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A company's executives are like ships' captains. They not only monitor the goings-on of the employees who work underneath them, but they're also responsible for making important decisions that steer the business. While a savvy executive can help guide an organization into port even in the midst of a storm, the wrong person sitting in the top spot can steer your company off-course if you're not careful.

Much emphasis is placed today on recruiting strategies, as companies endeavor to fill their open positions with the best and brightest of the upcoming generation. But with all the ground-level hiring going on, it's important to not overlook the methods by which the top positions at a business are staffed, as well. Fortunately, HR services can help small-business owners make the most informed decisions when it comes to executive staffing.

Different considerations at different levels
When filling any position within a company, hiring managers tend to look for similar qualities – an established history of positive results, sufficient training and education, and a personality that fits in with the overall company culture. But when the spot being filled is an executive position, standard hiring convention doesn't always hold true.

According to Human Resource Executive Online, one key distinction that doesn't always get made when hiring executives is that between performance and potential. Specifically, a high-performing employee may appear desirable, but a history of results in another position doesn't always equate to the potential to meet the challenges associated with executive leadership. Unfortunately, conflating good performance with high leadership potential can have serious consequences. According to data from research group the CEB, 55 percent of employees who were identified as "high-potential" mistakenly due to their performance histories ended up leaving their respective companies when things didn't go as planned or problems arose. 

HR can help you know where to look
A major consideration companies face is whether to look outside their walls for leadership roles or to promote from within. Many organizations prefer to place existing staff members in senior positions, since they represent known quantities, and doing so is a means of investing in a company's workforce. 

There are HR solutions companies can use to ensure they're promoting the best and brightest of their existing staff. For example, implementing a company-wide mentor program can be a great way to showcase the leadership potential of certain individuals on a smaller scale, which can help give hiring managers a clearer picture of what performance will be like once they take the reins.