Friday, April 25, 2008

New Rules - Old Rules - Our Rules

It is always nice to get a call from a major news network asking you to appear on one of their programs and to comment on a subject about which they apprently think you have some level of expertise. The one this past week however, turned into an unexpected and very interesting experience.

I should quickly add however that having to get there for a live interview at 7:00 in the morning which translated into getting up at 4:00 added nothing to enhance the experience, although it does give one much more respect for those folks like Matt, Merideth, et al who do it every day. Not something I would look forward to for sure.

Anyway, the program is called Money for Breakfast and the segment is what Fox calls The C-Suite Sit Down which is a regular feature on the show.

The unexpected experience came about when I discovered they have a particular question that they always use to close these interviews. They call it Three Rules. I had never heard of it before, but once they told me about it, it reminded me of the monologue that Bill Maher does at the end of his show each week and calls "New Rules as well what they do to close James Lipton's wonderful show Inside the Actors Studio when they ask each guest the same set of questions at the end like "what's your favorite word" etc.

Fox's variation on this theme is to ask the guest to share what they feel are three things that are really important to them when it comes to their business. I have to say, it gives you a funny feeling in your stomach when someone asks you something that important and you are limited in both time and number in terms of responding. The fact that it is on national television doesn't add much to your comfort level either.

Since all of this came up late in the day before the show, it gave me essentially the night before the interview to think about it, something which I can tell you is definitely not conducive to a good night's sleep, especially when you have to get up at 4:00 in the bargain.

The point of the exercise, of course, is to get their guests to share with the audience what at ExecuNet we sometimes characterize as "key learnings" in the hope that they might be of some help or interest to others.

I have no idea if what follows will or won't be of some help or interest to others, but I offer it in spirit of sharing; not the sharing of advice, but of one person's perspective. What I came up were not "rules" so much as they are beliefs:

1. Any relationship that we have, either inside or outside of our business, is based on TRUST.

2. An organization's culture should be about a feeling of working "WITH" not "FOR."

3. Everything that we say or do reflects on us all both individually and collectively.
If others have "three rules" of their own, I would love to see them and others probably would too.

If you wanted to see the entire interview you can click here. It runs around five minutes.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Deciding Who Leads: How Executive Recruiters Drive, Direct and Disrupt the Global Search for Leadership Talent

If this sounds like it ought to be the title of a book, it's because it is.

Ever since I had known that Joe McCool (a name that is known to almost anyone who follows the executive recruiting world) was going to write a book, I was wondering how I could say something about it here without it sounding too self-serving inasmuch as Joe is a Senior Contributing Editor with ExecuNet.

My worries were answered, as they often are by Robyn Greenspan our Editor-in-Chief who in our Executive Insider newsletter that was published today featured an interview that she did with Joe. In it, she does a far better job than I ever could in giving readers a 10,000 foot view of just a few of the subjects Joe covers in this first book on the executive search industry published since 1986. Here's what she had to say and Joe's responses:

Would I be featuring this book if the author, Joe McCool, was not a trusted colleague and friend? Absolutely, because executives who recruit will find it fascinating and insightful, and executives who work with recruiters to achieve their own career goals will be enlightened to learn the inside scoop. In this Q&A, Joe and I talk about how executives can use the messages in Deciding Who Leads: How Executive Recruiters Drive, Direct & Disrupt the Global Search for Leadership Talent [Davies-Black, 2008] to their advantage.

Robyn Greenspan (RG): Why should executives read this book? What will they learn about executive recruiting that will help their own career plans?

Joseph Daniel McCool (JDM): I believe it offers today's executives a lot of perspective about how their career plans might eventually marry with the organizational leadership agenda of a new employer. I think executives will come away from the book with a fresh view of the role so-called "executive headhunters" play in management recruiting and also about how the process is still plagued by dysfunction. I hope it also informs their own interactions with executive recruiters and offers some rationale for why they should enter the career courtship process with their eyes wide open and with the utmost discretion, since it usually only proves successful for one or maybe two of the dozens of executives who might be contacted during the course of any search assignment.

RG: What's the most significant change you discovered in the executive recruiting business in the period since John Byrne's book, The Headhunters, was published in 1986?

JDM: Actually, the thing I was most struck by was just how little has changed since Byrne's 1986 assessment of the executive recruiting business and the state of corporate management succession. Perceptions about executive recruiters haven't moved one iota since his book was published, although it is important to point out that the practice of executive search has really been institutionalized across corporate America. The bottom line is that many companies need to start getting smart about management succession and become better consumers of the executive search business. The status quo isn't serving the best interests of employer organizations or of executive job candidates, and Deciding Who Leads really identifies the kind of sophistication employers and executive candidates need to bring to the process.

RG: You make a strong case as to why on-boarding is essential for executive success in a new position. What should a newly hired executive do to get acclimated if their recruiter or new employer does not offer on-boarding assistance?

I think smart executives are insisting on some form of performance feedback relatively early on in their tenure in a new leadership role, so they'll have some actionable intelligence to plot a course correction if they got off on the wrong foot or failed to make a really positive first impression. The fact is that management churn costs companies a lot of money, and failure in a new role can have dire consequences for any executive from a career advancement point of view. Organizations need lifelong learners in key executive roles, and I believe today's best leaders are those who will be willing to learn from their new environment and learn how their performance is perceived within it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

It's Not a Program, It's a Process

For quite a while, I have followed a blog written with wonderful wit and sensitivity by GL Hoffman which he calls What Would Dad Say.

Maybe I like it so much because our sense of humor seems in sync or his philosophy regarding career and/or life management seems to be very much in the same ballpark as my own. I am not sure, but it also could be because somehow he finds the time to post stuff daily if not hourly. Not only is there volume, but it is well written and worth reading. No wonder I like it.

Anyway, he had a long post today which he called This is a Story about Networking and Not about Ohio State Football. It was an apt title and if you are curious enough to see how one connects to the other, I would suggest you check out the post. I think those folks who have the perception that networking is only something one does when they are looking for a job will find it particularly instructive.

I have been talking about effective networking being a process and not a program for so long now that I often think that I have worn the phrase out, but in reading about coach Tressel's actions in Hoffman's post, I think that he serves as the best example I have heard of in a long time that proves that real networking much more about giving than it is about getting.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Don't Let The World Happen To You

At this stage of the game, I don't think that even Pollyanna would be that bullish on the outlook for our economy. Economic forecasters, at least some of them, are still deciding if we are officially in a recession or not. Time will tell if the economic sky is really falling or if it’s just passing summer storm.

Since we our marking our 20th anniversary this year, ExecuNet has been around long enough to have gone through economics downs and up, so I guess it isn't surprising that we get questions from members on how they should approach the management of their careers when things are looking the way they are now. The short answer is that while the instinct for most of us is to hunker down, dodge the raindrops and ignore the old axiom "the best defense is a good offense." Instead they just hope for the best and wait for the world to happen to them.

Anyone who hasn't internalized by now that when it comes to your professional work life, no one cares about you more than you I would have to wonder if anything approaching a heartbeat would show up on their EKG. I come from the school that believes that proactive beats reactive every time. Point being that in good times or bad, the need for talent, especially with the factors impacting the executive market these days, is intense to say the least. Frankly, I think it is even truer in a down economy when the challenges to an organization both inside and out are even tougher to manage.

I doubt that any of this would come as a big surprise to anyone, at least on an intellectual level, but when it comes to what people actually do, it if very often a different story. Indeed, over the years, countless people have said the same thing to me: “I just can’t believe that I didn’t do something about this sooner.”

Don’t let it happen to you.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Name of the Game

A couple of days ago, I returned from attending ERE's Spring Expo in San Diego. While I have been to the Left Coast many times, this was my first time to visit San Diego.

The fact that I came back at all was a major test of self-discipline and will power, and for those readers who have been to San Diego, you will know exactly what I mean, especially after living in the Northeast in January through March. Just kidding, I love it in New England, but I have to say, the weather out there was something to treasure for sure.

Anyway, back to the ERE experience. This was my first ERE Expo, although as a company we have been to several. At this particular event, in addition to exhibiting, ExecuNet was asked to help do a summary of the "learnings" that participants were exposed to over the two days that came from a variety of well-known experts such as:

Lou Adler, CEO of The Adler Group , Jeremy Eskenazi Managing Principal Riviera Advisors, John Leech Director of Recruitment at FedEx, Shally Steckerl, Founder of JobMachine, Dr. John Sullivan and Penelope Trunk Boston Globe Columnist aka The Brazen Careerist, and this is only a sampling.

Trying to cover all the of the workshops and tracks that were offered was a challenge to say the least, but there were five of us out there, and while it made for some longish days, we got to almost everything, and as this is written, are preparing a white paper executive summary that will be sent by ERE to all the those attending since one of the toughest things about attending a conference such as this is making the difficult choices regarding what tracks you are going to go to when there are always things going on at the same time that you want to hear.

The purpose of the closing summary that we were asked to sponsor was to try and quickly summarize what the key learnings were while things were still fresh in people's minds. So, with conference chair Trudy Knoepke-Campbell Director of National Recruitment for Minuteclinic we tried to lead the group through what we felt were the key points that came out of the conference.

At one point, there was a question asked that really helped me to focus and express what the most important takeaway was, at least for me. The question went something like this: "If you were to summarize in one word what you felt expressed the key headline message over the course of the conference, what would it be?"

I wasn't sure if this was asked to make sure that I didn't go on too long, or if it was asked to help the group focus. I elected to assume it was the latter, and my response was: TRUST.

Some very smart people had spent a lot of time talking about ways and means to recruit and retain in a market place that, despite an economy that was contracting, going to remain very competitive both home and away for some time to come.

As I thought about it, it really didn't make a lot of difference if an organization was recruiting or working to build a culture in which people would want to stay once the "selling" was over, if they did not fundamentally trust the organization’s leadership, the brand, their boss, or their colleagues the relationship was doomed.

A company can have the best technology going and all that good stuff, but if they do not have a culture and values that actually support all the "copy" of a mission statement or the letters to stockholders from the CEO will not stem the departure of people in search of something/someone in which to believe, and judging from where things stand at the moment (think sub-prime debacle for openers) we still have lots of work to do.