
Feig’s casting strategy often involves looking far beyond what many directors do when hiring actors for a production. While others typically set out very strict parameters—such as age, ethnicity, hair color, build, and more—Feig feels that limits him far too much. The same is true in hiring. You have to fiercely dedicate yourself to keeping an open mind when it comes to setting specific hiring requirements. As I discussed in an earlier blog post, “How to Avoid Hiring Headaches,” it’s important to focus on core competencies and experiences, instead of checking off boxes on a list of “must-haves.”
Hold yourself Accountable
Last, but certainly not least, accountability is a big deal to Feig. He recently committed to using inclusion riders—a stipulation that at least 50 percent of a cast and crew be comprised of women and people of color—on all of his future TV and film productions to challenge what he calls the industry’s “default setting.” As a passionate proponent of diversity and inclusion, I strongly support this decision and hope many other influential directors and producers follow suit. We all have a choice to make when it comes to diversity and inclusion; we can do nothing, or we can do something. It behooves us to do something because the end product is always going to be better – whether it’s a movie or a mobile application.
It’s obvious that not everything about overseeing a successful Hollywood production is the same as hiring and managing a team of IT professionals (I’m still waiting for the IT red carpet!). The similarities that do exist, though, are compelling arguments to take a fresh, and more creative, approach to talent management.