Monthly Archives: March 2014

Could this be a universal truth?

Great bosses have a super impact on early stage careers. Until recently I hadn’t understood the full impact of a great boss over and above a first class education, blue chip organisation or dreamy job title.

Tell me it’s otherwise, but I’ve seen great bosses bring out stretch performances from the most unlikely co-workers. Equally I’ve seen talented 20somethings languish for want of a good boss.

Think back over your own career and give those great bosses some credit for where you are today. None of us did it on our own. Equally, bad bosses can be extremely damaging – not because they’re bullies, brutes or bombastic, it’s just that they don’t inspire, motivate or allow your strengths to shine. Maybe you’re reading this reflecting that great leadership in your 20s was missing and your career could have turned out otherwise?

It’s self-evident that pretty well everyone has a boss up the chain of command who can make or break a career. But a great boss can override many deficiencies in the nature of a job or organisation; they’ll stretch and develop their team, and help them accomplish extraordinary work. As a head-hunter I’ve interviewed literally thousands of people.

So what have I learned from this one-on-one market research called interviewing and a career spanning 30 years? Great leaders help other people succeed. Some candidates give text book answers about leadership, whilst those who genuinely care about their staff as individuals are the ones who stand out from the competition. They connect and motivate individuals and teams. They set high expectations and celebrate success. They encourage their people to take responsibility and will assert their authority only as necessary, knowing that oversights can be the undoing of special projects. They are respectful, humorous and stay on message.

I had four great bosses as a student and through my 20s. Lucky me. Mary Durus, Mr Hale, Chris Stewart and Sally-Anne Raher, thank you.

Did you have a great early-career boss? What impact did they have? I’d love to hear your Point of View.

Posted in The world @work

What did it cost you to get to work today?

Have you ever thought about what it costs to get to work and the effect your commute has on you?

A McCrindle Research survey Paying to Work: What’s work costing you? in June 2013 found: “Transport is the single greatest expense when it comes to work, with the average Australian spending $43.31 each week on work-related petrol costs, tolls, and/or public transport tickets. In a 48-week work-year this adds up to $2,079 per year or $173.24 each month.”

If like me, you live in the inner city and work in the CBD, you probably have access to public transport. And for those of us that do most of our work in an office and don’t need to travel to meetings or appointments during the day very often, it’s a sensible choice. For economic reasons, as well as being environmentally conscious, not to drive makes sense: Cars are expensive to maintain, petrol costs more than milk by the litre and renting a city car park is almost taking out a second mortgage.

While many Australian businesses allow flexible working arrangements, such as working from home and working online (often called telecommuting), unless you’re lucky enough to live close enough to walk, or have the energy and commitment to cycle, most of us still incur the expense and anxiety of getting to and from home to our place of work on a daily basis.

In Victoria, despite being offered the incentive of free train travel before 7am, most of us work within a window of 8am-6pm Monday to Friday, and travel at peak times. While some service industries and retail have extended their hours of operation, the RACV reports core business hours have changed very little in the last 50 years.

Telecommuting hasn’t taken really off either. Future of Work Foundation Chairman Charles Brass says one reason why is “two forms of social isolation: that you’re home alone; and, even if you’re not at home alone, you need to isolate yourself from whatever else is going on in the house to get anything done”. We seem to miss those water cooler interactions, and a perennial topic of conversation in the office kitchen about your colleagues’ commute.

Anticipating road rage or living in fear that your mode of transport will be either late, full or cancelled altogether seems to be a daily reality. Congestion, overcrowding, cancelled services, inconsiderate commuters and extremes of heat and cold can all make it an unpleasant experience – not the way most of us would prefer to start or finish the day.

Researching the effects of commuting, Human Capital reports The London School of Economics found single men without children fall in the least stressed category and working women with children are the most stressed. As a single man, I’ll keep that in mind when I’m accounting for the $2,000 I spent on commuting and feeling a little worse for wear at either end of a day’s work.

Posted in The world @work

Go right ahead be xenophobic – at your peril

Warning: the following may be offensive to some readers

A few years ago Slade Group raised the lid on social discrimination in the hiring space and the business media gave it a good run. Social discrimination is the virtual thumbs down professionals can experience simply because they speak differently, look different, come from someplace else and may have English as a second language.

Does the name Satya Nadella ring a bell? Born in Hyderabad India, graduated with a B.Engineering in Electronics and Telecommunications.

Put his CV in a list of candidate applications and I promise you most hiring managers and consultants will flick past, hoping first to find an Anglo name they can consider. Unsavoury behaviour, but rife in Australia. Difficult conversations we have with clients are often around the blatantly prejudicial, and yet our consultants hear these requests too often for it not to be an exception. Have you heard it too… said as an afterthought, off-the-cuff and with a benign knowing smile: “I’d rather not have any Indians or Asians on the shortlist”? Shameful but true.

So what would you do with Satya’s CV? Satya Nadella just happens to be the 47 year old CEO of Microsoft. An Indian national who did his post grad studies in the US and who runs rings around 99% of us in terms of capability and cultural leadership. Have a look at this YouTube clip.

He mentioned learning leadership and teamwork from cricket.

It’s been an awkward blog to write but if we can put a stop to these xenophobic practices, we’ll be a better society, culture and economy.

What’s your Point of View?

Posted in The world @work

Reference checks… your past is your future

Here is a valuable career lesson.

Recently I was at the final stages of a recruiting assignment. Slade Partners use a robust recruitment methodology, so I had some outstanding candidates for the client to interview. Shortlisted candidates had been asked to prepare a 20 minute presentation about what they’d bring to the organisation. Two strong presentations from two candidates and the client was impressed with both. He asked me to proceed to reference checks – the final stage before he would make a hiring decision.

The client’s preferred candidate for the role needed only to confirm his suitability with satisfactory references for the job offer to be his. In this case the candidate’s last two roles had been challenging: they hadn’t been great role fits and he had subsequently moved on. He was quite reluctant to provide referees, and really struggled to come up with the names of his direct reports from the previous two employers. This was a red flag for me: A high performing candidate with no suitable recent referees?

Learning One: Inability to provide referees spells danger

Make one bad career choice and learn from it. Two bad choices in a row and it starts to look like you are the problem.

After some prodding from me, the candidate provided the names I needed: two senior people who had directly managed him. Unfortunately, his referees had little positive to say. One in particular was very critical of his performance. When I relayed my findings back to the client, as I am professionally bound to do, it was the end of the journey for that candidate.

Clearly this candidate had not had a perfect career track record; more importantly, he hadn’t learnt about wise choices in matching job fit with true personal capability. When a client is made aware of performance issues in a previous job, naturally questions about suitability arise.

As you can guess, the candidate was unsuccessful and he was naturally disappointed to find out a promising opportunity was no longer within his grasp. When providing this feedback, I counselled him about making wiser choices rather than just jumping into a job for the sake of it.

Learning Two: An unflattering reference may not necessarily cost you the job

Reference checks are not bulletproof predictors of future performance, but it’s never good to have doubts about a candidate in the final stages of the hiring process. The majority of companies use background checks, yet in its General Assessment ROI 2014, Thomas International rates them as having only 9% validity!

Here’s another twist. Even with reference checks that were below par, the client still rated this candidate highly. They liked his background, were impressed with his ideas and could see value in the initiatives he tabled at his presentation. I’ve continued working with him and suggested he undertake some psychometric testing to gauge his work preferences, behavioural and leadership styles – factors that will no doubt contribute to his success with future roles.

Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work