Recruiting, Redemption, and American Economic Viability

Feb 17, 2011

“We would like to live as we once did but history will not permit it.” –John F Kennedy

I was instantly impressed by the tone. By the anger and edgy urban feel. The tag line gave me shivers as the Super Bowl’s “Imported From Detroit” spot knocked me out — an up front, in your face blast from the Motor City. The message? Absolutely gorgeous and ice cold simple. We Are Back. Yes indeed! I too love the smell of napalm in the morning.

Being a boy who loves cars, I have always been a fan of Detroit and made reference to it very specifically in Employment Rage. Case in point: Quoting from a special report in Time magazine, October 5, 2009: “By any quantifiable standard, the city is on life support. Detroit’s treasury is $300 million short of the funds needed to provide the barest municipal services … The murder rate is soaring, and 7 out of 10 remain unsolved …the unemployment rate is 28.9 percent. That’s worth spelling out: twenty-eight point nine percent.” Clearly, as goes the car industry, so goes Detroit.

We have lived through a grisly two years. The causalities have been monumental and the casualties have been deep. Homes, careers, dreams, and marriages — gone. Enough. Enough of what has been because the past is a bucket of ashes.

The time has come to focus on what will be. To find a new sense of pride and a new sense of purpose and a new sense of hope for all we can do to create a vibrant and durable American economy.

Let me go on record here and state the unpopular. I am an American. I care about this economy because this is where my mortgage is and this is where I have to go to work every day and this is my economic reality. My goal is to make this country great. I wish no country ill but I will not stand for one more scintilla of effort or expense that speaks to apologetic economic policy.

As for recruiting, I can only say that the time for new and fresh thinking in leadership is here and now. The time to step out front to meet, embrace, and support the stunning proclamation and galvanizing message of “Detroit is Back” will not wait. It will not wait for waffling on sourcing vs recruiting conversations. It will not wait for endless arguments on the relative merits of ATS’s. It will not wait for measurements or metrics or Tweetups or quality of hire or blogs that whine and bicker, as this stuff is, to quote Covey, “the thick of thin things.” The window of possibility for creating greatness will not be open forever. We need exemplars who will design and create inspired and effective recruiting models that dovetail with senior management to support organizational objectives and create success. Failure to do this is not an option.

But what of the singular recruiter? Can you tap into your inner leadership ability and affect this change? I believe so. For openers, recruiters need to focus on leadership-oriented activities and think long term as opposed to transactional-oriented activities while thinking short term. Do you understand the business of the people for whom you recruit, or do you just match qualifications with specifications? The first makes you a person who can offer insight and observations. The second makes you an errand boy.

Going further, leadership comes from each of us exercising our ability to do what we know is right as opposed to doing what is expedient. Leadership-oriented thinking come not from titles conferred but from a sense of purpose and mission. Churchill said, “the price of greatness is responsibility.” Does the opportunity for greatness interest you?

Finally, go along to get along no longer works. A cute aphorism of a time gone by, we need to cut it loose. The recruiting leader in you needs to worry less about politics and more about substantive dialogue that touches pain points and fixes what is broken. The politics of friendship and nepotism failed millions in our current recession. The next recession will be worse.

Capitalism, democracy, and Americanism itself are clearly in danger as globalization levels the playing field. The days of doing well simply because we are Americans is over. History tells us that every great society since the days of Mesopotamia has fallen. Is this to be our fate? I do not know but I do know this: Things will not get better until we employ the leadership thinking we possess to rebuild our country. JFK said it best; “I do not shrink from this responsibility, I welcome it.” Do you welcome it?

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