It is hard to capture the impact that someone has had on an organization or society for 16+ years, without being poetic or glowing or both. There have been some great articles written about Jon Stewart and Leadership like here and here. The authors have done well in capturing how Jon did it … i.e. demonstrating leadership … but they don’t tell us why. Why did Jon Stewart do what he did? Why did he exhibit traits of a “servant leader“, hire & promote talented people, thank his entire staff, yet become embarrassed being thanked by Stephen Colbert, during his last show?
I think it’s because he understands “Meaning” – connecting what he does, with a purpose. Let’s not overthink this, as it might render Meaning meaningless. So here is a simple way to understand this concept. It isn’t my idea, rather it’s his idea, which I like. Let me paraphrase a story he often shares…
At the 2006 World Economic Forum in Davos, a business leader asked why a “mystic” was at that meeting. After all, aren’t mysticism and philosophy unrelated and especially irrelevant, to business? The response was interesting. The business leader’s company made computers. So they talked about the purpose of making computers. Well, the purpose would be to make money by building useful machines for users, right? But let’s dig deeper; much deeper. Computers let people be creative, innovative, nimble and successful. If the outcome of making computers is that artists can express themselves inventively, bankers can move capital around the world quickly, and entrepreneurs can run businesses successfully, then isn’t the core purpose … the reason … for making computers be to ensure the well-being of people who use them? Isn’t this what a mystic, a yogi or a guru wants? The computer maker and the mystic both have the same purpose and so that’s why a mystic was attending a business meeting in Davos.
We must understand this deep concept of Meaning. It is positive, but not sappy and definitely not altruistic. When we ask why and answer by saying “To ensure the well-being of people we serve, people we work with and people we lead”, we then will enjoy meaningful lives at work and outside of it. We will build products that are harmless to the planet, we will pay people fairly, and lead people with conviction.
But we mostly find the exact opposite in practice. We are well acquainted when Meaning is absent from our lives, and when we don’t think about business this deeply. If we define Meaning only as profit, then paradoxically it is bad for business. Clearly, people are not satisfied with just profit. People don’t just want more profit, but want all of it. We then end up doing cruel things to each other like paying women 73c on the dollar v. men and firing people for who they love. These actions make work meaningless. In the US, it takes the form of only 31.9 % of people being engaged at work, because their leaders are disengaged as well. Gallup says people leaders account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores, and we fail 82% of the time to choose people who are capable of leading others. If we have disengaged people and leaders at work, then we know it reduces productivity and our ability to innovate and execute. Traditional training hasn’t fixed this issue.
So, making ourselves think about the well-being of other people drives the good things up (engagement, innovation and profit) and the bad things down (attrition, stagnation and cost). Meaning sustains organizations, because it sustains the people who work in it. So if the “product” of a profitable show like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, is to give people the ability to think for themselves – for the sake of their well-being – then while you may not remember Jon Stewart’s antics 10 years from now, you will remember how it changed how you think. That kind of impact is sustainable and long-lasting for both Comedy Central and for Jon Stewart (profits from syndicated re-runs). That is not just being poetic or glowing. That is good business.
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New post on my @ERE_net blog.
Why do you think staffing agencies are not finding much success with off-shore sourcing teams?
It is neither the time difference nor the perceived language barrier (there are more English speakers in India than the US) that hinders your success in using off-shore resources. It is the fact that we do not celebrate sourcing as the most important task in the staffing process flow.
I believe that the size of one’s staffing database, is irrelevant. A good recruiter can staff up any opportunity, if she has the aptitude and tenacity to know what and where to look. I am sure you also have numerous examples of your own recruiting success because your sourcing strategy was better than the internal and external competition’s. Sourcing is everything that stands in your way of putting the right person on project and generating billing dollars.
My two step recommendati0n to underscore the importance of sourcing for you is to:
Accept that sourcing is the most important task in the staffing workflow
Find tenacious people and train and retrain them in sourcing strategies
Recruiting success begins with your acknowledgment that sourcing is the most important task in the staffing workflow. Make no mistake, it is absolutely the most important task in the staffing workflow. Sourcing is what separates the wheat from the chaff. Good sourcing relies on an individual’s tenacity and aptitude, which are excellent skills for any person to possess. Such an individual is also a hard-worker with a focus on results. So finding someone that can demonstrate good sourcing skills, will help you find top notch recruiters, even if you are hiring from outside our industry.
Acceptance of “the sourcing mantra” starts with:
Acknowleding that sourcing is an “intelligence function”, not grunt work
Spending more time and effort on identifying the right sourcers
Setting and rewarding a good source-to-deal ratio (example – 20:1)
- Prefering sourcers with a Master’s degree and some staffing experience
- Reviewing every resume submitted to your recruiters
- Meeting weekly to discuss performance issues
I believe that staffing success begins with both the acceptance of the importance of sourcing and being dedicated to (re)training sourcers regularly. Sourcing is not grunt work, even if it feels like the heavy lifting you don’t want to do. While it sounds great if you or your team came to work in the morning and had a nice list of 10 people per requisition to call on, it is a simplistic view that dilutes the importance of having the correct 10 candidates on that list.
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I plan to echo over there, what I will be writing here related to staffing.
I was recently referred the book The Ultimate Question by a senior executive at my employer and found myself completely reprogrammed about customer service. That coupled with a few searches on Zappos.com and Tony Hseih made it clear that the ideal path to profit is through happiness.
Of course, there are other ways that may lead to bigger personal and corporate profits, as evidenced by the fat cats on Wall Street, but you know that I have already rejected that notion, at least for myself. The author of this book calls such profits as “Bad Profits”. He also states that one cannot distinguish between good and bad profits on a balance sheet, but that bad ones look great in the short-term and erode customer happiness and referrals in the medium to long term. The Net Promoter Score (NPS) helps one identify which profit is which and reduce the bad while increasing the good.
Ask yourself – how do you feel about the revenue that the airlines have raked in from every checked-in bag and other fees? Now think of how you feel about Southwest where you can check-in up to 2 bags per person for free! Is Southwest losing profit? SURE! But they are only losing “bad” profits. Delta is looking great now, but think of how many people love and recommend Southwest and how many love and recommend Delta?
By the way, two companies that I LOVE and always RECOMMEND are Enterprise Rent-a-Car and Valvoline. They reside in two highly commoditized worlds and their front-line employees are not exactly high-powered and highly-paid executives with a lot on the line! Will you believe me if I said I have never had even one bad interaction with either company over the past 8 years?
Accomplishing that level of customer happines is hard to do and takes a lot of discipline. But a large part of the challenge of implenting this idea is getting employees on the same page.
Richard Owen, CEO of Satmetrix – the company that built tools for the management of NPS – recently wrote about the reality of persevering with this strategy. He had a great quote on his post by Philip Dick (“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away”) when talking about the resistance in understanding customer happiness because it is in the boggy world of “culture management”. Salespeople are especially resistant because either they don’t want to face reality because they’re optimists, or they do not care/want to understand this metric.
Zappos.com has been wildly successful (enough to be bought by Amazon for $1.2b) with this metric in mind. I don’t know if they use it formally, but one look at their “core values” tells you that they really, really care about customer happiness. In my world of contingent staffing, I do not know if any agency out there thinks about customer happines in such a way, but it appears so far that none seem to care. Like every other industry, staffing is about chasing the next sale or the next deal. Agencies are so sales focused that it is easy to see why NPS implementation will be a challenge.
This is not to say that one agency will sweep the market by going the NPS way. But it would certainly mean that customers that work with that agency would love doing business. It would make their lives more meaningful and happy. Isn’t that enough for a staffing agency to build a great book of business?
Staffing companies pride themselves in their “database”.
Ask ANY sales person that works in the industry and it will most definitely be one of the main selling points that they will make to you. They will shill for their vast database of resumes (1m, or 5m or whatever) giving you the impression that they know so many people that they can find you any skill set for any project or need that you have. Period.
I take a different approach.
I believe that owing a large database is highly overrated. When I started in this business, it was with a startup with barely any database. In fact, the founders has a set of 5,000 some names, none of which were ever used in my knowledge, at least by me. That company then went on to becoming one of the 500 fastest growing private companies in America in 2008, as ranked by Inc Magazine. So I came to the conclusion that owning a large database, or any database is highly overrated. There is one exception to this statement – a database is highly relevant in niche skill sets. At the same company, I have seen this in play. My constertation is with a generic across-the-board staffing agency sales person pounding the desk claiming to have a large database that includes tons of resumes across tons of skill sets.
It is never the database but the data mining tools and data mining strategies that are much more important. Oracle probably recognizes this through its various acquisitions. The database company is now almost ubiquitous in many other unrelated areas of software development and delivery. The art of mining for candidates is the true differentiator between one agency and another. More specifically, the abilities of individual recruiters and their tenacity in finding the right person for the open job outranks a database, in my humble opinion, by a million times to one.
Update: Added link to founder of the Summit’s website.
According to a video posted by Barry Posner, Professor of Leadership at the Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University, for the Leadership Summit, everyone is a contributor whether they know or not. Video available at: Leadership and Influence Summit, hosted by Daniel Decker. Keeping that in mind, I embarked on a brief thought experiment.
I spent a few days thinking about the one thing I brought to the table at work. I realized that it is neither my communication ability nor job motivation or interpersonal skills. It was Urgency. I call this the STOP – Supreme Trait Of Performance. On a Value/Performance chart, this trait is in the first quadrant.
For me, making a decision now or getting things done immediately outranks ever other task. My Urgency STOP has enabled me to become comfortable with ambiguity and to multi-task. If there was a top 10 list of people with a sense of Urgency, then I would numero uno.
This led me to consider the STOP for the individuals on my team. I wanted to identify the one Trait that each brought to the table. That same Trait powered their reason for professional existence as well performance. Some STOPs that emerged were Detection, Clarity and Repetition.
Detection: a detail oriented individual that covers every base imaginable while processing a transaction.
Clarity: a non-communicative person that works out solutions internally and understands the end goal well.
Repetition: a task oriented person that bangs away at a problem through sheer amount of work.
You may recognize these STOPs as either your own or as in someone you know at work. I realized that if you took everything else away from them, then they would still bring that Trait to work. It is part of their personality. I am quick to jump to conclusions or decisions, which may not always be a good idea. My Urgency STOP rules my head and heart, and if you took everything else I know or my other traits, then I will still continue to retain this one.
Communicating with people of different STOPs is complicated. When someone gives me a task, I am already executing on it in my mind and cannot wait to get to it. A Clarity STOP person may not know how to solve the problem right away, but they would be very clear about the end goal but just won’t tell you that.
As I continue building this construct, I would love to hear from your individual experience as you experiment with it.