Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The "Joys" of Leadership - NOT

Here's something that probably falls very much into the category of "so tell me something that I don't know." Being a manager is no easy deal. Indeed, anyone who has ever had to manage a staff knows exactly what I am talking about. Over the years I, like thousands if not millions of others, have read all sorts of articles and books on the topic of managing, not to mention hearing more speeches than I can remember.

What brought all this to mind was a discussion that I had been following in our online GM Roundtable. Members were exchanging views on various aspects of running a business and dealing with the myriad issues that arise be they involving people or products or both.

As you might expect, there were a number of comments surrounding how people felt about and made tough decisions, especially when it came to having to fire people. Adding to this discussion was Kevin Cronin who posted the following:

Early in my career, I heard an accomplished turn-around CEO respond to a question about whether or not he ever lost sleep over people that he had to fire. He said that he had not because there was always some justification for the action. He went on to say that the only times he had lost sleep was when he kept someone on too
long who should have been let go earlier because it caused poor performance
and significant stress to the organization. I have found this a helpful
reflection when dealing with these situations.
I thought this was a very telling remark and one with which I supected many would agree.

As I continued to reflect on what Kevin had to say (and I very much appreciate his allowing me to use his real name) it reminded me of what I have always thought made the role of a manager so challenging.

Simply put I think what makes it so hard for so many of us is that all three of the things that a manager (read: leader) is really asked to do are things that are subjective, not objective.

The three magic "joys" of managing - hiring, firing, and evaluating.

Anybody want to add to the list?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Put 100 Career Counselors in a Room

"Put 100 career counselors in a room and ask them to identify the single most effective way to land a great job, and 98 of them will say that it's networking. Why? For two reasons:

First, many of the best employment opportunities are never advertised. You won't find them posted on job boards or even on a company's own Web-site. Collectively, they are known as "the hidden job market." Employers only want to interact with top candidates for these positions, and they believe the best way to find such prospects is by networking.

Second, because the opportunities in the hidden job market are not advertised, most people never even hear about them. Far fewer people, as a result, apply for these openings which means that there's less competition for them. Not only are they among the best openings available at any point in time, but the odds of being the successful applicant are often better than with advertised positions."
Thus began an article by Pete Weddle in his October 15th issue of his widely-read newsletter in which he often features a column entitled WEDDLE's Research Factoid. In this case, the "Factoid" was called The Overlooked Strategy and was based on the results of a survey he ran on WEDDLE's between 1/1/07 and the end of August. He had 11,700 responses to the two question survey: "where did you find your last job and where do you expect to find your next one?"

Only 10.5% said that they got their last job via networking or at a business event, and Pete said an even smaller percent said they used online networking (including the buzz word of the day "social networking") as part of their search process. Amazing!

Given the data that one sees almost on a daily basis on how people get their next gig, I was really surprised to see the number that low. I guess Pete was too which is why I suspect he called the piece "The Overlooked Strategy."

Pete doesn't say what the demographic of the respondents was, so it is totally a matter of conjecture as to what sort of job levels he was talking about but I have to believe that it did not include a significant number of senior level executives.

We have been asking our members similar questions ever since we started doing some serious survey work some fifteen years ago and the numbers what we got have always been in the 60s and 70s. At the moment, it remains at 70% and has been at that level for quite some period of time.

While I remain surprised at Pete's figures, I certainly am on board with his key point in terms of the real driver of networking success:
"The key is to practice the Golden Rule: network with others the way you would like them to network with you."
Said differently, effective networking has, so far as I know, always been about an attitude and lifestyle of giving long before you worry about getting.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Man In The Arena

There is a great post today, as there is almost any day you look, from Tech Crunch. Even if you are not on the bleeding edge of all things in the digital universe, it is still a fascinating blog. It is edited by Michael Arrington and this particular post focused on cyber-investor Yossi Vardi and his thoughts on how he decides on what and in who to invest.

The title of the post readers my recognize comes from a famous speech and quote by Teddy Roosevelt in which he talks about risk taking and the courage it takes.

In any event, there was one line in the post that apparently not only resonated with me when I read it, but with lots of other folks given the number of comments made so far. There were 56 the last time I looked.

The sentence was: "...He generally doesn’t look at business plans at all, and just invests in the individual."

Think about it. Every person who has inspired you, every boss or teacher you have ever had for whom you had great respect, every co-worker you admire, etc., it's always about the individual and what you see in them.

That is just one of the reasons that my own philosophy on hiring as always been built around indivual attitude and passion, not skill.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The "Q" Generation

I don't know if everyone in the country knows who Tom Friedman is or not, but if they don't, I wish they did. I have written posts on any number of things he has written about any number of times. I can't help it. I think he is one of the most brilliant thinkers of our times and, at least to my mind, the gift he has in terms of how he communicates in writing is enough to take one's breath away.

If you didn't catch his op-ed piece in the NY Times today, check it out. He is talking about the need for what he has labeled the "Q" generation (college students) to be much more active in terms of trying to make, what we laughingly refer to these days as political leadership in America, really accountable and focused on critical issues - e.g. global warming.

There are a number of great lines in this piece, but two paragraphs in particular stuck me:
"Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy didn’t change the world by asking people to join their Facebook crusades or to download their platforms. Activism can only be uploaded, the old-fashioned way — by young voters speaking truth to power, face to face, in big numbers, on campuses or the Washington Mall. Virtual politics is just that — virtual." and his closing paragraph :
"Maybe that’s why what impressed me most on my brief college swing was actually a statue — the life-size statue of James Meredith at the University of Mississippi. Meredith was the first African-American to be admitted to Ole Miss in 1962. The Meredith bronze is posed as if he is striding toward a tall limestone archway, re-enacting his fateful step onto the then-segregated campus — defying a violent, angry mob and protected by the National Guard."
"Above the archway, carved into the stone, is the word “Courage.” That is what real activism looks like. There is no substitute."
There's not much to say after that.

Monday, October 08, 2007

What's In A Name?

You really have to love the Internet! I just wish I had the time to find sites like Buzzwhack which my colleague Robyn Greenspan, our resident and much loved Internet Junkie sent to me today. Among other things, Buzzwhack comes up with a Buzzword of the day, and since Robyn knows I get a kick out of off-beat job titles (yeah, I know, I need to get a life!) she fired it off to me.

Actually, it isn't just me who's interested in the "title of the week" stuff. At ExecuNet, we have been following it for a bit as well in terms of how companies are using different titles to describle some of the senior level executives, a few examples of which have been:

Chief Digital Officer
Chief Encouragement Officer
Chief Innovation Officer
Chief Learning Officer
Chief Momentum Officer
Chief Networking Officer
Chief Officer of Ideas
Chief People Officer
Chief Performance Officer
Chief Sustainability Officer
Click Quality Czar
Corporate Workplace Executive
Enthusiast Evangelist*
Senior Simplification Specialist
Vice President of Global Sales Excellence

*my personal favorite
In any event, the word of the day was COR and was offered up as the latest C-level title, which apparently stands for (are you ready?) Chief Obstacle Remover. The guy who came up with it was Michael Thiel, president of IC Intracom US, but whose business card says his title is COR

Some of the titles I have seen over the years I thought were fairly cool, and I think this one is "cool" too, but from a leadership perspective, I also like it because I think it sends a nice "branding" message on both a personal and professional level.

To his customers it says "I'm here to help" and to his staff it says "I feel my role is to do all I can to enable you to do your job so we can all serve our customers better." It also, I think, says something about Thiel as a person. I don't know if it is true or not, since I have never met or talked to him, but the impression I get when I see the title is that he understands that leadership (at least over the long haul) doesn't come from titles, it comes in large measure from helping others.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Time Flies When You're Having Fun?

For those who work in the staffing world, Kevin Wheeler is a name that needs neither introduction nor defending. He is both well known and very well respected on both a personal and professional level. Kevin is also a regular contributor to ERE, and one of his recent posts caught my eye because it dealt in part with what goes on in the life of a recruiter. The title of the article is: Multitasking: The Key to Success: Challenges that only the agile recruiter will be able to conquer.

If you have never been one or if you are a candidate waiting to hear from one and are wondering what's going on, Kevin's piece may well help in understanding and therefore mitigating to some degree the level of frustration that thousands if not millions of candidates feel in being part of a process that from the candidate's perspective is often not well understood.

Indeed, in the 20 years that ExecuNet has been around, to say the failure on the part of recruiters to respond has been a major complaint would be the understatement of the year. It is a complaint that has followed the recruiting world for many, many years, and of which the profession is acutely aware.

That being said, when we talk with recruiters, as we do on a daily basis, it is a major source of frustration to them as well, but awareness doesn't necessarily translate to progress or in saying that some happy medium has been reached. Ask both candidates and recruiters alike and I think both would say we have a long way to go.

Anyway, since the readers of this blog (or maybe I should just say reader?) tend to be senior level executives, I thought suggesting they give Kevin's article a stare might be useful.

If you decide to read it, keep in mind that what he is describing is a recruiter who "gets it" and who behaves like someone who understands that they represent not only themselves but who also understand that they represent a profession. Not everyone "gets it" in any profession which is why the ones who do have earned the reputations they have and of which they are justifiably proud. They are also, by the way, those with whom we like to do business.