Leverage Your Power and Play to Your Strengths

Mar 1, 2008

Now is the time to surround yourself with people who make you shine. One of the most challenging conversations I have engaged in for myself is the conversation of leverage. For those of us who are high-achievers, top individual performers, perfectionists, and control-minded folks, letting go could be one of our most challenging personal development initiatives.

A key element in creating the “Most Amazing Year Yet” is focusing on our strengths and capitalizing on the things we do really well and letting go or delegating those things that are somewhat of a struggle for us. The days of spending countless hours fixing the aspects of our personality or behaviors that don’t forward our success are gone.

Smart people choose to spend their time playing games they can win. They play to their strengths and outsource, offshore, or delegate all those other tasks they don’t receive a significant return on investment from doing themselves.

After all, isn’t that why most of us have jobs anyway? Companies outsource their recruiting to us because they either don’t have the expertise, resources, time, or money to do it effectively themselves.

The first step in leveraging your power and playing to your strengths is to conduct a “strengths inventory” and read Marcus Buckingham’s Go Put Your Strengths to Work. Or you can take one of the many personality inventory assessments on the market today, or you can ask the people closest to you what works and what doesn’t.

Another method is to create a “love/hate” comparison chart about the tasks or functions that you love and hate to do. These are not necessarily the functions you would expect, and they are not always the ones closest to the money. The things in the love category are tasks that, while you are doing them, time becomes invisible. In other words, these things light you up and inspire you. On the other side of the chart are the tasks or functions that when you are doing them, you cringe, get a rash, become a tyrant, or get annoyed with everything and everyone.

Using the leverage conversation in business development is a real differentiator in the sales process. In my recruiting and training business, I train recruiters, both corporate in-house and third-party agents to use the leverage approach when talking to their clients about their staffing needs.

While the average recruiters are taking down specifications of what the ideal candidate’s background needs to look like, I train my Keen Agents to ask the hiring manager provocative, confrontational (with a kiss) questions that immediately differentiate these agents as leading-edge business partners committed to bridging the gap between recruiting and succession planning:

– “How is this new hire’s presence going to forward the manager in attaining their key performance indicators?”

– “What are the strengths and weaknesses of the team?”

– “Who are the key players and what about them do we want to replicate?”

– “What behaviors/competencies are missing on the team that if those behaviors/ competencies were present would make a difference in the team achieving their objectives?”

These are some key questions we ask in the beginning of each and every search. Once the manager does the critical thinking to determine exactly how this person’s employment will affect the department and the company overall in achieving their goals, the search takes a different turn and the recruiter managing the search has a completely altered outlook and new level of power to influence who the right candidate is.

Using leverage to build your recruiting team is a sure-fire strategy to create a model for success. Many of us who have been around over a long time have learned to run both sides of the desk and have been paid very handsomely as a result. Some of us lean to the side of being ‘job order’ agents while others lean on the side of being candidate-centric. Where and when I was trained, if someone was good at one side of the desk and not the other, they slowly died on the vine. They did not receive the resources, coaching, and leads that those of us filling the hybrid role did. Additionally, many of us “hybrids” left the comfort of someone else’s employ to break out on our own because we could. (We were the alpha and the omega in our minds, or maybe just in mine).

In running my own business over the past 14 years, I have never worked alone. Instead, I chose to surround myself with a support team that allowed me to be a mom, a triathlete, a traveler, and all those other things that we hear are good for us to do in leading a balanced, authentic, and successful life. In the beginning I just hired bodies to handle the volume of business, activity, and noise that I generated. However, after years of dealing with the management pain and misery I finally learned to hire right.

I now hire people who can generate solid business, generate qualified candidates, and who provide incredible service to my existing staffing, recruiting, or consulting clients. If someone can do it all, more power to them. If they can only do two of the above, I leverage that power and they get paid according to their individual contribution.

Offshoring, Outsourcing, and Reframing to Leverage your Power

Reframing. I spent much time in 2007 taking inventory of things that were not working for my business or me. One of the things I did was to alter my company’s recruitment service offerings. We went from being employment generalists to a company that focuses on recruiting entry level management and professional talent for companies that serve the medical and drug industries. We no longer go after or *personally serve (more about that in the next paragraph) businesses in the recruiting capacity outside of that spectrum. This was a huge step in leveraging my personal and professional power and my time. It also has made a monumental difference in having new rookies ramp up and put money on the board in their second month. On the staffing side, we are now only staffing for high-end administrative, recent grads, or medical/clinical business professionals. If it is out of our specialty area, one of our keen certified service providers gets the lead.

Outsourcing. Another step in evaluating my power position was to identify a team of independent specialty recruiters who assist my clients with job requisitions that my company is not equipped to effectively fill. I act as the ‘gate keeper’ for these clients. I field submittals from these recruiters and manage the submittal process and the client relationship so while my company is not using its resources for searches that don’t make sense for us; I solidify, if not deepen, my relationship with my clients by acting as the broker for their recruitment services. (Kind of an RPO model).

In creating my new company,, I have had to outsource 98% of the work as I know nothing about developing an ASP software, a website, or e-commerce. While I know a little bit about industrial psychology, organizational development, and a little more about branding sales and Internet marketing, I still did not know enough to go it alone. My search for talent ranged from seeking I/O psychologists, behavior analysts, assessment vendors, Web developers, programmers, branding and marketing people, project managers, PowerPoint experts, virtual assistants, bankers, lawyers, etc. The key to my success in building my virtual KeenHire team was knowing what I was good at, admitting what I wasn’t so good at, being clear on what I needed from my teammates and my investment, and then soliciting recommendations from people and business partners who knew me. In knowing me and my style, as well as what I was up to creating, these trusted advisors and partners were people who always made me look good and who produced a solid return on my investment of time and money spent with them. As all referrals are not created equal, the good rose to the top fast, eased my pain, and saved me time. In turn, they got much more work. While the bad caused a few hiccups, wasted my time, and were removed from the virtual team, I learned to react to performance issues quickly. My tolerance for mediocrity went out with the first $100,000 investment in keen. You know what they say – money talks and the other stuff walks.

Offshoring. Another move I made was to eliminate my company’s presence on every major job board but one. We chose to keep Careerbuilder, as that site brings us the type of people we want. As far as searching, my recruiters no longer spend ANY time searching the job boards; that function is outsourced to PSG out of Boston. If my recruiters use that resource the way I would, it will gain them at least 10 more effective hours per week. In the spirit of empowerment, I put the ball in their court to use this gift or not. If they don’t use it wisely it will go away, but if they use it wisely, they will make more money and their job will be much more fulfilling.

Whether running your desk or your business, developing your market or your sales execution, take the time to conduct a personal inventory and a strengths assessment. If appropriate, make the move to leverage your power and move forward with momentum.

Best of success,

Margaret Graziano, CPC, CTS, and mother of three, has been a top producer in the staffing and recruiting industry for the past 20 years and had owned her own firm since 1991. She prides herself on client retention and making the right hires. She has earned over $5 million in personal “desk production” income and has placed over 2,000 candidates in direct-hire positions. With the competitive business world and the war for talent in full force, Margaret’s company, Alliance HR Network, has ventured into new realms of talent acquisition, organizational development, and human capital consulting services, thus diversifying Alliance’s revenue streams and gaining new and exciting talent acquisition and assessment consulting opportunities. Margaret’s email is, and her phone number is (847) 690-0077. The strategic planning forms are listed under a Strategic Planning Downloads section at http://www.

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