Sunday, August 26, 2007

How will the troops perform after you have left?

It's a common bit of wisdom in the military that the best time to judge a commander is not when he's in front of his troops, but by watching how his troops perform after he has left.

Let's put that to the test. Let's assume you are a good manager (and the fact that you are reading says that you probably are). Your team is known for getting the job done well and everyone thinks you area solid leader for it. Now let's suppose that you are taken out of the picture - maybe you get promoted, maybe you hit the lottery, whatever... you are gone. What is your successor going to find?

Was your team's success due to you taking control, or because you let your team manage themselves effectively? Did they succeed because you coached and trained them well, or because you plugged the gaps they left behind. Did you have a competent, intelligent and resourceful team capable of handling exceptions, or did you shield them from change and just keep them focused on their silos? All the truth behind the performance will come shining through when a new boss takes the helm - this is why the military changes unit commanders so frequently (and maybe your company should too?)

The truth is that the best managers build great teams of fully capable and confident people who really don't need their manager on-hand to deliver success - they could basically do it without the boss in tow. Now that's not saying that the boss has no play. The fact is that the best bosses use the "free time" they get from not having to ride shotgun all day to continually refine process, preempt emergencies and constantly invest in the development of their people.

If that seems painfully simple - it is! Now, you ask if it is so simple, why don't more bosses "get it"? Answer that and the Harvard Business School will let you teach a course on it!


Review this post with your team and make this pact with them: "If you will help me be a better manager, I will make you the most effective and successful team in our business." This partnership is your first step towards becoming an outstanding leader of an exceptional team.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

"C" words form the backbone of great recruiting

I'm a former Army guy - I have to keep stuff really simple. Quick check-lists help me remember steps and key parts of a process. Here's a little list I developed to ensure that I have the proper focus on my role as a recruiter - oddly enough, this list could also be applied to many management roles!

Client Focus: View every interaction as though you were dealing with a client. No matter if you are speaking to a hiring manager (clearly your client), or a candidate (who could be a client) always focus on their needs as part of whatever outcome you are trying to achieve.

Communication: Communication with every audience - internal, external, up the chain or down must be concise and accurate as well as specifically tailored to the needs of the audience. You simply cannot over-communicate!

Coach: The hiring manager knows the needs of the business better than you do, but you know the strategies that yield results. The best coaches ASK more than they ANSWER. Ask questions to get the manager to draw their own conclusion and they will normally land on the right answer.

Consideration: You are asking managers to consider the needs of the role and of the candidate. You are asking the candidate to consider the opportunity. All this consideration needs to play out along with some real personal consideration for all involved. Don't forget that at the heart of the process they are all still people with needs.

Consistency: Aside from all the compliance risks in not being consistent, lack of consistency means you will never be able to replicate the magic when you finally get the recruitment process nailed down. Consistency with candidates, managers and even your team is foundational to being able to grow and consistently deliver great results.

Compelling: You HAVE to be able to tell a compelling story about your business, the opportunity, and even the candidate. Your offers must be compelling to the candidate to effectively convey the desire to have them join and the importance your company places on the role - note that "compelling" does not have to mean heaps of money - if you have followed the points above, you will know what is important to the candidate and THAT's the compelling part!

Candor: Honesty is ALWAYS the best policy - sure you can soften up the feedback, but if the hiring manager is a dolt who does not understand the basics of the business or managing people, SOMEONE has to tell them. Just continuing down the recruiting path with someone like this just means you will have to do it over, and over and over and .....etc! The same holds true with candidates. If Johnny shows up to interview for a VP of Sales job, but has the personality of a librarian.... you REALLY have to tell him. Just using the standard Recruiter's dodge of "it's not the right fit" serves no one. You get off cheap and he doesn't learn why he's not qualified... big missed opportunity there. In practice, I find that candidates really like being told the truth - wouldn't you??

And Finally...CLOSE!! Time is money, so get to the point and close the deal. Force managers and candidates alike to act with a sense of urgency. You have invested time and money going through endless assessments and interviews, now it is time to remind everyone that this process is about business results! If you are not going to hire them, tell them AS SOON AS YOU KNOW. If you are, make the offer NOW! Too many searches go belly-up because we lose candidates to competing offers that came in while we pondered.

Ok, enough for today... I could go on for hours, but then I'd have nothing for future posts.


Hold this little diatribe up as a measure of your practices on recruiting (or managing in general). See any opportunities??? If so, act on them. If not - write a book and I will buy it!!!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The missing ingredient in business plans? TALENT!

The lack of the right talent at the right time can hamstring even the best laid business plans, so why is it left out of so many of them? Let's look at a hypothetical case to illustrate the point.

Imagine you are running a business and your business plan calls for a shift from your normal product line of industrial widgets - now you want to get into the widget customization business. The key to success is your ability to crank out a new and better series of widgets that can be adapted to meet your customers varied widget needs. So you ramp up your business plan - You build out your factory to handle the variations and increased production. You get your suppliers on-board to ensure you always have inventory to produce widgets. Heck, you even got yourself a slick custom widget ad-campaign! Now all you need are some super talented, consultative widget subject matter experts / consultants / salespeople.

And that's when it hits you - you never determined if that kind of talent even exists in your market! Turns out that you didn't know that there are very few people who can really sell customized widget solutions, and they all work for your competitor! Wow - don't YOU feel silly?? All ramped up and no one to sell it! Try explaining that little oversight to the shareholders.

The key to your widget “secret sauce” was people with the specific talents you need to get the job done, and you forgot to include them in your business plan. Living proof that if we fail to plan we’re actually planning to fail!


Take a look at your business planning process. If PEOPLE are not accounted for early on in the process, change your process. The best ideas, technology and products are all useless unless you have the right people working on them.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Surviving organizational change

Organizational change - whether it be an internal reorganization or a change in ownership, can be a good thing, but if it is not properly managed, it can become a major distraction to the work at hand.

Think about the last major change you faced at work. I'll bet that while it generated a lot of buzz, it did little to drive progress to results. Faced with change and uncertainty, people tend to pull back into their shells a bit. Rather than pushing that big project ahead, folks begin to "circle the wagons" in an effort to protect their jobs.

The sad news is that while keeping one's head down is viewed as a way to survive change - in great organizations, it's a great way to highlight the value you are not bringing to the table! Career Journal takes one particular spin on this which I think is spot on. You have to focus on the opportunity to show the value you bring to the company rather than hiding under your desk to avoid detection - you might not be seen, but your name shows up on payroll reports!

While the Career Journal article seems pointed for upper level muckity-mucks, those of us a bit lower on the corporate food chain should also take heed. Educational / Tech blogger Doug Johnson has some really practical advice - note in particular point 2 - It's all about doing something meaningful and valuable rather than just relying on your title.


No matter the source of the change, your best chance at succeeding is to establish a credible reputation as one of those go-getters that your company just cant do without, rather than being known as "that guy with the bad suit in accounting"! So, start making yourself indispensable TODAY!