Friday, July 27, 2007

Chemistry 101

One of my first professional mentors made an analogy of how running a business should be like playing around with a chemistry set, and just as fun. As he described how it was fun to tinker with mixing a little bit of a product, person, practice, etc., with a different person, product, practice, etc., the analogy started to makes sense, sink in and stick. I still think about this approach to business and in fact heard myself using these words with one of the fine folks on our team this morning as we were discussing how to overcome challenges within various aspects of our business.

While I was not an enthusiast of the subject of chemistry in school (although I did blow up a few mail boxes in my day), I sure do enjoy this approach as it applies to what we do as a business in finding new business opportunities, the creation of new ideas and identifying opportunities through a unique blend of talented people. It also makes it fun. In fact, while a group of us were in the "lab" (better known around here as the conference room) the other day, I had an epiphany which has me focusing on a neat new business opportunity for our organization simply through the blending of people and ideas.

The practice of blending people and ideas works well in the creation of new ideas or business opportunities. It can also increase excitement levels among those that you lead when you take the time to shake things up a bit through the implementation of change. There is a book about this subject that is appropriately named A Technique for Producing Ideas authored by James Webb Young. It is a small digest-sized book of only 48 pages, but what a powerful read. A member of our senior management team gave me this book at one of our meetings, and I still take it off the shelf from time to time just to get fired up again about the thought of finding new business opportunities and improved ideas for higher levels of success.

I think it is good to remind ourselves occasionally that we do not have to continually do things in exactly the same manner, especially just because that is the way things have always been done. Trying new ideas is what breathes life into an organization and brings higher levels of energy and excitement as a result. This is especially true when the idea bubbles up in the organization verses being pushed down. Our 55 field offices are a great resource for new ideas and positive opportunities for change. I like to look for opportunities to change things. This is especially true when there is no history of change in an area of the business that has grown stagnate or when there is an opportunity to create new dynamic relationships within our organization.

Have you tinkered with your chemistry set lately? If so, what did you do and what were the results?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Needle in a Haystack

Why are good people so hard to find? Is it due to leaders setting their expectations too high? Is it a matter of modern day economics? Could it be more related to the emergence of a sense of entitlement among the professional workforce? More than likely all of these things are contributors to not being able to keep businesses staffed at a desired level of employee complement.

So what are some of the things successful leaders are doing to ensure their company has the employee fuel it needs to make a push to higher levels of success? First they are making sure that their message is the right one to attract the best type of candidates, as well as those who are most qualified for the position. (If this is currently a challenge for your business, you can contact one of our 57 Employment Guide offices across the country, and we will work with you to make this a reality for your business.) Leaders are also taking advantage of social networks and building a community that can aid in their ability to reach out to talented folks with their opportunity. It is keeping your hiring managers engaged in the process of constantly building their teams and not just waiting until they have an opening. It is also being on the lookout for talent no matter where you are at any moment over the course of the day. When was the last time you handed out a business card because you came across someone with a highly transferable skill set that could translate well into your industry or occupation? The organization, more specifically the leadership within an organization, that has the responsibility for staffing their operations with those skilled individuals who can do all of these things will be the one that sets itself apart by finding the best talent (often referred to as the proverbial "needle in a haystack").

In my opinion, no matter how automated, electronic and avoidance-natured our business culture becomes, the most successful organizations will always point back at their people as the primary reason for their success or demise. Leaders who understand this will make sure their organization will have the greatest opportunity to always possess and attract the talent needed to drive results. What tools are being used to accomplish this goal all come down to the specific needs of the business and leadership that is is steering the organizational ship.

What are you dong to attract the talent you need to drive your results?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Be The Best

What makes the difference between organizations that are successful during tough times or times of change? Is it work ethic, the people, the product or the culture? You can point to many different reasons as to why someone is successful in the face of adversity, but the common denominator will always be the people. Products change due to people. The work ethic in an organization is determined by the people. The culture is determined by decisions that are made and the direction taken that ultimately points back to people. An organization will be successful or not based on their people. In fact, in this competitive world there are many companies that are basically putting out the same products and providing similar services. So what differentiates one from the others? It is the people!

Most organizations have a focus on attracting talent and retaining that talent. This constant flow of prospective new employees is going to be most critical moving forward into the future as the labor market continues to tighten and the economy becomes one that is passive job seeker driven. You and your organization can get ahead of the curve today by making sure you have quality succession plans in place, have your talented folks on a clear career path and are constantly recruiting for talent. Even if you are comfortable with your current staffing levels, you need to be actively recruiting and hiring. When you come in tomorrow you might find that you have two new openings that could immediately place a bottleneck in front of you and make it difficult for you to obtain an acceptable level of productivity and performance. Even living and breathing in the recruitment industry and possessing this knowledge does not make our organization exempt from feeling the impact and needing to follow these sames steps. The good news is that we are actively working on this and have already felt a positive impact as a result. Leaders have to take an active role in this process and influence the execution through the effective casting of their vision. This will aid greatly in making your organization one that attracts talent.

How are your recruiting efforts going? Are you missing an opportunity to grow your business due to not having enough talented folks working to accomplish your vision? What have been the most creative ways you have utilized to recruit quality people?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Be a Talent Magnet

Leadership is going to take on an increasingly important role in one of the most critical components of being successful as we move into the future. This critical component is recruiting and hiring. As the national unemployment rate continues to dip towards sub 4% and has already been as low as 2% in some places, the recruiting and hiring process will become a "make it or break it" proposition for some organizations. Barring unforeseen, radical immigration reform, we are on course for employment shortages like the ones we currently are experiencing in nursing and in transportation across the entire labor industry. The emerging passive job seeker labor economy is going to mean that leadership will be put under the spotlight due to individuals wanting to go to work for someone who is talented and can offer professional development beyond just earning a paycheck. Organizations such as the Society of Human Resource Managers (SHRM) have been pointing to this pending shortage for years. SHRM has research indicating that by the year 2012, there will be three million more jobs than there is people to fill these vacancies. Can you say "labor crisis!"

Companies that are going to thrive during these times are going to be the ones who can differentiate themselves from the competition by being a talent magnet. I am sure you are familiar with the saying that you are only as good as the people with whom you surround yourself. Surrounding yourself with talent is going to become increasingly difficult. It is going to take a talented leader to attract top talent. Prospective job seekers are not going to just come to work for an opportunity, they are going to come work for a leader who personifies the organization and is one in whom they have high confidence in in terms of developmental and advancement opportunities.

Put yourself as a leader through a hard self-examination. Would you come to work for yourself? Take a good look in the mirror. If you cannot honestly say yes, you need to immediately get busy on your own professional development and become a more effective leader. It will be the leader who is the talent magnet who will have the means to turn their organization into one that is truly world class. Be a talent magnet!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Define & Refine

I have been the beneficiary of being able to work for some excellent leaders and mentors over the course of my professional career. A common thread that has been passed to me is that a leader will define his or her legacy through the folks that they develop and you will define yourself as a leader by dealing with the tough times. These two issues can be inter-related in that if you are investing in the the professional development of your people on an ongoing basis your organization will be better prepared to deal with the tough times.

While we will not all achieve some of our childhood dreams and leave our legacy by becoming a U.S. Open tennis champion, etc., we can still leave our footprint on the world (and will) through the people with who we interact and develop. An ongoing commitment to the professional development of people can be a difference maker in an organization becoming a talent magnet. Arguably, every organization has room for improvement in this area. I am, however very pleased with the current programs that are offered through our organization. The most prevalent (from a leadership perspective) is our Manager In Training (MIT) program. This program is comprised of 12 individual modules that go into detail on the specifics that a top-performer will need to round out their skill set to successfully move into a leadership role. How many individuals have you mentored or have been involved in their professional development on an ongoing basis? Better yet, how many of those individuals have been promoted as a result of your mentoring? This is a great way to measure your ability to leave your mark, knowledge, legacy on the world through your leadership. In essence, this is a form of immortality as the knowledge gained through your teachings lives on in those that you have professionally developed.

"The best executive is the one that has sense enough to pick good men to get what he wants done and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it." Theodore Roosevelt

While the folks that leaders develop will define that leader's legacy, it is how they deal with tough times that will refine their legacy. No one ever remembers how a leader took over an organization that was firing on all cylinders and kept it firing on all cylinders. It is when a leader find their business dealing with adversity or a new threat such as conditions that are in essence "new waters" that a leader will refine their leadership legacy. One such challenge that I am dealing with is the education of everyone in our company on how think like an electronic media company. This means learning new skills, teaching new skills, and leading our business in new ways. Traditionally, things we did not have to worry about as being important to our business are now critical. One example of this is in the content we create as well as how and where we place it on our websites. Not only does this take into consideration the words we use, but the number of words we use. Interestingly enough, we have made strides in how we are utilizing these tools in just a short period, although, this is a journey. The ship is turning and as we do so I am confident that we will remain a formidable organization as we stay the course. The coolest part of this journey is that it involves both the professional development of everyone in our organization and it offers a unique opportunity for those in a leadership role in our organization to refine their legacy.

How would you define your journey? Does it involve developing your people or your "inner-circle?"