Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I’ve nearly finished Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is running a company or an executive team.  It’s told in story form which made me rip thorough it in a few days.  Some of the chapters reminded me of some team problems we had a few years ago.  We battled gossip and a lot of conflict.  We eventually brought in a consultant to help define our Mission, Vision and Values.  Lee Colan helped us with the collaborative effort.  It was very powerful and it helped us define who we are.

We later brought in Nina Atwood who helped us with a customized half day training session on  A) eliminating gossip and  B) how best to deal with conflict (and avoid triangulation).  Phenomenal!!  Our conflict immediately became manageable and helped the team perform better.  All of that helps.  But sometimes there are one or two people who don’t belong on the team.  It’s another subject, but hiring well (and hiring people who fit your core company values) also makes a big difference.

In Lencioni’s book he talks about a base need for trust among the team.  Our team works very well together and we trust each other.  I have very little conflict to deal with because the team members handle it themselves.  Certainly makes my job easier.  Lencioni also talks about the need for conflict – especially in the management meetings.  Each team member has to be able to tactfully and professionally challenge ideas and other team members.  This helps the team to become high performing and for the company to do well.  There are some exercises and questionnaires in the book that help determine where you are.  We score very well on trust but I think we may have a little work to do on encouraging conflict (to some extent) and challenging long set policies and procedures.  I can tend to get set in my ways and I think we need to keep evolving to address the changing industry and business climate. 
We can do it!
After defining our Mission, Vision and Values, we won Best Places to Work Awards two of the following three years.  It’s helped us maintain tenure and it greatly decreased turnover.

Monday, March 28, 2011


Behind the Scenes (part 1)
I always encourage job searchers to stay in touch with their network and the recruiters they like.  Some do a great job of it while others don’t.  Here’s what happened the other day.

Brent sent me an email to remind me that he is still in the job market and he doesn’t want us to forget about him.  We try to stay in touch with candidates but it’s hard sometimes and things move quickly.  We have over 21,000 records in the database.  I do it by driving a list and by sending a quarterly newsletter.  Unfortunately things fall through the cracks.  I encourage people to stay in touch with their network, recruiters, influencers, ex-coworkers,  etc. by scheduling meetings, sending email updates, phone calls, etc.  Prioritize and set the communication medium according to importance and what your network contact prefers.  I’m an email guy so I encourage them to send emails.  Again, some do and some don’t.  Most of my high level candidates don’t send updates regularly.

Brent’s was short and sweet and it included an updated resume.  He mentioned (in his 4 – 5 line email) that he just added some software recognition experience to his resume.  When I get an update, I look at what we have going in contract and I look at the searches we are working on.  Right then.  We have a great database and each of the recruiters do a full search when we get new positions.  However an update can put a candidate top of mind immediately….at least for me.
I don’t mind if it’s just a quick email  or if it’s a well thought out page or two.  Send a new one every 4 – 5 weeks.  Pretty soon you have a big network that is current and up to date (on you)!  One of our director level (F,P&A) candidates does a really nice periodic update and I always think of her when we get relevant positions.  Her updates are great but a short one is ok too!  Bottom line – I think of her.  And now I’m thinking of Brent. 
I think people don’t do this because 1) they are afraid they will bug their contacts and 2) they might be uncomfortable because it’s hard to “sell” yourself and ask for help.  Most people don’t mind a quick email.  Ask them when you meet them if you can stay in touch.  Your best contacts might want to go to lunch or coffee once a month.  Or tertiary contacts might like an email every couple of months.  Prioritize by who can help you.  Also don’t forget to always ask what you can do for them. (See Part 2 below)


Behind the Scenes (part 2)
So back to Brent.  I get his update.  He must have looked at our job listings on the web site.   We have a Controller position that requires Rev Rec experience.  I emailed Deb (one of the top ranked recruiters in the state) (she hates when I mention that) and she looked at his profile in the system.  She emailed me: “Cliff I think he is at a higher salary range.”   “Well, maybe – but I think he might be interested.  Why not try?”  She emailed Tom, who did the original interview.  He emailed both of us “Let’s go for it.  Deb do you want me to call him?”  Deb wanted to call him.  And she did.  This happened in less than a minute or two and Brent probably didn’t spend much time on his short (but highly effective) email.
Now ideally, we should find him when we do the full search – inside our database and out in the market.  However these things move quickly and his old resume didn’t have the rev rec experience.  Will he get the job?  I don’t know.  He’s a good guy and I’d like that.  We are only going to send 3 – 5 resumes so……was his update a good idea? 
He touched Deb, Tom and me.  All three people are in the market all day long.  I went to lunch with the Controller of one of our clients today.  He’s a friend and I told him about the update.  He mentioned that Brent had contacted him a couple of months ago.,  He  had been really busy with year end and he made a mental note to email Brent to get together soon (for networking). 
Multiply the update X 100 contacts.  Imagine how effective that will be.  Stay in touch with your network!!

Friday, March 4, 2011


A quick one today.  Several months ago I walked into Sharon and Monica’s office.  Sharon’s face was red and slightly swollen.  Her eyes watery.  Monica was very quiet.  It was quiet.  “Hey ladies.”  
“hey”   I think I got a response.
  “What’s the matter?”  I’m known for beating around the bush.
“Well, we have to call T _ _ _ _.    XYZ is going to have to postpone his start date.  They might not be able to even hire anyone…...”  This sentence took a while because both were crying.  It was a small fee and they weren’t concerned about that.  They knew that T wanted this job badly….and the company wanted him.  However XYZ’s client wasn’t ready to move forward (through no fault of their own).  Monica and Sharon really like him and they wanted him to get this job.  He needed this job.  They felt so badly for him and they didn’t want him to have to deal with this bad news. 
Both Sharon and Monica have over ten years experience in search and staffing.  This job can make you a little calloused, cold and uncaring.  It made me stop and think about how we can help people, even if it’s just being a sounding board.  It also made me reflect on how I need to stop more often and think about the lives of the people we are dealing with.  Losing a job, and then searching for a new one…..life changing, daunting, difficult, depressing, worrisome, fearsome, lonely.   I left their office knowing I am lucky to be on the same team.

Monday, February 28, 2011

PREPARE [Part 2]

Years ago we were working on a Manager of F,P & A role for a company relocating to Texas.  I had 3 good candidates but I was guessing that one was going to drop out.  I had another guy who had a unique background.  He was close…but not perfect.  And man….his energy level was WAY off the chart.  He wanted the job so badly and he was so energized….too energized!  However, he came prepared with a full MBA quality (written) analysis of the company and the subsidiary that was hiring ……. and a really good analysis of how his skills fit what they needed.
Yet – I didn’t want to submit him.  Finally, I said  “Jim, you are at 11 on the high energy scale.  You need to go in at a 7.  Tone it down.  Relax.  Let the interviewer lead the discussion.  You’ll get a chance to tie your background to their needs (quickly and briefly).”  He said he trusted me and he wanted the job.  He listened…..and he won.  He  held that job for years (and was subsequently promoted).  He followed the Controller to another company after that. 

He was prepard and he listened.  And I got a check.  I made a friend.  Jim and I have stayed in touch since 1996.

Friday, February 25, 2011

PREPARE [Part 1]

“I made it to the second round…..and the lady asked me: “Do you have any questions?”
“Um, uh…no.  I think you’ve explained everything pretty well.” 

She didn’t make the final cut.
We’ve seen this many times! 
Prepare.  Look at the company website.  Look up the interviewer on LinkedIn.  Have 2 – 3 good questions ready.  Look at press releases.  Know who their competitors are and know what’s going on in the industry.  Be prepared to ask questions that reflect your preparation and knowledge of the company.  Questions that show you have a work ethic.  Questions that lead to a discussion that helps you highlight your skills and show that you are the obvious choice for the role. 
Go to Half Price Books, or Barnes & Noble, or Amazon…or the internet….and research articles and books on tough interview questions and on good questions for you to ask.  There are great resources available.  Be prepared.

Monday, February 21, 2011


“I appreciate what you’re trying to do but I’ve hired a lot and I know what I’m doing….”
Or so she said.  We had her interviewing for a senior level six figure finance position.  And man……her resume  F I T .  She was number one going into the 2nd round.  It was her job to lose.  So she went in boldly and confident….and stuck her entire foot and (and part of her ankle) in her mouth.
Just a little coaching – just a glance at the simplistic interview coaching notes we send all candidates about to interview.  Here is an excerpt (email me if you want a copy of the full list):

Ways Candidates Strike out on Interviews
4.      Condemnation of past employer

Oh boy.  She spent 20 minutes badmouthing her boss and criticizing her current employer.  She eventually left her employer to join another big company.  She found a good job……just not the one we sent her on!

We have placed thousands of people and we’re pretty good at preparing people for interviews.  We want the best fit to take the job.  It’s good for everyone.  However, don’t let bad interviewing technique cost you the job that’s best for you!    Listen!  We both have the same goal - to get an offer.