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Motivation Archives | Underwood Executive | Executive Search & Talent Management

Starting a new leadership role? 4 ways to gain respect quickly

By | Leadership

SuperKidI was talking to a leader this week about starting in a new role and how they were winning over their new team. It all sounded like it was going to plan until she explained an exercise where her team were all given a task and a deadline.   The outcome was that only 50% of the team completed the task on time and only one person completed the task successfully and on time. What did you do? I asked. “Oh I just moved the deadline and gave them some extra time to complete the task” she said.  Warning! This is dangerous ground for any leader and especially for a new leader. It speaks volumes about the teams understanding (or lack of) accountability and also could be the beginning of the end, in terms of gaining respect for their leader.

Quickly gaining the respect of a new team is critical to leadership success and very few leaders consistently achieve it through an ultimate desire to please, or reverting to management by fear, or by having unclear boundaries and expectations.

To earn respect and create clear accountability a leader needs to:

  1. Communicate clearly – how have you communicated your requests? Verbally, via email, in a group meeting or one on one? Have you been clear about what the task is, what the outcome looks like and the timeframe you expect? Often employees miss deadlines not because they disrespect their manager, but because the manager has not been clear in communicating the task upfront. A good technique here is to “check back” with your staff – ‘what is your understanding of this request?’. Always walk away being clear that you have the same understanding and agreement about the what, why and when.  This way there can be no excuses or misunderstandings when deadlines aren’t met.
  1. Stick to the original plan – like the new leader I mentioned, how many times have you diverted from an original deadline with your team because it’s just easier to do so? You can’t be bothered having the conversation and hearing the excuses about why they haven’t done what they said they would do. Easier right? Wrong! You are actually making it harder for yourself and creating future problems as you are essentially saying ‘don’t worry, ignore my deadlines as I will just give you an extension and it will be okay”. This response will guarantee that your team won’t ever take your deadlines seriously as they know you won’t hold them to account and are ok for things to slide.
  1. Consequences – are your team clear what happens if they do miss a deadline you have set? What are the consequences? Are there any? You are in very dangerous territory in terms of gaining respect and developing accountability if there isn’t any. Do they need to stay back late, do they miss out on the opportunity to be involved, do you lock the door once a meeting starts? I had a client last month who needed a 1 page contribution from every team member for a presentation. She continued to chase, nag and demand from the one team member who missed the deadline and finally got it the night before, which meant she had to stay up late and collate and modify the presentation to ensure it was included. I challenged her – why did you do this? Why didn’t you just leave his contribution out? She stared at me shocked – I couldn’t do that she said. Why not? Then he would be left out – exactly! A consequence! How would that make him feel I asked? She considered this – embarrassed and left out. Sometimes, people need to feel the consequences and cost of their behavior to change and you as the leader need to be strong enough to enforce it.
  1. Coaching – my preference is to coach people ‘up’ to gain the desired behaviour rather than the big stick approach of when something goes wrong. This means taking the time as a leader to address the situation and behaviour i.e.: deadlines being missed or ignored. Sit down with your employee and really explore, with good intent, the HOW they missed the deadline. This can be a very interesting conversation where you will learn where their system of meeting deadlines is actually ineffective. Did they not understand the original request (a communication check for you)? Did they not know what to do? Did they not have the skills or knowledge to complete the request ie: is it a training issue? Or was it that they aren’t using a to do list to prioritise their workload? In my experience, people don’t miss deadlines on purpose. Ultimately people want to perform and do a good job, so it is an opportunity for you as a leader to help improve their performance and lift the bar of their success. A powerful conversation where you both benefit – they gain a new system to help improve their performance and you are the inspiring leader who is assisting them to get there (added benefit for you is no more nagging!).

There is no easy road to gaining respect – you can’t demand it, and you can’t ask for it.  You can only create it through clear communication, discipline and holding people to account.  This does not make you a nag, nor does it mean you are demanding  – you are simply being clear in your expectations and being consistent with what you say  – a true leader. Don’t miss such a valuable opportunity as when you are starting a new role with a new team – get it right from day one and you will create a team of high achieving and engaged employees who know where they stand.

“Leaders get the team they deserve”

Rejected because of your email address …….. the harsh reality of selection criteria

By | Recruitment, Retention, Talent

SelectionIt seems everything I read this month features Ruslan Kogan …… At age 31, a ‘rich lister’ worth more than $300 million. He sparked my interest in a recent Financial Review article and now again as I read the Virgin Australia Voyeur magazine on my way over to the RCSA conference in New Zealand. It seems Kogan and I have a few things in common – we both started businesses at age 23, we believe in recruiting for culture, openly giving people feedback and that you need stringent selection criteria to hire the best people.

Kogan was interviewed by the Fin Review on his “hiring secrets” and what criteria he uses to screen “in” or “out” new innovators into his technology business, where he employs 150 staff.  Now, anyone who has built a successful business like his, I like to think must have learnt a thing or two about hiring ‘A’ players and retaining talent to ensure long-term and sustainable results.

It turns out one of Kogan’s biggest selection criteria is dependent on the email address you use. Yes, your email address! If it is Hotmail and not Gmail, you will get a “no thanks” letter based on that alone. Too harsh? His justification is around the technology his company uses and he wants to attract people who are just as passionate and savvy about technology as they are – which means Gmail’s functionality and speed is superior to Hotmail and as a “technology boffin” you would know this. In a market where we are becoming flooded with responses and he is quoted as saying they get over 250 applications per role, is it no wonder that such criteria is being used? Fair? Maybe not. Efficient? Absolutely. Proven to be a precise assessment? Well that’s debatable. He admits it isn’t 100% accurate, but it’s pretty close.

It got me thinking about the other selection criteria used to “screen down” the volume of applications to roles and you may be surprised to know some of the other criteria that is going on behind the scenes including:

  1. Calling before you apply – anyone who calls prior to applying for a job gets a big tick in my book. It shows me that you are keen, see the process as a two-way street and aren’t just applying for any old job out there. You may want more information to ensure we aren’t wasting each other’s time or you may be opportunistic and get your 5 minutes to make a great first impression. Either way – it takes effort to pick up the phone these days and have a phone conversation vs. flicking off an email and resume.
  1. Initiative – sometimes recruiter’s advertisements don’t reveal who the employer is, which I acknowledge makes it harder to write a specific cover letter saying why you want to work for that company.  Again get creative – call, ask some questions, try and obtain any extra information that is going to allow you to tailor your cover letter and stand out from the crowd.  The generic “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir” will likely see your application automatically in the ‘no’ pile.
  1. Social media presence – there are more and more roles that require you to be a ‘thought leader’ in your field, to be the ‘face’ of the organisation, or to be a successful networker and influencer.  When this criteria is high on the agenda, don’t think it is only your application being reviewed. Google searches, LinkedIn profiles, Twitter feeds and Facebook searches are all being utilised to present a three-dimensional view. If your on-line presence isn’t projecting the level of influence and credibility required for the role, you may be screened out before a face-to-face interview opportunity, over other candidates who do.
  1. No cover letter – if a job advertisement asks for a cover letter and all you do is click ‘apply’ and send your resume, this could be the criteria that knocks you out.  It shows that you aren’t following instructions and potentially tells the hiring company that you aren’t that interested in their specific opportunity, more that you are happy to flick your CV for any role you see advertised and hope for the best.
  1. Motivation – if your cover letter does not clearly articulate why you are passionate about this role and this company and it becomes more a sales statement about how great you are in general, it might be the criteria that tips you over to the “no” edge.  Companies want to see a link and a real connection to their opportunity.
  1. Location – if you are ever applying for a role that is different from your home base or local area, please be clear and address this in your cover letter and email.  Why are you attracted to work in this area? How did you hear about the role? What connection do you have to this location? Will you relocate? It is much better to address this up front rather than letting the hiring manager make up their own mind, which might be an incorrect assumption and one that again lands you in the ‘no’ pile.
  1. Voicemail messages – I have been known to count someone out purely based on their voicemail message. I detest those leave a 10 second message and it will be sent as a text….do they actually work? Will you receive my message accurately? Or the voicemails with the funny music over the top, or the ones that just say “yeh you missed me, leave your number”. All of these examples do not create a great first professional impression and will be considered in the selection process.
  1. Phone manner – the way you answer the phone, the way you hold a conversation and the way you answer particular questions are all factors helping us to assess applications.  The other week, I was screening candidates via the phone and I said to this one person “can you talk freely right now?”, he asked me to hang on and after a minute of silence as he walked out of his open plan area, he then returned to the phone and simply said “shoot!”. This wasn’t exactly the most professional response I was expecting.

It’s a friendly reminder that every step in a selection and recruitment process is a test.  A test to determine long-term suitability and cultural fit for the job role and company.  I don’t believe anyone should apologise for having harsh or restricting criteria to find the best people for their organisation. Decisions need to be made and you don’t always get it right. I am sure some will read Kogan’s approach and think it is unrealistic, but you know what? It doesn’t actually matter. What matters is that he gets his formula right, is consistent in his approach and he knows the best people that fit his organisation and the method to find them. I don’t necessarily agree with all his theories, but I will give him the kudos for knowing how to recruit the best people for his business. That in itself is one of the hardest lessons to learn in any successful business.

 

 

Offer rejected? 8 ways to increase your acceptance rate

By | Recruitment, Results

 

offer rejectedRecruiting successfully is not easy.  It can be time consuming, expensive, emotional, distracting from core business activities and ultimately hard work.  So imagine after weeks and weeks of searching, screening, calls, correspondence, interviews, follow-ups and difficult decision making, you finally decide to offer your preferred candidate.  You’re excited and relieved.  A decision has finally been made. You ring, make the offer, send out the paperwork and wait. 24 hours, 48 hours – why haven’t you heard? Where is their signed contract?

It is that moment when your candidate – the one that was meant to be starting in 4 weeks, calls (or worse sends an email or text) to say they are declining your offer. What? Where did it go wrong? It is an extremely frustrating situation as suddenly you’re back at the start of the process after months of hard work.  Now it’s time to back track, re-advertise or maybe try to re-engage the rejected short list.  How can you best avoid this situation altogether and increase your chances of an offer acceptance?

1. Employer value proposition – are you easily able to articulate why your company and this opportunity may appeal to potential candidates? Be clear on what the selling points are; describe the culture, career paths and opportunities.  Explain what top performance looks like and give examples of the values that people abide by. Competition for talent is always going to be there, no matter what the market conditions are, so make sure you can articulate your culture in an honest and compelling way.

2. Counter offer investigation – from the very first interview, check reasons for leaving their current employment. Don’t ask only once, try two or three times throughout the interview to ensure you are getting the REAL reason for leaving.  Are they fishing in the market for a higher salary to take to their boss to get their own pay increase? Also look for patterns of behaviour – you will often find that people consistently leave positions for similar reasons, so make sure your opportunity doesn’t fall into this similar category.

3. Salary & benefits – salary may not rate as the number one reason for taking another job these days.  In fact, the decision is usually more about culture, leadership and growth opportunities.  However, if the financial arrangements are too far below a candidate’s current situation, you are at risk of them declining your offer. Make sure this conversation is not left to the last minute and then realising that there is a problem.

4. Real motivation – one of the most important aspects to gain from an interview is someone’s motivation. This covers both emotional (challenge, job security etc) and rational (money, job title etc) motivators.  If your opportunity can’t satisfy both these aspects for a candidate, you are at high risk of them declining an eventual offer of employment or being successfully counter-offered. Don’t forget leaving or staying is primarily an emotional decision.

5. Job pipeline – how active is this candidate in the market? Do they have lots of interviews, have they just commenced or are they close to an offer of employment with someone else? You don’t need intimate details and of course this could be inappropriate to ask, but from where you stand, you need to know.  Don’t be left in the dark about their other activity in the job market to avoid being pipped at the post.

6. Trial close – don’t wait until the end of the process before making the only formal offer of employment. After a second interview, if you feel you are getting close to making an offer, try using a hypothetical.  “Hypothetically, if I offered you the role today, what would you say?” The beauty of this question is it will bring any hesitation or concerns to fore pretty quickly and addressing these before a formal offer, increases your chances of an acceptance.

7.Verbal offer – if possible, don’t send out a full contract or letter of employment until you have verbal acceptance.  Keep control of the process and don’t give the opportunity to played off with a current employer and enter a bidding war.

8. Resignation management – resigning can be a difficult process, especially if the candidate has a good relationship with their direct supervisor.  Talk to the candidate about when they think they might resign. Have they considered how they will approach it? Sharing a war story or giving some friendly advice at this stage can take some pressure off the candidate and give them confidence to deliver the news.  Always make sure the candidate rings you once they have resigned so you can be sure they are on board.

I will never forget the professional services firm who sent out a bottle of champagne with an offer of employment, only for it not to be signed and the candidate joined a competitor organisation!  Never ever celebrate a new hire until the ink is dry on the contract and they have resigned.

Be confident, in control and clear throughout the hiring process.  This will ensure all parties are on the same page before any contracts are drafted and welcome emails sent.  Engaging the right talent from the very start will save embarrassment, frustration and ultimately re-work.

 

Are you struggling to find and hire the right people? At nicoleunderwood we specialise in executive search, recruitment and retention strategies. Contact us here to discuss how we can assist in finding and keeping the right talent for your organisation. 

 

STOP! Why you shouldn’t make a counter offer

By | Recruitment, Results, Retention

downloadIn the current economic climate – just about every candidate we make an offer of employment to is being counter-offered by their current employer.  This enticement to stay takes many forms including more money, job title change, better projects, company cars, larger offices, bonus offers and extended leave.  The list goes on and on. But stop right there. Don’t do it. Let me tell you why.

They don’t work. They never have. They never will.

An employee who hands you their resignation has already emotionally left the building. They made a decision some time ago that the role, position, company, culture or leadership was not for them. Whatever those reasons may be. Let them go.

Your reasons for making a counter-offer probably feel valid including:

(a)  It is easier to get them to stay than to even think about the time, cost and effort in trying to recruit and replace them.

(b)  You don’t want to deal with the unpleasantness of telling the rest of the team. It will hurt the morale.

(c)  They are a top performer and you can’t possibly continue without them. (Rubbish! Everyone is replaceable).

(d)  It’s a quick fix – you need time to plan how you are going to deal with this

(e)  It’s cheaper to pay them $10K more vs. time lost in productivity, clients, training and replacement costs

All valid. I get it. I’ve been there.  The first time one of my staff resigned, I was in my early 20’s and invincible….ha! I had to go to the coffee shop to pull myself together and work out my ‘strategy’ on how I was going to keep her.  I tried more money, I tried a change of duties, a change of title…anything, please don’t go.  My attempts were clearly unsuccessful.  It wasn’t about me. It was about her – her career ambition and her desire that we were unable to fulfill at the time.

It is that immediate, but, band-aid attempt to keep someone. We’ve all done it.

Once someone has resigned, there are genuine reasons and needs that are going to be met elsewhere. You are prolonging the inevitable pain that will be felt by both of you over the next 6 months if you do go down the counter-offer path and they accept.

To the company last month that tried offering more money; to the company the month before who offered a bonus plan on the largest account and to the company who said they would finally come through with the company car they had promised a year ago.  It’s too late. Let them go. Counter-offers don’t work.

Next time someone hands you his or her resignation, accept it with grace. This is business – don’t use guilt or persuasion. Stay professional and listen to their feedback – is there anything you could have done differently? Yes? Great – learn it for next time.  Instead, implemented “stay strategies” that will retain your remaining performers.

Salli Tanner who works with me now is a great example of this strategy working effectively.  Early in 2010, Salli worked for me in another organisation, when she resigned. I was sad to be losing her as a valuable member of my team, but I accepted the move being the right one for her and her career at the time. As much as I didn’t want her to leave, I genuinely wished her well and joked, “You never know where we might work together again in the future!” The strategy does work.

Sure, you can be disappointed that someone is leaving, but acknowledging their contribution and wishing them well will go a long way in a market where people talk and employer brand awareness is critical for future hiring. See the opportunity to improve your retention plans, gain some constructive feedback and always leave the employment relationship on a positive note.

 

Staff mojo… how to plant the seeds of motivation

By | Empowerment, Results
Inspiration: My daughter Charlie

Inspiration: My daughter Charlie

This week one of my top performers was having a downday….she’d lost her mojo, was feeling ‘flat’ and told me she was struggling with motivation. “How do you keep motivated and inspired?” she asked me. As a leader, my stomach sank.  There is nothing scarier than a top performer who is feeling worn out…..as Leaders we get scared that if we don’t quickly ‘motivate’ them, they might drop their performance, burn out or dare I say it….leave. The pressure! I wanted to give her an answer, not any answer, a great answer that would make her feel valued, inspired,motivated and happy.  But the fact is there isn’t just ‘an answer’.

Can you really motivate someone? Especially in a 30 minute weekly meeting! Truth is it can’t be done. You can’t physically motivate another person. It is not something I can give to someone else to make them feel good again to conquer the world.  However, I can certainly influence them, share my experiences and ask them questions that may help them find their own internal motivation.

Firstly, what’s not working? What is it specifically that is making them feel disheartened, disinterested or demotivated? Is it just a once-off incident of something going wrong with a client, an internal disagreement or something bigger? Or is it an accumulation of things that have been niggling at them, with something that has made them snap that perhaps in isolation would not have been a big deal but now seems huge. Getting to the crux of their de-motivation is really important because once this is solved; that can often be the end of their bad patch and they return to a positive frame of mind.

In this circumstance, nothing was specifically going wrong with my Consultant. There wasn’t anything in particular that she was unhappy about. So it comes down to desire…..

Whatever job you do, you need to be clear on why you are doing it. What’s in it for you? What are the goals you are aiming for and the benefits you receive from doing what you do? I’ve always been a visual person and it might sound corny, but really having something in front of me to focus on gives me inspiration on days that perhaps aren’t perfect or going 100% my way.  Early in my career, working as a Recruitment Consultant, I had picture of a convertible at my desk – I was determined to have a sports car.  Those days when I didn’t want to pick up the phone and make a cold call or tell a candidate they didn’t get the job or it was 7pm at night and I was screening even more CV’s, I would look at that picture and find my inspiration and that extra mojo I needed to achieve success. As years went on the visuals changed – but there has always been pictures of something (holidays, houses, travel) or someone (family) to inspire me. And it works. I got that silver MG convertible at age 21 – the insurance was a killer! The moment you take your eyes off the goal, you can lose focus, ambition and drive.

So with a demotivated staff member – be clear on what their goals are. What is this person motivated by? Do they have visuals around them? Everybody aspires to something – as the leader we need to show the connection between what they do and how they can go about achieving it in their day to day work.

If this doesn’t work, the flip side is cost. I don’t like to use this method as much – it doesn’t have a nice warm and fuzzy attached to it like the benefit method does.  For example, I have had Consultants tell me in the past they aren’t motivated by money or they don’t aspire to a new house or an overseas holiday. They are happy as they are. Great. Really, that is great.  But you’re telling me you’re de-motivated, you have lost inspiration and are feeling flat – what is the cost to you, your career and your results if you continue this way? Perhaps things won’t be that great anymore.  It is getting them very clear that if they don’t make the calls, see the clients, fill the jobs, generate the results, then actually you won’t be in top performance and then they may not be in such a great place. The ultimate cost here is their job.  This can be the make or break conversation that either gets them back on track or a realisation that change is on the horizon.

Day to day, I have found several things that work as quick “motivation injections”:

  1. Have a conversation with someone who makes you feel good
  2. Read an inspiring article, quote or surf social media for new ideas and excitement
  3. Write down at least 1 new quantifiable goal that you really want to achieve
  4. Take 30 minutes to write a dream list – anything you ever wanted to achieve/have/own and there is no restrictions (dream big!)
  5. Put up a new visual for inspiration – photo/screen saver/picture
  6. Take action – do something that makes you feel uncomfortable (as this often generates big results eg: a new client)
  7. Write a love & loathe list (to re-focus on what you are good at)
  8. Plan a holiday & enjoy the research
  9. Buy a new book on-line
  10. Have a coffee, go shopping or plan a day off to “re-charge”

So for me – how do I keep motivated and inspired? My husband laughs as I’m telling him what I’m writing about – he says it’s the mortgage and my love for shopping that keeps me motivated! There is of course some truth to this – visual goals remember! But I do believe inspiration comes from around us as well as finding inspiration from within ourselves – it is not something someone else can give us or make us feel. I am certainly inspired by other people’s success or by a conversation or a presentation, movie or book.  But real inspiration, the type of inspiration that drives me to succeed and achieve, comes from within.

What tips and tricks do you use to stay motivated and re-focus when feeling flat?

Who’s hot and who’s not…what the perfect resume won’t tell you

By | Recruitment


Interviewing, recruitment, hiring, finding the right candidate….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….

Last week I was doing the school drop off and was asked independently by two separate parents in business how to pick the right person at interview. How long have you got??? One 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 other was being challenged by picking an internal hire 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 was called to a meeting on Monday 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 Entrée Recruitment and see, hear, talk and advise clients on how to do it better. It is an ongoing battle for most business owners – finding, recruiting and retaining 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 that I follow in a recruitment process to increase my 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: teamwork, 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 don’t have the competency. Don’t ignore this – even if the resume is fantastic – if they can’t answer these questions, they won’t be a high performer in the job.
  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 others in the paper and on the net? 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 a job at Entrée, they called Tuesdayat 5pm. For me and my 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.

As I picked up my daughter from school yesterday, one of these parents thanked me, telling me how much easier her three interviews had been that day. Her change in questions towards motivation and culture opened up her thinking about what was being said at interview, if they would fit her team and it increased her confidence in making the right hire.

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.