Diversity In Recruiting – Execution: how to get it done

May 1, 2004

What are you hearing on the street? What’s the latest buzz about the economy? About hiring? There are many positives out there: contract recruiters are busy, more jobs are being created, companies are talking to recruiters, candidate research firms are selling projects, and the pace of hiring is accelerating and heating up.

Are we poised for the advancing tide of opportunities? What should we do differently? Will conducting business as usual insure success, or, do we need a new way of acting?

Company leaders realize now more than ever that having the right people in the right job makes the difference between success and failure. Good leaders insist on playing an integral role in selecting the right people. They realize that the right people will give them the competitive edge needed in the marketplace. Hire the best people and they, in turn, will hire the best people.

Corporate leaders look to us to find people who excel at getting the job done. During this time of expecting better things to come, during this lull before the ‘storm’ of increased business activity, a return to basics makes sense. How do we get things done? How do we generate candidates? Do we use the right tools? Do we keep informed? Do we capture all the necessary information? Is our method of checking references effective? Do we stand steadfast on our ethics? Do we make the best use of referrals?

Spring, with its traditional spring cleaning and spring check-up, is a natural time for a quick refresher course, a post graduate look at some of the basics of our business.

Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan, the authors of Execution The Discipline of Getting Things Done (published by Crown Business, New York, New York) believe that execution is the cornerstone of business effectiveness, growth, and success. They state: “There are seven essential behaviors that form the first building block of execution:

– Know your people and your business

Insist on realism

Set clear goals and priorities

Follow through

Reward the doers

Expand people’s capabilities

Know yourself.”

Bossidy and Charan state strongly and directly, “Today’s business leaders aren’t where the action is. Being present allows you, as a leader, to connect personally with your people, and personal connections help you build your intuitive feel for the business as well as for the people running the business. Realism is the heart of execution. Set clear goals and priorities. You should strive for simplicity in general. One thing you’ll notice about leaders who execute is that they speak simply and directly. The failure to follow through is widespread in business and a major cause of poor execution.”

To make it in the recruiting business we know we must have people skills. Bossidy and Charan proclaim that the foundation of people skills is emotional fortitude, and this comes from self-discovery and self-mastery. They believe that “four qualities make up emotional fortitude:

Authenticity: authenticity means pretty much what you might guess: you’re real, not a fake. Your outer person is the same as your inner person, not a mask.

Self-awareness: Know thyself it’s advice as old as the hills and it’s the core of authenticity. Nowhere is self-awareness more important than in an execution culture.

Self-mastery: When you know yourself, you can master yourself. You can keep your ego in check, take responsibility for your behavior, and adapt to change, embrace new ideas, and adhere to your standards of integrity and honestly under all conditions. Self-mastery is the key to true self confidence.

Humility: The more you contain your ego, the more realistic you are about your problems. You learn how to listen and admit that you don’t know all the answers.

Ethics drive and motivate execution. Here are a few ingredients for a code of ethics. Some come from The Association of Executive Search Consultants (ASEC), others from thirty-one years of learning from the hall of famers in our industry.

Professionalism: conduct activities in a manner that reflects favorably on the profession.

Integrity: conduct business activities with integrity and avoid conduct that is deceptive or misleading.

Competence: perform all assignments competently and with an appropriate degree of knowledge, thoroughness and urgency.

Objectivity: exercise objective and impartial judgment in each assignment.

Accuracy: strive to be accurate in all communications with clients and candidates and encourage them to exchange relevant and accurate information.

Respect clients, candidates, and sources.

Give all candidates equal and full consideration.

There is no substitute for quality.

Keep your word; do what you say you are going to do.

Give back to the industry; do favors for people.

Value the differences in people.

Character is the hallmark of serious players in our industry. Character is when no one is looking. Some practitioners, who do not remain in the business too long, exhibit a code of ethics that is rapt in ambiguity and cloaked in contradiction. Their stay is short because this business is just too tough without ethics and integrity. During their cameo appearance they become critics of the way the overwhelming majority of us do business. When I evaluate their negative criticism I recall a Brendan Behan quote and a short fable.

First the quote: “Critics are like eunuchs in a harem. They are there every night. They see it done every night. They see how it should be done every night but they can’t do it themselves.”

The fable: The boy rode on the donkey and the old man walked. As they went along they passed some people who remarked it was a shame the old man was walking and the boy was riding. The man and boy thought maybe the critics were right, so they changed positions.

Later, they passed some people that remarked, “What a shame, he makes that little boy walk.” They then decided they both would walk!

Soon they passed some more people who thought they were stupid to walk when they had a decent donkey to ride. So, they both rode the donkey. Now they passed some people that shamed them by saying how awful to put such a load on a poor donkey. The boy and man said they were probably right, so they decided to carry the donkey.

As they crossed the bridge, they lost their grip on the animal and he fell into the river and drowned. The moral of the fable? If you try to please everyone, you might as well kiss your ass good-bye.

In English pubs, ale is ordered by pints and quarts. So in old England, when customers got unruly, the bartender would yell at them to mind their own pints and quarts and settle down. It’s where we get the phrase “mind your P’s and Q’s.” Here is an overview of some of our P’s and Q’s, our basics.

Execution means action. The market is changing. The time is now: nunc aut nunquam (now or never). Wayne Gretsky said: “I want to be wherever the puck is.” Abraham Lincoln believed: “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” When asked the three most fundamental elements of his art, Demosthenes replied: “Action! Action! Action!” Saint Augustine warned: “By and by never comes.” Nike’s contribution to this discussion: “Just do it.” In the Psychology of Winning, Denis Waitley says it all:

I’d rather watch a winner than hear one any day.

I’d rather have one walk with me than merely show the way.

The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear.

Fine counsel is confusing but example’s very clear.

And the best of all the coaches are the ones who live their creeds,

For to see the good in action is what everybody needs.

I can soon learn how to do it, if you let me see it done.

I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run.

And the lectures you deliver may be very wise and true,

But I’d rather get my lessons by observing what you do.

For I may misunderstand you and the high advice you give

But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.

I’d rather watch a winner than hear one any day.

Here is a checklist, a few comments and questions about the basics. (When I edited this, it sounds more like an examination of conscience.) Look it over. Add to it. Make your own comments. When you read this think of the words of Helen Keller when asked: “Are you sad that you have lost your sight?” “I never lost my vision.”

Repeat business is great but it can make you lazy. Keep selling and developing new clients. Are you making three face-to-face sales calls every week?

Keep in touch with your clients. E-newsletters that provide useful information are well received.

How is your reference checking? Is it an opportunity to get more business, more candidates?

Good candidates come from research. How are your skills and the skills of your staff in target list development, identification research, use of the library, sourcing and prospecting, and data gathering during a phone interview?

Can you improve your documentation and capture all the information you amass every day? Do you input everything that could be a bridge to new business?

How good is your database? Do you continually update it? Someone said: “A database is as good as the last time you talked to the person!”

Do you foster relationships with other third parties who can assist in growing your business?

Do you attend conferences, trade association meetings, and other networking opportunities? Do you get the attendance lists from these meetings? Are you keeping the ball in play?

Are you keeping up with the latest technologies? The latest tools? Do you use the Internet? Candidate Research? Unbundled search?

Do you know about “on-boarding” and how it can work for you?

Do you do favors for clients, candidates, sources? One practitioner’s mantra is: “Favors first.”

How are your skills in developing people not on the job market? One client stated: “We use recruiting firms because we want access to folks not looking for a job.”

Do you spend the days moving the business and leave the paperwork and drudgery for nights and free time?

Do you prepare for meetings? Prepare for important conversations? Do you have an outline for phone calls that can make a difference? Good preparation pays off and builds confidence.

Do you take time for vision?

Nunc aut nunquam: now or never

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