Menu Close

Sevens, Eights, Nines, and Tens

numbers for blog



What’s your number? I once heard a wise person say “Sevens hire fives and sixes, and Eights higher nines and tens.” Admittedly, this is a somewhat crude way to express the point that high achievers are willing to work with subordinates and colleagues who may be smarter, harder working, more knowledgeable and gifted than they are. And low achievers are often threatened when their subordinates’ skills, drive, and talent exceeds their own.


The smart manager knows that they cannot be the expert in all the areas that report to them – and is comfortable with that reality. They need to manage their subordinates to tactical, subject specific objectives, even without strong experience in the area. The wise manager knows that daily victories empower the team and its members, and that a rising tide lifts all ships. And because there is no such thing as a manager who is expert in all things, the only way to find success is to hire the best people in the needed area of expertise.
Let me give you a personal example of what I mean by all of this. A few years ago I posted a help wanted advertisement for a position here in my firm; I was looking for someone from the nonprofit world with strong operations, business development, and support skills. I spoke with several candidates, all which brought some combination of the above to the table. I then spoke to another somewhat unconventional applicant, who lacked career nonprofit experience, but had innovative ideas about using social media and blogging to meet many of my business needs. At the time, I was also thinking about how to integrate new media channels into the firm’s DNA… but was hesitant to do so, and didn’t really understand the tools and how they worked together to create a credible online presence. After much consideration and reference checks, I took the leap of faith and hired the unconventional candidate. Fast forward almost two years – the candidate, now one of my employees – has helped bring Copley Raff into the “e” world, taught me enough about social media to be dangerous, and helped several of our clients launch into the world of electronic fundraising.
Because of today’s challenging and competitive fundraising climate, the level of complexity and number of details to manage far exceeds any one person’s ability to be an expert in all areas of an integrated shop. For senior managers, it is imperative to have experts who “own” their respective areas, and for these experts to also have interest in the function and integration of other aspects of the advancement office. To be a well integrated operation, and one that focuses on continuous improvement and learning, experts need to be students of other experts. A genuine desire to learn, along with a dose of humility, makes for a strong leadership team as well as solid results.
Successful managers lead strong team members toward a purpose larger than themselves. Team members are respected for their expertise and are called upon to stretch beyond their experience base to enhance integration and for the greater good. To accomplish this… Eights need to hire nines and tens, and Sevens need to reconsider their career path and priorities.
Your takes:
  1. Determine if you are threatened or stimulated by someone with greater skills and knowledge than you – and what that might mean for your personal and professional growth.
  2. Know your work objectives and hire the strongest people you can to assist you in accomplishing those objectives.
  3. Know that your success rides on the successes of your team.

For more information about Copley Raff and its spectrum of not for profit consulting services, please see

Have a development, executive recruitment, or campaign strategy or management challenge? Let’s talk! Click here to connect with Rebekah Kaufman, Director of Consulting Services at CRI.