No sales pitches and no fluff. Just a thought-provoking dialog with Karla that will help you solve a challenge you're having right now.

If you haven't watched Karla's introductory video, explaining her philosophy and techniques, you may watch it here:

Wednesday
Jul292009

The Right Stuff

 Food For Thought...

I recently read something HBR that caught my attention about executive pay and what impact it has on performance. In his article, Claudio Fernandez-Araoz made some compelling comments based on research he provided in his article. One of the summarizing points he made really resonated for me: "... the purpose of compensation in my view and Jim's research is not to "motivate" the right behaviors from the wrong people." Couldn't agree more. If you have the wrong people in key roles whose decisions have a deep impact on the organization, no amount of compensation is going to right that wrong.

How do you first make sure the next person you hire has "the right stuff" before you even think about what to pay them? First and foremost, the final decision-maker and those who will assist in finding and interviewing the candidates must make sure they have a clear and shared sense of what the company's brand is and a vision of where their place is in the market and how this next person is going to contribute to getting there. They also need to have clarity around their expectations in order to be able to recognize the "right" person. What will make for the right fit? What are the non-negotiables surrounding the qualities of the ideal person for the role?

I am reminded of a quote from W. Michael Blumenthal, former Chairman of Unisys: "In choosing people for top positions, you have to try to make sure they have a clear sense of what is right and wrong, a willingness to be truthful, the courage to say what they think is right, even if the politics militate against that. This is the quality that should really be at the top. I was too often impressed by the intelligence and substantive knowledge of an individual and did not always pay enough attention to the question of how honest, courageous and good the individual really was." The media is rife with accounts of high level executives failing as leaders due to breaches of ethics and values  resulting in poor decisions that cost the organizations they serve. In that light, this quote becomes a clarion call to pay more attention to the fabric of who a person is in addition to the expertise they bring.

So here are some questions that can help you and your hiring team gain clarity around the criteria that candidates will need to possess to be "the right" choice for key roles in your company. Again these are just for the team to gain clarity and do not encompass all questions that should be asked during this process.

1. Do we have clarity around what our brand is and our vision of where we need to go? Do we have a clear sense of our current strengths, vulnerabilities and current needs?

2.(If you are replacing someone who previously held the role) What have we learned so far from the previous people who have held this position?

3. Who was successful and why? Who wasn't and why?

4. Do we think the kind of person who we deemed as successful in the past would be successful in the current environment we face? Why or why not?

5. Are there different skills we need in the next person who assumes this role that we haven't needed before due to our current issues, challenges, economic landscape, etc?

6. (If this is a new position never occupied by anyone previously) What gap is left in the senior team that this person should fill?

7. What will make for the best fit?

8. What's the best way to get at how this person thinks? What kind of thinker do we need in this role?

9. What are the most important skills this person must possess?

10. Is there room for improvement in our selection process? How can we do it better than we have in the past?

11. What tools are out there to help us assess whether candidates have these most important factors?

12. What are next steps?

The typical approach is that people tend to put more emphasis and energy on the recruiting and interviewing and don't spend enough time gaining clarity around what exactly this executive needs to possess? What are the key expectations? What are the lessons learned in the past? Additionally, and this is a sobering thought, the hiring team including the HR partners have to ask themselves if their own thinking has been part of why they haven't selected the people with the right stuff in the past or, if that hasn't been an issue up to now, could it be a stumbling point going forward? Times change and so people must at least ask themselves if their thinking has to change as well. We all have a hand in what works right and we all have a hand in what doesn't. In order not to replicate bad practices and to reinforce good ones, the first place you need to go is internal. Ask yourself, "How are we thinking about our team, our company, our mission, ourselves?" Where you come out on those answers will help you to answer the question, "Who do we need in this role who will contribute to achieving our mission, leading the company, leading us through change, filling the gap, etc."

What are your thoughts or experiences? Let's hear them.

Tuesday
Jun302009

You First

I was having this discussion with a senior executive the other day. He is with a large global company and has had to make recommendations to close business units, lay off people, restructure strategies ….on and on. We talked about his frustration with fighting a long-standing mentality among his directors and other employees. He felt they were stuck in a loop of thinking that was no longer relevant to the company’s current status let alone today’s market and economic realities. This thinking also has had them making bad decisions. Here’s what he said:

“I keep telling these people what they have to do. Whenever I say something they’ll agree but they think it doesn’t apply to them. It applies to everyone else. So they walk out of the meeting and continue to do what isn’t working and when I ask them why they’re doing this, they basically say, "Oh I didn’t know you meant me too.”

Can you relate to this executive? Listen to what he said earlier: “I keep telling these people what to do.” That’s it right there. If you continually tell people what to do you deny them the opportunity to build their own critical thinking pathways. So the shift in thinking is: Instead of telling them what to do, invest your time in helping them to think. This is going to require a change in You first. If you want to see change in others you have to shift your own thinking first. Are you aware of how you are connecting the dots in your thinking that has you going in the same loops that aren’t working? It’s easy to keep looking outside of ourselves point to people and say, They just don’t get it.” Am I right?

So I’m going to pull back the curtain on the wizard here and ask you a sobering question: Could you be the one who isn’t getting it on some level? Here’s another one. What role are you playing in getting exactly what you don’t want from your team?” The more you tell people what to do the more they will rely on you to do the heavy mental lifting to think up solutions. Consider that when you help people build their own capacity to connect the dots, they will learn how to think in a productive way that supports your vision, strategy and plan of execution that will lead to profitable results. And, by the way, it may free up your time to focus on other matters. So, here are 5 questions to ask yourself and think about:

  1. How long has this issue of <blank> been going on?
  2. Am I clear about what the issue really is?
  3. What assumptions am I making about my team that may not be correct?
  4. What am I teaching my team when I keep telling them what to do?
  5. What story am I telling myself that keeps me thinking this is how I have to be as a leader in order to get anything done the right way?

These are just some of the questions to get your started. Part of being a leader is developing not just intellect but wisdom to know how, when and with whom to share what you know to build broader teams who can effectively serve the company mission, vision and bottomline.

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