Leading with Purpose

Leading with Purpose

For several years I have served on the board of a wonderful non-profit organization in Cleveland called Towards Employment whose mission is to empower individuals to achieve and maintain self-sufficiency through employment. Many of the individuals served start with few marketable job skills, and have other barriers to employment. However, once through the Towards Employment programs, and combined with other services provided there, most of these individuals find jobs that begin to change their lives in a very positive way.

From their nationally recognized Executive Director, Jill Rizika, through all the staff, the Towards Employment mission is at the center of activities and conversations. I’ve never met a more dedicated and passionate team. They are selfless and tireless advocates for their program participants. That dedication shows in the results. Each year at our board retreats we invite participant grads to tell us about their experiences. Their stories are inspiring, often describing starting from poverty or incarceration and ending in finding a job as well as self-respect. I feel honored and privileged to be affiliated with this organization.

Interestingly, the organization has very little turnover. While I have never conducted an employee engagement survey of the staff, I believe they are happy because of the mission they serve and the impact they are able to make in their roles. Even though this example is with a non-profit, corporations also recognize the importance of having a purpose beyond profit. Here are some examples.

In a 2016 Workday article titled 6 Priorities CEO’s Care Most About  the authors cited a KPMG survey of CEO’s who said they recognized the importance of having an attractive culture in order to attract and retain talent. According to the study, “Having a purpose that employees can align to, providing the skills and opportunities to learn and grow, and building an inclusive culture are all critical to attracting and retaining the best talent, which in turn helps drive innovation initiatives that drive the business forward.”

Today I read an article in Crain’s Cleveland magazine about the difficulties CPA firms are having attracting and retaining accounting grads. In the article, Mark Ross, Market Leader for the Lake Erie region of PWC discusses the importance of purpose. “A company’s success today has to involve more than the bottom line,”- Mark Ross, PWC Click To Tweet “And I’m convinced that delivering sustainable profit requires a clear and consistent linkage between a firm’s purpose and the strategy for people.”

Recently I attended a presentation by Louis Efron, author of How to Find a Job, Career and Life You Love – a Journey to Purpose, Fulfillment and Life Happiness, and self-described Voice of Purpose. Efron said that purpose is the reason an organization exists. He went on to say that great organizations have each of the following:

Mission – What an organization is meant to accomplish
Vision – Where an organization is headed, their destination
Purpose – Why an organization exists, and the single most important tool that will lead to success

Efron provided support for his claim, quoting statistics from Firms of Endearment that purpose driven companies experienced 1646% growth between 1996 and 2011, nearly 11X companies of the composite S&P, which experienced 157% growth.

For organization leaders the message is clear. Leading with purpose is good for employees and, therefore, good for business.

For help in clarifying your purpose, and designing and implementing purposeful talent programs in your organization, please contact us.

To contribute to Towards Employment, please click here.



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Avoiding Leadership Failure

Avoiding Leadership Failure

Leadership failures are routinely in the headlines. A recent example includes management’s admission of the rigged emissions tests at Volkswagen. Locally, a former publicly-held, global executive search firm that was started in Cleveland, CTPartners, unwound and disappeared after a variety of allegations were raised against its CEO.  Another local headline grabber involved Pilot Flying J, the Knoxville-based (and run by the Cleveland Browns owner) truck-stop company accused of a scheme to defraud commercial customers of rebates.

These leadership failures cost owners, shareholders and other stakeholders dearly. The Volkswagen scandal is expected to cost the company $87 billion. Other historic failures and their price tag include WorldCom at $107 billion, Enron at $74 billion and Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme at $20 billion. Of course many leaders of those companies lost jobs and/or served jail time, and the companies went bankrupt or went away.

Most leadership failures never make the headlines, and are much more insidious. In addition, most are not caused by fraud but by poor leadership skills and practices. In a recent interview with Dr. James de Gaspe Bonar of the Bonar Institute for Purposeful Leadership, and based on surveys by The Economist and others, nearly half of corporate leaders are incompetent or untrained for their roles.

Vince Molinaro, author of The Leadership Contract, discusses leadership failure in these terms:

  • Leadership is disappointing – 75% of employees report that their boss is the worst part of their job.
  • Leadership is disconnected – half of surveyed CEO’s feel isolated in their roles, and thus less effective.
  • Leadership is disgraceful – the most pessimistic of surveys show that only 7% of employees have confidence their leaders are looking out for their best interests.

Fortunately, most organizations are not in a situation of leadership failure or crisis. However, even these organizations may benefit by improving leadership training and accountability.

Molinaro suggests having leaders sign a leadership contract at each new level of leadership, and as part of four steps to driving leadership accountability. Here are the four steps:

  1. Make leadership accountability a business priority.
  2. Enumerate the obligations of leadership with a written contract.
  3. Train and coach leaders on dealing with tough decisions.
  4. Create a leadership community by connecting leaders.

Molinaro provides a tremendous amount of supporting detail and substantive suggestions on implementation of the contract in his book.

For shareholders, boards of directors, CEO’s and others who are responsible for overseeing organizational leaders, the idea of a leadership accountability contract may be appealing. Not all organizations would choose to use a formal contract, but the level of commitment and communication involved in doing so would certainly provide a structured approach to addressing leadership performance and accountability.

The impact of leadership failure can be devastating. A clear communication and review of leadership responsibilities can certainly help avoid leadership failure, and a leadership contract is a great start.

For help in designing and implementing leadership accountability programs in your organization, please contact us.


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Choosing Wisely – Part One of a Solid Talent Philosophy

Choosing Wisely – Part One of a Solid Talent Philosophy

Organizations face many challenges, and leaders make difficult decisions on a daily basis. Few decisions have as much impact as those about people. Click To Tweet As part of our Future State Talent Solutions talent strategy model, we recommend leaders develop a talent philosophy to express the value they place on their people, and guide them on people decisions. For example, an organization might determine that when it comes to their people they want to: Choose wisely, lead with care and reward generously.

Choosing wisely means acquiring people who fit culturally and have competencies to succeed individually while helping the organization succeed. How important is choosing wisely? According to a Cornerstone on Demand report, the monetary cost of a poor hire can be up to $200K. The flip side is that functioning without employees in key roles can cost up to $7000 a day – $210,000 every month a key role is unfilled. So choosing wisely is more than just making a good hire, it’s also about being prepared to do so quickly.

As you can see, choosing wisely can have tremendously positive benefits for an organization. In our model choosing wisely, or talent acquisition, is made up of three elements:

Identifying talent – knowing the key skills and competencies you need to drive strategic results for your organization, and where to find people who have them.

Attracting talent – creating an employer brand and value proposition that draws desired talent.

Hiring talent – executing a process that secures talent efficiently and effectively.

Best in class organizations are proactive in their approach to talent acquisition. Click To Tweet

– They have a pipeline of candidates for strategic roles who have been nurtured and educated about opportunities with the organization.

– They have a process for quickly interviewing a handful of candidates (at most) and selecting the best.

– They are prepared to make a great offer that clearly represents a major improvement over the individual’s current role.

– They have an onboarding process that starts with offer acceptance and continues well into the first year of employment.

Nothing about their process is reactive, and they always have great people interested in joining.

Choosing wisely also includes doing so from the candidate perspective. Not only should the opportunity represent a major win for the candidate, it should make them feel like they are becoming an integral part of the organization’s future. Everyone involved should believe that they chose wisely.

Is your talent acquisition process best in class? If not, let us help you get there. Then you will be on your way to creating a strategic business advantage with your people.


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Digital Human Resources

Digital Human Resources

The digital revolution is reshaping the way we live our lives and the way we work. As business strategies undergo a fundamental re-think, so must organizations’ people strategies. A wholesale re-design of work is now required. That is an opening statement from the PWC report on People strategy for the digital age: A new take on Talent – 18th Annual Global CEO Survey.

While this comes as no surprise, the extent to which the “there’s an app for that” culture has become intertwined with HR can feel overwhelming.

After reading the Predictions for 2016 report by Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte, I tried to highlight the quantity of HR-focused systems, tools, apps and cloud-based companies mentioned therein. I lost count at 80 – and most references noted that those mentioned were “among others”, meaning the true number is much higher.

The solutions were for a wide range of HR functions including talent management, recruiting, onboarding, learning, performance management, feedback, compensation, time and attendance, payroll, succession planning, benefits, engagement, analytics, coaching and mentoring, culture, mobility, etc. Every area of HR is addressed, and HR consultants and software providers seem to be rushing to market with new solutions daily.

In his article titled HR’s Role in The Digital Workplace: It’s Time for Reinvention, Bersin writes that there are three skills HR must have today:

  1. How to recruit, develop, and manage people;
  2. How to organize, enable, and improve the organization; and,
  3. How to manage, leverage, and exploit data and technology.

The first skill refers to the HR we have always known and loved. The second skill helps us transition into strategic HR professionals. The third skill has become important in the past few years as the digital revolution has disrupted, well, everything. All indications are the rate of change will only increase. What should we do to properly manage through these rapid digital advances?

According to PWC’s report, we need to be sure that we are fit to react quickly to whatever the future may throw at us – and that means attracting, hiring and retaining adaptable, creative people, and creating a culture where energy fizzes and ideas spark into life. If these people can’t be found, they must be created. Whatever technological innovations are ahead, it’s the people that will make the difference between eventual success and failure.

That’s why we need a people strategy for the digital age.

At Future State Talent Solutions, we specialize in helping our clients develop people strategies. We’ve written a report that outlines how to develop a comprehensive talent plan that will help you hire and retain the best people and create the best culture for your company. Let us help you develop your winning digital HR strategy.


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Are You a Great Judge of Talent?

Are You a Great Judge of Talent?

When it comes to hiring, are you a great judge of people? Most executives believe they are.

I’m reminded of an example of this. A friend of mine runs a successful company and likes to talk about the people he has hired. He says a key element for him is spending several hours in one-on-one interviews with the individual. After that, he can tell who will be successful. That all came to a crashing halt after one of the people he hired made a series of mistakes with a major client nearly costing the company the relationship. My friend fired the employee and saved the client.

Peter Drucker said that any executive who starts out believing that he or she is a great judge of people will make the worst hiring decisions. Coming from the guru of management, then, we should learn not to depend on our own judgment but on a methodical step-by-step process. A formal hiring process allows a company to become objective in their hiring process.

Here is a checklist for a great hiring process from Lou Adler:

  Define the work, not the skills needed to do the workEvery job can be described by six to eight performance objectives. If a person is competent and motivated to do this work, the person will not only be successful but likely have a different mix of skills than those listed on the old-fashioned job descriptions.

  Convert competencies and behaviors into performance objectives. Generic competencies and behaviors are poor predictors of success. It’s better to describe how the competency or behavior is used on the job as a performance objective. Then add the most important to the performance-based job description above.

  Prevent people from applying for jobs they’re not qualified to handle. Too much time is spent filtering the weaker candidates out. It might be better to prevent them from entering to begin with.

  Stop posting individual jobs. Too much time and cost is involved with job postings. It would be cheaper and more efficient to create a microsite hub for all related positions and let the system figure out the best jobs for the person.

  Stop filtering the best people out based on what they have and what they get. There is too much time spent filtering people in and out of jobs based on their level of skills and their salary requirements. The best people care less about the salary if the job represents a career move, and the best people always have a different mix of skills. That’s what makes them the best people.

  Make hiring managers responsible for hiring top talent. If hiring top people is really No. 1, managers shouldn’t be managers if they can’t or don’t do it. Start by putting this as No. 1 during the performance review.

  Offer careers, not lateral transfers. A career needs to offer some combination of job stretch, faster job growth, and a mix of more satisfying work. Add a process to modify jobs to better align with a person’s growth needs.

  Go slower. Hiring top people is not a transaction. This leads to job hopping syndrome. Instead implement a consultative discovery process that focuses on creating the career move.

  Make hiring a business process with feedback controls. A bunch of steps bolted together with duct tape and APIs controlled by data that’s weeks or months old is not a business process.

  Implement an interview and assessment process that actually predicts quality of hire. Proving a method with statistics is not the same, nor as effective, as finding the method that works all of the time through trial and error. One method that actually works is based on what the best managers who consistently hire the best people do.

  Train recruiters to recruit. No company would let its sales people sell its products without training around best practices. This is so obvious, yet no one seems to see it.

The good news for my friend is that, since the incident described above, he hired an HR professional who helped implement a structured hiring process. With that investment in an upgraded process, his hiring mistakes have dropped significantly and he continues running an even more successful company. Now, instead of talking about his own prowess of judging people, he talks about the success of his company based on the people he has hired using the formal process.


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