Monthly Archives

September 2011

The search for talent is evolving ….are you considering the bigger picture?

By | Recruitment

Over the past few weeks I have met some amazing talent through my networks.  These people are not active job seekers trawling the papers and websites looking for their next move – they are successful business people in their own disciplines who are open to being “shoulder tapped” for the right opportunity with the right organisation.

What are they looking for and why the move? I believe it is what most people are seeking in their work – at the very core of what motivates us to be at work and ultimately achieve and be happy is finding a value match.  When that value alignment is out of whack, it makes it very hard to continue as a high performer, being invigorated at work everyday.  In just about all cases, there was nothing major or significant happening (or not happening) that was making them feel negative or unloved. It’s only through circumstance, change or internal motivators, they can see the end of the road, the next challenge calling or a craving to fulfill a greater need or purpose.

The Dream Employers list was released a few weeks ago which also supports these conversations.  In short, the survey concludes that “people-centric organisations are gaining a competitive advantage in the employment market”.  I am yet to meet a candidate who at interview tells me they will compromise their values and cultural match for a bigger pay packet.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand remuneration is an important piece of the overall value proposition, but in my interactions it is rarely number one.

For example, a senior executive this week told me of her desire to move out of big corporates to find the right opportunity in the not for profit sector. She feels the integrity match is critical and finding an organisation that treats others with honesty and respect is paramount in her next career move. Although we agreed on a minimum salary target, it is significantly lower than at her previous peak earnings.

Through our conversations, I asked her to consider a professional services role – which she was reluctant to do.  She felt that perhaps their values may not be in alignment (just her market perception). My experience with the people I know in the organisation through to Partner level, I thought it was quite the contrary.  She agreed to investigate, giving me permission to present her details as available passive talent in the market, knowing there was a vacancy in her field.

In my previous business, whether I had a vacancy or not, I was always interested in top talent.  Who wouldn’t want to know who is available in the market? Who they know, what they are considering, what experience they can bring – it can lead to hundreds of other things – new opportunities, other talent, new business etc. It’s not what you know; it’s who you know is still very much the case in all facets of life.  The person in charge of talent, leadership and direction was my approach.  Surely, like me, that person is the most interested in getting the people piece right throughout the entire organisation, from attraction through to recruitment, engagement and retention?

Sadly I was wrong.  My approach was palmed off to HR where I got a lovely email explaining that they don’t engage “Recruiters”.  It continued that they do all recruitment internally themselves and if they did on the off-chance outsource it, they have a list of national preferred suppliers to use……

Well what can I say? You missed out.  My candidate was not surprised by the response and said she felt that no matter who you are or what you do, there has to be mutual respect……this example only validated her pre-conceived thoughts.

What a missed opportunity for everyone! The bigger picture here is that she has a network, an executive network that does require services from professional services firms just like this one.  Not only in business, but also in life, we all need to take a big picture perspective that today’s email could be tomorrow’s client, new talent or referral to others in our network.  After all, if you aren’t taking time to at least consider new talent, you can be sure your competitors are. So…..don’t burn your bridges….don’t have tunnel vision….and never, ever cut off your nose to spite your face…it’s an ugly look.

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Learning from mistakes….7 tips to making amends

By | Empowerment, Leadership

A few months ago, one of my staff members rang me in a panic.  She had stuffed up. Big time.  She had accidentally hit reply to an email instead of forward to an internal colleague.  The content of the message was…well let’s say, pretty direct and used a few “internal” jargons referring to the sender of the email and instead it went to the sender! Oh dear. A mistake. An embarrassing mistake that she felt terrible about. What to do?

One of my biggest motto’s in running a business has been you have to make mistakes to learn and if you aren’t making mistakes you’re not making anything. I read this philosophy in 2001 reading Richard Branson’s “losing my virginity”. It’s an attitude that I have adopted and put into practice many many times.

The advice and steps we took to deal with it were:

  1. Empathy – let the person de-brief, cry, whinge, discuss the issue – being heard is really important. Being able to de-brief and just talk about a stuff up without judgment or problem solving is really important so people know you care. On this occasion, the Consultant was mortified….she had referred to the candidate in a way that could have been perceived as ‘judgmental’ and perhaps a little unprofessional, so letting her vent was therapeutic, as she wasn’t ready to solve the problem yet.
  2. Step back from the emotion and really look at the facts of what’s happened.  Looking a raw data, sequence of events and timelines can help get clear on what’s important and distinguish how did this happen? (as opposed to the why – which will drive excuses).
  3. How can we solve this – what are all our options here? There is never only one option so it’s important to brainstorm every possible solution, even if you don’t like them or you think that others will disagree.
  4. Execute – decide on the best plan of attack to the solve the problem. The Consultant just jumped on the phone to the “sender” and apologised. Being honest and upfront and using verbal communication was the best option. They actually ended up having a good laugh and she came in for an interview the next day!  Phew!
  5. Learning – what have we learnt? Whenever there is a mistake, there is an opportunity to learn.  This is a good thing! I know one of the biggest lessons I learnt early in my career was not to gossip about other clients … Adelaide is a small market and this is sure-fire way to discredit your reputation.  It was a painful mistake, but an invaluable learning.
  6. System – let’s put a system in place to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
  7. Move on – don’t dwell on it and go over and over and over it again. Being able to pick yourself up and dust yourself off speaks volumes about who you are.

What happened that day for this Consultant is pretty minor in the scheme of things, as most mistakes on a day-to-day basis can be fixed by following the steps above.  Over the years when I think about mistakes that were made in the business, they tend to be incremental ones such as charging an incorrect rate on a temp margin, sending a group email with all the address of the recipients visible, sending a courier to a wrong address, forgetting to send an important document in the mail, not returning a call the same day…. I think sometimes we need to remember that we are all human and mistakes happen. It’s the way that we deal with it that, see the learning opportunity and of course make sure it doesn’t happen again!

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What use is an empty cup? Filling up on innovation

By | Innovation

Part of emptying my cup over the past few weeks involved travelling to Port Douglas for a dual purpose – to enjoy a couple of R&R days for myself and to also attend the RCSA (Recruitment Consulting Services Association) international conference at the Sheraton Mirage.

300 Recruiters from around Australia gathered for the conference topic of “Targeting Innovation for Productivity”. Starting a new business, my expectations were to be inspired, gather new ideas, meet some new people and of course have a good time.  It is fair to say that all my expectations have been met.  I’m always a bit skeptical about a conference’s ability to achieve all of these things and on this occasion, it did not disappoint.

Peter Sheahan kicked things off with an energetic presentation where he discussed the gravity of success – everything that made your business profitable in the first place is potentially blinding you from innovating and seeing new opportunities. This point certainly resonated with me as trying to ‘unlearn’ and think differently from what made my last business so successful is extremely difficult.  In fact, it has been the very thing blocking my creative thoughts over the past few weeks. I loved his simplicity in explaining that innovation does not have to be a big, bright, shiny, funky, new product that you want to lick (his words not mine!).  True innovation is anything that you do that unlocks value and positions you in the market.  This concept has worked wonders for me in developing my new ideas.

Other memorable parts included the Recruiter in NZ who runs his recruitment company similar to an accounting practice where he records his time in 6-minute chunks! Neer Korn who explained that giving people true flexibility will result in loyalty and only then can people really innovate. Amanda Gome’s direct messages included targeting bright stars who are wage slaves and offering them equity as well as getting rid of underperformers  – this Tuesday at 4pm to be exact! Steve Vamos’s was a hit discussing success only happens with the involvement of others and people management should be the number one priority of all leaders.

As much as it was recruitment conference, it was relevant to any business, any industry and any leader.  For any business wanting to innovate and set themselves apart from the competition, it comes down to your people.  Like we already know, at the heart of any businesses success is the people.  This consistent message is at the core of my new practice – working with great businesses and people to improve their results.  This is the number one difference between those organisations who make the leap and those who don’t. As much as I’m “unlearning” in order to be innovative, the one thing I won’t be forgetting in a hurry is that people must come first and building a workplace that attracts, engages and keeps talented employees are the most profitable.  Only then can a business be truly innovative.

I have left Port Douglas with a book full of useful notes and ideas, a little sunburn and a croaky voice from lots of socializing and I ask myself  …….so have I emptied my cup? Yes, I certainly feel like I have emptied the old one. I’m ready to fill up a new one with a fresh perspective and energy to bring new value and innovation to what I already know.