Begin by Asking the “Right” Question – an Article by Karl Driggs

Begin by Asking the “Right” Question – an Article by Karl Driggs

Thanks to Karl Driggs for this blog post, published with his permission. Please contact Karl with questions about succession planning and leadership.

Begin by Asking the “Right” Question

By Karl Driggs SBGSolutions

A long standing leadership philosophy was summarized by John C. Maxwell in his book Good Leaders Ask Great Questions in 2014. To quote him directly, “Good leaders ask great questions that inspire others to dream more, think more, learn more, do more, and become more.” This belief supports a critical need within middle market companies today who continue to struggle in attracting, recruiting, retaining and developing talent.

There is one key question that leaders should ask themselves as they form their strategic foundation for the business. The question is simple, succinct, understandable and relatable and should serve as the foundational inquiry for supporting who gets hired and ultimately who leads and manages key areas of the company – “What one belief do all employees share that the leadership team can attribute to the company’s growth and success?”

The great news is that more and more middle market companies are spending the time to develop a strategic plan to guide the business direction. The challenge remains that most jump right into the middle of the process by setting goals like “10% revenue growth” or “net profit of 27%”. Of course, these financial goals are important and create easily measurable results, but what they lack is the inspiration that guides the attainment of such goals.

Begin with this thought – As a leader, what core belief do you share and instill in employees that creates the success of your business? The answer to this one question will create clarity and serve as a foundation for the behaviors of all employees. Simon Sinek, in his highly regarded Ted Talk How Great Leaders Inspire Action 1 noted that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. The same argument can be made for why employees stay and thrive with a company….They already know what you do, what they want to know is why you do it and how they fit in.

Using a financial service firm as an example, a company may provide tax planning and savings services to middle income families. They approach the business through understanding their client’s needs and state that their superior service is the value: What this answers is the “how”, but not the “why”. What the client really wants to know is that you “believe that a person’s hard earned money should be protected through the minimization of tax impact balanced with a short term and long term income growth strategy for them to achieve their dreams”. This belief statement is much more inspiring, creates emotion and encourages action. It can also set a standard and vision for all employees of the firm.

As leaders, we should leverage our belief statements to hire, develop and retain employees. When interviewing, we should educate our candidates to our beliefs and ensure that they are clear that we expect them to share this belief. As we hold performance reviews, we should measure the existing employee’s actions in alignment with our beliefs. In addition, when we create development plans for key roles, we should make sure that those employees can explain and instill our belief’s in others.

2018 is right around the corner and strategic planning sessions will be held in the next few months. As you approach your plan, consider revisiting your beliefs as a leader of the company. Make sure that you take advantage of the time spent in creating your plans by inspiring your staff to see the value of these beliefs and how they can use them to drive their actions. Remember one “right” question can set the trajectory for your growth and success.


About Karl Driggs and SBGSolutions Karl has been working in succession planning for the past 18 years. As a partner in a small marketing consulting firm he prepared the business for the sale to a public company. He has spent his recent years working with mid market companies implementing high growth strategies and founder / key person succession plans. His hands on approach mixed with his true desire to see others succeed is a passion.

SBGSolutions was founded by Karl to bring his unique offering to the Northeast Ohio market. The goal of SBGSolutions is to “Inspire others to be the solution” through an engagement so that the solutions developed are sustainable over time. Visit SBGSolutions at and follow Karl on Twitter @sbgsolutions



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The Evolution of Talent Management

The Evolution of Talent Management


See if these comments from an article about the real costs of poor people management practices sound familiar:


No one knows better than HR professionals that an organization’s human capital is its most important asset. The positive impact made by a single motivated manager, an innovative thinker or a newcomer with an ambitious new project can reverberate positively within businesses of any size. Conversely, the burden of people performing below par — the hours spent correcting mistakes, the money wasted on unproductive performance, and the costs of having to recruit and train replacement staff — take a powerfully negative toll on the bottom line.

Yet, far too many executives today continue to regard HR as a non-strategic cost and to under-invest in hiring and employee development solutions. Why would astute executives take this position? Organizations have long had a difficult time connecting human performance costs with their root cause. Underperformance, and its associated costs, results in large part from having the wrong people in jobs. Until the person-job match connection is made, organizations will continue to under-fund proactive investments to ensure that the right people are filling jobs in their organizations, and to over-fund reactive investments in dealing with employee performance problems.

As the world merges into one global economy, human capital is, more than ever, the key driver of profit and innovation. The advantages will go to those who can redefine skill sets, reconcile cultural differences, and match the right people to the right jobs through intelligent and objective assessment.


For those who follow current trends in human capital, this excerpt may sound very familiar. Would it surprise you to learn that this was taken from an article published in 2004?

In 2004 Facebook was founded, blogging was named the word of the year and George W. Bush was re-elected President. The Dow Jones Average closed at 10,783 and the stock price of Valero Energy had risen 93%. The top grossing movie was Shrek 2 and the top selling book was The Da Vinci Code.


The world has changed dramatically in 12 years. In business, marketing/advertising is done on social media. Purchasing and distribution is now supply chain. Cost reduction is focused on sustainability. Tightly controlled corporate data has moved to the cloud and is accessed via BYOD. Yet for many organizations, people practices have not evolved nearly enough.


What will HR and people practices look like 12 years from now? Will business executives in 2028 look back and be amazed that managers did annual performance reviews? Or that companies ran job postings to attract talent? Or that people relied on employers for their health insurance? Or that workers commuted every day to an office? Or that US employees only received an average of 2-3 weeks of vacation per year? Or that quarterly profits drove corporate behavior? Or that pay rates were based on tenure? Or that Human Resources was called that?

Given the amount of disruption in every aspect of business, HR and people practices are unlikely to look the same as today (and 2004). What will it look like? How will HR evolve?


For help shaping the future of your people practices, please contact us.


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Answering Tough Talent Questions

Answering Tough Talent Questions

Recently I had the opportunity to talk with a few business leaders who sought my counsel regarding talent issues. The first was an owner of a rapidly growing business. This person had experienced tremendous success in developing a scalable business based on the demand for his products, but was struggling with managing the growth. He was handling too much himself and needed help. His board of advisors had suggested he develop a talent plan in order to determine how he would attract and retain the talent needed to manage the growth of the company.

The second person I talked with was an HR leader for a global manufacturing organization. The company had struggled with a decline in demand in major sectors of the business, and had hired a new CEO. The new CEO immediately turned her attention toward keeping the best people in the company before they “abandoned ship”. The HR leader was asked by the new CEO to provide data regarding employee engagement and leadership development efforts for the top talent and high potentials in the company. He called me to ask for help since his previous CEO had never asked for that kind of information.

Business leaders are often asked to deal with challenging issues and questions like these. Talent shortages, under-engaged employees, under-developed leaders and other talent issues are well publicized. CEO’s and Boards of Directors have a heightened awareness of these issues, and will seek answers for their organizations. Here are ten talent-related questions every business leader should be prepared to answer:

  1. Do we have a vision for our future and a talent plan to support the vision?
  2. Do we have the right leaders and talent to reach our goals?
  3. Do the best people (ours and others) want to work for us?
  4. Do we know who our best performers are now, and for the future?
  5. Are our people equipped to get us to our goals?
  6. Are our people maximizing their strengths?
  7. Do our people know what top performance looks like and how to reach it?
  8. Are our people excited about our vision and understand how they fit?
  9. Are our people committed to our vision?
  10. Are we tracking our people progress in these areas?

If you answered yes to all these questions, congratulations! You are prepared to address talent questions from your CEO or Board of Directors. If not, join the club. Most organizations do not have the answers to all these questions. How can you get there? With a talent strategy. A talent strategy supporting your business strategy can help you develop a strategic advantage with your people.

Want to learn more about how a talent strategy can help you be prepared for tough talent questions? Here are a few other organizations who believe in the importance of having a talent strategy (click on the name for links to articles and websites):


McKinsey & Co.

Harvard Business Review

Korn Ferry


Bersin by Deloitte



CEB Global

Right Management

Talent challenges will not get any easier. Now is the time to get strategic about your talent.

Want to get hands-on with talent strategy? Here at Future State Talent Solutions, we have created a tool to help you. Our talent strategy framework is part of our Future State Talent Management Model. Using this model, you can develop your own talent strategy. We also have experienced consultants who can help.

For a confidential conversation about developing a talent strategy for your organization, please contact us.


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Using Assessments to Improve Hiring Results

Using Assessments to Improve Hiring Results

With talent at a premium, hiring managers should look for any and every advantage to attract the right people. Yet, according to an Inc. Magazine article by Kay McFadden, most executives are not great at hiring:

The research is conclusive, according to all the human resources specialists we interviewed. The people most confident in their abilities to predict and measure who will be successful at a given company or role actually tend to be the least good at it. There’s an over-confidence with a direct correlation to lack of success, whether the business is big or small.

It is not surprising that going with a “gut feel” on hiring is not a reliable approach. The article goes on to discuss the use of pre-hire assessments to help.

So a test furnishes perspective, balance and fairness. The data is unequivocal, if you use a consistent, well-validated approach versus a gut decision, you will make better hires over the long run. This is beyond dispute.

But which tools and assessments should an organization use? There are several to choose from, including this list from a article:

  • Qualification screens
  • Structured interviews
  • Job simulations
  • Knowledge and skills tests
  • Talent measures
  • Culture fit and values inventories
  • Background investigations
  • Integrity tests
  • Drug screens
  • Physical abilities tests

The article also says that, to be effective, assessment tools must meet three key conditions:

  1. They must be chosen on the basis of a clear definition of performance for the job in question.
  2. They must effectively measure the key candidate characteristics that influence job performance.
  3. They must be deployed in a standardized, consistent fashion that ensures that all candidates are assessed in the same way.

For an alternative perspective, Lou Adler suggests that personality assessments should not be used for screening candidates. Instead, Adler prescribes using a performance-based hiring interview for controlling interviewing based mistakes. The pre-screen personality assessment mistakes Adler describes include false positives (hiring weak candidates) and false negatives (excluding strong candidates).

What’s the right answer? Are assessment tools and great hiring mutually exclusive?

For help to figure out the best approach, I enlisted the services of Dr. Nancy Rowell, Founder of Insight Into Talent. Dr. Rowell provides comprehensive assessment services to organizations for hiring, coaching, team building and leadership development.

“At Insight into Talent we assess and predict your candidate’s fit while minimizing costs of a new hire. Using both objective data and an open-ended interview process, we give you a lens into a candidate’s talent and potential for success”

Dr. Rowell recommended that, in order to help me understand the value and use of assessments in hiring and developing talent, I should take a few myself. So, in full guinea pig mode, I took these three online assessments:

16 Personality Factor Questionnaire (16 PF) measures personality and predicts emotional resilience, relationship and communication skills, work approach, and leadership influence.

Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (WGCTA) measures critical thinking ability and predicts decision making and problem solving ability.

The Holland Assessment for determining career interests.

The assessments were straightforward, and I completed them in a reasonable amount of time. Dr. Rowell then provided results in a report format that included an executive summary and additional detail. The reports were very accurate in describing my strengths, areas for improvement and what that meant for various roles (my sample test results available upon request). Even though I knew in advance how well the tools can work, Dr. Rowell’s additional insights based on our meetings (interviews) provided customized information that helped me understand their power in making a decision for hiring. Dr. Rowell pointed out that these results provide another data point in the hiring process but should not be used as a yes or no indicator.

According to Dr. Rowell, finding talent starts with a strong resume and good personal impressions, typically developed through interviews. But research shows that typical job interviews alone have only a 20% chance at predicting hiring success. Assessments take you a step further by providing insights into who people are, what they do and how they fit with a company’s competencies and values. And that significantly raises the probability of selecting and retaining the right talent.

For help in improving hiring results in your organization, please contact us.


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Guest Post: Employer Brand – from a Candidate Perspective

Guest Post: Employer Brand – from a Candidate Perspective

This week we are featuring a new partner for Future State Talent, TalentLumen and their President Lee Ann Cimperman. Lee Ann is a marketing and branding professional, and founder of TalentLumen.

Through her company, Lee Ann helps clients develop and implement employer branding strategies that help companies attract people who share their mission, values and purpose. In this article, previously published on TalentLumen’s website, Lee Ann discusses finding the best job matches through an employer’s brand.

Our ancestral DNA taught us how to search. Our ancestors hunted for the best sources of food and shelter. Now we search for the best job opportunities that will nourish body (food and shelter), mind (engaging work), and professional soul (bigger purpose)!

As a member of Gen X, I remember anxiously waiting for the paper to arrive on Sunday morning in 1990. Equipped with a red BIC® marker, I was ready to take on the job hunt. My arsenal of weapons included my resume and my word processor to customize cover letters and mailing envelopes. It was pretty much the only way to find a job ad and a job.

OK Generation Y and Z, you can’t even relate to the first paragraph! Let’s just agree there have been a lot of changes in 25 years! Enter applicant tracking systems, social media, professional networking sites, niche job boards, career websites, and talent communities. Job seekers have information available 24/7/365. With talent shortages and generational shifts, the next 5 – 10 years will see more changes as talent markets continue to tighten.

Our DNA Was Meant To Search

Beyond job information, another aspect of change is the publicly available information on a company. Unless a company was also mentioned in the newspaper or on TV in 1990 not much was to be considered when applying for a job.

Today, smart job seekers are spending time researching companies of interest. Why? We are curious beings! Our ancestral DNA taught us how to search. Our ancestors hunted for the best sources of food and shelter. Now we search for the best job opportunities that will nourish body (food and shelter), mind (engaging work), and professional soul (bigger purpose)!

Companies Want To Be Found For Their Jobs

In the past, companies wanted to be found by the consumer for the products or services they delivered. Companies are now addressing that people are searching from the candidate perspective for the career opportunities they offer. Employer branding,recruitment branding, or talent branding are new industry terms for the approach companies are taking to express their unique brand as an employer and to draw in right-fit talent.

Companies who are sharing their employer brand go beyond the basics of sharing compensation and benefits (food and shelter). They explain their culture, career opportunities, and the purpose of their organization. Companies such as Google have shared their employer brand for years, but now smaller organization are sharing their inside story.

3 Tips For Seeing Through An Employer’s Brand

It’s important for candidates and job seekers to know what to look for when seeking a company who is authentic and transparent with their employer brand.

  1. The Good, Bad & Ugly – Look for companies that are utopian societies, painting pictures of rainbows and ponies. STOP…RIGHT THERE! No company is perfect! Why? Companies are comprised of people. People are not perfect. Business markets are not perfect. Think of any real relationship. There is transparency and authenticity; something you should look for in a company. A company may have a bad review on GlassDoor® from the occasional disgruntled worker but they may have 10 good ones. Did they address the complaint? If a company has the ugly scar of a layoff, take into consideration the business climate or the help they gave to displaced workers.
  2. Peer Testimonials – You’ve seen the 2 minute video of the CEO saying how great it is to work for his/her company. The CEO is the person in charge of maintaining a company’s mission and value in the marketplace and should be leading the charge. However, as the candidate you must look beyond the CEO’s message for video or content from workers who might be your peers. Get a feel for what it’s like from their perspective.
  3. Mutual Promise – In the employer brand world, companies create an “EMPLOYER VALUE PROPOSITION” or EVP. It is an employer’s promise of what it is like to work at the company, but it also has a flip slide. It should also convey what the company values and expects in people who would be successful members of their team. Not only look at what a company can do for you, but what you can do for a company. Does the company’s EVP match your personal and career goals?

Since you don’t have to wait until next Sunday’s paper to work on your job search, start now to tap into your hunter DNA with these tips!

Lee Ann Cimperman PC, SHRM-CP is an Employer Brand Strategist and President of Talent Lumen, LLC


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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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