I’ve often wondered the connection between our people loving their jobs and the level of service they provide to the candidates they come in touch with throughout their days, and the clients we serve on executive search assignments at McDermott & Bull and MB Interim Leaders. I know there have been many articles written about job satisfaction, relationships with fellow employees, and service levels delivered by happy employees having fun at their jobs. I’ve often wondered how variations in leadership style affects this type of customer experience.
I know that’s a particularly cryptic title for a blog, but hopefully it makes you want to read more. I do think it’s appropriate for the topic.
I’ve heard this too often lately, and witnessed some of it myself in my interviews with candidates. Brandon Barrett, our Director of Business Development for our MB Interim Leaders business unit, and I recently called on a human resources executive at a major Southern California company (major for SoCal is revenue north of a billion). This particular executive happens to be an old friend – someone I’ve worked with personally and through our firm at 3 different companies over the past 14 years. She’s one of my favorites!
It’s 2pm and I’ve been sitting at Jury Duty since 7:45 this morning, with a break for lunch. Lots of time to catch up on emails, and to think about an impactful blog.
I just received an email from a former employee asking me to take a reference call from a potential future employer. Writers block solved!
I’ve blogged about this before, but it’s probably worth repeating. References can be job winners or job killers. Often, it can be the “back channel reference” – the one the employee didn’t give but where the potential employer knows people that worked with the candidate – that makes an impact. Rather than call references that should be well-versed in singing the candidate’s praises, including not being able to think of a single weakness other than the employee works too hard or really takes his or her job extremely seriously, the back channel reference is a confidential outreach to a co-worker or former supervisor that the job candidate didn’t give their prospective employer. We all know people, and if we can get the real skinny on someone without the concerns of having it sugar-coated, we have a better shot of making the right hire choice.
After I read the book “The Dream Manager”, besides considering how I might incorporate some of the concepts in my business with my employees, I also realized that I was at risk of not living or reaching some of my own dreams. My wife, Laura, also read the book and we both started dream journals and scribbled down about 60 dreams that we had, in many different categories including spiritual, adventure, financial, legacy, physical, hobby, etc. One of mine that I had talked about with a good buddy, who is also a pilot, for about 20 years, was flying our planes across the country. I’ve put it off for years because it was about a 2 week trip and would be too big a burden on my family to be gone that long. Well, one of my wife’s was to spend 2 weeks with her elderly grandmother, who at the time was 94 years old and living in Buffalo. My wife grew up in California and only ever spent about a week a summer in Buffalo with her grandmother growing up and really enjoyed her time but it would be over too soon.
Way back in 2008, a recent grad from Vanguard University, Kelsey Richards, joined McDermott & Bull Executive Search as a Program Coordinator for the McDermott & Bull Executive Network. At the time she joined us, we had a discussion about her upbringing and she shared with me that her parents owned a chain of McDonald’s restaurants. They employed quite a few people in some very busy stores. Further, she shared that she grew up learning about business at home, at the dinner table, on weekends, and in car rides as her parents were entrepreneurs and were very focused on their business.
I asked her if she read any good business books lately and she mentioned “The Dream Manager” as one that her parents suggested she read and it was quite impactful. Always looking for a good book myself, and an easy read (it’s about a 2 hour read), I picked up a copy over Labor Day weekend that year and couldn’t put it down. In fact, I left our hotel in Lake Arrowhead before dawn and went to Starbucks to read, and didn’t come back until I finished. What a great book!
How do you attract stars to your organization? What tools do you give your A-players to help them succeed? A good business will provide their stars with the ammunition they need to win. Often times, we are focused on the dollar signs as a way to attract the best in the business. But the players we really want are not only attracted to the potential income – they also want to win, and win often! The ability to feel like a winner is what will keep those A-players working for you. So, what ammunition are you providing to help your key people win as often as possible, and to attract other winners?
Ammunition can come in many forms – brand strength, quality of products/service, quality of systems and back office, and quality of management, just to name a few. Having a competitive advantage is what A-players seek in an employer. If you can’t answer the question – “What makes you better than your competition?” – you haven’t created enough ammunition for those A-players to join you. Being better, doesn’t only mean in the market with your customers. It can also refer to how well you develop your people, how well you partner with your suppliers to innovate better than the others, and even what the culture of the company is like.
I’m a pilot, and the first thing you do before you get ready to fly is to preflight the plane – and the trip. The preflight is pretty involved and requires a thorough inspection, both inside and outside of the plane, as well as all the available information for that flight, including weather and notices to airmen (NOTAMS) about the airport I’m departing and my destination. Missing information here could have me set up for an approach that the NOTAMS would have told me were not applicable that day or time, or even worse, an airport or runway closure.
I’m in Buenos Aires on vacation, the second time in 8 years, and the country is quite different this time around. The economy, while not fantastic in 2005, is even worse today. The Argentine peso has been devalued again, and the President has decreed, among other things, that foreign companies cannot repatriate their Argentine earnings to their own country. All money made here must stay here. Apparently, the thinking is that will force companies to invest here. In reality, companies are reducing their current investments here and are not making many new ones. While Brazil is the darling of Latin America, and Mexico is gaining some splendor, Argentina is going the way of Venezuela and they are comparing President Fernandez de Kirchner to Hugo Chavez.
Things really have changed!
The reference to what soldiers were instructed to the tell the enemy if they were captured seems to be the expected norm of some job seekers when it comes to reference checks these days, although it’s generally – confirmation of employment, dates of employment, and title.
The reality is, that’s just not true. I’ve done hundreds, if not thousands, of reference checks over my 12 years in Executive Search, and I don’t think anyone has ever given me “nothing but the facts” about a candidate. I always get color on the person and their performance, and I mean always.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about personal image and branding as it applies to job search, so it seemed almost meant to be that I got a chance to speak at an event this past Monday for a San Francisco Senior Level Group at Lee Hecht Harrison, hosted by Gary Purece. During the event, the topic of first impressions came up and I asked the transitioning audience of 12-15 execs how many of them had utilized an image consultant in the past. Absolutely no hands went up. I asked them to share how many hours they thought they spent, in total, with a potential employer’s decision makers during the interview process. The large range of answers was 8-20 hours. I followed that up by asking them, “Out of those 8-20 hours, how many hours do you think you would spend with your potential boss before he/she hired you?” The answer was 2-3 total. With such a short amount of time with the ultimate decision maker…first impressions really do matter!