Monday, December 19, 2011

Does your workplace fight multitasking with "attention blindness"?

"People using Facebook and social media at work worry that they're wasting time but studies have shown they're actually more productive....boredom is the most unproductive state we as people face." - Cathy Davidson

Davidson is author of Now You See It, How the Brain Science of Attention will Transform the way we Live, Work, and Learn and served from 1998 until 2006 as the first Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University, where she worked with faculty to help create many programs, including the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and the program in Information Science + Information Studies (ISIS). She is the co-founder of Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory, HASTAC ("haystack"), a network of innovators dedicated to new forms of learning for the digital age. She is also co-director of the $2 million annual HASTAC/John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

In this Harvard Business Review HBR IdeaCast, Davidson discusses "The Myth of Monotasking" or the idea that multitasking and social media technology are destroying our brains. She is against the idea of techno-determination or that technology will make you either smart or dumb. Her work is in part about how the brain works and how to make the tools of our age work for us.

When interviewer Sara Green relates that current Harvard students won't read a full length book, Davidson offers results of a study indicating that 15 year olds today read more books per year than their parents did or do today. Kids today are reading books written for the digital age and publishers have figured this out. Adults may think young adult literature is too fast paced and ambiguous but young people are just reading in a different way and the classics really are boring to them.

For 150 years, the modern, industrial form of work has been a production line system with linear processes and quotas that has pervaded our workplaces and schools. Davidson's podcast and writings are very thought provoking and suggest that workplace productivity today may be more like "working on a farm than on an assembly line".

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

HBS Press: Power Genes: Understanding Your Power Persona--and How to Wield It at Work

I have always found psychological studies on birth order fascinating. And Maggie Craddock has applied the birth order paradigm to leadership styles in the workplace in, "Power Genes: Understanding Your Power Persona--and How to Wield It at Work"

Craddock describes the value in the study of your "power persona" as being able to see your blind spots and potentially fix them. She outlines the four power persona types in her study: The Pleaser (who did get enough affection as a child and needs validation), Charmers (who learned to triangulate and manipulate (middle children)), The Commander (plays by the rules), and the Inspirer (finds reward for questioning status, an altruist, creative).

From the Harvard book store:
We've all joked about it: the domineering father figure as top manager, the boisterous elder brother type as heir apparent, the caring mother hen on the executive team. But that leaves the rest of us in the workplace as a gaggle of siblings battling for recognition, resources, and rewards from our "parents". Next thing you know, we're doing exactly what we did when we were kids to get what we need at work--trying too hard to please, acting out, brownnosing. Yet these responses aren't productive in the workplace. In "Power Genes", executive coach Maggie Craddock reveals how to kick those old habits and use your power more effectively to advance your career. Craddock identifies four "power types"--Pleaser, Charmer, Commander, Inspirer--and explains how to diagnose your type. Next she walks you through a process for avoiding your type's signature destructive reflexes and replacing them with new behaviors. She also shows how to interact productively with other people--peers, bosses, employees--of each type. "Power Genes" helps you jettison unproductive habits and take charge of your workplace relationships.

And also from Psychology Today:

What's Your Power Style?
How your family history shapes your power style.
Published on June 22, 2011 by Maggie Craddock in Power Styles
Have you ever wondered if a person's childhood experiences influence the way they operate as a professional later in life? Did that boardroom bully who intimidates others in order to make a point shove people around on the playground as a kid?

Ask yourself some questions: Do you ever find yourself so anxious to placate a challenging colleague or client that you get tongue tied at just the moment you should be expressing yourself more confidently? Have you ever worked with someone who managed to charm senior management while hiding their tendency to be hostile towards peers and subordinates? Would you prefer to give up control of a project rather than hassle with red tape and regulations that hamper your creativity?

Whether you are trying to get ahead at your existing firm, land a job in a new organization or even manage your personal life so your it is a source of support rather than strain, it's helpful to understand that many of your instincts for giving and taking power stem from ways you were conditioned in the first system you experienced in life - your family system. Through my research for my new book Power Genes

Understanding Your Power Persona
(Harvard Business Press, June 2011), I discovered that the building blocks of anyone's signature power style are rooted in the ways they have been conditioned to respond emotionally and behaviorally to the first authority figures they encountered in life, namely, their caregivers.
To get a sense of how you may be emotionally conditioned to respond to power in the workplace, reflect for a moment on the predominant way that your caregivers exerted authority in your family system. Was it trust-based or fear-based?

Did they motivate you by considering your feelings, or did they issue orders they expected to be promptly obeyed? If you were raised by caregivers who asked your opinion when making important family decisions, you probably react positively to colleagues who take the time to connect with you at a human level. This type of reaction indicates that the emotional dimension of your signature power style may be trust-based.

In contrast, people who were raised by caregivers that were either rigidly authoritarian or highly permissive often find that the emotional dimension of their power style can be fear-based. They may react negatively to consensus building on the job and gravitate towards leaders who operate independently and exude an aura of confidence.

But there is another level of your power style the needs exploring. The behavioral dimension of your power style stems from the way you learned to deal with your caregivers as a unit to get what you wanted in childhood. Did a more informal approach win the day, or did you learn to operate more formally with them?

If your childhood experience taught you that you could sometimes get one parent to say "yes" to a request that had been refused by the other, the behavioral dimension of your signature power style may be predominantly informal. People with a strong informal dimension to their power style prefer one-on-one interactions on the job when they are trying to influence others. For example, even when they know they will need to present an idea or proposal to a group, they will tend to run their ideas by key individuals privately before the group meets.

In contrast, clients who report that their caregivers stuck together when disciplining or rewarding them often exhibit a preference for dealing with groups to further a professional agenda later in life. People whose behavioral preferences indicate a formal dimension to their signature power style prefer to orchestrate an open debate around contentious issues with a group than negotiate individual agreements in private.

Comparing the ways my clients learned to adapt to get their needs met in childhood with the challenges, these same clients were facing in their current jobs unearthed some important trends. For example, Jeff, a senior executive in the advertising industry, was about to be passed over for promotion because his tendency to talk over others in meetings made him appear too anxious to lead a creative team. While Jeff had worked with presentation coaches who would video him so he could practice slowing down when he presented for clients, his urgent need to be heard kept driving him to talk over others during internal brainstorming sessions.

Jeff grew up in the shadow of an older sister who was a champion figure skater. His parents, who loved and supported him, had been so preoccupied with his sister's athletic career that they had inadvertently left Jeff starved for attention. Jeff longed to capture and hold his parents attention. This longing drove Jeff to created advertising campaigns that successfully grabbed the attention of families around the world. As Jeff began to understand the way that his fear of losing attention as a child was undermining the tone he set internally on the job, he was finally able to make the changes necessary to become a more powerful listener and land the promotion he deserved.

As you consider the roots of your power style, it's important not to make snap judgments
about others or about yourself. Most of us employ more than one power style, and you may even switch styles depending upon the situation. The four core power styles that I explore in Power Genes are the Pleaser, the Charmer, the Commander and the Inspirer. Most people find that their signature power style is a blend of at least two of these core power styles. Jeff, in the example above, discovered that his approach to wielding power reflected a blend of the Pleaser and Commander power styles.

The Pleaser - Due to outside stressors, which can range from financial struggles to preoccupation with a sick relative, Pleasers often didn't get the attention they craved from their caretakers early in life. As a result, Pleasers often grow up hungry for validation and are hardwired to take care of others. Pleasers often wield power by attempting to connect with others at a personal level.

The Charmer - Charmers were often required to soothe an emotionally needy parent early in life. As a result, Charmers sometimes have little respect for formal authority and may manipulate others in order to get their needs met. The Charmer power style is exemplified by people with an intensity of focus that both intimidates and seduces others into compliance.

The Commander - Often, a Commander has grown up in a family system devoted to sports, religion, the military or any larger system that reinforces discipline and a strict code of conduct. Commanders operate with a results orientation and tend to foster a sense of urgency in others.

The Inspirer - The family systems that foster Inspirers often value self-expression over conformity, and the caregivers in such systems are often willing to make personal sacrifices to achieve excellence in areas such as artistic expression or scientific inquiry. Inspirers tend to be innovative thinkers and operate with a consistent commitment to the greater good.

You can evaluate your signature power style by examining your dominant emotional triggers and behavioral patterns. As you do this, it's important to bear in mind that there are no "good" or "bad" power styles. Each style has inherent strengths and challenges, and each presents us with important lessons about power in the workplace.

To assist you in better identifying with a specific style, I will be exploring case studies based on each of the four core power styles in future blog posts.

Maggie Craddock is the President and founder of Workplace Relationships. Her firm does executive coaching, succession planning, team building and cultural enhancement. For more information please visit

Does an incentive to stay create an environment for top executive performance?

In uncertain times for a corporation, can an executive incentive package create stability and an environment for the executive team to perform at a high level?

Over the past two decades, executive severance agreements (ESAs) and change in control agreements have become standard ex ante tools for key executives and teams. Their intent is to prevent key executive turnover with large incentives offered to executives who remain in their positions except for "Good Reason" or in a change in control situation.

Severance agreements have received substantial attention from the business press, attorneys, business schools, executives, and investors. Termination of high profile executives from large public companies resulting in substantial severance payments has driven much of this attention. Some institutional investors have proposed that no severance package should exceed 3X
pay, especially in the case of poor performance. While severance agreements with executives can be negotiated post-termination, our focus will on ESAs for currently employed executives or ex-ante employment agreements, change-incontrol
agreements and severance agreements. Some studies by prominent business schools have shown that in excess of fifty
percent of executives have some form of severance agreement and over eighty percent have some form of change-in-control agreement. These studies have also suggested that executives with higher pay are more likely to have a severance
agreement in place, based upon the executive’s bargaining power or strength of firm governance.

Driven by high profile industry examples, leading educational institutions like Harvard Business School have taken up the study of severance agreements. Most studies evaluate the ethics or effectiveness of these agreements on executive and management team performance. But interestingly, the themes of some graduate business school courses and seminars encourage executives to distrust the corporate environment. The recent poor economic environment has led business educational institutions to even promote the view that “businesses don’t really care about you” (HBS, R Gulati, 2011).

Educational institution publications like the Harvard Business Review have developed an executive leadership series, Managing Your Career In Tough Times (2010), with one section titled “The Right Way to be Fired” which promotes ex ante employment and severance agreements. Legal publications, Harvard Law and the New York Law Journal, and their seminars instruct executives on the “negotiating options” for executives in employment, change-of-control, and severance agreements.

While the growth of severance agreements began with large corporations and is taught through leading business schools like Harvard, interest in these agreements has spread to smaller companies and even local graduate business schools where the topic of severance agreements can be found at Purdue’s Krannert and at Indiana University’s Kelley School. Advice and tutorials on how to negotiate an executive employment contract are readily available on the Internet.

In evaluating information on executive employment agreements, change in control agreements and clauses, and executive severance agreements, there is consistent and common language for triggering events and benefits.

Agreements written over a decade ago will go into much greater detail in defining the triggering events for executive employment agreements and executive severance agreements. But as these agreements have evolved the triggering event language is more simplified and focused on three types of executive termination – ‘for cause’, as a result of ‘change-in-control’, and by the executive ‘for good reason’. Rather than detailing many possible termination scenarios, agreements written recently define these three types of terminations as triggering events.

‘For cause’ terminations result in no continuing benefits paid usually past the date of termination. ‘Change-in-control’ and ‘for good reason’ usually trigger a severance benefit agreement or clause. Severance agreements and benefits can be part of the individual executive employment agreement or part of a stand-alone executive severance agreement.

The benefits triggered by these agreements are lump sum payments or continuation of several years of payroll, bonus, and benefits. Some agreements gross up payments to cover excise taxes. Studies at a number of leading business schools suggest that these agreements and their benefits do not provide their intended purpose and in some instances may have created an environment that fostered executive turnover. Current study of severance agreements suggests the possibility that more equity incentive versus cash compensation may better enhance executive performance and corporate stability.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

It's Good To Be Well

Reprinted from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce's Wellness Council of Indiana.

What Does Wellness Have to do With Recruiting?
By Steve Fero, partner and owner, Career Solutions Group

Even in an economic downturn, top performers still have their choice of employers. So, how do you position your company to attract these high producing potential employees? Aligning wellness initiatives with your recruiting strategy can send the right message – that your organization embraces an environment of high performance.

Based upon my 20 years of recruiting experience, there are several organizational characteristics that high producers and high-performing managers look for in a prospective employer. First, these high achievers expect an environment that embraces challenge, innovation and creativity. Second, they look for evidence of a company commitment to employee professional growth and learning. Third, high performers must see that they are surrounded by an organization that promotes peak productivity.

Of course, they will also expect a competitive compensation and progressive benefits package. Professional motivators of high performers systematically align with the key components of a comprehensive and consistent wellness initiative that can define your company’s organizational culture and environment.

Organizational absenteeism is a big red flag to prospective high performers and managers. Not knowing who will be on their team from day to day is a serious concern and stress creator. While they may be more than willing to pick up the slack for those out of the office due to illness, a high incidence of absenteeism due to illness can drive away key employees and potential recruits. By promoting healthy habits that reduce health risks and decrease absenteeism, you will see your top performers produce at a high level and likely raise the performance of those around them too.

Great employees expect to be in top form each day. They typically stay physically active and eat better to ensure every productive minute is spent on being the best they can be. How can you create an environment to help your employees stay in top form? First, take a look at your policies. If your work environment has developed HR policies that create roadblocks rather than promote healthy habits, your employees will ultimately decrease productivity.

High-performer stress can have its roots in a business strategy that does not incorporate the basic elements of a wellness concept. When policies and the organizational environment do not support high performance, managers will become stressed and high performers will, over time, become frustrated and leave. Aligning wellness concepts with your business strategy will help prevent high performers’ energy from being sapped and stifled. Ignoring the importance of aligning a culture of wellness with recruiting, on the other hand, will result in hiring second-tier candidates and likely higher health care costs.

How can you make sure that your environment and established hiring practices are enticing to a top producer? Many employer best practices already include the basic concepts of a cost-effective wellness strategy or plan. Since Indiana continues to rank near the bottom of every national health and wellness ranking, it is extremely important to highlight or spotlight the “well things” that your organization historically does well.

Celebrate and communicate these “well cultural” attributes throughout your organization. Your employees will become your sounding board for improving and promoting your wellness culture. Working with a recruiting process expert up front to develop a recruiting strategy that aligns your wellness culture with your message to recruits will help ensure success in attaining your business goals and desired outcomes.

Focus your recruiting strategy on the characteristics that great recruits seek. Do not promote or make false claims about the wellness of your employee population, but focus on some easy-to-implement wellness strategies that fit within your company culture.

An executive recruiting firm since 1995, Career Solutions Group provides corporate recruiting strategy, national corporate recruiting, executive search, custom recruiting and talent acquisition strategy services primarily to Indiana-headquartered companies with up to 500 employees. Steve Fero can be contacted at (317) 466-9740 or

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Great Management Revolution: Management By Robot

This article in the April 2nd Economist magazine really caught my attention. Robots are definitely doing incredible things. But, Management?

Recently, I talked with John Hanak, leader of Purdue University's tech park network. He related that in his old career, he was in the steel industry in northwest Indiana as general counsel of a major steel producer. Steel in NW Indiana had employed 30,000 union employees. Through automation in the 80's and 90's, new products were produced at higher quality, higher volume, and with 15,000 laborers. Now are we really ready to replace the Managers and Supervisors too? A scary thought.

As Schumpeter points out, the US Military is actually on the cutting edge of the implementation of robot technology with their drones and a robot that fuels itself with biomass. Nanotechnology is conceiving of truly mind blowing robots that can function on a scale barely visible to the naked eye.

Unfortunately, the lure of Schumpter's article didn't deliver. He never really discussed robots making decisions. All his examples were robots in task oriented roles. Could it be possible to program a robot to make better or more reasoned decisions than a human? Hal in the movie 2001 was fallible. But, can our research universities developing robots and computers like the recent Jeopardy robot bring technology to a level of replacing a real Manager?

Here's Schumpeter's article:


I, robot-manager
Management thinkers need to ponder more about homo-robo relations

Mar 31st 2011 | from the print edition

ROBOTS have been the stuff of science fiction for so long that it is surprisingly hard to see them as the stuff of management fact. A Czech playwright, Karel Capek, gave them their name in 1920 (from the Slavonic word for “work”). An American writer, Isaac Asimov, confronted them with their most memorable dilemmas. Hollywood turned them into superheroes and supervillains. When some film critics drew up lists of Hollywood’s 50 greatest good guys and 50 greatest baddies, the only character to appear on both lists was a robot, the Terminator.

It is time for management thinkers to catch up with science-fiction writers. Robots have been doing menial jobs on production lines since the 1960s. The world already has more than 1m industrial robots. There is now an acceleration in the rates at which they are becoming both cleverer and cheaper: an explosive combination. Robots are learning to interact with the world around them. Their ability to see things is getting ever closer to that of humans, as is their capacity to ingest information and act on it. Tomorrow’s robots will increasingly take on delicate, complex tasks. And instead of being imprisoned in cages to stop them colliding with people and machines, they will be free to wander.

America’s armed forces have blazed a trail here. They now have no fewer than 12,000 robots serving in their ranks. Peter Singer, of the Brookings Institution, a think-tank, says mankind’s 5,000-year monopoly on the fighting of war is breaking down. Recent additions to the battlefield include tiny “insects” that perform reconnaissance missions and giant “dogs” to terrify foes. The Pentagon is also working on the EATR, a robot that fuels itself by eating whatever biomass it finds around it.

Related topics
The Pentagon
But the civilian world cannot be far behind. Who better to unclog sewers or suck up nuclear waste than these remarkable machines? The Japanese have made surprisingly little use of robots to clear up after the recent earthquake, given their world leadership in this area. They say that they had the wrong sort of robots in the wrong places. But they have issued a global call for robotic assistance and are likely to put more robots to work shortly.

As robots advance into the service industries they are starting to look less like machines and more like living creatures. The Paro (made by AIST, a Japanese research agency) is shaped like a baby seal and responds to attention. Honda’s robot, ASIMO, is humanoid and can walk, talk and respond to commands. Roxxxy, an American-made “sex robot”, can be programmed to appeal to all preferences, and (unlike many a real-life spouse) listens to its partner to try to improve its performance.

Until now executives have largely ignored robots, regarding them as an engineering rather than a management problem. This cannot go on: robots are becoming too powerful and ubiquitous. Companies may need to rethink their strategies as they gain access to these new sorts of workers. Do they really need to outsource production to China, for example, when they have clever machines that work ceaselessly without pay? They certainly need to rethink their human-resources policies—starting by questioning whether they should have departments devoted to purely human resources.

The first issue is how to manage the robots themselves. Asimov laid down the basic rule in 1942: no robot should harm a human. This rule has been reinforced by recent technological improvements: robots are now much more sensitive to their surroundings and can be instructed to avoid hitting people. But the Pentagon’s plans make all this a bit more complicated: many of its robots will be, in essence, killing machines.

A second question is how to manage the homo side of homo-robo relations. Workers have always worried that new technologies will take away their livelihoods, ever since the original Luddites’ fears about mechanised looms. That worry takes on a particularly intense form when the machines come with a human face: Capek’s play that gave robots their name depicted a world in which they initially brought lots of benefits but eventually led to mass unemployment and discontent. Now, the arrival of increasingly humanoid automatons in workplaces, in an era of high unemployment, is bound to provoke a reaction.

Loving the alien

So, companies will need to work hard to persuade workers that robots are productivity-enhancers, not just job-eating aliens. They need to show employees that the robot sitting alongside them can be more of a helpmate than a threat. Audi has been particularly successful in introducing industrial robots because the carmaker asked workers to identify areas where robots could improve performance and then gave those workers jobs overseeing the robots. Employers also need to explain that robots can help preserve manufacturing jobs in the rich world: one reason why Germany has lost fewer such jobs than Britain is that it has five times as many robots for every 10,000 workers.

These two principles—don’t let robots hurt or frighten people—are relatively simple. Robot scientists are tackling more complicated problems as robots become more sophisticated. They are keen to avoid hierarchies among rescue-robots (because the loss of the leader would render the rest redundant). So they are using game theory to make sure the robots can communicate with each other in egalitarian ways. They are keen to avoid duplication between robots and their human handlers. So they are producing more complicated mathematical formulae in order that robots can constantly adjust themselves to human intentions. This suggests that the world could be on the verge of a great management revolution: making robots behave like humans rather than the 20th century’s preferred option, making humans behave like robots.

Is "Second Career" Talent Being Underutilized?

Listening to HBR Ideacast host Sarah Green's interview with Marc Freedman, author of "The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife" made me think of many executives that I've spoken with over the past several years and the loss of knowledge and talent when they are RIF'd from a corporate environment.

Typically, Career Solutions works with smaller companies, under 500 in total employment. These size organizations find tremendous benefit from addition of seasoned, experienced executives who bring a wealth of knowledge and unique perspective to smaller, growing companies.

There is a big risk to a small company in hiring someone accustomed to a Fortune 1000 organization. I like to tell people that they will have to want to "wear lots of hats". This is not a joke. Large corporations can have several layers of management which shelter an individual from the daily accountability and a do-it-yourself environment of a small business (the federal government says any company with less than 500 employees is a small business). The biggest risk to a large corporate executive who starts a new job in a small business is misinterpreting the work environment and not being an initiator. Waiting for something to happen has meant the early exit of many large corp to small corp execs.

This kind of turnover is a disaster - the magnitude of which deserves a separate post.

Corporate culture and our society in general plays a big role in this scenario as Freedman relates. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 was enacted to protect workers over the age of 40 largely because corporate culture is based upon "ascending the ladder".

When I talk with RIF's executives, we talk about appropriate positions for them to re-enter corporate America. But also if they're beyond 40, I discuss the likelihood that they may not be able to "get back on the ladder". Then the options become early retirement or joining the "working retired", starting a business or franchise, going back to school for some, or accepting a "lesser" position with a corporation.

It's that last option that is the most troublesome. Our large corporations are so focused on this "ascending the ladder" idea that convincing an HR or hiring manager that stepping down the ladder is okay is extremely difficult. There is the age discrimination factor, sure. And, I agree that there should be a concern that someone taking a step down will not have the motivation to commit to being fully engaged in a lesser role. But our society's prevalent corporate culture is really flawed for not finding a way to reintegrate older, knowledgeable executives into roles where they can mentor younger executives, managers, and staff.

I always encourage people transitioning out of a corporation to think broadly about their options. What are the things they are truly passionate about that they would love to do, that they've never had the chance to do? Well, some of them are most passionate about leadership and management but are shunned by corporate America. This will continue to be a problem for American business because as Freedman relates, "Half the children born in the developed world today will reach their 100th birthday."

So the new career stage beyond midlife could be something completely different like starting a new company, retirement, or applying their skills in a smaller organization. But, I think for an organization that truly cares about management and its people, rehiring "second career" execs in mentorship roles would pay big dividends.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Creating a Candidate Talent Universe & Should You Use an Ad?

I've taken a lot of heat from some friends over this ad. Mostly they make fun of my picture. But some have questioned what the point of the ad is or even whether a recruiting firm should be endorsing employment ads.

The point of the ad is just as the caption says, the Indianapolis Business Journals' employment ads do work. Why do they work?

The quote of mine in the ad refers to feedback that I provided to IBJ & Indiana Lawyer classified salesperson, Matt Houston. I had run an ad for a CEO position with an Indianapolis headquartered company. It was an expensive ad ($1,200) that ran for three non-consecutive IBJ issues.

My friendly critics are somewhat correct in that the majority of Career Solutions' research comes from passive candidates, targeted by our search plan to construct a custom candidate talent universe. We don't need an ad to find these people. We employ our in-house Researcher and an external research company based upon the project specs. Ideally, we want 1/3 of our competitive talent universe for a project coming from public, active candidate information, 1/3 from existing tracked candidates, and 1/3 from custom new research of passive candidates (people that may not have any public profile or information out there).

But for an Indianapolis area CEO search, an IBJ ad actually is a perfect compliment to our research plan. The IBJ's demographic information indicates that 55% of readers are 'top management' and 20% 'middle management', the median annual income of readers is $113,300 and average is $225,600, 86% of readers have a Bachelors degree with 35% having an advanced degree, and the average reader spends 45 minutes reading each issue. To me, this sounds like a CEO-type demographic. And, that's what we found in our ad's response.

Typically an employment ad has very low quality returns. From college communications classes, I recall that a 3-5% quality response rate is what you should expect from an ad. But, when you target a niche that percentage goes up - significantly. Generally, I tell people that an employment ad, newspaper or internet, will yield 5-10% respondents that are worth reviewing. This IBJ CEO employment ad had a much higher yield of quality respondents - something like 40% were worth interviewing. There were some that came from targeted source companies, saving us some labor in reaching out to them, and a few from companies we had not thought to target.

So this ad fit the needs of this particular search very well because it was a CEO directed ad, placed in a CEO demographic publication with the majority of readers in the geographic location we wanted. If you understand why the ad was effective for Career Solutions' CEO search process, then you also now see that every time this ad runs in the IBJ the "CEO demographic" (potential customers of Career Solutions) are seeing the ad. Each time it runs I always shoot Matt Houston an email and let him know who I know that's commented about it. It's a true win/win.

Talent Arbitrage - Wall Street strategies applied to talent selection and management

How did one of the worst teams in professional baseball from a small market with a small budget turn themselves into one of the top teams?

It wasn't by hiring super stars.

It wasn't by focusing on results and outcomes.

Focus on a disciplined talent selection strategy allowed the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to use a Wall Street approach to building a "talent portfolio" of a team. The budget conscious management team focused on identifying affordable professional players with specific skills needed to complete the team.

In this Harvard Business Review HBR IdeaCast, Sarah Green interviews stock market and sports author, Jonah Keri, author of The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First.

From Amazon:
What happens when three financial industry whiz kids and certified baseball nuts take over an ailing major league franchise and implement the same strategies that fueled their success on Wall Street? In the case of the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays, an American League championship happens—the culmination of one of the greatest turnarounds in baseball history.

In The Extra 2%, financial journalist and sportswriter Jonah Keri chronicles the remarkable story of one team’s Cinderella journey from divisional doormat to World Series contender. When former Goldman Sachs colleagues Stuart Sternberg and Matthew Silverman assumed control of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2005, it looked as if they were buying the baseball equivalent of a penny stock. But the incoming regime came armed with a master plan: to leverage their skill at trading, valuation, and management to build a model twenty-first-century franchise that could compete with their bigger, stronger, richer rivals—and prevail.

Together with “boy genius” general manager Andrew Friedman, the new Rays owners jettisoned the old ways of doing things, substituting their own innovative ideas about employee development, marketing and public relations, and personnel management. They exorcized the “devil” from the team’s nickname, developed metrics that let them take advantage of undervalued aspects of the game, like defense, and hired a forward-thinking field manager as dedicated to unconventional strategy as they were. By quantifying the game’s intangibles—that extra 2% that separates a winning organization from a losing one—they were able to deliver to Tampa Bay something that Billy Beane’s “Moneyball” had never brought to Oakland: an American League pennant.

By focusing on a talent selection process the Devil Ray's management team took the franchise from a $60 million valuation cellar dwelling performance to a $300 million valuation and two ALCS titles!

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Value of being the "Dumbest Guy In The Room"

"I hired great people. But, I was never the smartest guy in the room. If you have ten people on your team and two are smarter than you, then you've got eight of the wrong people. You want to be the dumbest guy in the room and just sucking ideas out of your team."

-Jack Welch, retired/famed leader of General Electric and founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute Online MBA.

A few weeks ago Jack Welch gave the keynote address at the Peopleclick Authoria global conference, and in true Jack Welch form, he made it clear that any organization that would not embrace Topgrading would have to be a C player company, led by a C player CEO and/or dragged down by a C player human resources organization. The A players in the room chimed in with “Of course!” “Do ‘ya think?” and “What company can survive with bosses that don’t try to fill every job with a high performer?”

When a head of human resources in the audience asked Jack what she should do if the CEO is a C player and is not talent driven, Jack said, “Quit – go somewhere else and Topgrade!”

And former talent management consultant to Jack Welch at GE, Brad Smart PhD recommends hiring top talent at all costs in a recent post - Try Stealth Topgrading. If you are a hiring Manager in an organization that won't embrace hiring the best available talent for every position, Smart recommends: 1) Quitting (per Welch's advice) and finding a more supportive organization, 2) Convincing Management to allow you to create a "beta test" for a new hiring methodology, or 3) Taking matters into your own hands and screening finalists to validate top performers yourself.

Creating a Deep Bench of Leadership

Fifteen years ago, I recall calling a local stockbroker and asking him to buy Apple stock for me. It was trading at $16+ per share. Since our office was filled with Apple products, I knew how dedicated and passionate the customer base was. The stockbroker laughed. "Apple is a Betamax," I recall him saying, referring to the high quality, Sony forerunner to VHS that never survived.

Apple Computer had been highly successful throughout the 1980s but had foundered in replacing its founding CEO, Steve Jobs, eventually the board hired "Superstar CEO" Gil Amelio. Amelio had led National Semiconductor from a failing company to become a leading computer chip manufacturer. He was a PhD who had invented product and become a business leader. He had become a darling of Wall Street and was seen as an invincible, A Player - well suited to lead many companies and especially one like Apple which National Semiconductor supplied to.

But, Amelio was a dramatic failure. Apple was on the verge of extinction. Why?

It was a botched hire. Amelio had done a fantastic job turning around National Semiconductor. But, the environment of National Semiconductor in which Amelio excelled was a large corporate organizational structure reliant on process and efficiency for success. Amelio knew how to execute, but understood nothing of Apple's culture of innovation. Apple had an environment and culture rooted in entrepreneurial vision and consumer focused innovation. While technically qualified, Amelio became exposed as a cultural misfit over the next year and a half, fired after 500 days.

Fifteen years later, Apple Computer has become the darling of Wall Street under none other than founder Steve Jobs' leadership. Was the founder, an entrepreneur, the only person who could lead Apple back from the brink? No. But, Jobs did eventually work his way back into the CEO role because he, personally, is the entrepreneurial visionary that can drive the organization.

In preparation for Jobs' departure once more, Apple has this time learned from their early mistakes and been preparing. Several potential successors now exist within the Apple leadership team. Initially, Tim Cook, the COO, will take the helm on an interim basis during Jobs' leave of absence. Says Harvard Business School professor David Yoffie, "The company could not thrive if Steve didn't have an extremely talented team around him. But, you can't replace Steve on some levels." Others within Apple note Jobs' creativity, obsession with perfection in product design and function, his management style, and the force of his personality made him unique in Silicon Valley and in business. The consensus was that it would take several people to fill his shoes. As the New York Times reports in "A Deep Bench of Leadership at Apple" in addition to Cook, several other key executives have been groomed and cross trained to prepare for Jobs eventual departure. The key cultural competencies that Apple has focused on with this cadre of leaders is a team that can execute the business plan AND lead breakthrough innovation at the same time.

Steve Jobs' inspirational leadership may be irreplaceable. But, the assessment of the key competencies that make Apple Computer's culture successful is the breakthrough that is leading to the company's and organization's continued success. New products continue to roll out. Wall Street has barely blinked at Jobs' absence. Time will tell. But, it appears the Apple board has done their homework this time around.