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Sunday, 26 January 2014

Looking to Recruit Great People? First Look at What Talent You Already Have!

The news of the significant drop in the unemployment rate to 7.1% in the past week has caused me to consider the implications as far as SMEs in the United Kingdom are concerned. 

There has been a distinct trend of late with members of my Vistage Chief Executive group who have been looking to recruit personnel and who are finding it beginning to be difficult. 

The consistent mantra in the group is to build a business with only the best people certainly in senior positions, a theme emphasised by Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great. 

Veteran Vistage speaker Lee Thayer says that businesses should employ only virtuosos (or should that be virtuosi?) to bring to the table radical thinking and new ideas.
The combination of radical thinking and enlightened management who will accept a different point of view rather than the “we’ve always done it this way” approach can be dramatic and lead to dramatic effects on performance. 

The problem is that as employment increases businesses will start to realise that great new talent doesn’t grow on trees and finding new people at a very high standard is going to become even more difficult. 

Indeed as employers realise that their talented people are the future of the business there is little doubt that salaries will start to rise in order to ensure that the people who make a significant contribution to the business will not move on, or at least, not move on easily. 

Retention of good people is not, of course, solely down to salary and financial rewards.   Access to personal growth, a learning environment, a no-blame culture, an inclusive attitude and acceptance of different thinking all contribute to enhanced levels of retention of good people. 

However, some do move on for whatever reason and need to be replaced.  In this rapidly changing economic environment it is unlikely that the very best people whom we are seeking will be found in the ranks of the unemployed. 

If that is the case then it will be necessary to do one (or both) of two things: look for people who are currently and probably happily employed and/or look afresh at your people with an open approach to uncover existing talent. 

The issue is that in a mature business many of the people come in to work, take off their coats and hang them up, take off their brains and hang them up and at the end of the day pit them back on again and go home very often to do something like running a youth club or being a sports coach or hosting book clubs. 

The point is that we more often than not do not know who are talented in the business or even what talents they have outside of their current occupation. 

There are people on your business who can make a contribution for which you may well be looking and, to repeat, recruitment from outside will become more and more difficult as the economy improves. 

Moreover, people recruited from outside will always ring with them baggage from their previous employment which has the potential to be problematic and sometime even disruptive.

All in all then, the best approach is to see what talent you already have in the business.  Board meetings should include on the agenda a talent spotting section so that everyone will start to look for, consciously, the next set of potential leaders. 

It will be your good people who will move on if the environment is stifling or exclusive, so seek and ye shall find.  Don’t seek and ye shall lose out in the long run. 
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Sunday, 19 January 2014

Why Change? We’ve Always Done it That Way. Take a Risk, Dare to be Different!

Can you remember how athletes used to perform the high jump?  The only method used to be the Scissors where the athlete lifted the lead leg up and over the bar followed, if fortunate, by the rest of the body.  The best height that this method achieved was just over 6ft. 

There were several techniques such as the Western Roll which followed until an athlete called Dick Fosbury revolutionised the sport with what became known as the Fosbury Flop, a technique which had the athlete going over the bar almost backwards and certainly leading with the head and the legs following later. 

The current world record using this method and which was set in 1999 is just over 8ft. 

The question is: who ever uses the scissors or the western roll today?  Indeed, it would be fascinating even to see these old methods and compare them with today’s. 

The point is that Fosbury dared to be different and by being so he revolutionised the whole sport both in method and performance. 

In swimming, the butterfly stroke was originally conceived as an improvement on the conventional breast stroke and was so successful that the ruling bodies decided that it deserved a place of its own. 

I remember an old leg break bowler in our cricket club whose bowling action was akin to that if a demented octopus and who terrified opposing batsmen who were constantly unable to decide where the next weird delivery was coming from and more importantly what it was going to do. 

All of these geniuses dared to be different and didn’t care what others thought of them; they had their methods and that was sufficient.
The old adage of “if it ain’t broke, leave it alone” has some value but I recently heard someone say “if it ain’t broke, break it and then fix it!” 

Whatever we do in business can and frequently does become routine and we occasionally wonder why it is that performance is poor or at best slack. 

So perhaps we should start to question everything that we do.  We should ask why we do something that way and crucially why are we doing it anyway! 

Breaking the rules should not just be the province of the maverick in business (and, by the way, I firmly believe that every business should have one) but it should be an automatic reaction that allows new and innovative ideas to find space to flourish. 

If you break the rules of the game you can change the game itself and that might be just what is needed in a business especially one which is, to be kind, approaching maturity. 

We need to pull ourselves out of that comfort and complacency zone into which we can very easily fall and impart considered change perhaps even to shock people into a realisation that the status quo isn’t necessarily nirvana.
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Sunday, 12 January 2014

Somebody Leaving the Business? Make Sure That It’s With a Handshake and Not a Tribunal!

I am always delighted (and flattered) when readers whose opinion I value respond to a blog post with comments and suggestions, hopefully positive ones. 

Following my recent post about finding the right maxim at the right time, Vistage speaker Arti Halai (www.fleetstreettraining.com) sent me a note which I would very intriguing.  She said: 

“When asked, leaders often say ‘their people’ and ‘culture’ are very important to them. The true test, I believe, comes not only when hiring people but more tellingly, when people are asked to leave. 

How does the company behave towards those people it is making redundant or having to let go?  How are they spoken about and how will they (the people who have left) speak about the company afterwards?” 

Over the years I have heard leaders say that they would always want people who are leaving the business for whatever reason to go as “good leavers” rather than bad ones. 

That is a laudable objective:  logically we would always prefer to have people in the community speaking well of the business and whenever we can achieve that goal than all the better. 

Research has told us that, on average, people will tell friends and acquaintances of a bad experience approximately 13 times while they will relate the story of a good experience twice. 

That is a daunting prospect and strengthens Arti’s assertion that what leaders want are people leaving the business, if not necessarily happy, then at least in a frame of mind which understands and accepts that the parting was necessary or even inevitable. 

I do not believe that the acceptable parting must devolve on a financial arrangement.  Certainly it is essential to do the right thing by the individual in whatever way if most appropriate. 

For example, the retention of a car for a period after leaving, offering the facilities of an outplacement organisation and even assisting then with the legal aspects of the situation are all positive and help to develop an atmosphere of reason and objectivity. 

It goes without saying that all aspects of employment law must be followed without exception but it can still be done in an adult and reasonable way. 

Certainly we need to hire people on the basis of their attitude rather than merely experience and/or skills and we will tend to have people leave for exactly the same reasons. 

The art of both hiring and firing is to ensure that people are always engaged and when they eventually leave the business it will be with at least a handshake rather than a tribunal.
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Sunday, 5 January 2014

Looking for Some Inspiration? Find the Right Maxim Then JFDI!!

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am an avid and dedicated collector of maxims, quotes and mantras and I spend a great deal of time in looking for new examples.  Too much time probably when I should be doing something more productive. 

Thanks to the good offices of Marcus Child and David Caton Roberts, I have come across this epic: 

·       “All the maxims that are ever needed have been written - the challenge is in implementing them” 

How true is that! 

True, not every maxim demands action and some are merely sage advice, if sage advice can be described as merely. 

Nevertheless, it is a brave soul who will say that every maxim that has come their way has been implemented and frankly this goes for much advice and counselling that we hear as well. 

The tendency is to nod wisely in total agreement, perhaps pass it on to other needy souls and then get on with life. 

When I was doing rather more active consultancy than I do nowadays I constantly felt short changed when I presented a report with its Executive Summary listing all the tasks which needed to be done to accomplish the objective of the study, knowing full well that it would be filed under R for report and perhaps looked at in a couple of years time by the probable successors to the management. 

I had a friend who was also involved in business consultancy and he was brave enough to tell potential clients that he was prepared only to undertake a study on the basis that he would be equally involved in its implementation. 

A very laudable approach and one that he proved to be successful even though the potential for problems at a later stage are considerable.  That is why Professional Indemnity insurance is a good idea. 

I am in the process of reading (on Kindle) a truly excellent book, The Chimp Paradox by Dr Steve Peters which describes the difference between the rational Human brain and the irrational and emotional Chimp brain which we all have in abundance. 

In effect, the Human brain would say that it is important, having read a maxim or had a report published that the obvious and sensible thing to do is to implement it as soon and as effectively as possible. 

Correct, but this ignores the siren sound of the Chimp brain saying things like:

·       It won’t work
·       Who is going to implement all that stuff?
·       What will you gain by doing it?
and so on and so on. 

Modern life is full if distractions and the Chimp brain takes full advantage of it hence the likelihood that something else will take the place of the so-called priority. 

Unless we take action and JFDI all the brilliant advice and sage sayings in the world are nothing but froth.  Taking action, knowing that the Chimp brain will try to change your mind for you, gives a great sensation of well-being and accomplishment and that can’t be a bad thing at any time. 

I will leave you with another little mantra: 

·       Think, Feel, Do 

I wish you all a very happy, prosperous and peaceful 2014.
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