Your Big Placement Just Blew Up. Your Biggest Biller Just Quit. Now What?

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Jun 25, 2013

You have just spent the last seven weeks doing an in-depth search; provided a short list of outstanding candidates; were persistent with your client to drive the process forward; acted as a therapist to your finalist candidate; and, he gets an offer and accepts the position. CONGRATULATIONS!

Fast forward two weeks later. You come into the office the Monday morning your candidate is supposed to start. There is a voicemail from him time stamped 4:45 am (he KNEW I wouldn’t be at my desk that early!) which starts: “Mike, I don’t know how to tell you this, but I really need to do what’s best for my family. I won’t be showing up at XYZ Software today…” We’ve all received that call, several times, no matter how good we are.

Next situation, you as a recruiting firm owner, have tried to do everything right to retain your best billing recruiters. You have a training program, benefits, 401K, aggressive compensation plan, company trips, personal concierges, etc. One day (probably the same day as the fall-off above) one of your biggest billers walks in your office closes the door and says “We need to talk.” “We need to talk” is never followed by anything good in ANY relationship. Your big biller is not going to tell you that his compensation is too high or that she loves the new plant in the office foyer. No, they are about to resign.

This, too, is a situation that has probably happened to every recruiting firm owner out there.

What You Do Next

What happens next in either case is truly your choice. Sure, initially you will be upset, angered, frustrated. You, however, determine how long and costly the “funeral” will be in these situations. Having the privilege of helping recruiting firm owners build their client base and systematize their businesses, I often coach people through these very situations.

Some people, usually not my client type, wallow in the misery of these events. “Candidates are liars, they screwed me” or “Why do I spend this entire time training people only to have them leave?” Recruiting firm owners that tend to be happier and more successful often realize these events are, for the most part, temporary. When we give too much mental energy and mind share to those things we can’t control, we increase our job dissatisfaction and often tend to retreat in our business.

Decades of study by people with lots of letters after their names show conclusively that how we choose to explain the nature of past events has a crucial impact on our happiness and future success.

Optimists Win

People with an optimistic style interpret adversity as being local and temporary (i.e. “Fall-offs happen, no matter how well I prepare for them not too, it’s factored into my ratios. Keep arranging interviews and you’ll get the next one.”). Those who are pessimistic see these events as more global and permanent (“I can’t keep anyone long term, why bother hiring.”).

It directly affects their actions; the ones who believe the latter statement sink into helplessness and decrease their effort, or worse, stop trying. The ones who believe the former are spurred on to higher performance and often look to both as an opportunity to improve themselves and their recruiting business. No matter how little control you had in those situations, no matter how good you were, the happiest and more successful (after shedding just a few tears) ask themselves this VERY powerful question: “What was it in me that caused/allowed that situation to occur?”

What Was Your Part?

Early in my career as a manager at Motorola Communications I had some deals blow-up and a couple of sales people resign. I was whining to my boss about how unreliable people were and that customers couldn’t keep their commitments, blah, blah, blah. That’s when he taught me to ask the above question. The lesson he taught was that one’s greatest obstacle to success is the inability to look at oneself critically. Answering that question – “What was it in me that caused or allowed that situation to occur?” – hundreds if not thousands of times over the years has allowed me to grow exponentially in my success and happiness.

When you think through the answers, you move forward, finding areas where you are in control rather than focusing on the areas you have absolutely no control over. We are most frustrated when we perceive we have little control.

Our Resilient Psyche

As a business coach I have been studying what drives motivation and performance in order to better serve myself and my clients. One thing I have learned, as both an owner of a recruiting firm and a coach of other owners, is that our psyche is much more resilient than we realize. Which is why, when faced with a horrible prospect – a large deal blowing up or the loss of a key employee — we overestimate how unhappy it will make us, how bad it will be for our business, and for how long. We then fall victim to “immune neglect,” which means we forget how good our hard-wired psychological immune system is at helping us get over adversity. Immune neglect kicks in a “why bother?” attitude, leading to lower activity levels, less proactive action, etc. Immune neglect then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, where the lower activity breeds fewer placements.

So the next time you catch yourself feeling hopeless — or helpless — about a negative event in your business, remember that there is ALWAYS a path upwards. Your only task is to find it. What did the event teach you? How can you lessen, if not eliminate, the possibility of it occurring again? Success is about more than simple resilience. It’s about using that downward momentum to propel up the other side. It’s about capitalizing on the setbacks to become even MORE motivated, MORE successful, and happier!