Sustain the vision

“Quit or be exceptional” Seth Godin

Leading change in a large organization takes a lot of energy.  Sustained energy.  Especially when weariness sets in, the task becomes daunting and people fight for things to stay the same.

Is your vision big enough and compelling enough to capture imagination and give people a reason to believe, a reason to persevere and to give their best in the face of chaos and uncertainty?  Does your vision inspire people to be exceptional?

It’s easy to slack off when we encounter resistance and begin to realize that maybe the path to our goal is a little more difficult than we calculated.  It’s easy to excuse ourselves and justify being average when the cost is more than we planned.  But shrinking back in excuses and mediocrity often leads to the harsh reality of becoming irrelevant.

Put your heart into what you’re doing. The Scriptures tell us, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart.”  You set the tone for others.  Do not give them an opportunity to be half-hearted in the mission.

Do not forget what you committed to do. Remind yourself and others daily.  Explain the reason and the reward for following through on your original commitment.

Do not allow the leaders around you to be casual about their assignment. Jim Rohn said, “Casual leads to casualty.”  Get people around you who are passionate, who refuse to quit.  Be exceptional and expect others to give their best.

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10-01-10

Strategic Hires

“In our firm we get the cart ahead of the horse by deciding what we’re going to do without considering how the people will respond”

These are the words of a partner in leadership with a firm experiencing a significant amount of change.  Considering how the people feel about a strategic initiative is more critical in a professional services firm than in corporations.  Their corporate counterparts have a little more leeway with top down directives.  Partners leading peers in a matrix organization have a more challenging hurdle to clear.

All the more reason for being strategic in the selection of leadership for that new initiative or venture.  If you have been tasked with building a high performing team of professionals to roll out a new strategy or program, here are a few key steps for making strategic hires.

First, get the people in the room who know what the specific job requirements will be for each position you seek to fill.  Get people who understand the culture, complexity and competencies necessary for success.  Challenge them to identify the key deliverables that will be expected of the job holder.  Know what success will look like when accomplished.

Second, do your homework and find the professionals who stand out as thought-leaders and who have a following. Interview people who have worked with them and have first-hand observation of their technical and interpersonal skills.  At this stage it will be important to include people they report to, peers and subordinates.  You will want to listen for consistency in leadership practices regardless of the reporting relationship.  Multiple candidates for each role is also a good idea.

Third, use a predictive psychological  assessment against a set of validated competencies specific to the position.  The traditional interview process can become a popularity contest and objectivity compromised.  The right instrument can provide you with objective insight into how the person thinks, approaches their work and relates to people who will be critical for executing the plans.  The best instruments provide you with a targeted interview guide.

Do not get the cart ahead of the horse.  Be deliberate in your selection of leaders who appreciate the importance of connecting with the people on whom the real success will depend.  Leaders who are collaborative and inclusive, who know how to think broadly and anticipate the reaction of people and groups across the firm, before they take action.

You win, and the firm wins, when you start by selecting the best leaders possible.  Commit to doing it well.

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09-30-10

Is your new initiative worthy of the best talent?

There is a time to act quickly, but it’s probably not when you’re bringing together a team on whom the success of the new initiative or venture will depend.

Getting the right people in the right role is no easy task. In fact, it is the most difficult part of launching a new venture or initiative. Yet, in an all-fired hurry to launch, leaders are prone to setting themselves up for failure by rushing through the selection of people.

Their rationalizations usually sound something like this:

1. These candidates were recommended by partners who know them well.

2. I’m really shrewd at spotting talent.

3. I worked with them at my last firm.

4. We just don’t have enough time to look for better talent.

Let me be honest with you. These are excuses for not giving this important task the appropriate time and thought it deserves. Research shows that this approach to selection results in a 15-30 percent chance of fit and success.

How important is the initiative you have undertaken? How critical is it that you succeed? Is it important enough to take the time to make sure you get the right people?

Give yourself a chance to succeed. Follow a disciplined process in your people selection.

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09-29-10