Red Zebra Business Centre - Management Memos
March 2011 Making Measurably More For Your Business Since 1985!
Recruiting is always fraught with problems. And it's hard to get it right!

Max Williams, Principal Consultant

Sooner or later, every manager or business owner needs one specific type of person -  and its so very hard to get just that person.

About six months ago, our office had a particular staff need which, on the face of it, should not be difficult to fulfil. All we needed to do was be careful.

Our Practice has a very good recruitment system, that's been effective for clients for the last 25 or more years. This time, we had a new learning experience!

We had gone through all the necessary steps. First, we had written the Position Description, and published the Selection Criteria. The selection process we use to sort candidates worked well.

So, why did it take us six months, and several false steps, to really get it right?

In retrospect, there are two elements that really needed much more attention than we had given them.

First: while the role seemed clear, the main parts of the function were not given enough weight. The balance of requirements in the PD was not an accurate reflection of what we needed. OK in fact, but not in balance.  The result was that even very good candidates were only just 'close to the mark'. They didn't quite meet what was needed.

Second: Candidates had not completely read and understood the Position Description. It is so easy to scan a position description, and say that's 'all the kind of things I've done before, and, yes, I can do all that!' But that's not enough! A candidate who clearly shows they understand all the nuances of the situation is the only candidate worth contemplating. If you have to explain what you are seeking - it's wrong!

In the final, successful selection, there were four candidates (out of 84) who each demonstrated that they really understood what was needed. Subsequently, two disqualified themselves, leaving two first class candidates who each could do a brilliant job of fulfilling our requirements.

The key to success in this case was that the Position Description had been rebalanced to show what is really 'needed'. Then, the candidates who demonstrated a clear and powerful understanding of it stood out like shining stars.

Without a written Position Description which we could analyse and rebalance, we would have had little chance of ultimately fulfilling this specific need.

Don't ever underestimate the value of the carefully crafted Position Description!

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Select a Manager


hen you are faced with the need to select a new manager, at any level, there are a few steps you really should consider - before you make a big mistake. Then, perhaps, you won't make that mistake!

Points to Consider when you need a new Manager

The world's largest technology company by revenue, and the outfit that birthed Silicon Valley, had very suddenly and unexpectedly had to put out a figurative "help wanted" sign.

After parting ways with their CEO over inaccurate expense reports, and claims of sexual harassment from a former marketing contractor, (ultimately settled out of court),  the company was on the hunt for someone to take the lead position.

While the previous incumbent's success at the company in his five-year tenure is well-documented, it wasn't enough to have the board overlook his violations of the company standards of business conduct policy.

As a result, the board of directors had the unenviable task of finding a suitable replacement manager to soothe investors, inspire employees, and ring up sales to customers. The job description, according to one key board member reads: "Someone with very strong leadership capabilities, having both outstanding strategic skills and operational skills. Willing to consider internal and external candidates."

In this case, it's useful to think about the ideal qualities in a candidate the company should be considering. So what should the board look for?

Here are the suggestions of people with expertise in management, for the search process to identify the right man or woman for the job.

Don't target a boy scout/girl scout

An easy temptation after losing a leader over an ethical breach is to find someone who's the opposite--someone perceived as beyond reproach morally. Of course, that's basically what any company thinks it is getting when an employee is raised to a management level in the company.

Upstanding executives are always a good thing, but companies shouldn't target someone only because they're known as "a boy scout or girl scout." The problem is you don't want to end up with someone with good morals - but who's ineffective.

Do your due diligence

On the other hand, an executive search committee should also not overlook the professional situations form which come the candidates they are considering.
It's not enough for a new manager (especially a CEO) to have a spotless reputation. It's important that none of the companies with which they've been affiliated has had scandals in the past.

Unfortunately, extensive research done on executive career outcomes after scandals (and including interviews with boards and head-hunters), employers often don't do that type of due diligence. They look at someone's CV and don't take the next step. It's important that the person they choose doesn't have any skeletons in their closet, and that they know how to run the company and do it well.

Get a personality

It's true, some highly charismatic personalities don't go over well. But that doesn't mean there isn't room for a manager whose temperament and personality is extroverted and magnetic, without being polarising.

Obviously the board would want someone who can make sure the operations stay on track, but there's room for a little bit of flair, a little bit of Steve Jobs in the person. Not too much, but there is considerable benefit in bringing in someone with a strong public persona to drive interest in the company.

Find someone unafraid to innovate

Some 'good' managers are numbers people, "operational nerds," as author Anthony Bianco put it recently. That can translate to successful, but also boring. Why not take the chance to get someone in the manager's office who has visionary qualities? Someone who knows what the customers want.

Both companies and consumers want to see everything connected together ... adding value to both their lives and businesses.

Move quickly

Obviously a company should choose wisely, but time is, as they say, of the essence.  Your management plan must address whether you are looking for a manager to execute your existing strategy or if there was potential for a different direction under new leadership.

Uncertainty can be debilitating for employees - and potentially for the person stepping into the manager's shoes. Getting the solution quickly - yet carefully - is the hallmark of a strong and thorough board.

Or, a strong manager in an owner operated enterprise.

If you'd like to find out more about how to make measurably more in your business right now, talk to us, or ask us a question here! Remember, there's no charge or obligation.

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