Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Asking for the Order

I am not sure if we get more questions about age discrimination or negotiations but both are major topics that ExecuNet members talk about all the time. While there are no magic formulas for either, there is certainly no shortage of folks who have opinions or profess to have expertise. The question is do they or don't they?

To that end, I was very pleased to learn that we were able to have Dr. Michael Watkins join our team of FastTrack experts. If you have not seen the term here before, the short version is that FastTrack programs are 90 minute web based programs we offer our members on a variety of career related subjects. Indeed, most of them are also available "on demand" as well.

We had been looking for a long time to try and find someone who can talk on the subject of negotiations at a level where it is really useful for senior level executives. Not just in terms of their own compensation packages, but in terms of the art of influencing in general.

Michael, who is a professor of Practice in Management at INSEAD is, as many already know, the author of many books including The First 90 Days, and Predictable Surprises which was named best business book of 2004 by Strategy+Business.

The "live" program he is doing this week SHAPING THE GAME: NEGOTIATING YOUR NEXT SUCCESS (Thursday, Nov. 4 at 4:00 Eastern) is going to be open to the public as well. Those attending not only will have the chance to hear and interact with him "live" but also get a copy of Dr. Watkins' newest book Shaping the Game, The New Leader's Guide to Effective Negotiating along with a written executive summary of the program as well as a copy of the presentation slides. All is included in the price of $89.95.

Michael is a busy camper, so if any readers here are interested in the topic, or want to find out more about the program and/or register to attend, all the info you would need is on the ExecuNet website.

Executive Leadership - Whatever That May Mean

We hear stories about leadership all the time. Some of them inspiring (Washington, Lincoln, Truman, Kennedy) and some of them despising (Hitler, Stalin, Ebbers, Lay). There are literally thousands of people and heaven only knows how many companies who for eons have made a very handsome living trying to understand what leadership is and how it is acquired, how to grow it, nurture it, develop it, implant it, copy it, manufacture it, buy it, sell it, define it, and you name it.

Over the last fourteen years , we have asked recruiters to tell us what the key characteristics or criteria are that they are asked to “find” when given a search assignment. We have always ended up with a list of ten to twelve items, but the top three every single year have always been leadership, industry-specific experience, and functional expertise. You look at the list, and the only one that sounds like rocket science is leadership. Given the current tenure of the corner office these days, it sure feels like the search continues.

I am sure that I, like many of us, have thought about this question for a long time. I am also sure like many of us, that I don’t have an answer. I do, however, have an opinion, and like most opinions, it is based more on “feeling” than “fact.” While I don’t know what leadership is, like pornography as they say, I know it when I see it.

That said I also have a theory which may speak to leadership per se or may just address managing, but it goes like this:

When it comes to judging the performance of a manager, they really get paid to do three critical things: Hire, Fire and Evaluate.

At the risk of being overly simplistic, the rest you can learn from books and on-the-job experience. Said differently, leaders are judged by their ability to make judgments which are subjective which means they are always open to interpretation and argument. And who is to say what’s right or wrong, but they have to make the judgment nonetheless and then be able to take the heat from those who disagree. In short, they must take a stand for a belief.

Not easy stuff.

P.S. In case you don't recognize it, the "post office" picture of some of our more well known "leaders" was in BusinessWeek a year or two ago, I just don't remember exactly when, just thought it was cool.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Plan Ahead aka Ready - Fire - Aim

Remember those old Plan Ahead signs? I was reminded of this as I was following an interesting discussion amongst several of our members who participate in our Sales & Marketing Roundtable. This is a recent ListServ discussion group that got started on the member side of our site.

The subject under discussion was around the issue of what Sales says they want from Marketing and vice versa. If you have been around the business world for any length of time, you don't need me to tell you that there were some fairly strong opinions being tossed around. Sort of reminded me of a former life where such "discussions" often took place between Manufacturing and Sales which could easily have developed into a contact sport.

In any case, one of those contributing to the dialogue was Jim O'Shea. Jim has been and continues to be a very active member in these discussions, and always has major contributions.

In summing up the issue of making collaborative sense out of the importance of Sales & Marketing working together, Jim put it this way:

"Strategic planning provides a great opportunity to bring together sales and marketing, design and operations, and all other key functions in order to build not just a plan but a stronger team as well. The outcome is what's most important, but the process itself also pays dividends in building a culture of teamwork and collaboration.

You've all no doubt heard the saying, "those who fail to plan, plan to fail." I don't believe that failing to plan necessarily leads to failure. Many businesses succeed despite missteps. What I do believe is that the failure to plan leaves a lot of money on the table!"
Well said, I thought. It also brought to mind an issue that we at ExecuNet have seen repeat itself time and time again when it comes to how executives (and this includes very senior level executives, i.e. C-level folks) approach the management of their careers.

Maybe it's because so many of us fall into the type "A" personality group or maybe it is just a result of the "instant gratification" society in which we live. Not sure what the answer is, but I do know what the result often is, and that is people who head out into the marketplace following what I call the Ready-Fire-Aim approach and then lament the fact that they seem to be getting nowhere fast.

The more I think about it, the more it seems logical that all of this could come under the general heading of Sales & Marketing (or to use today's buzz words "personal branding") since in its simplest form, effective career management really is about both. We stumble when "we" are both the product manager and the sales force.

But if we think about career management in these terms, it makes sense that one needs to have a plan first, and not just any plan, but one that has been carefully thought through in terms of both target market and positioning within that market. Why? Because in more cases than we imagine, the buyer "doesn't know what they don't know" and they need the marketing and sales teams working together to help them see that we are, as we like to say here, "the aspirin for their headache."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Talent Management Right & Left Coast

Time was when you heard the phrase "R&R" people thought you were talking about getting a little "rest and relaxation." I think it was a phrase that came out of WWII when troops were sent to the rear to try and "recharge."

These days, you hear the same phrase and it seems like what they mean is "recruitment & retention." Not surprising given the issues facing corporate HR staffs in general and organization and management development professionals specifically.

In this conference time of year, it was nice to see that ACP (Association of Career Professionals International) is sponsoring a series of Forums both here and abroad. One is in NYC on Nov. 8th at Pfizer's headquarters, and another in San Francisco on Nov. 16th

In most programs, it is frequently a case of "experts" telling those on the firing line what to do and what will happen to them if they don't. Aside from the expertise that both of these programs include, one of the things that make them unique is that conference planners have gone out of their way to make sure there is an excellent balance of resources from inside corporations, industry experts, and career management professionals.

Said differently, access to technology and money has leveled the corporate playing field. The unique productivity difference comes from people, and with our data revealing that executives change companies every 3.3 years, recruitment and retention is even more critical than ever. As an executive or career management professional your role in the career management process allows executives and organizations to better collaborate, thereby extending tenure and strengthening corporate advantage.

There is no better way to learn than by the sharing of experiences, and these Forums offer a unique opportunity to do just that. Different perspectives produce powerful learnings

P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, ExecuNet has been a member of ACP for many years and while we are sharing some data from our annual survey during the luncheon at the NYC event, we would have plugged the meeting in any case.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Maya Angelou Effect

People have talked about "effective" networking, relationship building, being remembered and being referred, giving before getting, helping without strings, and probably at least a dozen other phrases for what feels like eons. Indeed, maybe there's an argument to be made that the oldest and most famous (?) networking axiom might be "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Who knows?

I guess what we do know, however, is that our lives, both personal and business, really are about relationships. Maybe this is why when I read a recent post by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval on The Huffington Post it reminded me of all this. Their post was called How We Discovered The Power of Nice. It is well worth the read if for no other reason than to give renewed hope to those of us who believe in the philosophy of pay it forward.

Indeed, when ExecuNet was started nearly 19 years ago, our first tag line was "The Power of Cooperation." While the tag line has changed over the years, for sure our operating philosophy certainly hasn't and reading about Linda and Robin's experience served as a very nice reminder, and while it wasn't necessarily a "perfect" fit, it also reminded me of a well known quote of Maya Angelou's that I always thought was very powerful:

“People do not remember what you say or what you do, over the years, but they never forget how you made them feel.”

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

One Size Does Not Fit All

I can't imagine anyone who is a part of or has even a passive interest in the world of recruitment who isn't familiar with Interbiznet.com. If you don't subscribe, I would urge you to do so. John Sumser's tagline for the site is Daily Newsletters and Professional Toolboxes. It's a very apt description.

In a piece he ran today called Not The New Big (JJ-IV he gives one real pause for thought in terms of the impact of "size" on the individual and quality.
You should really read the whole piece, but if you don't have the time, the excerpt below will give you a flavor:

If you look at Craigslist and Google, it's clear that getting big has erased some (or most) of the original charm. We think it eliminates much of the effectiveness as well. When volume and money are the only discriminating factors in audience reach, there is no community. When permission based marketing no longer requires asking permission, providers will get resentful. When the act of creation is ignored in exchange for reliance on search, something critical is getting lost.
People ask me all the time if when I started ExecuNet way back in the dark ages (i.e. 1988) if I had a "vision" of turning it into a Monster type site. My immediate answer was "God forbid!" I had a tough enough time once the Internet came along allowing new members to join online before we had the chance to talk with them. I finally relented, but only after we had systems in place to make sure that we could communicate directly, and most importantly individually.

So maybe this is why this article made such an impression on me. The operative word here is "me". When I go somewhere I am not looking for something for everyone else, I am looking for something for me. When I ask for help, I am looking for someone who not only has the information I need but who actually shows me they have a genuine interest in whatever problem it is that I am trying to solve.

If one takes that notion and translates it to career management at the senior executive level, it becomes clear why most people move around the executive world (and most of the rest of it as well) by the relationships they build with others.

It is also one of the reasons why we continue to be a membership and not a subscription.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Breaking News From The About Time Department

Over the almost nineteen years as we at ExecuNet have talked with members and asked them about their feelings about interacting with the recruiting community, with very few exceptions, the responses range from "lousy" to "what relationship"?

Over the same period of time as we have talked with recruiters about their feelings about candidates and shared the candidate's feelings with them, with few exceptions, their responses range from "Yeah, I know and I don't blame them" to "If I had the time I would try to do something about it, but I just don't" to "tell 'em to grow up, my obligation is to the client."

So, if you are one of those who can relate to the foregoing, below you will see the guts of a press release that I saw today, and once you have read it, maybe it will bring a smile to your face as well.

CHICAGO, October 2, 2006 – Chicago-based executive search firm Slayton Search Partners has recently launched a formal quality assurance program. This program will ensure that client and candidate expectations are being met during every phase of the executive search process.
“Client satisfaction surveys are not new in our industry, however, we believe that the inclusion of candidate perspectives is,” said Bob Benson, Slayton’s Chairman. “What candidates think is a critical dimension in measuring the success of a search. And most importantly, the views of the candidates are central to helping build our clients’ image as an employer of choice. Our clients engage us to represent them in the best possible manner. How we accomplish that has a major impact on the attractiveness of a company to executives in their space.” That is why Slayton is taking the lead in the search industry to determine how candidates feel about their experience – setting the industry standard for providing candidates with an outstanding experience.

Slayton wants to ensure that each candidate is given an opportunity to provide his or her views concerning the way they were treated – both by Slayton and by the client. This will ensure that the candidates are treated with professionalism, courtesy, fairness and that they receive regular updates on their status during the course of the search. All responses to the quality assurance surveys will be carefully considered and the results will become an important element in the determination of Slayton’s consultant compensation related to quality. Slayton has also committed to regularly reporting its candidate survey findings, favorable or not, back to their clients.
I also should say that for those who are readers here, and you say to yourself, I think I have seen Benson's name here before, you would be right. A month or so ago, I posted a piece called Why Do You Work? If you read it, then you, like me, would not have been surprised to see Bob's leadership reflected in what Slayton has committed itself to do.

Kudos Bob et al. I hope it starts a trend.