Category: Outside-In®


Outside-In® Turns 13!

August 6th, 2014

Thirteen years ago today I started the Outside-In® story in my friend Jim Paoli’s coat closet. I had a laptop, a cell phone (not a smart one), and a folding desk and chair for ambience.  I had my business plan done, my labor of love of 80+ pages. I was so proud—we were going to change the world. This document represented all that was wrong with the HR services world and illustrated how I was going to do it differently. Call it my Jerry Maquire moment. Who’s with me? Well, there were just a few who believed in me and today I would like to thank them all.

Getting a business started is a fascinating experience. I have been fond of saying that it feels generally like full-blown asthma. You simply can’t breathe for months because of the crush of to do’s and the weight of needing to pay the bills and find those all important first customers. Eventually you find a way to get through it.

20140806_115354_resizedWe survived even through the adversity—and we have had plenty. It is going to sound like a joke of some sort with no punch line. Did you hear the one about the small business that survived a fire, a roof collapse, IT theft, and 9/11? Oh yeah that one. This was the day I opened to the world and my first full-time employee, Judi Dorazio joined the fold. We sat and worked as the world changed around us. I simply did not know what else to do. So we sat around for months waiting for the world to heal and for us to be able to start all of those delayed projects.

It was not easy. I am a smooth talking persuader according to Myers-Briggs profile anyway. So getting out and talking to the marketplace was easy for me. Hard work, mind you. But I could do it—and I did. Imagine working every single day for a year including Christmas. OK, I did not work all day, but I worked every day that first year. Think about the book Never Eat Alone- I took that to heart and had a lunch date every single day for almost two years. As you can imagine, this is got expensive. People want to feel your energy, get caught up in your dream, and see how big you’re thinking. Then they pat you on the head and wait to see if you make it before they work with you. Who can blame them?  When your nephew comes to you to sell you insurance when it’s his first week on the job you don’t buy. NO ones does. We all must pay our dues, gain experiences, and become good at what we do.

So here are the thank you’s to the class of 2001!

First and foremost my wife, Kim. If you looked at her Myers-Briggs profile, you would see that generally speaking she is conservative and avoids risks. Yet, she willingly and knowingly has supported my dream, our dream, for the past thirteen years—the good, the bad, and all of the ugly! Kim has been a Bookkeeper, Office Manager, Interior Designer, Foreman, and the one that vacuums and empties trash cans! Kim thank you for your sacrifices and vested interest in what we are building.

Laura Kasper. She worked for me once before the Outside-In® Companies. She worked for Placers 1.0 with my Dad and she worked for free until my business got going. Laura did everything that was not customer facing in the early days of the business. Laura did the business plan, wrote the proposals, bought office supplies, and she even designed most of the early processes & systems for every part of the business. I am proud to say that today she is a friend, a customer, a very successful HR leader, and mom extraordinaire!

Judi Dorazio. Judi and I also worked together at Placers 1.0. She did all of the recruiting and delivery. And customer and account management. And sales. You name it, she did it on the staffing side of the business for many, many years. Without that foundation we would not be where we all today!

Colleen Stratton. The first outsider. No Placers 1.0 here! Smart—whip smart. Colleen anchored our consulting practice. However, she really brought us forward with ideas and relationships.  Colleen is always at her best with complex people problems. Colleen is a friend, a customer, an advisor, and of course, an alumnus!

In all fairness, there are many others Jamie, Linda, Dave, Lisa, Joe, John, Garrick, Kelly, Glenn, Kathy. I feel like Frank Sinatra attempting to accept the award on stage but the ending music starts playing. My time for thank you’s is up!

Most companies don’t make it through year one. Then it is the five year hurdle. We had a cake and ice cream. For year 10, we threw a 25% party because only 1 in 4 makes it ten years. How will be celebrate being 13? With hard work, a simple birthday song, and a whole lot of sincere thank you’s!

Servant Leadership: Vacation & Days Off

July 2nd, 2014

At Outside-In® Companies, we work hard to share content and to communicate regularly with our employees, customers, and other key stakeholders. When this week’s marketing went out, mostly automatic responses came back. “I am sorry I am out of the office until July 7th, the 14th, or whatever it might have been. Please contact (fill in the blank) if you have any urgent matters.” I stopped and thought about all those that left working—those employees who got the extra call, email, or workload because you or someone else was out on Holiday.

ID-100135888Don’t get me wrong, everyone needs (and earns) their time off. Generally speaking, the average employee never seems to take all the time off that they have earned. However, with technology only a touch screen away, work always seems to get in the way.

I have a culturally-led goal for Outside-In® Companies—for leaders to encourage the newest or least senior person get that choice week or Friday off before the Holiday weekend. Leaders should be in the office working and getting things done. And yes, you should close the office down. (I am not bragging but four of my leaders were working and wrapping things up long after 5pm on July 3rd so that others could get started on their long weekend).

The average leader works so hard to climb the corporate ladder, to have the title, company car, three-week vacation, or big bonus that we have forgotten what servant leadership is all about.  To be a servant leader, you need to anticipate and meet the needs of your employees. You must be honest, direct, and fair. Leaders must share the truth. Especially when it prevents an employee from being good or great in what they do.

However, being a servant leader also means showing sacrifice and equality. If you expect your values to be real and for all to be equal, you must show it in your actions and policies. Next week take a look around the office. Are all the leaders on vacation and the employees working hard? Or is their servant leadership in place? Either way, all can live this trait. Take on the burden and offer to close the office for someone. That is what servant leadership can be; especially when your staff is getting the job done!

World Cup: Who Wears the Yellow Arm Band?

June 25th, 2014

Almost half of the entire planet is watching the World Cup. Perhaps not where you live, but here in the Mid-Atlantic it’s all we have. Hockey and basketball are over. Our baseball team stinks. And football has not started just yet. The sentiment of local sports radio personalities is that the World Cup is boring. Soccer does not score enough. This is cross country running with a ball! In fact, the radio folks seem restricted in their ability to talk about it, even if they are one of the few DJ’s that will embrace the sport and the Cup.

ID-10056952Well, not in my house. And frankly the public sentiment is changing. Today kids play the game and parents socialize on saturday mornings on the sidelines and at tournaments. Soccer is becoming a lifestyle here in the states. Now I will get off my soap box!

As a leadership coach, entrepreneurial leader of a company, and a high school soccer coach, I tend to see the world of soccer through a different lens that comes from an adoration for the sport and the study of what makes a leader in any life situation. What has fascinated me most is what it takes to be Captain. In soccer, this is signified by the yellow arm band. My curiosity lies within the question of if the traits of a leader are the same on the pitch as they are in the board room. What do you think? My sense is that you can insert the President, the VP or a Manager in any of these situations if they represent good leadership behavior.

What it takes to wear a yellow arm band:

  • You have to have players that will follow you. Every leader must have followers. Leaders can’t send a message or create a vision if no one believes in it. No one can be Captain without buy-in from the players!
  • A Captain is vocal in both big and small ways. A captain knows all aspects of the game. And they put their teammates in the right place while on the field. They communicate constantly. They direct and put players in the right position. The team listens and respects the chatter. This mental direction is so critical in the game. The smallest mental lapses in spacing, positioning, and decision making on and off the ball create most of the goal scoring opportunities for your opponent.
  • A Captain can put the game on their back as they say. No matter what is required. Shut down the other team’s best player. Make the critical play or pass. Even the score—go ahead and make a goal.
  • The captain must lead the team 24/7 on and off the field. Winning and being competitive is not contained in a 90 minute game. The season begins the day the last one ends. Being a leader is learning more about the game, playing it, getting in better physical condition in the off season, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
  • Captains do everything with intention. Every meeting, every Friday night game or spaghetti team dinner is with a purpose. Closeness in a team off the field relates to trust and understanding of your teammates on the pitch.
  • The captain respects the entire team and knows that all have value. However, the captain also understands and respects individual roles and contribution levels.
  • A captain knows the team values and communicates with them. All action, word recognition, and discipline stems from living the values or helping teammates do it better.

Interesting to note, leadership behavior is just as hard to notice in a soccer game as it is in the game of business. You really have to look for it because it is effortless for good Captains and good leaders.

Can Your Team Handle the Truth?

May 14th, 2014

Several weeks ago my leadership team went through a self-conducted Patrick Lencioni exercise. If you don’t know Patrick he is a consultant and writer of wonderful books that generally use the power of a good story to reinforce certain principles around team building, leadership, communication, and organizational health.

In his newest book, The Advantage, Patrick recommends that each leader write down the answer to the following two questions:

  • What is one strength that each individual team member brings to the group?
  • What is one non-strength or challenge that negatively impacts the group?

ID-100255083At first, most leaders have to think long and hard about whether or not their team has the organizational maturity and closeness to pull this off. So, it starts with the leader and with all team members giving their positive feedback. That part is not so bad really. In fact, it is actually a compliment and a feel good. Then the negative feedback begins. And guess what? That is even better than the positive. We all kind of know our strengths and our big impact. However, we all really wonder what people think about our leadership qualities. To get this directly without caveats and not sandwiched between two positives is beyond refreshing.

So what did my team say about me? NOTHING surprising. They said that I need to be more direct and clear. (Be careful what you ask of people) I also need to make sure I am not too understanding in our team environment. My team reminded me that we all want to be in a winning environment and that it is my job to hold all to that high standard along the way!

The best part about all of this is that it’s a shared experience. One that leaders remember and can use in their efforts in the grey areas with their peers. This is a safe reminder for all of us. Chris, be direct. Leaders, please be more open. Listen. Or whatever else you need to work on.

This is all about creating an open, honest environment that encourages and builds a real team. One that can work through differences, can care enough to offer feedback, and challenge each other. Most teammates fight to get their work improved, not help the broader team. To know that this behavior will be rewarded—well, then we have something special to build on!

No Excuses Leadership

May 7th, 2014

no excusesWe make them all of the time. In our home life. At work. In our minds. We say it out loud. We think of it often and we blame others all too much. Our kid got a bad call on the sports field. We would have gotten that promotion or bonus if the boss was more reasonable. We could have hit our budget, however, the winter weather kept workers home. As leaders at the Outside-In® family of companies, we have serious responsibilities to consider as a team.

No Excuses as a value seems self-explanatory, right? Try hard to control the space between your ears and learn to own whatever you are responsible for and for whatever happens to you. Placing blame, well, that is the easy path to take. Everything can be rationalized and made someone else’s fault.

As a leadership team No Excuses requires a commitment to some important management ideals and practices.

1. As leaders we need to think in terms of contingencies. Things always go differently than planned. Thinking through different options. Planning to stay ahead of your business. Making sure you stay ahead of things. The concept of getting ahead matters.  

2. Getting ahead and staying ahead and out in front of your business. Having enough focus and balance on the future of your business is critical. Do you have enough staff? Do you know who your next hire is? Are they ready for your next opening?

3. Balance of today’s workload with tomorrow. Did you just barely get through the day? Are you growing your business? Are you giving employees a reason to come back? Would anyone notice that you’re not working towards a future state or plan? A business is a plan of resources that meet today’s demands but also keep you aligned to your future. Too much today focus can mean that stakeholders become disinterested and begin to question where we are headed. Too much forward focus? Well, the bright picture you’re creating maybe too big a chasm for your employees to believe it today and it looks ugly!

4. Anticipate. Everyday clients have issues. Staff needs help and coaching. You will have interruptions, distractions, things that occupy time. New prospects need cultivating. You know everyday these things happen. And this is just a normal day, where, nothing big happened good or not so good. If you know this be ready for it.

5. Have a daily plan. As a leader you can make it through your day and have a full one simply by helping the staff and customer that need it and by going to the standing meetings on your schedule. I bet success for you is defined by more than reacting to your day.

Avoiding excuses starts well in advance. To avoid making big ones requires planning, delegation and an effective of balance on the work of the day versus the long range direction you have set for your business.

CBI Way: Teeing up a Successful Partnership

April 30th, 2014

Guest blog spot by Outside-In® Team Member Alex Patton

With continual encouraging data regarding labor and employment, the mindset of employers may be leaning optimistically toward more hiring. Of course, there is bound to still be apprehension when considering the hiring of more talent, or the partnering with an RPO provider. However, there are few simple steps to guarantee success before completely engaging in a partnership.

Untitled-7A partnership can be defined as an association of two or more parties, and when talking RPO, it usually includes many more people. To best guarantee success prior to implementation, determining all peoples involved is essential. As a customer, knowing all the moving parts of the service you are purchasing leaves nothing to the imagination, very comforting for a business that may be engaging in their first RPO initiative. As the partner, it’s important to be aware of who might be your source of feedback, points of contacts, and who could possibly be helpful if another person involved is out of the office. Knowing who is involved helps keep an RPO engagement sound, smooth, and clear.

Part of ensuring an effective and fluid RPO integration is the defining of Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for the duration of the engagement. Usually worked into the Service Level Agreement, which we discussed in a previous CBI Way blog, these indicators may not necessarily be binding, but more of a longer term measure of success on a weekly or monthly basis and reported back to the client.  A great example of a KPI would be the candidate to interview ratio. In other words, how many submitted candidates turn into an interview with the client. By measuring non-binding indicators there is opportunity to manage and improve throughout the engagement.

Of course, there are more tools and steps to ensure success before implementation and contract signing, whether small-scale projects or full enterprise RPO. But by determining a focus on what is most important to you as the client and laying out the working parts (people) of the upcoming partnership, a high performance engagement is imminent.

The CBI Way blog series explores the tools and practices used in Talent Acquisition. CBI Way is CBI Group’s recruiting approach and methodology – it’s how we do what we do! Check in with CBI Way for insights around workforce education and training, the latest trends in recruiting technology, and how to best utilize these tools towards improving your own recruiting practices. 

4 Things The Avengers Taught Me About Talent Acquisition

April 9th, 2014

By Outside-In® Team Member Caitlin Olszewski

TAMarvel2Anyone and everyone in the industry knows that finding superhero talent is rare and extremely hard to do. When looking for new talent you need to ensure that their skillset can coincide with the team and work together to fulfill the purpose of the business. Each member of your team must bring a unique expertise that ultimately strives for the success of the organization and the growth of the company.

Here are some things to remember when looking beyond masks and capes:

1. Superhero powers are rendered useless if not harnessed and executed properly. Nobody wants a hulk candidate smashing everything in sight, or an archer that cannot master the skill to hit a target. It’s important to look for talent that not only meets the skill requirement, but also has the proven ability to use said skills in action. Screen for specifics and ask for examples of a time your candidate used these skills to overcome common obstacles in your industry.

2. Resumes can be deceiving. Sure, they graduated top of their class from MIT and have two master’s degrees under their armor prior to the age of 19. That doesn’t mean the man behind the iron is the right person for your team or a cultural fit for your company. Face to face interviews with the entire staff are crucial. Bring them into your office and see how they interact with every single person in the company and try to weed out any signs of evil.

3. Candidates must be up to date on all technology and facets of your industry. Although your super serum-enhanced candidate can wield a shield and have an unprecedented patriotism toward your company, they may have been asleep for the last 70 years when it comes to current technology and practices. Whatever your industry, it’s important to troll for candidates that are ahead of the game and know “the next best thing.” If your stellar candidate is slightly lacking in this category, make sure that they have the willingness and drive to learn quickly.

4. Always be comfortable with being in BETA. A company’s work is never “finished”. Look for candidates who can wear multiple suits and focus towards creating a 2.0 improved version. Businesses boom when employees are superhuman and innovative. Troll for candidates with diverse backgrounds within your industry and you can bet on an unstoppable force of business growth and development.

You don’t need Charles Xavier or Cerebro to locate your next talent. At Outside-In® Companies, we offer Blank Sheet of Paper Recruitment Solutions that are completely customizable for your needs! We can help you.

What is Your Personal Operating Philosophy?

April 2nd, 2014

Although each of us has one, few of us have ever sat down to work on it. Yet it still exists and your operating philosophy is at play all of the time. How do you react to people and situations? How do your beliefs impact how you act and perhaps even how you interact with the world around you. Your series of beliefs are your operating philosophy.

Trust me, even if you think you do not have one you do. So we all have a choice to make here to determine our philosophy. People do not know themselves. They know they don’t necessarily like dishonesty or rudeness or folks that lack direction or purpose in their lives. But knowing these things for yourself. Well I think in business and as a talent expert I see all kinds of people who simply have not taken the time to decide who they are and what they stand for. Imagine a culturally led organization asking culture-based questions to folks that don’t know their own culture? Hard to find a match.

So how do you go about defining yours? A business has an operating philosophy that defines in many different ways. Things like a mission statement, values or culture, even things like a purpose define the operating philosophy. They work hard to answer the basic questions of what a business does, why it exists, and how it goes about doing its business. I get asked this everyday as a business owner. And an answer I must give.

As people we have a choice. Are we half full or half empty? Are we reactive or proactive? Are we going to be friendly or nasty? Each of us needs to determine what we stand for and believe in.

ISTJ2I help people refine their personal operating philosophy by asking the following questions:

  • Brainstorm leaders in your community and famous people. What is that you admire about them?

  • Think of who you admire most. Then determine why.

  • Find an assessment tool like Disc, Strengthfinders, Myers-Briggs, or other tools for self-reflection and thinking.

Most important of all is to do some thinking about what the world needs from you. If we truly control our reaction to the world, we get to decide what we put out to the world, right? So the real answer is to define your thinking about your attitudes, beliefs, and values. And be able to talk about them.

So what is your operating philosophy?

Seasons: The Ultimate Agent of Change

March 26th, 2014

Spring is finally here. The temperature and my yard still look like winter; however, we can count on seasonal change. Ironically, we tend to look forward to this change. This winter is easy to forget as we all long for the warm sun and time outside! When the heat of Summer rolls in we will long for cool breezes and crisp Fall days! We accept these changes and embrace them. Why do we not accept other changes?

agent-badgeWith today’s world evolving and shifting right before us, I know most employees struggle with the notion of being an agent of change. Sometimes we all long for normalcy, safety, and just a little status quo. We find comfort in routine and the familiar. However, this is not really the way the world of work stays for long. I believe today’s worker has begun to romanticize the notion of being an agent of change. We all want to believe that we will be the ones that smile in the face of adversity, that take the bad news head on, that are willing to do whatever is asked of in order to live this value. Though truth be told, change is hard. We might have to give up tasks and duties we like and that give us energy. We might even have to take on new tasks that are brand new and unfamiliar, that we might struggle to grasp and master. As employees we might even do things we are not good at and never, ever saw ourselves doing. And when faced with change in reality your response can be very different than perhaps you want or even planned. Reactions to change are personal, unique, and ultimately up to the individual.

I have lived this first hand. Entrepreneurial founders face many crossroads and business challenges. During the “great recession” I found myself cleaning our offices on the weekends. I was also thrust back into leading, selling, and managing in a way I did not have to do for many years. We always have a choice with change. I actually fought it for too long. I ignored the recession, reacted slowly, we kept fighting, but we were not embracing the real realities of the new economy and its impact on our services and the marketplace.

Our goal at the Outside-In® Companies with change? To teach, discuss, equip, lead, educate, and work on our knowledge of the topic of change. We make it a value to remind us of our desire to be change-makers. We want our customers to envy our adaptive and flexible mindset. We want it to be an edge that we use daily to take advantage of business opportunities. And as a feature in working with us that provides our customers a one of a kind benefit. We find that our customers need to drive change and it is very hard work, but a partner that lives, breathes, and eats change seems to make their transition easier and less painful!

To be a true agent you must do more than be willing to be adaptive in your job and to the role you play in your company.  A true change agent seeks to understand why change is absolutely necessary to begin with.  Change is not just happening to you; change is constant for a business.  A business and its leaders must be making adjustments at all times, balancing goals with results, the external marketplace with internal resources, etc.  A company with a real advantage has to do less work convincing and influencing staff why change is necessary.  And gets to spend more time being productive!

Outside-In® Ubiquity

March 19th, 2014

Last year we realized that Outside-In® Companies have done much work to achieve our written and stated purpose. You see, we like a purpose because it is more actionable than a mission statement. I hope you don’t care for mission statements—they get put on lobby walls and above doors of conference rooms, but are not often talked about or brought to life. I am not sure what consultancy started to charge tens of thousands of dollars to Corporate America sometime in the 80s, but they should have to give their money back. In fact, most are not active in the day-to-day lives of the typical employee. Committees write them, yet no one understands them. And it’s easy to know why, they are just a bunch of jargon and buzzword-filled statements that impress but have no real purpose. In fact, most mission statements don’t seem to make any sense and are foolish, even!

purposeNow, purpose–this is why I hope you bolt out of bed every morning and get excited about what you’re doing. (Of course you love your job and career, right?) All of us at times need to think in longer terms, say 10-15 years in order to achieve and dream. Creating a big future and broader meaning for being are critical to culture and the experience that your employees and customers feel when they are a part of your organization. This is what drives you through thick and thin. And it is why I am writing this story. A purpose needs to be talked about, be actionable, and be alive and well in every single meeting. There is little coincidence that we use the word ubiquity in our purpose. We want our purpose everywhere, every place, all of the time. And everyday we bolt of bed to climb the Outside-In®  Mt. Everest. We put it out there for others to use. Now we need to get inside people and create a doctrine of beliefs that people can find useful to making their lives better and more fulfilled!

We have always wanted to get Outside-In® to become a household name in business. We registered the trademark in 2004. We wanted to encourage its use and not litigate, defend, or protect our claim. To me, the greatest form of flattery was when the national business magazine, or local technology blog used Outside-In® in a way that described customer-centered thinking and a culture that is, in essence, built around the customer.

I have a shelf full of books and an electronic database of references to our precious, Outside-In® moniker. Here’s four:

Getting Outside-In® in everyday language was fun. This was hard work. This is still a vibrant goal.  But we wanted to think bigger and differently about the next ten years. To us, Outside-In® is about our values and how they can play a role in our lives as employees, as parents, as neighbors and siblings, frankly all of life’s roles. We started to think that perhaps our new purpose is about showing everyone that Outside-In® Ubiquity is quite possibly the best thought we ever had. We started to hear from employees that they were taking our values home and into their personal lives. That they helped show the teenager the value of homework, that they improved relationships with neighbors—that our values were becoming ubiquitous. This makes a lot of sense. If you hire for values you have employees that generally came there for those congruent reasons. If we are rewarded, recognized, and appraised consistently against these values then the purpose becomes more like an Outside-In® tattoo. It is forever omnipresent in our lives.

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