Monday, November 28, 2005

Don't Miss the Next Strategic Turn

Don't Miss the Next Strategic Turn is the title of an article recently posted on the Electronic Recruiting Exchange and written by Yves Lermusiaux who is the President of -- now known as Taleo Research -- a company that provides consulting services to corporations on staffing. Yves makes some interesting points as he takes the reader though a thought process that among other things reminds us of the following:

"In 2000, only 27% of the Fortune 500 directed all candidates wishing to respond to job positions posted to the corporate careers website to a purely online response mechanism. But in 2005, 77% of the Fortune 500 do not give jobseekers the option of responding offline to job positions posted to the corporate careers website."

If I were a candidate in this day of "personal branding" this sort of news -- even though I probably would have guessed it to be true -- would still not be welcome. Not only unwelcome, but it would also make me ponder even harder, how to get out of the universal "molds" and "boxes" and get a potential hiring manager to start to see all the problem solving solutions I could bring?

Technology is great. It's exciting, and it certainly helps on the productivity side in more ways than most of us can count, but I still think that when it comes to getting someone's attention, we have yet to find a replacement for what we like to call "being remembered and being referred."

It still amazes me even after so many years of being on one side or the other of the recruiting world that even those of us who are seeking senior-level executive jobs see the boards that seduce us with "come see us, we have more jobs than there are stars in the sky" or some other equally enticing come-on that makes me want to say "great, I will simply click, send, and wait for my Blackberry to wake me in the middle of the night with an offer."

I'm certainly not saying that people don't actually get jobs by answering ads. Of course they do or there would be no ads, but when it comes to setting yourself apart, and getting to a hiring manager without rolling the electronic dice, by far and away the most productive "branding" tool known to man is the care and feeding of your personal and professional network.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Mayonnaise Jar & Two Cups of Coffee…

Like so many of these things that people share with eachother, I don't know who the author is, but as we all pause for Thanksgiving, it just felt like not a bad thought to share. I do know that our Director of IT, Darryl thought enough of it to send it along to me, and since I got it I have shared it with the other members of our staff in a daily internal newsletter we call ExecuNet Buzz.

The Mayonnaise Jar & Two Cups of Coffee

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar ... and the 2 cups of coffee ..

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaises jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar.. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous, "Yes."

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.
"Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided, " I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life."

"The golf balls are the important things - your God, your family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favorite passions - things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full." "The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car." "The sand is everything else -- the small stuff."

"If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you."

"Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal."

"Take care of the golf balls first - the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend."

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Why Drucker Still Matters

I think that most people in senior level executive jobs who are my age, and those who are within 35 or so years plus or minus certainly know who Peter Drucker was. For those who haven't heard of him, you may have noticed he was on the cover of BusinessWeek this week. If you read the cover story article, hopefully you gained some appreciation for his insights.

There was a sidebar in this article that featured just a few of Drucker's observations. They are all, as they say; "deep" but one in particular caught my eye. It was on leadership, and said the following:

"Don't ever think or say "I." Think and say "we." Effective leaders know they have authority only because they have the trust of the organization. They understand that the needs and opportunities of an organization come before their own needs."

How many trillions of dollars and been spent trying to figure out what leadership is and how to create or at least develop it I would not begin to know. All I do know is that in almost every survey I have ever seen, including
our own, when you ask employers what characteristic is the most critical the answer is always "leadership."

For me, and to borrow a phrase a bit it is like pornography. I can't define it, but I know it when I see it. I think that is true for most of us, and while Dr. Drucker's statement might not cover it all, starting with "we" rather than "I" is a heck of start.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

People Who Make An Impression

I think that most of us can reflect on various aspects of our lives and in looking at each segment come up with the names of those who have a significant impact or left an indelible impression.

Probably one of the easiest reflections comes from your education. There was a particular grammar school teacher you remember either because they took you under their wing or scared you to death, but either way you can still see and hear them as if it were yesterday.

You move onto high school or college, and there are usually two to four that stand out in your mind. “Role models” I think they call them, and for me at least, the impact they had on me remains today. Indeed, so powerful were certain teachers I had in high school, that despite any number of wonderful professors I had in college, it is my high school that I support when in comes to annual giving time. I know that had my high school not done for me what they did, the closest I would have come to college would be watching NCAA games on the tube.

It is, I think, the same way in business. There is usually one boss that stands out (for good or ill) or a colleague or two that are really special, and when it comes to professional development programs that we have attended, there are one or two speakers we have heard over the years that stick with you the same way as teachers, classmates, or colleagues.

Peter Drucker, who passed away last Friday, was one such person for me. I did not know him personally, but I vividly recall that early in my career I was given the chance to hear him speak at NYU. It has been too many years now for me to recall much of the specifics of his talk that day, but I sure remember the point he was making. Indeed, I never fotgot the image that he projected up on the screen out of my mind, and this was long before PowerPoint, so what I am talking about was a single black and white transparency that sat on top of an overhead projector that is now likely in the Smithsonian.

What he had put up on the screen was a list of the Fortune 50 at the time, and he began his remarks by saying that in 20 years only one or two would still be on the list. Young and impressionable person that I was, I thought he was crazy. It took me a long time before I realized how right he was, and it has stuck with me ever since. It isn't only that nothing is forever, but when it comes to business, his writings on marketing still ring remarkably true.

My guess is that many of us saw the piece in the WSJ on Drucker along with the side bar that quoted a number of his "lessons." While I had not seen or heard them in a while, when I read them again it reminded me of how much even my brief exposure to him had left such a profound impression. I found myself reading these "lessons" and realized that both had become basic beliefs in terms of how we have tried to run our business. These were:

"Management is about human beings." Its task is to make people capable of joint performance, to make their strengths effective and their weaknesses irrelevant."

"True marketing starts out...with the customer, his demographics, his realities, his needs, his values. It does not ask, ‘What do we want to sell?’ It asks, ‘What does the customer want to buy?’"

Thanks Prof. Drucker. Rest in Peace.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Unhappy Campers

I was checking out a blog the other day called and the post of the day entitled, "Easy Pickin's." It was essentially telling recruiters that if they were looking to recruit middle managers, the low hanging fruit was made up of thousands of middle managers who, according to a recent survey done by Accenture, were very unhappy campers.

One of the cute lines in the blog entry said it this way: " can't swing a cat in any large corporation without hitting an unhappy middle manager." It certainly went a long way to painting a very vivid word picture of the stats included in the survey such as: 58% of the respondents said they would consider changing jobs while 30% indicated they were actually actively looking for a new gig. This was up from 21% in the same survey last year.

While I was reading over the comments, it reminded me that it wasn't only middle managers who were "not feeling the love" as they are wont to say on Sports Center. I don't know how long Accenture has been running their survey, but at ExecuNet we have been running one for the past 13 years – 14 in January. What struck me was that a lot of this must, as they also say "flows downhill" because our membership is made up of senior-level executives who are also plenty interested in their careers, but the last time we asked, some 61% of our respondents said they were not happy in their current jobs, and a whopping 77% said they planned to do something about it in next six months.

Based on the number of "landings" that our members are reporting on a monthly basis, it would appear they are making good on the threat, and while the grass may or may not be greener, they care very much about finding that out for themselves.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Fun, Profits, and Causes

There is so much hype these days around the renewed war for talent that it becomes more and more difficult to find someone who you really feel has something to say that "sticks with you."

Those who recently attended IACPR's (International Association of Corporate & Professional Recruiters) national conference in NYC, however, had the chance to hear a keynote address given by Greg Lucier, the CEO of Invitrogen, a 5,000 employee company and leading player in the world of life sciences. Lucier is also an alum of GE, which might help explain why IACPR asked him to talk about talent acquisition and retention or as he titled his talk, "Which Talent Issues Keep CEOs Up At Night."

While I was not able to attend the conference myself, several of our staff did, and as a member of IACPR, I got a chance to read Greg's speech in the association's September newsletter. I wish I could have heard it live.

He made so many points that rang true, e.g. "...The first is that nobody really wants to work for a company, they want to work for a cause -- something bigger than they are that will make them feel good about where they work and spend so much of their time. The second is that the truism -- working for a cause not a company -- is radically changing the workforce of today from one that was in search of excess, to one that is in search of meaning, that wants to give back. Events like 911, global terrorism, the Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina have left an indelible mark on all of us. Today's workforce wants to be committed to something more than just profits." "...And my theory is that great companies stand for a principle, and great people will want to flock to them." We hear comments from our members that speak to this issue on a daily basis when they talk to us about what's next in their lives.

Another point that Lucier made that hit me was when he not only was speaking about a company culture, but also about a company "...having merchandise that also stands for something." Not to sound too parochial about, but it made me think about what ExecuNet was all about. People so often want to put us in the "commercial job board" space when in fact, that really isn't what we are about. Sure, we have very senior-level executive jobs, have been for 18 years, but that is only one element of what we are all about. If job postings were all we were about, we'd be out there scraping and publishing along with the rest of them, but we learned long ago that ads, even hundreds and hundreds of them in one big pot, is not how most executives make changes in their professional work lives. They make them via real relationships that are built on trust over time. So, what we set out to do was to build a community that allowed executives to come together with each other (and if they wanted to) with the search community in what we call "in confidence and with confidence."

Lastly, Lucier also threw out a wonderful phrase that I thought captured the essence of what would draw people to any organization as well as help keep them there once they were on board. The phrase was "...reputation (what you do when people are watching and integrity (what you do when they aren't)." The point being, of course, that the former, if it's good can only come from living by the latter.

How many of us as leaders have been asked the following question by someone considering either buying our product or service or considering joining our organization: "How do you measure your success?"

I have to admit that it made me smile inside because our answer has always been "by reputation."

Friday, November 04, 2005

TV Doesn't Begin To Do It Justice

This past Friday, Peter Clayton,'s senior producer/director came by our office to tape an interview with our President & COO Mark Anderson and myself. He wanted our take on the current trends in the executive jobs marketplace. Both Mark and I had met Peter as the result of prior interviews with, which if you haven't checked it out, I would strongly urge you to do so. They are doing some really cutting edge stuff in the career management arena, not only in terms of the content they are providing, but from a technology perspective in how it is made available to listeners.

The purpose in bringing all this up here is not to drum up folks to run and listen to the interview (I actually have no idea when it is due to air) but to share some thoughts about a subject Peter, Mark, and I were talking about both before and after the taping.

What we were talking about was Katrina, New Orleans, Gulfport, and the whole aftermath of this catastrophic event. We got on the subject because Peter had just returned from the area as the result of a film assignment he was on for Coca Cola.

I guess what struck me so deeply was the difference in hearing someone talk about their impressions and feelings about something which they had viewed with their own eyes on site versus the feeling one gets from looking at the same scene between dinner and dessert while listening and watching Brian Williams.
It isn't that you don't have feelings of deep sorrow and compassion for what you see on TV, it just seems that the "noise level" on TV when it comes to the "sorrow and compassion" scale seems so constant, consistent and at such high volume all the time, that it makes one lose perspective. It's like you look and listen, and say to yourself, "Wow, that's just horrible” or “I have no idea what I would do if that happened to me and my family, but man I’m so glad it didn't" and then asking your wife what she did with the sports section.

Listening to Peter describe what he saw, looking into his eyes one could see the scars and wounds. His tone of voice was filled with the emotion that can only come from seeing something that was just overwhelming in terms of one's ability to digest the sights, sounds, and smells of disaster "live and in color."

I used to think that I had empathy. Now I wasn't so sure.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Things To Aspire To

It is hardly a military secret that for the most part, professional development rests with the person. This is one of the reasons that we decided long ago to form an alliance with the Harvard Business Review in order to provide it as a resource to our members. Anyone who has been around business for any length of time is well aware of the quality of what they publish.

Thanks to this resource, and to my partner Mark Anderson, I recently had the chance to read a piece by Jim Collins (the same Jim Collins who wrote the current best-seller, From Good to Great) titled, Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve. When Mark first passed it along suggesting it might be a good article to blog about, I thought, maybe that was just a nice way of saying that there was a message in it for me, and that I needed to "shape up," but I didn't need an article to tell me that. Indeed, at my age, I figure I am so far beyond repair that all the articles in the world wouldn't help much. Once I read the piece, however, I agreed with Mark that it had much to say to anyone, no matter where they might be in their career.

The debate on the subject of whether leaders are born or made may run second only to the debates that rage around Big Bang theories, stem cell research, abortion rights, the pros and cons of the Yankees trying to buy championships, and trying to determine if "Fair and Balanced" is an accurate tag line for Fox news. In other words, it is a debate that is not likely to be decided anytime soon.

That being said, it doesn't mean that people are not still very interested in the subject, and continually try to break the code. In this article, Collins says he can't break that code, but he does say that of the 1,435 companies that appeared on the Fortune 500 since 1965, only 11 made it onto the list of companies that had level 5 leaders at the time that the companies faced a pivotal time in their history. It is fascinating stuff.

In the face of such stats, it makes it pretty clear that the odds of any of us making it to a level 5 are pretty remote, but with the information that he shares in this article in terms of the characteristics of a level 5, anyone who aspires to a leadership role or who is in a leadership role and is committed to trying to improve his/her performance as a leader would do well to invest the time to read what Prof. Collins has to say.