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8 Traits of Successful Talent Leaders

by Feb 21, 2013, 5:36 am ET

What makes a person an outstanding talent leader? Is it the ability to set a vision, develop a strategy, or manage a budget? Or is it something much less visible and subtler?

Leadership is not something we are born with, although we may have a general aptitude. It takes insight into what leadership is all about and the desire to practice it in a deliberate, thoughtful, and consistent way to become good.

The points below amplify what I have learned from many successful leaders over the years.

Rule #1: You Are Not a Recruiter Anymore

Leaders cannot be technical experts and expect their functions to be great. Good leadership is much more about setting the stage for success, garnering support and resources, and assembling teams that excel.

Most recruiting and talent leaders spend too much time doing what they are familiar with, rather than practicing the skills of leadership. It is always easy to justify jumping in to help out, to keep a few requisitions for yourself, and to train recruiters in the skills you have.

But this is not leading — it is doing.

Rule #2: Keep It Lean

All business has been focused on reducing waste, speeding up delivery times, reducing labor costs, and building in automation. Manufacturing, in particular, is more efficient and productive than ever before. This is partly the cause of the current unemployment around the globe, as fewer people are needed to do even more work than before. The service sector lags in achieving these goals, but is on the path leading to greater productivity.

Successful leaders find ways to do more with fewer people by improving efficiency and streamlining processes. Functions that focus on these will gain business leader respect and support.

Specific actions include reducing paperwork, reducing process steps, implementing technology, cutting out meetings, removing management layers, or reducing reporting.

Rule #3: Focus on Simplicity

A recruiting function should operation like an iPad. It should look and be easy to understand and be so easy for a hiring manager to hire someone who they think they did it all themselves.

Easy and simple does not mean lazy, basic, or stripped down. It means something elegantly suited for its function and doing no more or less than is needed. An Apple iPad, for example, has almost no external buttons, and has an interface so simple one needs no instructions on how to use it. It has no operation manual because it is so simple. Yet, beneath that simplicity is a very complex and difficult-to-understand series of chips, wires, batteries, and displays.

Your job is to keep the sourcing, screening, and interviewing pieces humming quietly — honed to be highly efficient. The hiring manager should see only the output of these pieces — a qualified candidate who is eager for the position.

Effective leaders should remove the things that inhibit sharing and communication (including recruiters who won’t share candidates or information). They should ruthlessly look for ways to make doing something easier, faster, and cheaper.

Rule #4: Get Out of the Way

Micromanagement is a scourge. Great leaders set the tone, hire good people, provide development and mentorship, and let them do their job unhindered. If a recruiter needs constant supervision, that recruiter should be replaced. If you have established guidelines and hire smart, capable people then your job is to create the environment where they can thrive.

You are a micromanager if you feel the need to hold regular meetings with a recruiter or group of recruiters to make sure they are making progress. You are a micromanager if you require weekly/monthly reports, if you are not comfortable being gone for a few days, and if you feel angry when decisions are made without consulting you.

Rule #5: Embrace Teams — Not Individuals

Collaboration and teamwork are more effective in getting results than individuals. Don’t organize into functional silos with sourcers, screeners, recruiters, and so on. If you have specialists, mingle them together to create cross-functional teams. Include hiring managers and business leaders on your teams whenever you can.

If you look at your job as providing the best talent — not as filling requisitions — then your recruiters and the hiring managers should engage in discussions about what type of candidates to look for and even work together on the best ways to find them.

Rise above the transactional mindset to one of making a strategic difference.  Challenge a team to better identify what kind of talent is needed and become efficient in finding and hiring these types of people. Make all rewards based on team performance. Encourage sharing, cross learning, and leveraging each persons’ skills.

Rule #6: Accept the Limits

There is never enough of anything. In decades in the recruitment world I have never heard anyone say they had all the money, time, or people they needed to do their job. And I am pretty sure I never will.

Rather than complain, use the limits to your advantage. When there are not enough people, learn other ways to get a task done. It may require out-of-the-box thinking and may even require you to get a team together to brainstorm some possible solutions.

Rule #7: Build Internal Relationships

Relationships are the key to success and happiness in every social setting, and organizations are social settings. Getting to know and support your own leadership team will help remove constraints and perhaps even provide more resources.

Spending time to chat with business leaders, and getting to know them and their problems and needs, will help you to focus your efforts, redirect priorities, and improve your relevance.

Good relationships clarify communications, help overcome misunderstandings, and streamline getting though bureaucracy. Talent leaders should spend almost half their time building internal relationships, offering talent-related information and analytics, and showing how better candidates and better hires lead to greater profits.

Rule #8: Use Technology; Don’t Fall in Love with It

Using technology well is the key to increasing productivity, but do not forget that recruiting is a people-to-people business. Relationships — virtual or face-to-face — are the basis for generating interest in a position and in getting hiring managers to accept candidates you send to them.

Technology helps immensely and increases productivity and expands the reach of your recruiters and provides data and insights you would not get otherwise. But it does not replace the need for recruiters to continuously refine their ability to connect with candidates and convince them of the opportunity offered. Nor does it replace the face-to-face conversations with hiring managers that build the credibility of your department and improves candidate acceptance.

Technology is always advancing, so look at each new app or solution and see where it might fit in a process flow. What would it enhance? What would it replace? Does it seem useful in achieving one of the leadership goals I have mentioned above?

But remember that most of all your job is to set the stage for success and do everything you can to make sure your recruiters have the skills, tools, and empowerment to achieve the goals of the organization.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Kevin. I’d like to add perhaps the most important one, from my perspective:
    Loyalty and support of team members…

    Cheers,

    Keith

  • http://www.viletinternational.com Jacque Vilet

    Hey Kevin — long time no see! Remember me? Like your article. See mine on TLNT upcoming next week — response to John Sullivan’s article
    “Sourcing is Dying . . ” on ERE.net. I think you will agree with it.
    Cheers!

  • http://hcl.com Anmol Singh

    Thanks Kevin for sharing 8 Traits of Leaders.

    @Keith-Now this is 8+1,no leader can call himself successful if he is not supported by his team members.Thanks.

    R’s
    Anmol

  • Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Anmol. YOu made it *+2: I meant that the leader needed to support his/her team members.

    Cheers,
    Keith

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