Transitioning New Talent

An effective search process consists of four steps – identification, attraction, evaluation, and successful acceptance of an offer. Whether your most recent hire came from an internal referral, an in-house recruitment team, or an executive search firm, knowing that a key role is filled can feel like a  weight has  been lifted  from your shoulders. Your work here is done!

Or is it just getting started?

A study by The Wynhurst Group found that over 20% of staff turnover occurs in the first 45 days of employment, and that new employees who went through a structured on-boarding program were almost 60% more likely to be with the organization after three years.

Transition breakdowns occur when new employees either misunderstand the essential demands of the situation, or they lack  the  skill  and  flexibility  to  adapt  to  them.  In  either situation, a responsibility exists during the first three months on the behalf of a hiring manager to help new hires build significant momentum during that transition. If the goal is to decrease the amount of time it takes for an employee to become a net contributor of value, what steps can be taken to achieve this goal?

Diagnosis Before Prescription
Often, challenges of transition acceleration vary depending upon situational factors, and so it is essential to match the strategy to the situation. The key is to engage in careful diagnosis and then adapt some general principles to the demands of the situation.

Don’t be afraid to ask past hires for feedback on the onboarding process! Solicit feedback when the experience is fresh enough to garner recent perspectives, and be open to continuous improvement. Most organizations conduct exit interviews, but very few proactively interview employees to gauge their satisfaction while they still are happily employed with the company.

New Skills
Throughout the entirety of the interviewing process, conversations revolved around the prospective hire’s existing skills and experiences. If those skills and experiences are what landed this individual in the new role, it will come as a surprise to most of them that a common mistake is to believe they will be successful in the new role by simply continuing to do what they did in their previous role.

Yes, common responsibilities will exist from organization to organization, but in the face of so much change it is necessary to carefully examine and align daily expectations with existing skill-sets.

Instead, help a new associate embrace the feeling, and fear, of a steep learning curve. Help avoid a vicious cycle of frustration and  defensiveness  by  figuring  out  what  it  is  they  need  to learn, by when, and with whose help.

Be aware of the other end of this spectrum – the compulsive need to take immediate action on everything and anything possible! Put a specific, paced learning program in place and evaluate progress consistently.

Secure Early Victories
An initial transition period lasts only a few months, but the goal of those few months should be to secure early wins. The challenge is that the term “win” can be a relative term! There must be  mutual understanding of  measurable objectives in the first few months; this will not only ensure accountability, but build faith from both sides that this is a successful and long-term fit. Eventually, strategic issues and redefined systems and restructuring of organizational goals can all be conquered, but first it is necessary to build credibility in the short term to lay a foundation for long term goals.

Cultural Connections
No matter how strong a connection a new hire has made during the interviewing process, it is critical to create cultural connections with employees outside of the direct reporting structure. It can be difficult for existing and tenured staff to adjust to outsiders, and transitionary mentor partners can make a tremendous difference for a new employee. This mentor can be responsible for setting up a group lunch, a welcome happy hour, and a dinner with spouses over the course of the first two months. Keep the new hire’s family in mind; a new job means adjustment for the entire family, especially with relocation.  Include spouses and children when possible to ease the transition and help them feel comfortable within the organization and community.

Finding People Who Make a Difference®
The genesis of a successful match begins far before the onboarding process is initiated; our proprietary Dimensional Search Process® matches technical fit, chemistry, culture, expectations and experiential translation to help ensure the foundation for a long-term and mutually beneficial partnership between employee and employer. To learn more about successful strategies for transitioning talent, reach out to your Sanford Rose Associates® executive search consultant
today.

-Karen Schmidt

A Culture of Confidence

Turns out, there are benefits that come from being a cocky teenager. Although your parents might have been counting down the days until you flew the nest, that swagger means you’ll likely end up earning a higher salary than those of your more modest friends. According to the Journal of Economic Psychology, their “Self-Esteem and Earnings” study showed that your level of confidence is at least as important as how smart you are when it comes to how much money you end up making. In fact, self-esteem can affect salary as much as cognitive ability.

So, besides providing a silver lining for parents of arrogant adolescents, what does the Journal’s study mean for the workplace?

Confidence increases productivity and causes you to choose more challenging tasks, which make you stand out amongst your peers. You naturally create a more cohesive workplace environment; confident people celebrate the accomplishments of others as opposed to insecure individuals who try to steal the spotlight and criticize others in order to prove their worth. Speaking first and often (a sign of high self-esteem) makes others perceive you as a leader. In fact, over-confident people are more likely to be promoted than those who have actually accomplished more.

“This is the classic definition of self-efficacy, and it may be the most central belief driving individual success. People who believe they can succeed see opportunities, where others see threats. They are not afraid of uncertainty or ambiguity, they embrace it. They take more risks and achieve greater returns. Given the choice, they bet on themselves.”
– Marshall Goldsmith, “The Success Delusion”

The fact that successful people tend to be delusional isn’t as bad as it sounds; our belief in our own eminence is what gives us confidence. Even though we are not as good as we believe we are, this confidence actually helps us become more than we would have otherwise.

Even for the most tenured of individuals, this applies. How do successful people wake up each morning with zest and enthusiasm to tackle another day? It’s not because they are reminding yourself of the mistakes they have made and the failures they have endured. On the contrary, it’s because they edit out those failures and choose to run the highlight reel of their successes. When actions lead to positive results that make us look good, we love to replay it for ourselves – and we should! That optimism is what gives us the ability to stay the course and not buckle when times get tough or challenges arise.

Now, the intent of this article is certainly not to encourage narcissistic self-obsessed behavior impervious to external criticism; rather, to be the best at anything often requires you to be your own harshest critic. But if confidence makes us feel good, gives us grit, and makes for a more productive workplace, what can we do to instill confidence in those we lead? Of course, the phrase “fake it until you make it” offers one approach; forcing a smile can lift one’s mood and striking a powerful pose can make you feel more commanding even when in doubt. As a leader, how can you create a confidence-boosting environment?

First, set reasonable expectations. Set the bar where it really is on an individual basis, as opposed to universal standards that may not be met. In other words, redefine what it means to be competent and highlight the small incremental gains needed to build a bridge from current achievement to future potential. Focus on small wins each day; authentic confidence is a result of success, not a cause.

Second, consider retraining the brain on how to interpret fear of failure. When facing a daunting task that incites insecurity, replace negative thoughts of intimidation with positive ones relating to the opportunity at hand. Ask “I know this is a big project to tackle – what are you most excited about?” or “What are you most interested in learning as a result of taking on this new assignment?” Adrenalin is the same for fear and for excitement; by replacing negative thoughts with positive ones, you let adrenalin work for you instead of against you.

Third, focus on learning from failures. Believing in yourself is good; forgiving yourself is better. Even the most successful, competent people are constantly making mistakes – that’s how we learn.

“The responsibility of a leader is to provide cover from above for their people who are working below. When the people feel that they have the control to do what’s right, even if it sometimes means breaking the rules, then they will more likely do the right thing.
Courage comes from above. Our confidence to do what’s right is determined by how trusted we feel by our leaders.”
– Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last

To see failure in a positive light, keep a running list of lessons learned along the way. Every time you make a mistake, write down what you learned and how you will avoid replicating the mistake in the future. Although this might seem counter-productive (who wants to see a checklist of what not to do), it will serve as a historical log of how skills have improved and how those lessons helped shape who you are today.

Finally, keep in mind that confidence and competence are closely related. In nature, plants either grow or decompose; they do not stay the same. In an organization, nourishment is supplied by the broad term of training, but a more accurate term is learning. What is being done within your organization to foster learning, growth, and new perspectives each week? To increase the confidence of those in your charge, it is imperative to nurture an ongoing learning environment through access to courses, conferences, or take on a pet project they are passionate about. The aggregation and implementation of these various tips can serve to boost confidence and thus performance of the organization as a whole!

—Karen Schmidt

The Coaching Challenge

As one responsible for a business’ profitability, I never seem to have the time to coach my people consistently. They have such a limited attention span that I get the feeling, especially with my veterans, that they aren’t really into learning anyway. How do I find the balance and provide them what they need in a format that is of interest and relevant?”

This question ranks as number one among company owners, managers, and even trainers trying to find the balance between their own work load and providing their employees with essential skills and knowledge. We are all experiencing work environments that are intensely more competitive and constantly changing with business goals and objectives that continue to escalate. While there are still only 7 days in a week and 24 hours in a day, our challenge is to do more with those same 7 days and 24 hours than we did just a year ago.

So how do we begin to find the gift of time to coach our people and who is to say they are open to receiving it? It is one of the classic organizational dilemmas.

 

Sink or Swim

For most of us, historically, the concept of coaching and learning comes from the perspective of “throwing them into the water to see if they can swim.” So, naturally, the coaching sounds something like “I just noticed your quarterly numbers are down; you need to get them up! You’ve got to have a high volume of activity to make it at our company.”

This is certainly an understandable paradigm as most of us were raised in results-oriented, bottom line environments. Although these coaching statements are true, the problem is that these comments boil down to “work harder” which only helps if “work harder”is the right answer. The “work harder” response is about as effective as a football coach standing under the goal post and yelling out the score to his team.

 

The Coaching Connection

Key point: If I’m going to position myself as your coach, I’ve got to watch you play the game. This means I have to coach to more than just results or the attempt at results.

One of the best resources for learning to lead and mentor in a meaningful and high impact manner was created by Randall Murphy, founder of the Acclivus Corporation. Their white paper, The Coaching Connection,  explores how in order for coaching and learning to be truly effective, it must be around more than just the results. Coaching must encompass the skills, knowledge, effort and attitudeof the work being done.

Learning Styles

Key Point: Most people are willing to learn if you know how to tap into their learning style. Your challenge is to develop your unique coaching style and your training curriculum so that it engages all four learning styles effectively.

Kinesthetic learners need to understand the application of real-life experiences and tend respond best to role-play exercises.  Auditory learners work best when they can speak, discuss, and think out loud; repition is key for auditory learners.  Visual learners need to be able to read and write notes and literature, and struggle in lectures lacking in visual aids or graphics.  Tactual learners work best in cooperative learning activities and group discussions and interactions.

For the time-conscious manager, the best way to ensure the incorporation of all four learning styles into the training curriculum is through the process known as blended learning. Unlike traditional education, corporate training exists primarily to improve business performance. Blended learning allows for the consideration of each individual (the human factor). A study by Harvard Business School faculty Drs. DeLacey and Leonard Peter found that providing several linked options for learners, in addition to classroom training, significantly increased what they learned.

What’s in a blend? Blended learning includes face to face classroom training, videos, on-line training workshops, one-on-one coaching, as well as webinar guest speakers and literature. Often, for the time-weary manager, utilizing outside resources helps to reinforce a message in a multitude of ways. It is typically the type of message that the manager “harps on” on a daily basis, but when the same message is delivered a different way, or by a different person, it is often at that point the learner suddenly “gets it” – to the obvious frustration of many managers who wondered why their people did not “listen” to them in the first place!

 

Finding People Who Make a Difference®

Inspired employees can play a tremendous part in the growth and success of a company, and for more than 50 years, Sanford Rose Associates® has been committed to “Finding people who make a difference®” for its clients. To learn more about strategies for effective coaching and professional development for your organization, please reach out to your Sanford Rose Associates®executive search consultant today.

                                —Karen Schmidt

Refining the Relocation

Hiring the best of the best? In many situations and for many roles, a commitment to employing the best candidates possible can sometimes involve relocation. Whether this a commonplace occurrence or one that is only approved under the most unique circumstances, there are copious and essential components of a successful relocation that can be refined to create a seamless process for the candidate, the family, and the organization.

For any hiring manager who has been involved with handling relocations, the nightmare stories are plentiful. The moving truck breaks down, high school children threaten emancipation, or the family cat is accidentally packed in a moving box (but survived) are all true stories of relocation fiascos. Assuredly, unexpected situations cannot always be avoided, but are there steps that can methodically be taken to minimize those unexpected situations?

There are.

The House
If your candidate owns a home and will be selling that home, this relocation just increased in complexity. Add the following to your checklist of must-do’s throughout the interviewing process:

  • Contact a realtor to conduct a Comparative Market Analysis for the home, which will provide a more accurate picture of how the property will show and sell compared to others in the neighborhood
  • Request that the realtor gather Multiple Listing Service (MLS) data to help ensure the listing price is competitive and will be sold in a reasonable amount of time
  • Compile information such as the monthly mortgage rate of the current home, how much equity/negative equity exists, any closing costs or realtor fees associated with the sale
  • Know the square footage of the home and any storage areas in order to accurately calculate the approximate cost of a pack, ship, and move
  • If the monthly mortgage rate will increase with the purchase of a new home, consider including a mortgage rate differentiator in the offer to the candidate

The Reimbursement
One of the most ambiguous components of relocation comes down to reimbursable expenses. If there is not simply a set reimbursement based on the level of the hire, what (in addition to the expenses from the moving company) will be reimbursed? The easiest solution of course is to offer a fixed fee based on if the candidate rents or owns, and then varies by the square footage of the home. If there is a desire to be more specific, consider things such as:

  • Will you reimburse for interim housing if needed? What about home-hunting trips prior to the move?
  • What is acceptable for incurred expense reimbursement (paying a deposit for a new cable bill, a maid service to clean the old house prior to selling, the cost of a rental car while theirs is being shipped)
  • Will financial assistance be provided for double mortgage or double rent payments, or reimbursement for trips back home if the candidate is relocating prior to the spouse and children?
  • The candidate will receive an economic benefit from many of the relocation costs; will your organization cover the tax liabilities associated with those benefits, or is it the candidate’s own responsibility?

The Family
Whereas housing and reimbursement decisions can seem relatively straightforward, there is one area of relocation that is nothing but – the family! Many important decisions are made by emotion and then rationalized by facts, and a candidate’s inner circle is going to have a big impact on that emotional decision.

If the candidate is married, get to know that spouse. Is the spouse employed, what do they do, what is their income and will they continue to work in a similar capacity in the new city are all questions that must be answered early on in the recruiting process. Of course children need to be considered, and SRA can assist in putting together a standard “why your city” packet that can be given to every prospective hire. Include information on what makes your town or city great; expand on things such as blue ribbon school systems, city-wide annual events and celebrations, fun attractions to see, must-visit restaurants, or cultural exhibits. This is information that can easily be pulled from your state and city visitor’s bureau, but with some personal details added in, it can be a valuable and professional packet that a candidate can take home with them and review.

The Recruiter
The steps covered in this SRA Update are just a few of dozens and dozens our recruiters take when preparing a candidate for the potential of relocation for your opportunity. We are connected with reputable companies who assist with the move itself, and we can set up visits introducing the family to the area, the schools, and the community. We build relationships with all those involved in making (or breaking) the decision, and can provide insights and feedback throughout your vetting process.

We are here to anticipate the unique challenges that occur when relocating your next hire. Of course, when working with Sanford Rose, we will consult with both you and the candidate on an ongoing basis – but our hope is that we have shared insight into just a few the details that must be considered at every step of the way!

—Karen Schmidt

Measuring the “Unmeasurable”

Most managers thrive when it comes to evaluating an employee’s success related to the hard skills of a role. Achieving measurable quotas, meeting quantifiable objectives, or directly contributing to profit or cost savings are black-and-white and leave little room for subjectivity or interpretation. The challenge most face is in evaluating the soft skills of every role; regardless of the behavioral profiling tools, the interviewing forms, or the qualification summaries utilized, the key is to define what those desired soft skills mean to you.

Put a group of individuals in a room and ask them to come to a consensus as to what ‘good communication skills’ look like or what makes someone a ‘dedicated employee’ and they will stay in that room for quite some time. However, imagine hiring a new employee who understands the expectation that they be a ‘hard worker’. One hiring manager may define ‘hard working’ as working ten hour days and fifty hours per week, and another manager may define ‘hard working’ as twelve hour days and seventy hours per week. While the person in the former example may be receiving an award for their work ethic, the person in the latter example may be getting fired for the same behavior.
Defining specific soft skills and expectations thereof can fall quite low on a priority scale when managers are tasked with much more urgent and critical responsibilities. However, the ability to measure and manage beyond more than performance expectations will not only help ensure the right strategic hire, but help avoid future frustrating evaluations and reviews. The premise of the bestselling book “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” is a popular paradigm for this same issue; disconnects in both personal and professional relationships arise when two individuals have differing understandings of exceptional, average, or unacceptable behaviors and expectations.

The Spectrum of Soft Skills

The process of creating a comprehensive list of every possible personality trait, communication style, social grace, and interpersonal skill required to perform successfully within a role and within a team is overwhelming. Our suggestion is to start with those most critical to a new hire’s success; think of those qualities that you expressed to Sanford Rose Associates® when describing the ideal candidate to join your team. More often than not, what is important to you is easier to articulate than you may realize. If you mentioned qualities like ‘driven’, ‘high integrity’, ‘empathetic’, or ‘innovative thinker’, take a moment to process why those qualities are important to the organization. In most situations, those characteristics are important either because your existing team is strong in those areas, or because past hires have not been and it has caused issues that you would like to avoid with future hires.

 

Team Effort

There is tremendous value in the process of defining expectations for soft skill competencies being a process that includes a team effort. In service of allowing for both input and buy-in of the future expected standards, group participation is a must. Holding employees to newly defined interpersonal skills can be a much more successful endeavor when those employees have played an active part in the creation and explanation of those skills. Over the course of several weeks, take one or several soft skills and begin to put together a comprehensive “playbook” that can be referenced by a new employee, a tenured associate, or a manager.

If you think about any great athletic team, one of the hallmarks of a great coach is their playbook: the sacred diary that has decades of strategy, knowledge, and standards. Even for organizations outside of the NFL, NBA, or FIFA, this playbook is still critical. In the world of effective management, standards of performance require a single-mindedness of those standards; the entire team needs to know exactly what the plays are, or management boils down to nothing more than individual style and opinion. Not only does this cause a manager to lose credibility and impact, discretionary judgment calls will be made from one manager to the next which can result in inconsistent messages and frustrations within the team.

Where to Begin

Once the initial list of the most desirous critical soft skills to measure has been created, where do you begin? If we use the example of defining a ‘good listener’, it may be easier to gain universal consensus of what a ‘good listener’ does not look like. This list can be populated a little easier: multi-tasking during a conversation, does not maintain eye contact, interrupts or finishes sentences, does not ask clarifying or expanding questions, or does not take notes. Once that list of deficient characteristics has been created, take each deficiency and begin to define proficiency. What are all of the ways that multi-tasking can manifest itself in a meeting or conversation? The answers to this question can provide the first measurable definitions of a previously un-measurable situation: does not answer or check mobile phone during meetings (or keeps mobile phone in pocket during meetings), turns off computer monitor, does not accept incoming phone calls, closes the office door.

 

Questions to Ask

Most leaders responsible for hiring have experienced the frustrating situation of a candidate interviewing as one individual and showing up day in and day out as a completely different individual. It is not necessarily the candidate’s fault; many experts share a belief that an individual perceives both their “real self” and their “ideal self”. The “ideal self” is the individual who interviews well and believes in their potential; the “real self” is the individual who arrives at the office each day and follows through on commitments. In order to assist in the successful screening, interviewing, and onboarding of a new employee, be able to articulate answers to these types of questions:

  • How is “successful performance” defined or measured in this role?
  • What are the biggest challenges the candidate will face in this role?
  • What is the first project or assignment for which this candidate will be responsible? What are the expectations for timeline to completion?
  • What are the two most important problems that need to be addressed/corrected in the first six months by the individual in this position?
  • How will this candidate know whether or not they are properly performing their critical functions?
  • What has a past employee accomplished in this role that exceeded expectations?
  • What outcomes, or specific accomplishments, must be achieved through this position and within what timeframe?
  • Following that timeframe, how will the candidate be evaluated, and how often?

Waves of Trust

M.L. Covey, in “The Speed of Trust”, explores an interesting concept surrounding the various layers of trust to which successful managers must be attuned. This foundation must exist first, in every coaching and management relationship, prior to mentoring or directing behavior and objectives. Trust is about behaviors, not beliefs. The challenge is that very few individuals would think of themselves as falling low on the scale of integrity or character. To begin walking the walk and building on whatever level of trust is already established with your team, consider beginning the implementation of this exercise with yourself first. Select what specific soft skill you think would make the biggest individual impact, and publicly declare your deliberate measurable changes and request that your team or peers help hold you accountable to gradual improvement. If you would like to take this exercise even further, solicit input from your team or peers as to what they think your first initiative should be.

This can be where trust is strengthened or broken between management and employees, but spans beyond a professional partnership into a successful business, thriving economy, and influential organizational leadership.

Positive Change or Foundation for the Future

It is important to address a final challenge, which is an employee’s receptiveness toward being coached and consciously working on improving imperative soft skills and emotional intelligence. Even with the gift of a playbook, specific direction, and consistent positive reinforcement, not every employee will be an active player in this new game. The opportunity then exists to either impact those who are receptive and begin to shape the future generations of leadership within your organization, or to accept that there may be individuals within the team who are limited by their own desires and capabilities.

Regardless of the receptivity from your existing team, the exercise of beginning to concretely measure and manage beyond more than performance expectations will help create a long-term roadmap for successful professional partnerships. Most people are willing to grow and evolve; the key is to be able to provide a foundation of trust and universal standards of expected behavior and performance.

Finding People Who Make a Difference®

Once you have quantified these soft skills in the context of your office or culture, use them, along with the candidate’s background and technical skills, to create an ideal match. Sanford Rose Associates® can partner and serve you in both endeavors. “Finding people who make a difference®” is the goal of every search assignment conducted by Sanford Rose Associates®. Sanford Rose Associates® executive search consultants have in-depth industry specific knowledge and take the time to understand their clients’ needs and unique culture. Finding the candidate who not only possesses the requisite skills for a position, but is also a “cultural fit” is crucial. The proprietary Sanford Rose Associates® Dimensional Search® process allows our search consultants to drill deeper and match (1) the client’s expectations for the position with those of the candidate, (2) the technical requirements for the position with the candidate’s education and background, (3) the candidate’s experience and personality with the company’s culture, (4) the chemistry between the hiring manager and the candidate, and (5) the candidate’s experience and prior results with the client’s expectations for the major, measurable initiatives of the position. Engaged employees can play a tremendous part in the growth and success of a company, and for more than 50 years, Sanford Rose Associates® has been committed to “Finding people who make a difference®” for its clients.

—Karen Schmidt

The Next Generation of Leadership

The success of any organization is largely reliant on the strength of the leadership; conveying a vision, formulating strategy, and ultimately driving the direction of a company is no small task. Thus, having a sustained and committed leadership development program can be a key differentiator in the trajectory of a firm. Although bringing in talent from the outside has advantages including fresh ideas, competitive insights and diversification, there is nothing like a home-grown leader. Talent from inside the organization is well versed with the history, processes, systems, structure, and culture already in place. Home-grown talent is also aware of the organization’s strengths and perhaps even more importantly, weaknesses; this allows them to make better and more informed growth-oriented decisions.

How does one start to identify the next generation of leadership within the firm? Instead of relying solely on tenure, keep in mind that your future leaders of your company may be hiding in plain sight. How do you bring them out into the open?

Potential vs. Performance
Quite often, raises and promotions occur based on outstanding performance and the achievement of quotas or goals. Employee performance defines ability and expertise, which is important. However, place equal weight on an individual’s aptitude, desire to grow, and overall potential.

In other words, just because an athlete is one of the best football players of all time does not mean that individual can be an effective coach. Some individuals are not cut out to be leaders, although their performance is at the higher end of the scale. They don’t have the capacity to play leadership roles, they may lack the visionary ability required, or they enjoy the spotlight so much that they will rarely redirect it to others. This is why potential should outweigh performance as a factor when zeroing in on a possible future leader.

Rules of Engagement
Be on the lookout for those employees who have a natural ability to make things happen. They gravitate towards making decisions rather than waiting to see what the status quo will be. Specifically, look for individuals who take action and can speak to how they have tried as opposed to what they think someone else could, or should, do.

A future leader will have a tendency to make suggestions for overall process improvement, rather than asking questions to clarify what is expected of them. Future leaders will take the time to be overly prepared for meetings, projects, and responsibilities – take the time to identify individuals who take things seriously. They understand the importance of any task that has been entrusted to them, no matter how small, and seize it as an opportunity to perform.

Additionally, how does an employee act in a meeting; are they attentive and composed, or distracted and ready to “get back to work?” True leaders are too intensely focused to get restless, too engaged to be nervous, and too invested to be bored.

Necessarily Nimble
We tend to categorize multi-tasking as the ability to juggle several activities simultaneously. Think beyond multi-tasking with activities, and instead look for those who can multi-task with responsibilities. Leaders need to be agile as they can at times be relied upon to light a fire within one group while simultaneously putting out a fire with another. They must not be flustered by an abrupt change in direction or by seamlessly picking up balls that have been dropped – all while still delivering on the core functions of their role.

Put your prospective future leaders to the test and give them some extra responsibilities or perhaps an assignment with a quick turnaround time. Do not be afraid to throw them in at the deep end and keep tabs on how well they swim. Can they handle the extra tasks you have assigned, or are they finding it difficult to be nimble and adapt to the pressure? Do they have a “do whatever it takes” attitude and can stretch when pulled, perhaps even putting in extra hours or soliciting the help of others for direction and support?

Extroversion versus Emotional Intelligence
Particularly in a leadership capacity, one must have a genuine demeanor and a connection with those around them. Not all great leaders are extroverts, so do not make the mistake of gravitating to the loudest talker in the room. Instead, look for those who have a high degree of self-awareness and who take the time to interact with other employees outside of their immediate hierarchy. Future leaders will not be consumed by negative emotions such as fear or victimization, nor do they make excuses for subpar results by blaming a litany of extenuating factors that no normal human could possibly have overcome. When individuals with high emotional intelligence make a mistake and get criticized for it, it does not send them into an emotional tailspin; they view it simply as a fact to be noted, studied and corrected.

Seminary professor J. Carla Northcutt once stated, “The goal of many leaders is to get people to think more highly of the leader. The goal of a great leader is to help people to think more highly of themselves.”

A mark of a future leader is someone secure enough personally to help others advance in their careers. They are confident without being arrogant. They are humble but have a high sense of self-worth. They are comfortable in their own skin without being blasé. They are good listeners but do so with purpose and intention. They can deliver a tough message with a soft hand. They care not about wealth or fame, but about achievement and potential.

-Karen Schmidt

Topgrading

The beginning of the year represents a timely opportunity for employee reviews and providing feedback regarding performance and development. This is a cherished time for most leaders; it is the chance to reflect on the milestones achieved in the past year and the creation of new objectives for the new year. Annual reviews allow managers to praise positive behaviors, award well-earned promotions, and continue to bring out the best in each team member. In organizations around the world, the New Year brings revived optimism.

As a manager, creating a well-rounded and high-performing team is one of the most fulfilling aspects of leadership. Seeing and helping superstars develop, watching individuals become more confident with their unique abilities, and grooming the next generation of leader within the organization is incomparable.

“B” and “C” Players
A less enjoyable component of management is the act of working with and coaching the perpetual underperformers. Every department has them, every leader has struggled with them, and some may even have a few who come to mind immediately. They are the few who we try to encourage, who we try to train, and for whom we hold out hope that change will come, but it can seem like an endless cycle of performance management and frustration.

We all recognize “A” Players. These are the star performers, with the highest potential, and who can step up to and handle any challenge or new scenario. In his book, Leading Apple with Steve Jobs, former Apple senior vice president Jay Elliot details his former boss’ strategies for hiring “A” Players. “I noticed that the dynamic range between what an average person could accomplish and what the best person could accomplish was 50 or 100 to 1. Given that, you’re well advised to go after the cream of the cream … A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.”

So where does that leave the “B” and “C” Players? “B” Players are competent, steady performers who balance their work and personal lives while still performing a significant amount of tasks that need to be done. They stay in their lane, don’t require a great deal of attention, and they get the job done.

On the other end of the spectrum, “C” Players sometimes make up the smallest segment of the team yet require the most time and attention. They are the employees with a constant litany of excuses – a vehicle is broken, someone is sick, excessive days are missed, and the workload either gets passed to someone else or delayed altogether. They walk the fine line between “good enough to get by” and “fireable offense worthy of termination.” They are granted continual employment primarily because the act of hiring, training and managing someone you don’t know is sometimes more intimidating than continuing to deal with the perpetual issues of the presently employed “C” performer.

Topgrading
Most would agree that the ability to recruit and retain the top talent that exists in the industry is paramount to the success of an organization. In Topgrading, industrial psychologist and global consultant Bradford Smart expands on the three levels of contributors within an organization. “Simply put, topgrading is the practice of packing the team with A players and clearing out the C players,” Smart writes. “’A players’ is defined as the top 10 percent of talent available at all salary levels–best of class. With this radical definition, you are not a topgrader until your team consists of all A players. Period.”

Thus, again the question is raised: where does that leave the “B” and “C” Players? Smart writes: “Topgrading does not necessarily mean that you must fire every B player in your company; however, if you currently have less than 90% A-player employees, then you will likely engage in a painful, uphill battle.” Smart advocates that all companies should strive to hire 90% A-players, promote 90% A-Players, and eventually achieve 90% A-players in management.

Proactive vs. Reactive Topgrading
Achieving a team comprised of 90% “A” Players might be a significant leap for most teams. Instead, keep one foot firmly planted in present day reality while making immediate and proactive efforts to improve the future bench. Evaluate those on the team who would score less than a “B+” grade for competency, reliability, and consistency. With those individuals, provide concrete feedback and opportunity for measurable improvement. Negative performance issues should be validated by at least two or three specific examples, and collaborate on a plan to move forward with a resolution.

Consider focusing on proactive hiring that improves the strength of your bench – not just hiring that fills empty seats. Spend less time addressing reoccurring performance issues and instead craft a hiring plan that proactively attracts the “A” or “B+” contributors to the team. Will 100% of an organization be comprised of “A” Players? Not likely. But be proactive in hiring replacements that will create a topgraded bench for 2015 and beyond.

Finding People Who Make a Difference®
The Sanford Rose Associates® Executive Search Network is comprised of independently-owned firms who are committed to “finding people who make a difference®”. Executive Search Review has recognized the totality of the Sanford Rose Associates network as being one of the Top 11 Search Firms in North America. Sanford Rose Associates has 60+ offices worldwide and is a member of the International Executive Search Federation (IESF). To learn more about how to create a bench of “A” Players, please reach out to your Sanford Rose Associates® executive search consultant today.

—Karen Schmidt

Embracing the Entitled

Be honest; when you read the title of our SRA Update, did it immediately conjure up an image of a selfie-taking, social media addicted, text-obsessed millennial? Before we go any further, let us first take a moment and apologize to the recent generation entering the workforce. Turns out, there may not be any increase at all in narcissism over the past few decades. In a scientific analysis of approximately one-half million high-school seniors over three decades, Brent Donnellan and Kali Trzesniewski of the University of Western Ontario argue teens today are no more egotistical (and actually, just as happy and content) as previous generations.

“We concluded that, more often than not, kids these days are about the same as they were back in the mid-1970s,” said Donnellan, associate professor of psychology. They also stated that their findings show that entitlement changes dramatically with maturity in comparison to nominal generational changes. In other words, it’s not that people born after 1980 are self-absorbed – it’s that young people are, and they get over themselves as they get older.

On the other hand, aren’t we all working alongside some select individuals who haven’t “gotten over themselves?” In nearly every professional environment, it is not uncommon to encounter those who have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and an occasional lack of empathy for others. These individuals can range from recent college grads to the most tenured of staff, and some could even be some of the most valued players on the team! An effective leader needs to be able to lead, manage and inspire all personality types, including how to embrace the entitled.

Memory Lane
Although tales that start with “back in my day” typically fall on deaf ears (or are met with an eyeball roll), it may be meaningful to take a trip down memory lane at times. Newer employees may not know the sacrifices that their company was built upon; consider creating a milestone wall or worksheet documenting key turning points in the history of the company. Reviewing a company’s past can help emphasize the sacrifices that were made, the noteworthy accomplishments along the way, and a common understanding of where the firm started and how it evolved to where it is today.

Special vs. Appreciated
Words matter. Consider the difference between “you have a face that makes time stand still” and “you have a face that could stop a clock.” Entitled individuals believe themselves to be more special than others; frame your vocabulary to play against this notion. Instead of “you are the best hire we have ever made in this department” or “we would be lost without you,” focus instead on expressing appreciation for a job well done. Statements such as “I appreciate the hard work you put in to meeting your quarterly numbers” or “I am incredibly thankful for the leadership role you played in retaining our key clients” focus more on the work being done as opposed to the uniqueness and rarity of the person doing the work. Call attention to the specific action or behavior, and then offer up genuine thanks and gratitude.

The “I” in Team
To encourage self-absorbed individuals to look outside their lens of individuality, add some components to their set of responsibilities that require the success of others. This could be accomplished by tying a portion of compensation or bonus to the success of new hires, the team, or organization as a whole. Alternatively, the individual could be assigned as a mentor to up-and-coming associates, where praise is given to the collective and expectations are set for cooperative achievement.

Great Expectations
Be exceptionally clear (and when at all possible, measurable) with any and all expectations. Consider going beyond “pass or fail” and instead communicate clearly what deficient (failure), competent (good enough to get by), and proficient (exceptional) behavior or results look like. Then, stick to them firmly. If you don’t, you can actually create a deepened sense of entitlement as employees learn to manipulate your rules. The expectations could include things like desired behaviors, time in office, work ethic, required results, or any other guidelines that allow an employee to know they are meeting or exceeding expectations. Resist the urge to simply say “I’ll know a job well done when I see it” – if you can’t articulate expectations clearly, employees will never know if they’ve achieved them. This is when a disconnect happens, ambiguity sets in, and the foundation of the relationship begins to crack.

Set Them Up to Fail
Gasp! Before you scramble for your Leadership 101 Handbook that says a great leader would never do such a thing, many would acknowledge that it was through their greatest struggles that their greatest achievements were born. More often than not, those who history best remembers were faced with numerous obstacles that forced them to work harder and show more determination than others.

Entitled employees tend to stay within their comfort zones and take few risks. Set a stretch goal for those who feel they cannot fail, but do not chastise for shortfalls or lack of success. Instead, allow for the individual to embrace the mistakes made, the skills that are not yet developed, and the opportunities for growth that lie ahead. In fact, many great leaders would say they don’t just accept failure, they encourage it!

Perhaps even more important? Deep down, we all want to be involved with an important project that challenges us. When we give a tough objective and let an employee know it will take everything they’ve got, it communicates that we actually take them seriously and give them permission to take risks that result in growth – either due to failure or due to success.

—Karen Schmidt

Letting Go

Think about your personal path to achieving the professional success you have experienced thus far. What attributes or characteristics are you most proud of that got you here? What abilities do you have that allowed you to separate from your peers over the years?

Second question: Is there a chance that those very same characteristics that rewarded you so well are the same characteristics that can hold you back in the future?

Some examples:

You are quite patient and empathetic, and others rely on your guidance and council throughout the day. However, your fear of being unavailable causes you to work late nights and weekends because the days have been spent solving other people’s problems.

You are incredibly detail-oriented and meticulous, and your dedication to perfection has served you well. However, if you aren’t willing to relinquish some control, you will never be able to handle other responsibilities because nobody can do them as well as you.

You are a “do-er” and complete more work throughout the day than some do in several. You don’t have time for small talk, which allows for a high level of efficiency, but true leaders need to build personal relationships and connect on a non-work level with others.

You are a gifted orator and can inspire a crowd, sell to the masses, and have an intrinsic ability to create a path that others will naturally follow. However, you are so comfortable hearing yourself talk that you forget that others may simply need you to listen.

Self Awareness
It is not realistic for a person to be all things to all people, or to be perfect in every facet of life. But sometimes, we sense deep inside that there is something else waiting for us. We just need to be courageous enough to create a little space to discover what it is.

Sometimes, you must release your grip on your current identity in order to allow yourself to transform. You simply cannot be the person you want to be and the person you currently are at the same time.

You have to determine for yourself whether you’re willing to let go of who you are to become the person you want to be.

What holds most back from creating this space is that it will result in change, and most people react to any change with fear. Change shifts our comfort zones, where we find security and stability, so fear is a naturally occurring reaction. Fear gains strength when you focus only on the negative possibilities of a situation or event. The answer is to concentrate on just two or three changes at a time – perhaps only just one! As your new habits embed themselves into your personality and habitual behaviors, you can add additional changes to your routine. This creates a managed process of change.

Letting Go
It is okay to change, grow, and try new things that you will not be as good at as the things you have done for years. The key to freedom is allowing yourself to crack open and evolve.

To begin to impact change, think about what got you here:

  • What has contributed to your success so far?
  • How do you compare with others within your organization or industry in similar roles? What separates you from the average performer?
  • How have your responsibilities changed and evolved as you’ve grown in this past year, as opposed to a year ago?
  • When you are working, what activities make you lose track of time? Why?

Now, where do you want to go?

  • What strengths do you have that can also at times be a weakness?
  • Think of others within your organization or industry you respect; in what ways do you want to be more like them?
  • What are the differences in responsibilities or strengths/skills between yourself and the person you report to? How can you start to take on those responsibilities or learn those strengths?
  • Is there anything in your life that you should walk away from completely?
  • What of your habits are you truly prepared to change?
  • There will be some things you won’t be good at for a while; what are they?
  • What do you finally need to delegate to others?
  • What issues are you prepared to tackle now?

Procrastination

The next question: Why don’t we do it? It’s simple: the rewards of these changes are in the future, when the discomfort and discipline are right here and right now. When there’s an absence of a compelling reason, or drive, you will be a thermostat. You’ll work as hard as necessary to keep the temperature comfortable – and when it reaches that temperature, you’ll turn off until needed again. Discussing change and goals can be inspiring, energizing, and stimulating! Yet it feels tough, awkward, annoying, frightening, and completely unpleasant to discuss the discipline needed to reach those goals. There is no shame in being average or competent if you are unwilling to pay the price of excellence! Simply ask yourself if you are willing to pay that price, and what the price looks like for you.

Finding People Who Make a Difference®
Executive Search Review has recognized the totality of the Sanford Rose Associates network as being one of the Top 11 Search Firms in North America. Sanford Rose Associates has 60+ offices worldwide and is a member of the International Executive Search Federation (IESF). To learn more about achieving professional excellence both personally and with those on your team, please reach out to your Sanford Rose Associates® executive search consultant today.

– Karen Schmidt

Allocating Your Attention

“I just find myself with too much time on my hands throughout the day!” Is it safe to assume that this statement has rarely, if ever, been muttered by leaders and managers in today’s professional environment? In fact, “being busy” is often worn as a prideful badge of honor. It is a popular statement in part because it is an admirable one. Having free time, on the other hand, makes you look dispensable and irrelevant

In a time when we are accessible every moment of every day, when organizations are lean yet expectations are high, we have largely failed to address a skill that must be developed – both within an effective leader and within those who are being managed.

The skill? Attention allocation.

Commonly, we focus on time management – an oxymoron! Time cannot be reined in, slowed down, or controlled – yet how we choose to allocate our attention every moment of every day can be.

Educate your Environment
One of the biggest challenges of being a parent is that whether you like it or not, there are eyes on you at all times! Children watch, process, and mimic the behaviors modeled to them regardless of if those behaviors are productive or damaging. Similarly, those on your team are constantly observing the way you manage priorities, react to deadlines, and allocate your attention. Therefore, we must remember that if we want to engrain effective attention allocation skills within an organization or department, it must first start with modeling those skills from the top. What can this sound like?

  • “It sounds like what you want to talk about is important to you, so I want to be able to give you my dedicated attention. Let’s schedule a time when it works for both of us so we can discuss this at a time where I will not be distracted like I would be right now.”
  • “I am in the middle of a priority project; is this an emergency? If so, I am happy to stop what I am doing but if not, please send me an email and I will respond by the end of the day with a time for us to meet personally.”
  • “That’s a great question; give me an idea of what you’ve done already to try to find an answer.”

What can this look like? Consider closing out email with the exception of several pre-set times throughout the day or late evening. The team will learn at what times you are engaged in administrative activities, keeping other times sacred for forward-motion activities or primary responsibilities. A doctor does not check emails in the middle of surgery, and a lawyer is not accepting incoming calls while the opposing counsel is grilling his client. What makes the critical responsibilities of your role less deserving of your own concentration? Very rarely is anything so urgent and critical that it cannot wait for a reply within an hour; you may even find that issues solve themselves without you having to!

Practice Being Fully Present
In our “information overload” society, learning how to stay fully present can certainly be challenging! In fact, “nomophobia” is a term jokingly used by psychologists to refer to the 40% of the population now addicted to their smartphones. What is the habit you need to break in order to be more fully present in your personal and professional interactions?

As an example, if you are in a meeting with someone on the team, be in that meeting. Put your desk phone on “out,” silence your cell phone, turn off your monitor if it may be a distraction, and position your body to fully face the other individual. Give your full, undivided attention. Watch how they respond over time, and realize the impact that being fully present can have on those with whom you work.

An added benefit? This actually trains your brain to be more effective. When working on administrative work, it is easier for you to be fully focused in that work because your brain is slowly reprogramming itself away from the compulsive need to respond to over-stimulation, dings, clicks, and alerts coming from all directions.

Value of Time
How do we know which activities, initiatives, and emergencies are deserving of our attention? Know the value of your time, and train those within your team to think the same way. Take how much you will earn (or would like to earn) annually, and divide by the number of work hours in a year. Now, take that hourly billable rate and double it, because that will give you a “prime time” amount that you should strive to spend at least a few hours per day engaged in the highest “billable rate” activities possible. When you are aware of the value of your time, suddenly spending 30 minutes reorganizing your desk in the middle of “prime time” seems like a waste. The peripheral colleague who wanted to catch up on the weekend? Those 15 minutes may have cost you several dollars or several hundred based on your billable rate. Getting caught up on emails and admin may be important, but prioritize several dedicated hours per day to be actively engaged in surgery or the courtroom.

Just Say No
Does it seem impossible to get it all done in a day? It is. You can no longer fit everything in, no matter how effectively you allocate your attention. The moment you embrace that truth, you instantly reduce your stress and feelings of inadequacy. Learn to say no; perhaps this is no longer volunteering for certain committees, or hiring someone to do lawn maintenance or handle “to-do’s” at home. Create boundaries on how and where you allocate your attention.

—Karen Schmidt