The last three weeks of news has been rather interesting, in particular because of the enormous focus on the shenanigans of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. Watching his fall from grace and his anticipated departure from his role has almost become the viewers’ obsession. Some say it’s better than those weekly television survival dramas.
The list of executive fiascoes this past month such as Senator Duffy's $90,000 expense run-in with government auditors and Toronto Mayor Ford's alleged crack cocaine video reminded me of an earlier "avoid at all cost" behaviour list referred to as executive derailers. The term "derailers" refers to a set of inappropriate leadership behaviours and leadership styles that will ultimately result in a leader's demise.
As an executive search professional, I can suggest quite strongly that there is a growing skills gap at the management and executive levels. In fact, a recent survey indicated that in spite of an increase in the number of applications per job, it remains a challenge to identify a suitable candidate. So, what are corporations looking for today? What seems to be missing?
There are a couple of old familiar sayings that summarize some of our communication, recruitment and selection challenges in the workplace. The first is, "you hear what you want to hear" and secondly we often realize that people have a "tendency to oversell their abilities." All my years of experience allow me to corroborate these statements, as I have seen both of these communication translations create problems in the workplace following a candidate search.
It's been some time since I've written about the importance of assisting your new leaders to integrate into your organization. This is so critical that if specific strategies are not employed, your new employee could fail within the first ninety days. That's because if they don't quickly gain the trust of employees and key stakeholders, it will be difficult to make changes and drive the business forward.
Five years ago, the Human Capital Institute collaborated with the large consulting firm Hewitt Human Capital Consulting and published the results of a comprehensive leadership survey entitled, the State of Talent Management, Today's Challenges, Tomorrow's Opportunities. The study revealed five looming workforce challenges, including the attraction and retention of skilled professionals, developing manager capability, retaining high performers, developing succession pool depth and addressing management and leadership talent.
The past several years have seen an explosion of online assessment and psychometric tools that are designed to assess external candidates for entry into established companies. These have proven to be very powerful and accurate tools to predict employee performance as they identify strengths, areas of challenge, cultural fit and personality traits.
The importance of intuition in decision making
Let's face it; we all know that business operations require accurate accounting and numerical statements of fact. Accounting...that old, enduring historical system of checklists and rules that allows business leaders to review their current situation and predict the future. However, as business moved into the 21st century, it has come to be recognized that financial facts aren't the be-all and end-all. Many business decisions require a balance of head and heart. By this I mean that leaders need to assess their intuition, their "gut feeling," and wrap these feelings around their facts in order to make a final decision.
Businesses can be impacted by many circumstances. Often these circumstances are from external forces at play that need to be understood. Recently, while working with a client we discussed a number of challenges that the company was experiencing. We talked for some time about external events that the company was aware of but could not control.
Have you ever been discouraged and dismayed when you found that a recent hire was not who you thought they were? Where did you go wrong? Was the problem a set of poor interview questions? Did you misinterpret the candidate’s responses? Were your interviewers not effectively trained?
Life and business never forge ahead in a straight line. They evolve naturally. In nature, seemingly random things happen that shape the very fabric of existence. This happens in business too. Businesses tend to operate as self-organizing systems and their natural evolution often leads organizations in the right direction. Embracing this natural progression is referred to as an organic approach to strategic planning.
Have you ever experienced a situation where you were confident that a promotion was yours, only to learn that someone else was the successful candidate? You felt slighted, angry, confused and downright dumbfounded. Why were you not successful? After all, you’ve been a success junkie all your life! In fact, you’ve had a straight upward track to senior leadership throughout your career.
Your business should operate like a fine-tuned machine, like a slick piece of technology. Consider that statement and its ramifications. What if your people were all rowing in the same direction, in tune and with clear focus? That is where the Alignment Model of Strategic Planning is used.
If you’re a seasoned executive, being on the other side of an interview table as a job candidate can be quite the awkward experience. First of all, it’s been years since you’ve had to look for a new job. Odds are that businesses have been trying to find you, not the other way around.
There is a lot going on in your organization, all sorts of things that you need to wrap your head around. The challenge is that you first need to truly understand the issues and determine how to address them.
Strategic planning is an exercise in gathering and documenting information about the past, present and future of your business. Strategic planning helps determine where you want to go over the next few years, how you are going to get there and how to recognize when you’ve arrived.
Recruiters and organizations alike are more and more frequently turning to online computerized assessments to help identify the strengths and areas of challenge for their potential new employees.
To achieve a balanced business perspective consider using a Balanced Scorecard as part of your strategic planning initiative. A Balanced Scorecard is an approach that is used to align your business to the vision, mission, core values and strategy of the organization. The emphasis is to turn strategy into forward thinking actions that the senior team can implement against key performance indicators. To embark on a Balanced Scorecard, the company must have a mission and vision and know their financials, the present business structure and levels of employee expertise. They must also have extensive knowledge regarding customer satisfaction levels.
As a leading executive search consultant, believe me, I’m the first to advise candidates to toot their own horn and brag about their work accomplishments. That being said, there is self-promotion and then there is overly-aggressive self-promotion! And I can guarantee this: those self-promoters who exaggerate and/or significantly overstate their abilities in job interviews will soon find themselves in trouble and probably back out on the street looking for a new job.
Have you ever wondered what the future will look like? Three, five or ten years from now where will you, your business or your career be? If you have ever asked that question then your mind is telling you it is time to create a Vision of Success.
When speaking to clients about their recruitment challenges, they typically mention their lack of ability to find the right candidate for their job roles in a timely manner. Many clients post a job only to find a low number and/or low quality of candidates applying for the position.
Other clients have found that candidates have deliberately used the potential new company as a bartering chip to increase their salary with their current employer. Still, other clients may recruit a candidate only to find that they resign during the first year of employment due to a mismatch with the corporate culture.
Wouldn’t you like to create a sure bet? Most people would. Just imagine you buy a lottery ticket and win 1000 times the initial investment. Everyone would like to create a sure bet.
For some years now businesses have been placing a great deal of focus on developing their “brand” or corporate image. This is in recognition that people carefully consider an organization’s public image when choosing whether or not to apply for job postings.
Have you ever wondered what CEOs really want? What does a CEO expect from his/her organization, its senior team and the individual players? Generally it can be summed up in two words: creative alignment.
Survey after survey is showing that employee retention is a growing human resource concern for today’s businesses and not-for-profit organizations. In fact, some surveys are showing that over 50% of employees are dissatisfied with their jobs and have placed themselves back into the job market. While one might think this is good news for recruiters and employers engaged in a candidate search, it also suggests that attention needs to be paid to those work elements that will not only attract new employees but will help to keep them.
When you consider the different personality types, learning styles and backgrounds that make up any workplace, it becomes clear that offices are true modern-day melting pots. This is not new. What is new is that all of these very different people are now working side-by-side, rather than being generationally segregated. This creates tension.
When it comes to people discussing the current job market, I can’t help but feel that April Fool’s Day is dragging on a bit too long. But who needs practical jokes when it comes to jobs and careers? Not me and not you! So… what’s happening? What are we to believe?
Are there job opportunities out there or not?
Creating an Execution Culture is all about getting things done through people. In order to do that, you need to get your senior team on the same page in their thinking about management vs. leadership and how it relates to empowering people to get things done.
Have you ever been discouraged and dismayed when you found that recent hires were not who you thought they were? Where did you go wrong? Was the problem a set of poor interview questions? Did you misinterpret the candidate’s responses? Or, were your interviewers not effectively trained?
The answer to these questions is probably no.
Recruiting highly talented employees has become more than an art, it has now become a science. And taking a scientific approach means utilizing a number of strong measureable recruitment and selection strategies in order to attract candidates to your organization. Years ago, behavioural descriptive interviewing was introduced and has proven to be remarkably successful in helping organizations select the best candidate with the right fit. The science has grown exponentially since then and there are now several more-effective recruitment and selection strategies that are far more advanced than simply asking the right questions.
When asked to create a list of innovative people, who comes to mind? Maybe Einstein, Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg, Spielberg or Hanks. Innovators are people with the creative ability to come up with and act on something new. When it comes to those in charge of businesses and organizations, there are five different types of innovative personalities that tend to end up at the top.
Have you ever been in a position where a recently hired candidate leaves before the probation period has lapsed? Or, on the other hand, have you been shocked at the unexpected resignation of a long term and valued employee? If so, have you ever stopped to ask your departing employee the reason why and analyze the response?
Many senior leaders don’t understand the unique impact that people bring to teams and organizations. That’s unfortunate. People drive discussions and create change based on their natural tendencies, personal style, skills, experience, beliefs, values and attitudes.
The business world remains abuzz with the trials and tribulations of the “war on talent”. There has been a shortage of workers in multiple industry sectors for some time now and, with baby boomers moving faster toward retirement than ever before, fear surrounding the war on talent is building to a frenzy.
Over the next 10 years, 200,000 small business owners in Canada alone will turn 65 and want to retire. This number does not include their employees, mid to large businesses, corporations and public organizations. When you add all of those together this clearly becomes a critical issue with major impacts and ramifications.
As our workforce changes and becomes more diverse, the general thinking on talent and people resources is changing as well. While senior employees and managers are still essential to organizational success, there is now wide-spread recognition that improved performance depends on the acquisition, development, engagement and deployment of new talent.
Tuesday was Valentine’s Day, the day when loved ones share their appreciation for each other through gifts, cards, flowers, special meals and pretty poems. In other words, it’s “feedback” time for relationships. Typically, however, this celebration doesn’t ever get down to the nitty gritty of relationships... in other words, the strengths and areas of challenge for each individual. In fact, often those special strengths that attracted the couple in the first place result in problems later in life.
Being a Chief Executive Officer or any senior executive leader in today’s economy is very difficult. Leaders must demonstrate an effective combination of the so called “hard and soft” skills. In other words, leaders are expected to take responsibility, aggressively pursue business, be flexible to market changes and offer significant project leadership strengths. In addition, they must build and lead strong, collaborative teams, be creative and have good listening skills.
There is an old saying that the higher the level of success a candidate achieves in their career, the more difficult it is for organizations to thoroughly assess their skills. Why is that? The answer is this: by the time a manager rises to a senior executive position, they are typically very good communicators. Good communicators are skilled at telling a stories, selling themselves and, on occasion, embellishing their skills. It’s just what they do.
Decision-making errors exist within all levels of organizations. Some common examples include:
2011 was an interesting year for a wide range of industries across Manitoba. Our business leaders and professionals have provided a reasonably healthy report card and rarely has there been a discouraging word spoken about our economy. In short, we have done well.
As a professional accountant and an executive search professional, I find it strange that organizations undergo their annual financial audit without a thought, yet rarely do they engage in an audit of their human resource practices and, in particular, their recruitment and selection processes.
7 planning steps to achieve measurable resultsBusiness leaders need to ensure that planning and implementation is focused. A well thought-out planning and implementation approach considers linking strategy, tactics and operational needs. It includes considerations for key business impact zones (productivity, tools, people and culture) and the outcomes required for solutions to business problems.
The recent news report of 61,000 new Canadian jobs created in September is rather encouraging, particularly since most offered full-time employment. Additionally, business leaders are also starting to experience more of the baby boomer drift into retirement. As a result, many senior level positions are becoming vacant which provides new opportunities for potential candidates.
Of course, as with most opportunities, there is a catch! In this instance, the catch relates to the fact that most senior level managers and executives have little experience marketing their skills and/or being on the candidate side of the interview table. In other words, these senior leaders are simply not as well-prepared for that all important candidate interview. In fact, many senior level leaders take themselves for granted and do not do a good job of identifying or confirming the very skills they do have.
Whether or not you are “headhunted” for an upcoming opportunity or you are seeking a new role on your own, you need to adopt several key candidate preparation strategies in order to ensure your success. After years of experience as a search professional, I can offer the following advice:
Document your history – reflect on your career progression and identify industries, roles and accomplishments. Next, stand back and review your career path and determine what experiences you may be seeking with the next job. Typically, people feel an underlying sense of discomfort and restlessness when they get to the stage of looking for a new opportunity. Identify what this discomfort is and “name” it.
Research industry sectors – most senior level skillsets are transferable to other industry sectors. Determine which sectors you have an affinity for and would be comfortable in. Identify several companies within each sector and conduct further research in order to develop some priorities.
Compile data on selected firms – search the internet, business information news as well as your own personal network. Find out more about a potential employer’s business cycle, sales and market strategies as well as their strength of leadership. Identify the rationale for their change and determine if there might be a fit for you. Continue to pursue your information gathering on and offline.
Consolidate your skills – each senior level manager/executive has a number of key skills, so it can be difficult to describe these in a brief interview. Consolidate your skills into three to four themes and subsets of skills. Create a statement or “elevator speech” that you can use for introductions and those “tell us about yourself” type questions.
Prepare for behavioural interview questions – most interviewers are now asking for very specific examples of how you carried out your work. Be sure to identify issues and challenges, your role, what you did to overcome these challenges and the results. Create at least three examples for every skill so that you always appear “polished” and ready with an indepth response.
Understand and define your personal character – good interviewers today are going beyond examining intellectual and emotional intelligence and are now focusing on identifying personal character. Character is defined as the attitudes, beliefs and commitments that impact how you carry out your personal and professional life. For instance, what are your personal values and how do you apply these to work? Are you the same person inside and out?
Define success – there are many definitions of success such as fame, prosperity, power, control, prestige and/or title and recognition. What is your definition of success and what role does this play in your personal and professional goals? How does your definition of success motivate you and what is the relationship to your potential new job. Be sure to prepare yourself to address this issue in the interview.
As a senior leader, you’ve been involved in many, many interviews from the employer side of the table. However, when it’s your turn to shine as a candidate and put the “shoe on the other foot”, you’ll find the experience to be quite demanding. As a senior executive search professional, my expectations are high, so be prepared.
While many people have been busy making their own personal New Year’s resolutions, organizational leaders should also be thinking about setting some key goals for the upcoming year. One goal might be to standardize and improve your employee selection procedures.
Over the past number of years, the concept of establishing partnerships and alliances between like minded businesses and organizations has been growing as a key success strategy.
If you're in between jobs, use the opportunity to prepare yourself for the next one.
Use time off to prepare yourself for next journey.
|"Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC is president of Legac..."|
|"Paul Croteau is Managing Partner of Legacy Bowes G..."|
|"Bill is a senior executive with a broad range of b..."|