How to select the right candidate…what the perfect resume won’t tell you

By | Executive Resumes, Executive Search, Interviewing, Performance, Recruitment

Finding talent, interviewing, recruitment, hiring, search and selection ….it’s easy! It’s not rocket science. How hard can it be, get resumes, interview, have a chat, make an offer – done! If only this was true….

This week I was asked how do you pick the right person at interview? How long have you got?! The person asking was disillusioned by a highly talented person leaving to take a very similar role elsewhere with the only obvious added benefit seeming to be ‘working closer to home’.  The another business associate was being challenged by picking someone from 20 great resumes that all seemed to have the right technical experience.  Both were apprehensive due to incorrect hires in the past that initially looked right on paper. They were desperate for the secret ingredient, the right answer, the one thing that I could tell them that they didn’t know to ask at interview to get it right.

Subsequently, I attended  a meeting with a client who was completely frustrated and surprised when what they thought was a ‘perfect hire’, resigned after 2 months.  They too wanted to know where did they go wrong, when the resume appeared to be perfect?

First and foremost – recruiting people is not easy. Picking the right person is even harder.  We do it every day here at Underwood Executive and see, hear, talk and advise clients on how to do it better. It is an ongoing battle for most business owners – finding, sourcing and selecting the right people.

Here’s what all three situations had in common – you must look beyond what’s on paper and what’s technically being said at interview and hire for culture and motivational fit.

I agree that skills and experience are important.  They are necessary in the recruiting process, but what causes you headaches and performance issues goes well beyond being able to do the job, it’s a person’s ability to fit in and being in the role for the right reasons.

How do you determine this? It’s not fool proof, but here are some quick guidelines to follow in a search and selection process to increase the odds:

  1. Technical skills & experience – is easy to assess from a resume, very factual, qualifications, systems experience etc. Some level of experience is still needed for most roles.
  2. Competencies –what are the competencies they need to do the job eg: strategic thinking, decision making, achievement drive. The key is that they must give a SPECIFIC example of a time when they have demonstrated this competency. This will usually occur in 3 parts (tell me about a time when…., what did you do and what was the outcome). If they don’t give a specific, they haven’t demonstrated the competency. Don’t ignore this – even if the resume is fantastic – if they can’t answer these questions, we follow the rule of thumb that past behaviour is a predictor of future behaviour.
  3. Motivation – this is often the trickiest part of the interview to assess. It involves asking questions around why they want the job, what is their perfect job, what other jobs have they applied for, why have they left previous jobs, what makes them stay with an employer, what makes them leave, who has been their favourite boss, who inspires them and why, where has been the best/worst culture they have worked in. Did I mention why they want this job? Not just any job. Why this job above all others in the market? And then tell me again why you want it – make sure they convince you.
  4. Warning signs – this is usually around behaviour during or post interview. For example, I had a candidate tell me they would call me Monday to confirm their interest in an opportunity, they called Tuesday at 5pm. For me and our culture, this is a warning sign they wouldn’t fit in as one of our values is integrity – you do what you say you will do.
  5. Reasons for leaving – don’t ever accept the first reason.  I ask several times on the same job – tell me what were your reasons for leaving? What else contributed to you leaving? What other reasons were behind this decision? Probe, probe, probe and look for patterns of behaviour.

Always include motivation and culture questions in an interview and actively listen to what is (and sometimes what isn’t) being said at interview.  In my experience, motivation and cultural fit is more important than skills and experience.  The culture fit and motivation buys you loyalty, commitment and top performers, who in the long term outshine the power CV with a technical answer for everything at interview.  Go with your gut – will you and your team enjoy working with this person every day of the week? And whatever you do – don’t “hope” that it will work out – it never does. Hope is not a recruitment strategy.

Underwood Executive takes out 9 medals & named Australia’s Executive Recruiter of The Year 2020

By | Leadership, Performance, Recruitment, Results, Success

At Underwood Executive we are delighted to announce that we have been named Executive Recruiter of the Year 2020 by HRD Magazine for the third year in a row. We have won a total of nine medals in Australia’s Top Recruiter Awards in the following categories:

  • Executive Recruitment – Gold Medal
  • Professional Services– Gold Medal
  • Banking & Financial Services – Gold medal
  • Sales & Marketing – Gold medal
  • Overall Recruiter of the Year – Silver medal
  • Healthcare – Silver medal
  • Human Resources – Silver medal
  • Construction & Engineering – Bronze medal
  • IT, Technology & Digital – Bronze medal

We are very proud to be acknowledged in these national awards. Most importantly, these awards are recognised by our clients and represent the service they receive, the results we generate and the relationships we build. It’s a genuine recognition of these peer relationships we invest in and value in our consulting practice that mirror our own ethos around culture, leadership and high performance. Awards like these are so important to our team, as they give us an opportunity to reflect and celebrate our point of difference and appreciate the impact we are having on businesses, people and their careers.

Now in our ninth year of business, Underwood Executive is consistently dedicated to the executive search market and winning gold in this category is an absolute thrill and a very proud moment for us. In the past 12 months, we have been accredited with the AESC (Association of Executive Search Consultants), which is an exclusive global industry profession that sets the highest quality standards in executive search and leadership consulting worldwide.

As the only recruitment firm in Adelaide with this membership, it further reinforces our commitment to providing the highest quality standards in executive search and recruitment. The executive search market demands that we become a trusted advisor to our client’s business and we work hard to find them the highest performing talent in the market – talent that they couldn’t otherwise access. We acknowledge the responsibility we have in representing our client’s businesses and how we contribute to their overall success by finding them their most important assets – their people. We are absolutely committed to the fundamental principles of search and are consistently advising our clients on the benefits of this approach – these awards reinforce that our client’s value this approach and the return on investment.

Founder & Managing Director Nicole Underwood says “With dedication, discipline and consistency. The team at UE are united, with team goals, aligned values and a high care factor about what they deliver. We are very clear about who we will and won’t do business with – there has to be an alignment in terms of people, culture and leadership. We choose to work with organisations who are dedicated to getting this formula right. When you know what you stand for, it makes it much easier to say no. From day one, I have held an unwavering dedication to building this business with that mindset; with the discipline to consistently have a ‘high touch’ relationship service with C-suite level decision makers.”

Underwood Executive is an exclusive executive search and talent management consultancy based in Adelaide specialising in sourcing C-suite, leadership and hard to fill positions. Please contact us here.


Are you ignoring staff issues? 4 ways to get your head out of the sand

By | Communication, Leadership, Performance

This week a friend of mine told me he quit his job after being head hunted for a new opportunity (closer to home, more money, leading a bigger team and better long-term career prospects). I was pleased for him and wondered why he didn’t seem that excited.  “What’s wrong?” I asked. “My current boss hasn’t spoken to me for over a week since I resigned”. Sorry? Your boss is ignoring you? Yep. Pretty much since the meeting where he resigned, his boss has been so ‘disappointed’ that he has decided to give him the “silent treatment”.  Not exactly your classic successful leadership technique!

It appears this “bury your head in the sand” technique is not isolated to just this leader either.

In another example, a client was telling me about a problem employee who despite ongoing feedback, remained unreceptive to improving his performance. Interestingly, he had not yet responded to a meeting request from this employee from a week ago, telling me he couldn’t be bothered and that he was over investing any more time and energy in the situation.

Now, I get it. I do. As a leader you can often spend hours coaching, supporting and providing advice to help develop your team members and there are days it can feel like a thankless job.  However, I challenge you to look at your own behaviour. Are you setting the tone? Are you leading by example? Are you perpetuating the undesired behaviour inadvertently?

4 ways to turn it around:

1.    Don’t bury your head in the stand

Like my client, there are many days where as a leader you probably feel like mimicking my 4-year-old by putting your fingers in your ears saying “I can’t hear you …. La la la”. But ignoring something or pretending that a situation with your staff member is going to improve, disappear or fix itself is just plain stupid.

Ignoring what’s happening will never make a situation better. A real leader will address the situation head on, openly discuss the problem (without blame or emotion) and together encourage a solution.

2.    Make a decision – imagine the perfect scenario

When I was frustrated with employee issues it always became worse or the problem was enhanced when I thought about it, talked about it with others, analysed it, worried about it – but things only ever changed or improved when I actually made a decision.

A great way to obtain clarity is to imagine in 3 months time that the person has improved and the performance problem is solved – how does it make you feel? Positive? Then you can commit to moving things in the right direction. Can’t image that situation or it still feels ‘off’? Chances are you have a cultural mis-alignment and even if the performance improves, this person is not the right match for you and your team.

3.    Manage the performance up or out  

Once you have committed to addressing the problem head on, it’s time for the conversation where you discuss where the employee’s current level of performance is and where you would like it to be.  This discussion should highlight several areas as to where the employee needs to improve and the action steps they are going to take to develop. Ultimately, this should result in someone stepping up or off – either way; it’s a better result than the current situation of non-performance.

4.    Communicate with good intent

To give the employee (and you) the best chance of success, you need to operate and speak with good intent. You can’t fake this. Be authentic. Demonstrate  that you want to see this person succeed in their role and that you are here to support them in reaching the desired behaviours/objectives.  This means showing strong belief and using positive language in your conversations.

Don’t forget as the leader, you are always on show and every interaction – positive, negative or otherwise is being observed and often recreated somewhere else in the business. If you are not feeling “in the zone” or you can’t project the vibe you want to create – best to take some time out, close the door or reschedule that team meeting – people can spot a fake a mile away! Whether you like it or not – the leader sets the tone.





Giddy up …. it’s appraisal time! 3 questions to avoid the annual whipping

By | Performance, Results

Performance reviews….is it that time of year again…..already? Why is it that something that should be an effective tool to motivate your team often turns into that annoying form that you have to fill out once a year?

Last week I conducted a workshop with a leadership team of a global pharmaceutical company on how to conduct an effective performance review.  Everyone in that room had been on the receiving end of an appraisal and all of them had also found themselves in the position of delivering one.  They all agreed that at different times, both sides of the table was terrifying.  Why? It seems that tackling the tough stuff is one of the most feared things to confront – whether you are delivering it or hearing it.

Herein lies the problem…why are you waiting for the annual performance review to address the things that need to be stopped, changed or improved? How is it that you haven’t spoken about these issues prior to today? I know I would get my knickers in a knot if you waited six months to tell me that the way I was formatting a report was not company standard or the way I presented at a management meeting was ineffective. You can appreciate that I may get a little defensive, I might also get a little angry, I’ll probably throw in some excuses and then depending on the words you use, I might even need the Kleenex!

This tends to be where performance discussions go pear-shaped.

Storing up examples of behaviour, then rolling them out for the annual review thinking that this is going to be helpful or justify the “not met” expectations rating is not only unfair, but completely ineffective.  A person is not going to sail out of the meeting room with a spring in their step ready to conquer their revised KPI’s with that little pep talk.

And that’s the question really…..what is the aim of the review? What message do you want your staff member to hear? How do you want them to feel after their review?

Knowing the answers to these questions BEFORE the review are critical to ensuring the meeting is effective and you both leave with a clear understanding of 3 things:

1. What’s working (so they can keep doing it)

2. What’s not working (so they can stop doing it)

3. What they aren’t doing (so they can start doing it)

A performance review is an opportunity to praise and motivate (what’s working) as well as an opportunity to increase effectiveness (stop & start behaviours).

So before you start making a list of all the things that Matt, Mandy or Mark has done “wrong” or they haven’t achieved, ask yourself – have I spoken to them about this before? Have I given them an opportunity to improve?

To be truly effective, performance management needs to be a continuing day-to-day conversation, where people are receiving regular feedback on their performance and behaviours.  When feedback is immediate, you increase the chances of the behaviour being repeated (in the case of praise) or being modified (in the case of constructive criticism).

Forget the once a year review and remember that the number one motivator for people is feedback – it’s what keep us all going. 

“People will forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel”

Swamped by your workload? 5 ways to get out of the mess!

By | Performance, Productivity

This week I met up with a client who had over 150 emails in their inbox waiting for their attention. Just the thought made me squirm with discomfort!  How can you possibly respond, action, remember or even read that many emails? How can you honestly be productive with that much content staring you in the face?

This situation reminded me of a common problem I would witness with consulting staff time and time again.  A month would not go by without someone in the team getting themselves in a flat spin about the pile of work in front of them. When my Consultants found themselves in this tough situation, stressed, overwhelmed and really not knowing where to start I would do ‘desktime’.  If any old staff member is reading this now, they will probably be having a cold shudder just at the thought. They honestly dreaded it at the time, but loved it afterwards because they came out clear, focused and organised.

In any job, there are often so many tasks to do and all of them can appear urgent.  It is very easy to get lost in the detail of emails, phone calls and ‘stuff’ that distracts you from the bigger picture goals that you are trying to achieve.

Let me start by saying I am not a micro manager.  I am not interested in looking over someone’s shoulder, critiquing and controlling their every move.  Who has time for a start? I learnt that lesson early in my leadership career that carrying everyone else’s problems and being a control freak is a complete waste of time and effort as well as being incredibly ineffective.

However, there have been countless occasions where a senior staff member, and often a top performer, can get inundated with work and can become quite upset in not knowing where to start or how to tackle what seems to be the impossible.

1. Clear the inbox

If you’re like this client and have an overload of emails, start by getting rid of them. Clear the inbox! Being flooded with emails is usually the downward spiral on a slippery slope to disorganisation and feeling out of control.  As a rule, my inbox will only have enough emails to take it to the preview line, let’s say 10 – 12.  This will usually consist of new emails ready to be actioned, or something I need to refer to that day in terms of reference information.  That’s it.  Everything else has either been actioned or deleted.  My motto has been do it, delegate it, delete it, but don’t delay it!

2. Re-prioritise & re-organise

One afternoon in early 2002, one of my consultants was in tears in a complete panic unsure of where to start.  I spent two hours with her at her desk going through papers, trays, resumes, client files, emails and filing systems to see where it was going wrong.  It was a painful exercise.  She was completely disorganised.  I had to bite my tongue and avoid the lecture of how did things get like this in the first place? That wasn’t going to help.  For her, it was difficult as she felt being exposed like this made her incompetent.  We agreed that the purpose of the exercise was to help, with good intent, find a solution to avoid getting herself in this situation again and to re-prioritise.

3. Clean your space

I have always maintained a clean work-desk policy in all my roles.  At the end of every day, I would insist that all Consultants clean their desk.  This included empty inbox, files away, work in trays etc. Apart from just liking things neat and tidy, there is method in my madness.  A clean and organised workspace has the benefit of feeling like you’re on top of things, being clear in what needs to be done and not being distracted by mess.  There are of course obvious benefits like being able to find things, the cleaners could actually do their job and clean as well as the confidentiality of not having candidate’s personal details lying around.

4. Central list

Through these situations, I learnt that sometimes people just need to go back to basics. I strongly recommend one list – a daily to do list (see are you busy or just ineffective?) where every task or action is recorded (avoiding sticky notes and electronic reminders).  This way there is a central point and you don’t need to rely on your memory (which rarely works).  The inbox can be cleared when there is a central list, your in-tray should match the list with anything that needs to be actioned and the rest should be filed and out of sight creating a clear and organised workspace.

5. Time out & clear your thoughts

When things just seem all too much, I am a big believer in getting up from your desk, taking a deep breath and getting some fresh air.  A walk around the block, a trip to the mall or grabbing a coffee can seem a bit trivial, but honestly it can work wonders.  Physically removing yourself from a situation that is causing stress or where you can’t think straight is an easy remedy to get some immediate time out.  I would often take a notebook and pen with me, to be away from the chaos to refresh and rewrite my priorities to re-focus on what I wanted to achieve.

These tactics were consistently successful with Consultants over the years as they found it helpful (and painful at times!) to have someone external to sit with, to talk to and get some clarity around “ok, what are the priorities again”. It got to the point where ‘desktime’ was even requested!

The client with the 150 emails argued with me, telling me that you should keep everything.  It is a record and you never know when you may need to refer back to it.  I don’t disagree completely ….. but hording hundreds of emails in an inbox is a sure fire way to miss something important or a quality service standard.

Instead of feeling swamped by workload and looming deadlines…clear your head, desk and inbox, reorganise and reprioritise so you can take control.


Nicole Underwood offers a range of consulting and workshop services to help other businesses implement similar success strategies.  As a previous finalist in the prestigious Telstra Business Women Awards, a business coach and entrepreneur, Nicole partners with organisations to improve their leadership, performance and results. Contact Nicole here.



5 tips to pitch to clients fearlessly

By | Communication, Performance

This is a guest post written by Dr Gemma Munro, an Adelaide-based life coach and facilitator and the Director of Inkling Coaching. Gemma has a PhD in performance psychology and extensive experience working with senior-level leaders to maximise their performance and enjoyment at work.

I know a number of women recruiters and, to a tee, I would describe them as capable, charming and confident. I also know that this confidence can crumble rather quickly in the face of the dreaded client pitch. I have experienced this firsthand, having spent a number of years in executive recruitment. The palms start sweating, the heart starts beating faster, and suddenly all our usual confidence and charm seems to sink into our stockings.

Over the years, I developed a number of techniques to start enjoying client pitches – and what do you know, my success rate improved phenomenally. I’m now a coach and facilitator, but client pitches are one of my favourite parts of the job. Here are my top five tips to shine in front of clients and make the most of every pitch opportunity:

1. Create a pitch that captures your clients’ attention

Most clients have one question going through their minds when listening to a pitch. That question is ‘what’s in it for me?’; in other words, how will this recruiter make my job easier?’. To pitch well you need to put yourself in your clients’ shoes – what problems are keeping them awake? Shape your pitch around what is going to make your clients sit up in their chairs and listen. Address their needs, never yours.

2. Engage in some armchair rehearsal

Did you know that the great Laurence Olivier used to walk on stage before almost every performance and announce to the empty auditorium, “You are about to see the best show you have seen in your entire lives. And I will be delivering it. You lucky people”. Being not quite as famous as Laurence Olivier, most of us will need to say something similar to ourselves quietly before we step into a pitch. An equally useful technique is to spend a few minutes each day before a meeting visualizing ourselves in the pitch meeting looking, sounding and feeling confident. Works a charm.

3. Do the wall stand

Just before you meet your client, stand up against a wall so your body is flat against it, then walk into the room maintaining this posture. It’s amazing how it calms your nerves and centres your body (and, as a bonus, standing this way makes anyone look assured and at ease).

4. Fall in love with your client

A quick disclaimer – this tip is metaphorical, not literal! But it’s amazing how well it works. Think back to how you communicated when you were falling in love. You maintained intense eye contact for long periods of time. You looked at your lover as if she or he was the most fascinating thing in the world. Do the same with your client – look them in the eyes, be genuinely interested in them. Most people are seeking one of two things; to feel valued or to feel important. Your client is exactly the same.

5. Reframe your pitch as a chance to help your client

One of the most useful things to remember is that your clients won’t be thinking about you much at all. Like most people, clients are wrapped up in their own world and are just looking for some help or hope – this is something you can give them. Take the emphasis off yourself, and place it on making a difference to your client.

As a motivated, accomplished recruiter, what you have to offer is of exceptional value. The trick is to know it, but then to remove the focus entirely off yourself and onto your client. And the other trick? Over time, give yourself permission to have fun in pitch meeting. Pitches always represent an opportunity to help your clients tremendously. What a privilege.

To the smart, savvy women out there

If you’re interested in building your confidence and skills as speakers, I am running my Speakeasy program on June 18-19 in Adelaide. Speakeasy is a two-day workshop for a small group of women who want to communicate and pitch more confidently, effectively and authentically. Designed and facilitated by Dr Gemma Munro, the program is specifically for women who are smart, self-motivated and positive in outlook, but who believe that they do not communicate their full potential when speaking to a group.


About Gemma Munro

Gemma is an accomplished public speaker herself. She is known as a highly skilled facilitator with an engaging, energetic and compassionate approach. She has presented her research nationally and internationally, and has won several prizes for her speaking. Gemma is also a long-time performer, having toured Europe, the United States and Asia as a classical and folk singer. She understands performance nerves, having experienced them first-hand, and she is deeply interested in helping others to get the fear out of the way and experience joy and success at work.

Visit for testimonials from clients and participants who have worked with Gemma.

Head in the sand or action junkie ….what’s your mantra?

By | Leadership, Performance, Recruitment

I recently read the book “100 Things What’s on Your List” by Sebastian Terry.  I was attracted to the cover initially because I saw the Camp Quality symbol and I have volunteered with Camp Quality in the past and I was intrigued by the concept of having a 100 goals to achieve (plus the good looking Aussie on the front cover didn’t hurt either)! Within a few chapters, I was addicted.  This guy essentially has taken the exact opposite approach to most – at 28 years of age instead of settling down, building a career, buying a house and accumulating assets – he has embarked on a journey of taking action – the where/who/how considerations all thrown out the window, with a commitment to just making things happen.

I’ve always loved and lived by this concept in business – successful people take more action.

So often I hear “you’re so lucky” or “luck plays a huge part in success” and that annoys me.  In my experience, it isn’t luck that allows people to achieve great success and happiness in their lives.  It is their ability to create and commit to doing things (taking action) that allow them to achieve this.  It isn’t by accident that success happens for some and not others.

For example, working in recruitment is a hard job to crack and it is only a rare percentage who become really successful at it.  There is a lot of ups and downs, lots of rejection, lots of being outside your comfort zone and dealing with people, emotions and circumstances outside your control.  Being successful in this industry takes incredible persistence and a strong commitment to action.

Over the years I have seen more fail than succeed and there have been two clearly defining factors – coachability & commitment to action.

One Senior Consultant who worked for me was textbook ‘perfect’ for a Consultant role – she had completed the training with a national recruitment firm, had worked in corporate HR, was degree qualified, was extremely polished in presentation and communication and had the knowledge and experience about the market.  After her first year she billed $250K – a solid performance back in 2005.  I have to say most Recruitment Managers and Consultants would be content with this performance and hope to increase the following year by 10-15%.  To me however, she had all the attributes of being a much higher performing consultant – significantly better than the average.  What was holding her back from being in the top quartile of recruiters?

On closer examination, observation and discussions – we identified that there were a few factors.  She disliked prospecting for new business and felt that clients didn’t want to hear from her (that she was being annoying), her communication lacked a specific agenda (often waffled) and thirdly there wasn’t the burning desire to be or do anymore (where was the benefit?).

Overcoming these areas of improvement required a significant commitment by both of us.  It meant we were going to be treading new ground by pushing her outside her comfort zone where she currently was and it was a nice place to be and was genuinely producing good results.  The sweet spot was finding out what was going to motivate her to push ahead (see previous blog staff mojo….how to plant the seeds of motivation).  The transformation over the course of the next twelve months was amazing. This Consultant truly realised her potential and moved from a competent well performing consultant to a trusted advisor that clients honestly saw as an extension of their business. The financial results followed with her billing $430K the following year – which allowed her to achieve some of her tangible goals, but it was the intangible benefits that she didn’t expect that really inspired her.  Being an expert, mentoring others to achieve similar results, her professional learning and growth, the recognition and delivering better results for her clients.

It was a methodology that I took forward with many Consultants and of course it didn’t produce the same results every time.  However, when those two factors were present – coachability and commitment to action – the results, confidence and satisfaction skyrocketed.

This discovery taught me over the years that most people fall into one of two categories – either you’re a head in the sand person and like to be average or like Sebastian Terry you like to test the limits, take more action and be outside your comfort zone.  This exclusive club of action junkies know the benefits far outweigh the complacency of being mediocre. The challenge of course is making the commitment to action – once you get a taste of what’s possible, you rarely turn back.


successful people take more action


Taking the ‘sales’ out of salesperson…10 ways to increase performance

By | Performance, Results, Sales

“I’m not a sales person” “I don’t like cold calling” “I can’t sell” “sales is not a strength of mine”…are all typical to hear around the Entrée Recruitment office. My Consultants don’t see themselves as sales people, yet we have just achieved our most successful financial year in our 10-year history.  They think sales is a dirty word associated with the image of a used car salesman – someone who is annoying, not particularly helpful and is just trying to make a quick buck! I roll my eyes and mostly just laugh because my team can think they aren’t sales people, but they are and they do it without reallising they are doing it.  So how does a team of non-sales people achieve such high sales results?

Observing the behaviours of these Consultants, I have consistently found the following:

  1. Action – the Consultants making the most sales are always taking action. They are never wondering what to do next, who to call or procrastinating the day away. They just do it. They get on the phone; they get face to face and make decisions quickly.
  2. Feedback – I’ve got a Consultant who has worked in the industry longer than me and she is still consistently wanting to know how she is going, what could she do differently and is welcoming of joint visits and interview observations.  The benefits to her far outweigh the possibility of her feeling uncomfortable. She tells me it is a small price to pay to gain one extra piece of advice that may increase her sales and bring her more success in the long term.
  3. Referrals – my team use an effective face-to-face technique that involves asking existing clients to recommend other people that they think we would enjoy working with. It takes courage to ask and discipline to follow up. Much easier than making a cold call!
  4. Relationships – building longstanding relationships results in repeat purchase clients.  When you have a huge number of clients and are always seeking new ones, you can often forget about existing ones.  Our strategy is fewer clients – stronger relationships.
  5. Curiosity in people – one of my team members says “I hate the sales stuff…but I do like meeting new people and finding out what they do”.  She has a natural desire to ask questions and learn about businesses and people, so the end result is that she is building relationships and selling without realising that she is even doing it!
  6. Listening skills – the best ‘sales people’ at Entrée are the best listeners. They usually have a ratio of 80/20 of listening and talking. They understand they get the best information when they actually shut up. The worst performing Consultants I’ve had over the years like talking mostly about themselves and clients don’t buy!
  7. Reasons to call – you will rarely hear a top performer at Entrée saying “I’m just calling to touch base”.  No client has time for this, we certainly don’t! What is the purpose of the call? Get to the point as quickly as you can as not to annoy the other person with irrelevant chitchat.
  8. Belief & confidence– top sales people have a natural self-confidence. They don’t have huge egos and can articulate their value proposition without being overly pushy.
  9. Organisation – people who are naturally good at sales always know what they need to do, write it down and work from 1 daily to do list. These tasks are very specific and the hardest things are done first as not to distract them from their day. For example, one of my consultants the other day seemed a bit off her game. By 11am, she was noticeably irritable and when I checked in, she hadn’t ticked anything of her list and she was feeling unproductive.  It turned out that she had to make a difficult call to a client and was putting it off.   As soon as she had made the call, she felt clear and didn’t have this hanging over her head, clouding the rest of her day.
  10. Deliver quality – you can’t be a top sales person without delivering what you promise at the pitch.  High performing Consultants at Entrée consistently deliver what they say they will. If they say they will call back in 24 hours, they do. If they say they will be back in 3 weeks with a shortlist, they are.  Some sales people can talk the talk, but fall down in the actual promise of walking the walk.

In any business, being able to sell is an essential skill to achieving long-term financial success. Being able to communicate your value effectively for people to buy your product or service is critical.  In the early days of my career, it was a long hard road and  some days seemed impossible.  The turnaround for me was being persistent, consistent and determined.  I made my sales activity an every day task that I incorporated in my daily agenda rather than it being a one off event when business was quiet.

At the end of the day, successful sales is about building rapport initially and then establishing long term relationships with people.  Let’s not complicate this…. if people like you; they will spend money with you. Ask great questions, listen, deliver and your sales will sky rocket.

On reflection, maybe I should be happy in the fact that my team don’t think of themselves as ‘sales people’ – with this mindset they are focused on what really works – building relationships, delivering a quality service and being passionate about what they do. The outcome…increased sales!

You can’t steer a parked car …… should you manage your under-performer up or out?

By | Leadership, Performance, Retention

Under-performers, bottom quartile performance, staff that cost you money, employees that risk your reputation – those people in your team who just aren’t making the grade.  They keep us awake at night; they take up our leadership time with counselling, observations, reviews and numerous one on one discussions.  I’ve had my fair share over the years. The recruitment industry is notorious for staff turnover, usually the result of poor hires, incorrect culture fits, those lacking in the right competencies, motivational fit or we just got schmoozed by some new hot shot that convinced us they could cold call (music to our ears)!  The problem is when this happens to someone in your team do you performance manage out or up?

Of course the answer is – it depends.  If at the core, the match is right – motivation and culture fit, then you owe it to yourself and the individual to invest in coaching them up to top performance.  If you know in your heart of hearts that the long term alignment and values are out of whack – then count your losses and do it quickly. Don’t stretch out the pain and suffering for yourself, the existing team or the individual – it just makes it harder to cut the cord.

In my experience, the difference between top performers and those struggling to keep up, consistently comes down to one thing. Yes, that’s right, one thing.  And that’s action.  Taking action. Taking the right action. Taking the right action consistently.

Easy right? Come on, it really isn’t that hard or that difficult. People in general just waste a lot of time on the wrong things. Time and time again I find myself thinking “just do it”! Just get on the phone, just make that call, just see that client, just screen that CV and just make a decision! For goodness sake, it really isn’t that hard.

As a leader there is only so much you can do –you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink and you certainly can’t steer a parked car.

It ultimately comes down to desire – does the staff member want to be here? Do they want to achieve top performance and here’s the clincher….are the prepared to be coached and take the necessary action to get there?

What are the top 3 – 5 critical actions that this person must take to achieve top performance? Are you both clear what these tasks are and can you easily measure them? All jobs are made up of hundreds of little things and it is so easy to get distracted with emails, reactionary requests and time wasting through over preparation, research and blatant procrastination. Top performers are always organised, know what is important and get on with doing those things first.

I had a Consultant who worked for me for 7 years who achieved financial success, won new clients, built relationships with senior leaders in many corporate organisations in Adelaide and guess what? There was a time when she was an under-performer. I remember it so clearly. It was in her first 12 months and I was at the end of my tether with frustration over the mistakes she was making of no follow up, not asking great questions and not being face to face with clients.  The break-through moment was having an honest and direct conversation about where she was performing and where she needed to be. This conversation was not easy, but an essential first step to building top performance.  I asked if she wanted to be a top performer? Was she open to receiving feedback? Was she prepared to be uncomfortable in the journey?  Making it easier for me was the fact that she was completely receptive.  It was a tough 3 months of brutal honesty, lots of observation, feedback and coaching.  She responded with top performance resulting in increased revenue, quality of service, 7 years retention, inspiration to the team, a new zest of energy and respect.  She is a close friend and colleague to this day.

Performance issues don’t have to be a leadership headache.  It can be an opportunity to bring out the best in someone and give them their moment to shine.

People respect honesty and communication in any situation, but especially in the context of non-performance.  This is usually uncomfortable for both parties and is the elephant in the room no-one wants to talk about. If we don’t talk about it, maybe it will got away. It doesn’t. Under-performance can happen at any time to a new recruit or to a top performer after several years of success.  Our effectiveness as leaders is knowing how to have the conversation to turn it around and being committed to seeing the plan through.  Coming out the other side is a break-through moment that leads to ongoing top performance and success for you, the individual and the business.

Commit to increasing performance in your team – being uncomfortable is a small short-term price to pay for a long term top performance retention strategy.