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!
I was sitting in Temple last week for Yom Kippur services and the Rabbi had a great sermon which really put things in perspective for me. Now, I must admit that I don’t go to the adult service and spend all day on the High Holy Days in Temple. In fact, my wife and I keep pumping out kids as an excuse to be able to go to the Children’s service, which I refer to as either Diet Temple or Temple Lite. It makes it much easier for me. Now that my youngest is 5, it’s getting tougher to justify, but that’s a problem for another year.
While most business books I’ve read don’t really introduce new concepts (I know my blog doesn’t really either), the really good ones get me to focus on the important things I’ve been missing, or some areas for improvement, generally in leadership. This book falls into that same category and reinforces some important concepts we’ve all learned in the past, but does put a different perspective, in my opinion, on the mindset the Linchpin has while doing her work. She’s an artist, and is “giving” away her art, or, in my opinion, her gifts and strengths to an organization and those it serves. It’s just who she is – she is going to do a great job and not keep score, and make sure she leaves those she serves better off for having interacted with her. Keeping score – “They don’t pay me enough”, “I’m not appreciated”, or “They overwork me” – can be very tiring and generally leaves the score keeper not feeling better for the experience.
A thought I’ve considered recently: If job search is like sales, why is it that job seekers have so few prospects? One of the most elementary and well known facts about a sales person is that you can’t afford to have too few prospective buyers. And let’s face it…in a job search, you are the product you’re selling. Why would you sell yourself short (pun intended) by not presenting yourself seriously to as many buyers as possible?
How many times have you said to yourself, “I’m perfect for this job”? I’ve recently spoken to far too many job seekers that have recounted their most recent prospective job opportunities only to tell me they fell in love with one or two opportunities and focused all their efforts to pursue them only to be let down in the end. Not only is this damaging to your corporate ego, but you’re hurting yourself by not incorporating a funnel or pipeline (more comparison to sales) of possible job opportunities that you can seriously pursue all at one time.
I know I’ve blogged about this already, but it seems worth bringing up again, for a number of reasons. First, I’d like readers to share their own experiences on two topics, and second, I want to give readers a unique perspective and see what they think about it.
OK, onto the topics:
I. Head Trash
We’ve had this conversation once before, but it seems to prevail in the marketplace. I refer to head trash as those thoughts, ideas, and beliefs that serve no purpose other than to create a roadblock in your head. I have a theory on it as well: sometimes head trash serves to be the “reason” we’re NOT making progress in our job search. For instance, if I want to be a leader/manager in a company in the healthcare industry, I can tell myself, after being told the same thing many times, that it’s almost impossible because I don’t have healthcare experience. What does this do for me? It validates why I haven’t made progress and therefore, it can’t be my fault, right?