Archive: December 2010


Business “Danger Zone”

December 21st, 2010

I love to coach youth soccer. The principles of leadership I practice in business extend very well to sports and coaching teenage boys. In fact, the boys are often more innocent and pure, which makes them easier to motivate and reach than the often opinionated and experienced professionals in the business world. On the flip side, life tends to provide a wonderful means to teach and coach business. As an entrepreneur, teaching and coaching are one and the same.
 
What is the danger zone? In soccer, it is the area of the field that extends out from the goal posts and is the part of the field from which most goals are scored. Danger Zone The size of the zone depends on the soccer players’ age. Generally, most goals are scored in the “center”, so it is much safer to clear the soccer ball down the sidelines than down the middle. To remain a step ahead of the kids (and the parents) in their development, we learned about the concept of the danger zone. In the early years, the game is all about skill development and tactics really come into play. But the game can be simple too. Get the ball into the danger zone if you are on offense, out of the danger zone if you are on defense.
 
What is the business danger zone? Where are you able to score most easily? In what areas are you most vulnerable and need to be more defensive oriented. Can you work on “scoring” more in business and reducing risk at the same time? If you asked my soccer team, they would say it is very hard to both. You can be become defensively oriented or offensively gifted. But it is difficult to do both. You have to choose your philosophy and stick with it. In business? Similarly, you must choose your priorities carefully – and stick with them.
 
In business, a leader enters the danger zone when he tries to accomplish too much. You have seen this happen. You have heard the speech; we all know this leader. The strategy is complicated and the list of to-dos are impossible to remember and even harder to relate to. Why does it sound like they are they reading directly from the business plan?
 
Great leaders choose simple priorities. These leaders clarify the rules of the business in a simple way and repeat that message over and over again. They learn that the business danger zone varies by the business and is not something to take lightly. Successful leaders also understand that they should not apply business tactics directly from a seminar they attended or an article that they read. Instead, those concepts can be incorporated over time. It is vital that leaders recognize the danger zone for their business.
 
So are you going to focus on defending your danger zone or will you work to attack your opponents? Offense or Defense? Your choice. I bet you can’t do both at the same time. Just ask the Klondike Express boys. In the end, we chose to concentrate on defense, yet the lessons ended up showing up offensively. Go figure…

The Powers of Observation

December 9th, 2010

As a talent acquisition organization we are constantly asked for the magic formula when it comes to making hiring decisions. Are interviews effective? Do you perform reference checks? What assessments do you use for sales people? There are progressive theories and best practices for just about every single part of the hiring process when you are evaluating talent. When asked for my favorite, I think I surprise customers.


Allow the talent to observe the job. All things considered, when someone has been phone screened, interviewed several times and evaluated, I find there is one step that strengthens the process. Sit them next to their new potential peer group. If they are a receptionist, put them on the switchboard. If they are in sales, have them attend a meeting or go on the road with someone.


This is an expensive and time consuming extra step, who has the time? I won’t bore you with a lot of statistics — we are all hammered with the costs of a bad hire and the time it takes to replace open slots on your organization chart. But to let a prospective candidate see your “warts” and learn all of your trade secrets before they are hired? How racy! So out there! Hiring is a two way street right?


Imagine if the candidate discovers that they would really hate the work. When I was in high school I wanted to be a stock broker and my parents arranged for me to spend the day with a family friend that was in the business. To my 16 year old eyes, at first I saw the glamor of the BMW and a great lifestyle. Then I went to see the work site and spending ALL day on a head set making cold calls seemed like nothing I wanted to be a part of.


Allow me to share a story from my past on this concept. A friend was hiring for a role in his firm and the two finalists had run the gauntlet; weeks were spent attracting, screening, qualifying and netting candidates for this important role in the business. I recommended that the finalists be allowed to observe the role and spend time with staff. My friend thought it was not necessary; there was a clear number one candidate. Why bother? They took my advice and during the observation time with “ideal” candidate, the applicant admitted to an employee that they had misrepresented their resume. See?


During an interview process people are always on their best behavior. During time in the office, they relax and get comfortable. They are themselves and you can see if they are what you really need them to be.



I know hiring can be fraught with (unforeseeable) mistakes, so why not do something simple to strengthen your process?


If you have another simple, practical point of view on all things leadership and talent related drop me a line.

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