Tag Archives: job matching

The Very Real Costs of Bad Hires

It is one of the great “known unknowns”, to borrow one of the infamous Donald Rumsfeld lines, what does a bad hire really cost?  Hiring is an art and a science.  It is a unique combination of relationship building, a leap of faith, part quantitative and part gut feel, but it is also a process of vetting both the person and the role you want and need filled.  It requires a level of discipline and focus, commitment and patience that is difficult to maintain when there is a pressing gap in staffing and leadership.  However, succumbing to a false sense of urgency and allowing emotion to trump logic is the slippery slope that leads to bad hires, or at least hiring the wrong person for the wrong role.  In the end there is a cost to every mistake, and hiring brings real cost.

Fortunately the case of Charlie Weis is a shinning example of what one bad hire can cost an organization, or in his case several organizations.  Roughly $30 million in very real dollars.  That does not even begin to consider the opportunity costs, additional revenue streams, lost potential dollars, turnover, morale, the impact on other coaches, players, staff, programs and the myriad of other factors that one bad hire can have on an overall organization.  Charlie Weis, through no fault of his own, parlayed a brief period of success into not one, but two bad hiring decisions, bad contract negotiations, and above all illustrates the classic pitfall of “falling in love” with the hot candidate.

Notre Dame has been paying Charlie Weis since 2009 to not coach, and will continue to do so through 2016.  Kansas made the same mistake and is also paying him not to coach.  Incredible, yet not uncommon.  Guaranteed contracts are amazing things.  Most of us will not find ourselves in a position to be granting guaranteed contracts to public figures, but anyone who makes hiring decisions does find themselves responsible to organizations, coworkers, families and individuals where a bad hire does incur real costs.

Hiring is both an emotional and quantitative process.  Allowing emotion to trump data is a dangerous proposition, and when one finds themselves chasing what was, of feeling the pressure to make a splash, wanting to hire “the hot candidate”, or “really liking someone” owes it to everyone involved to take a moment and really reflect.  What is it the job demands, what are the day-to-day behaviors, the skills required, the outcomes desired and matrix of success, and only then decide if the person truly fits those needs.  Hiring managers should always heed the lesson of Charlie Weis.

In defense of Charlie Weis, while he might not be the best head coach, he just might be the greatest salesman…ever.  Convincing multiple organizations to pay you almost $30 million NOT to do something takes an incredible skill set, or at the very least one very savvy agent.

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Filed under Business, Hiring and Interviewing, leadership

The Promotion Principal – Go With the “Tell”

Peter. Dilbert. Katie, Putt’s Law.  All well-known Principals when it comes to promotion. Well, maybe not the Katie Principle. Regardless, all good satire is based in reality, and these principals and theories of promotion and advancement point out the all too common mistake of placing the wrong person, in the wrong role, for the wrong reasons.  Hiring, promotions and advancement should be based on what the person can do at the next level, not what they have been doing at the current level.

When one looks at some the best college football head coaches, the Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops types, the one’s who have enjoyed long-term, lasting success, there is a common theme. Yes they are smart “football” guys, but much more importantly, they are great leaders and organizers, salesman and relationship managers. If these guys were not at the top of their profession in coaching, they would be running multimillion dollar businesses. Let’s face it, they are running multimillion dollar businesses.  With every one of those guys, you can just tell, they are just that sharp, they have the “it factor”. They are smart, articulate, level-headed, passionate, committed, driven, focused, impressive and above all, natural leaders.

And the universities that hire folks like that, folks who you can just tell “have it”, continue to have success when change comes.  Look no further than Stanford – David Shaw is as sharp as they come; bright, articulate, polished, driven, focused, and clearly a leader.  No surprise Stanford knew how to replace Jim Harbaugh when he went to the NFL.  They are Stanford after all.  Know your organization and culture, what the role you are hiring for requires, and then find someone who fits the role and the organization.

Then there is the classic mistake of assuming someone who was good at one level is ready to make that jump to the next level.  It is the pitfall of head coach hiring:  promoting the assistant coach or coordinator.  Look no further than the Florida Gators and their ongoing struggles with Will Muschamp.  Muschamp was a very highly respected Defensive Coordinator while at Texas when he took over for Urban Meyer at Florida.  Watching him as a head coach at Florida, well you can just tell he is not in the right role.  Being emotional, fiery, and other such things is great as the number two person in an organization, but it is not what one needs in a head coach.  Ed Orgeron at USC is another great example – the perfect Defensive Coordinator, and a phenomenal person to serve as in interim head coach to lead the Trojans through a turbulent transition period, but not a long-term head coach.  Again, you could just tell.

Contrary to Human Resources, Legal and the general PC nature of our world, there are things that just cannot be quantified.  The more senior the role, the greater the scope, the larger the strategic impact, leadership and interpersonal skills become paramount.  The “it factor”, the polish and poise, the organizational skills, the management and leadership skills, the ability to plan and prioritize, and above all, the emotional maturity all trump technical skills or job experience.  More often than not, when it comes to great hiring, if you truly know what you need, you will just be able to tell who is the right fit.  Go with the tell.

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Recruiting…Saban Style

Heard an excellent interview earlier today.  It lasted less than 7 minutes and captured so many great insights into leadership and recruiting.  Granted, it was sports talk radio, but the lessons for business are absolutely clear, timely and completely translatable.  It was Colin Cowherd interviewing Colorado State coach Jim McElwain.  Not too impressive to the average person, however the conversation centered on McElwain’s 4 years working with Nick Saban at Alabama during a stretch when they won 2 National Championships.  Regardless of what one feels about sports, college football or Alabama, there is no question Nick Saban is one of the best leaders, recruiters and coaches in any field.

Paraphrasing of course, but these were the main themes when it comes to recruiting:

Recruit to the Position.  Know what the role you are recruiting for is, what that role requires, then hold to those requirements.  It is a timeless issue in recruiting and the war for talent, people wanting “the best person” for the job, yet having no real handle on what the job is, what it entails, what skills are required, what behaviors it demands, how success is defined, and what role emotional intelligence plays.  When a client starts off by saying “let me tell you a bit about the role”, it is a pretty good indicator that the search will go well.  However, when it starts with “here is what we want”, it raises concerns.  Know what the position requires, then go find the player.

Get them BEFORE they peak.  It was the best line in the interview, “don’t want the kid who peaks his sophomore year of high school…we all knew that kid”.  Harsh, but true, and frankly the most common pitfall we have seen over the years, companies wanting to go after the person who is already at the height of their profession.  Yes, you want the folks who are really good, but you want them to have runway.  It is about what they will do, about how the person can continue to grow, improve, learn and develop.  If they have hit their ceiling, then the best you can hope for is more of the same.  Do not hire someone for what they have done, hire them for what they will do for you in the future.  The competition is always working to get better…they will catch and pass those who have plateaued regardless of how good they were.

Have an extensive process that involves multiple people.  Do not “fall in love” with a candidate too early and avoid the myopic notion that only one person can truly evaluate talent.  Make the interview process extensive and evaluate equally throughout the process.  Candidates should get better throughout the interview process.  If they start strong and fade, that is a warning sign.  If you identify flaws relative to the position requirements, make the call and move on to other candidates.  But above all, have multiple people involved, and allow them to give their input.

It is a great interview, and it clearly shows two keys to organizational success – leadership and recruiting.  Will visit the leadership piece tomorrow, but for now the lesson is recruiting.  Granted, they were talking in the world of college football, but the evaluation of talent is universal.  Know what you need, find those who can do what you need when you need it, and then have a team of folks you trust evaluate the talent.  Simple really, and clearly one of the reasons Nick Saban is at the top of his field.

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The Katie Principle

Having spent quite a bit of time on travel the last several months, I have had the unique opportunity to see more than my share of daytime television.  I am far from a “regular” TV person, but I am somewhat aware of the major personalities and stories of the infotainment world.  Well, I know of Oprah, Katie, Regis, Matt, Meredith and the usual “one name only” crowd.  What I did learn is that Katie Couric has a daytime talk show…last I knew there was a kerfuffle about her being an evening news anchor…shows how up I am on things.  Point being, it might be time to add to the Dilbert Principle and Peter Principle; might I suggest the Katie Principle.

After a little google research and reflecting on what I had seen over the last decade of infotainment and evening news, the Katie Couric career arch serves as a great lesson.  By every standard, she was excellent on the Today Show.  She was the gold standard of morning TV journalists and “soft news”.  She had crossed into doing a bit of everything; journalism, entertainment, hosting, and was to a degree a pop culture icon.  Katie Couric had become just Katie.  When you can go by one name, you have made it.

Yet, in light of all the success, Katie Couric wanted to go one step further.  She wanted to anchor the evening news. She wanted to do “hard news”.  In television journalism, anchoring the evening news for one of the Big 3 networks is the pinnacle of the profession.  Credit to her, she went for it.  By all accounts and by any matrix of evaluation, it was a bad move for all.   In the end it was a classic case of poor job matching.  She was not right for the job, and the job was certainly not right for her.

All of this leads me to flipping through channels or wandering airports, and there she was, back on daytime television.  I have no idea what the ratings are or what the dollars are, but I do know that what I saw was someone in their element.  It was immediately clear, Katie is great in that environment.  I saw enough of the CBS Evening News over those two years to know she was not in the right spot.  But her new show – it works.

Realizing and embracing what it is you do really well is the key to success. Simple really, know what you are good at and do it to the best of your ability. However, the issue comes when our ego drives us to overreach. Absolutely we should all be driven to reach our fullest potential, but we should also have a sense of what that potential is.  It is a delicate balance, stretching vice over extending. And that is what I learned from flipping on the TV in one too many hotels over the last three months…I saw someone back to doing what they do best.  Well done Katie.

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Odin On…Traits of Success

As anyone who knew Odin will attest, he was intense.  Intense in absolutely everything he did, but especially when it came to play.  There is a term that is used in assessing dogs called “play factor”.  Odin did not have a high play factor, he had an insanely high play factor.  Off the charts to use a cliché.  He was all play, all the time.  He loved to play; he had to play.  And we always joked, if only we could teach people to have his level of intensity, focus and passion, business would boom.

What we realized over time is that Odin’s ability to focus, to have such a relentless intensity on play was just him being him.  Play was his passion.  He loved everything about it.  Frisbee, footballs, sticks, twigs, pine needles, bark chips, other dogs, and of course the classics of running, jumping, chasing, and just plain old “doing dog things” was what he was all about all the time, and he was relentless in his pursuit of it.

Being told “no”, to “go lay down”, or an occassional “Odin damn it” was crushing to him; he hated to be told no.  But that emotional loss and defeat was very short-lived.  He would quite literally shake it off and be back in the pursuit of play within minutes.  A “no” was nothing more than a temporary roadblock, a brief bump on the journey to the ultimate goal.  He never lost sight of that goal to play – ever.

But above all else, Odin loved to play with others.  Yes, I think maybe he liked me best, but truth be told he loved everyone with an opposable thumb who could throw things.   Then of course other dogs were without question great to share time with, as were cats, rabbits, and really anything else with a pulse.  He was a social boy who loved the company of others.

What was a joke to use early on became a great lesson on what truly makes a successful person.  It was all about his particular passion – passion to play, to pursue play, to be with others, and an ability to allow the passion to trump the “no’s”.  He was intensely focused on play because he loved it and all that it entailed.  Truly successful people are absolutely passionate about what they do and whom they do it with.  They never lose focus and they never let the “no” keep them down for too long.

Not a bad lesson from a dog.  Doubt the CPA will let us take all our dog expenses as a write off, but we will share the lessons for business anyway.  Who knows, maybe it will become an entire series, “Odin On…”, but for now it was one great case study on the traits of successful people.

The one downside of such focus – he could stare a hole into a wall

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President Obama and Job Matching

As recruiters, consultants and coaches, it is often our role to help people and organizations come to terms with what it is a job, or job title, really means.  What the role entails, what behaviors one will engage in day-to-day, what is expected of the role, and of the person in that role.  We are in the Job Matching business – connecting the right people to the right job.

It has been interesting over the years to watch people who are in very public, high-profile roles – a lot of their issues are the same as what we all see and experience in our “normal lives”.  Arguably there is no one who has had more coverage the last 5-6 years than Barak Obama.  And based on that coverage, it seems there is a disconnect in President Obama’s passions, and the man’s actual job.  It is not a question of policy or politics, guiding principles or the role of government. Rather, it is about the actual “job of Chief Executive” that President Obama the man now holds.  Thus the question, is Barack Obama as President a case of good Job Matching?

First, let us consider the definition of the “job” of President.   By definition, a president is “the highest executive officer of a modern republic, the Chief Executive of the United States”.  Going a step further, what is a Chief Executive?  Typically, the Chief Executive, or more commonly the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) per wiki, “has responsibilities as a communicator, decision maker, leader, and manager. The communicator role can involve the press and the rest of the outside world, as well as the organization’s management and employees; the decision-making role involves high-level decisions about policy and strategy. As a leader, the CEO advises the board of directors, motivates employees, and drives change within the organization. As a manager, the CEO presides over the organization’s day-to-day, month-to-month, and year-to year operations.”

Think about two earlier and well covered two-term Presidents, Clinton and Reagan.  Clearly they loved the job of being President.  Not just for the ego boost and cache, but more importantly for what the job entailed.  They were both literally “chief executives”.  They had run organizations and lead teams throughout their lives.  They were organizational leaders and governors. They literally grew up with a passion to lead people and run organizations.  They thrived on the give and take, the relationships, the challenges and the sheer day-to-day operations management.  It defined them.  You could see it in their history, and you could see it in their behavior while in office – they loved the job.

When one looks at the history, experience, and even the behaviors of President Obama, that passion for the job of a chief executive just does not seem to be there.  Now the office, the trappings, the pulpit and stage; clearly he loves it.  I am quite confident both Reagan and Clinton did as well.  However, the sheer day-to-day operations management, the constant leadership challenges, all of the relationships, constituencies, competing issues and demands, the never-ending string of mundane, gut wrenching, and extremely difficult decisions one must make – it just does not appear to be what he loves.

If I were invited to the Rose Garden for a beer, I would ask President Obama the man what it is he loves.  What is it he is passionate about?  What fires him?  Above all else, I would ask him what it is he loves to do every day – not by title but by behavior.  I will go out on a limb and bet that his answer does not involve the day-to-day behaviors demanded of a chief executive.

There in lies the issue – you have to love what the job entails, not what the job is titled.  And in the interest of being helpful, might I be so bold as to propose a solution…Statesman.  There is no question President Obama the man loves to strategize, plan, talk through things, noodle on problems, and above all propose great ideas, visions, and goals.  That is the role of a true Statesman – be above the fray, propose bold ideas, have great, sweeping vision and share that vision.  Now that job, the day-to-day behaviors of being a Statesman seem to really fit Barak Obama the person – it captures his passion, his history, and frankly what he was clearly great at.  Look at his campaign – he was in his element; he thrived and was wildly successful; he love that job.

Regardless of the job, its level or scope, it all comes down to Job Matching.  Does the demands of the job match the passions and talents of the person.  Think about it when you are hiring, and even when you are interviewing.  When hiring, you owe it to the interviewees and the organization to really determine what the job is, and if the job is right for the candidates.  And when interviewing, strip away the titles, the corner office, the compensation, the cache and ask the simple but very hard question – what is it the job demands on a day-to-day basis?  What really has to be done by behavior, day in and day out?  Sometimes the job you have, and maybe even the job you thought you wanted, is not really the right job for you.

If President Obama ever does call me for a beer in the Rose Garden, or anywhere, I would jump at the invitation.  Until then, call it a pro bono consultation.  Mr. President, it might be worth considering the idea of making the decision to change jobs next year.  You seem to be much more of a Statesman than a Chief Executive.  In the end sir, you have to make the call – not your advisors, and not the public.  Only you know what really is right for you.  It is the same for all of us…just not as public.

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The Student, The Grinder and The Natural

The Edge, Jack White, and Jimmy Page – the Student, the Grinder, and the Natural.  While watching the movie It Might Get Loud in which the 3 guitarist discuss the instrument and their experiences and techniques, the below clip is what stayed with me:

It is interesting, I keep thinking of those 3 as a textbook illustration of hiring in business.  The Edge is the classic technical/fundamental student of his craft.  Very gifted, but he is always working at it, studying and learning, using all of the latest technology and innovations.  Jack White is the grinder – able, but he makes it off of sheer force of will and effort.  Then there is Jimmy Page – an absolutely gifted genius in every respect.  He sees it, is a student of his craft, of its history, and simply  is just one of those special few that come along once in a very long while.

In the end it is all about fit – both for the candidate and the company.  What type of person – a student, a grinder or a natural is needed for the company and their role.  Conversely, a candidate must know what sort of person they are – a student, a grinder, or a natural and select the right roles and corporate cultures.  Typically any of the three are successful.  However, make no mistake, there are very few naturals out there – very few.  Just watch The Edge and Jack White – even the best know when they are in the presence of a natural – it is a special moment.

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