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The changing face of the CEO

You may think you know what a CEO looks like – those of us who regularly work with senior people in other organisations or at a strategic level within our own – can picture some of the qualities common to those individuals who have been successful in business leadership roles. Yet it strikes me as an executive recruitment consultant who is regularly engaged in the hiring process for C-Suite roles, how the expectations for a CEO’s capability has changed in recent years.

Of course there are underlying leadership behaviours that have not changed: setting the vision, developing a daily dialogue, being clear about expectations… What I’m really talking about is the changing marketplace of the consumer – customer behaviour is forcing companies to do things differently, while evolving work styles have put pressure on CEOs to alter their tack.

Looking at trends in the C-Suite over the last 20 years, PWC reports, “Another interesting trend is that disruption is increasingly prompting boards to turn to external hires, rather than internal candidates, to fill CEO positions. They hope to capitalise on the experience and skills that these individuals bring from another organisation, or even another sector.”

While that’s good news for those of us in the recruitment business, it’s a timely reminder of the need to constantly reassess our hiring practices. Here is a sample of the types of questions that are (or should be) on the table, from my recent discussions with selection panels for senior hires:

  • Can this person build relationships with stakeholders to prioritise our key objectives for the next 12 months?
  • What digital, social media and other technology capability can this person bring to the role?
  • What exposure has this person had to gender equality and other diversity initiatives when acquiring talent and team building?
  • What global network do they have to drive capability within the organisation?
  • What recent experience does this person have in engaging, managing and motivating a high performing team?
  • How much does this person know about modern performance management processes?

In the current market, intangible qualities are increasingly highly valued. As organisational culture expert John Burdett reminded me in a seminar I attended earlier this year, successful CEOs need to be effective communicators. They must be authentic, engage the whole organisation in a meaningful way, not just report at Board level. They are storytellers who can articulate how things will be achieved in detail – jargon old or new, simply won’t cut it. Enthusiasm for the job and a sense of humour won’t go astray either.

What changes have you observed in the face of senior leadership in recent years in your world @work?

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Daniel Goleman explains why Eco-intelligence is a thing

There’s EQ, there’s IQ, and now there’s Eco Intelligence. Except the ‘now’ is 10 years old and I’m late to the party.

How did I even hear about this? A few weeks ago, a bunch of us were rabbiting on about the relative EQ and IQ of a recent senior appointment, and our visiting international expert added, “And of course you’d have taken into account their Eco-Intelligence.

I nodded in zealous agreement, Yes, of course, Eco-Intelligence, at the same time my mind was shooting blanks.

Since then, I’ve done my homework. If like me you didn’t know Eco-intelligence was a thing, then let me bring you up to speed in 2 minutes.

The term, first coined by Daniel Goldman is the title of his 2009 book Ecological Intelligence. It has gained traction through consumer action, apps and websites such as GoodGuide. Where it has still to gain traction is in the hiring of senior managers who can embed eco values and an eco-culture.

Explaining it in his compelling straightforward style, Goleman has a 90 second video that’s worth viewing.

Daniel Goleman Connects Emotional and Ecological Intelligence

Daniel Goleman explains Ecological Intelligence

In it, he explains the rapport we build with other humans is ‘I-to-You’. Or we might fail to build mutual rapport because we use a command and demand approach, which is ‘I-to-It’. And that’s how we can also understand Eco-intelligence. Namely, if we are mindful of our rapport with the earth, respectful and open to giving and taking, then that’s high Eco-Intelligence. If we strip the earth of its potential, command, demand, and show no respect, then that’s low Eco-intelligence.

At a consumer level, Eco Intelligence has been brought to life with Apps and websites such as GoodGuide. GoodGuide’s mission is to provide consumers with the information they need to make better shopping decisions. Consumers can choose products that contain ingredients with fewer health concerns, while it gives retailers and manufacturers compelling incentives to make and sell better products. There are also environmental impact assessment tools too that help corporates and individuals assess their production, distribution and consumption decisions.

How do you create eco values at your world @work, and how do you embed Eco intelligence in your decision making?

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Does a work legacy matter?

Let me paint the scene. It’s Saturday night, I’m at a friend’s house with a group of mates as our children run inside and outside the house vaguely supervised. Our respective partners are all out, so we’re taking the opportunity for a beer, pizza and football night.

The discussion turns to work, with some general “How’s it going?” and “What are you up to’s?” One of my friends, let’s call him Patrick*, someone I have known since the beginning of primary school, is now a very successful international tax specialist.

With a lot of media coverage around global corporations’ profit shifting and tax minimisation strategies, I ask what he thinks of all this?

His response, “I helped set all that up, but it was a long time ago and it’s not my problem anymore.”

We can joke lightheartedly about a visit to jail as he has done absolutely nothing illegal. However, it seems that the ethical or moral questions from the impact of his work are of no concern to him.

It got me thinking – what is the legacy of our careers, and does it matter to us? (Perhaps the tax avoided could have been used for public health services, old age pensions or infrastructure.)

As a recruiter for more than 20 years, I have been involved in a broad range of appointments, from high profile CEOs to entry level graduates and many things in between. I’m pleased to say that most of those appointments would be described as successful, from senior appointments that have really impacted a business, an industry, even the economy, to long-serving employees who have been regularly promoted, as well as those who do a good body of work and then change employer for career progression.

I acknowledge that it’s my candidates who deliver the work once employed, but I take satisfaction from identifying their capability and potential, and introducing them to the right employer and role. Each successful appointment is a small legacy of my working life.

In a way, my work legacy is more indirect than my friend. Like most consultants, I complete an assignment, and then it is out of my hands as to whether it turns out to be successful in the long run. I keep in contact with both parties but can only minimally impact what happens from there.

In the modern digital economy where everyone wants a social media presence, I’m a bit more old-fashioned. I prefer to keep a lower profile and not make public everything I do (yes, I see the irony of this post), but I do think we should consider the impact of our work on those around us.

What do you think? Does a work legacy matter?

*Not his real name

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A salute to my early career

Rather than following my friends to University when I left school, I took an alternative route into the workforce by joining the New Zealand Army – not exactly the most obvious career choice for a female with a short and slim build who grew up as a ballet dancer!

This time 19 years ago I had just completed my three months basic training with the NZ Army and had started my trade training as an Administration Clerk. With Anzac Day occurring this week I reflected on how my experiences within the Defence Force have shaped and contributed to my career and the person I am today.

What initially attracted me to the Defence Force were the recruitment officers who attended our career days at high school. The thought of being part of a well-known organisation who promoted the benefits of a variety of career options excited me… I wanted to do that! This is also where my passion for recruitment started.

Joining the Army as a nearly 18 year old taught me many fundamental work habits that are still with me today:

  1. Timing is everything. It’s called 5 minutes place of parade. You cannot be late in the Army, and in fact if you are not 5 minutes early, then you are late as well. In my work life I am very rarely late for a meeting. It has been drilled into me that whether you are an attendee or the meeting organiser, it’s your duty to commit to the appointment you have made and show courtesy to the others who are giving up their time to attend. I have become a great timekeeper and loyal to appointments.
  1. Presenting yourself well. Although there are no uniform checks in the civilian world, it is still important that you present yourself well in business. In the Army you are taught how to iron your shirts right down to putting creases in your PT shorts. Ironing wasn’t my forte (and still isn’t, so let’s say there are no creases in my shorts). One thing that has stuck with me is when I am wearing shirt and pants, I still check to make sure my buttons are in line with my pants zip.
  1. Ongoing training. Training is part of Army life; you are always upskilling and attending courses as part of your soldier and trade development. Self-development, whether it be for work, upskilling or personal enhancement, is important to keep yourself relevant in the changing workforce where nothing stays the same.

While these days I’m recruiting executives, I would still recommend the Defence Force for the many different career options they offer. It is not all about being a front line soldier; you are able to learn a trade and complete a university degree while working. I made friends for life – it’s an experience I will never forget.

How did your first job shape you? What still resonates with you from your early career?

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It’s networking, but not what you think!

Jenny comes from a disadvantaged family in Asia. She had to work to help her single mum with living costs so she could afford to send her to school. Jenny will never forget a primary teacher who paid for her school fees. Jenny loved school and this teacher inspired her to become a teacher herself.

This was just one of the many stories shared at our first Teachers Meetup of the year, which Andrew Barr and I hosted early in March.

Slade Teachers MeetupTeacher Meetups provide an opportunity for teachers to get together outside of the school environment, share their experiences and yes, network with their peers. As recruiters we focus on candidates when they need a new challenge, but we also care about experience in their current roles, their previous positions and the journey they take as their career in education progresses.

Here are some of the stories that we heard (names have been changed):

Laura’s parents were teachers. Like many children, she had initially resisted following in her parent’s footsteps. Later in life she came to realise that learning was integral to her upbringing and teaching was in her blood.

Eric is a former teacher. It can be a tough job and his years of teaching were physically and mentally demanding. He wanted to share his story with others in the profession to help teachers take care of their personal wellbeing and prevent burnout.

Claire became a teacher because she loved the French language (I can’t blame her for that). No matter how much you enjoy teaching, it takes a lot of energy. It wasn’t long before her passion for the subject was equalled by her care for the students.

Networking therefore, can simply be sharing a moment.

One reason I push myself to go to networking events is because, as you’ve just read, sharing your experiences with others is empowering. It boosts your confidence, nurtures affinity with peers, and makes you feel less isolated. As a former Principal, Andrew highlighted the collaborative and supportive actions of peers and colleagues as essential to teaching. In a teacher’s world, networking is about learning from each other to improve your ability to help students along on their learning journey.

After the meetup a few teachers went for dinner together to celebrate a recent VIT (Victorian Institute of Teaching) registration amongst the group.

What about you, why should you network?

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I could have been French President…

Growing up in France, I’ve always been interested in politics, as well as the way people communicate.

I’m now an expat, but every day is still a cultural challenge, every meeting a learning experience.

As an education specialist, currently working with schools to recruit teachers, one of the first questions I always ask candidates, regardless of their level of experience, is “Why do you teach?” I’m looking for those éléments de réponse, as we say in French: I want to hear their aspirations, understand their motivation and learn why they care about their students.

Early in my career, I studied Public and Political Communication. After graduating with a degree, I worked as a project manager for a digital company. However, it was during an internship in a web agency as a 19 year old that I realised my ability to interpret what the clients were trying to say when we sat down with them for a project briefing. Those complicated design briefs which everyone struggled with, simply made sense to me. In the same way, I find I’m able work through all the strategic plans, position descriptions and resumes to find out what my clients and candidates are really looking for when recruiting today.

As a consultant, you uncover some inspiring stories from people at various stages of their careers, which often align to the growth and development of the organisation they are with, or seeking to join.

Back in France, in 2012, I had to forgo one childhood dream (the presidency) to fulfil another. I had always wanted to travel, so I left France to explore the world.

Arriving in Australia, originally to save money to travel to South America, I found my way to Broome, ended-up living there for two years, fell in love with the country and decided to stay. Living the life of a backpacker, working as host on a luxurious boat in one of the most naturally beautiful regions in WA – it’s pretty hard to beat.

I love meeting people when I travel, so eventually I met a guy, who knew someone and one conversation led to another… I moved to Melbourne and I’m now part of the Slade Executive team.

Like me, our team is passionate. We all have different reasons why we do what we do.

In the education sector, my colleagues and I have the ability to influence the growth and development of the people and the organisations we work with. When I think about why I’m really enjoying what I’m doing right now, I’d say it’s my curiosity about people that led me to recruitment. I am constantly inspired by the stories of others – whether your goal is principal or president, it’s always interesting to know what motivates people to achieve their dreams. I hope some of mine resonates with you.

So what about you, why do you do what you do?

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Resourcing the new Infrastructure State. A challenge for Victoria?

Victoria – The Infrastructure State. It could be a number plate. The Melbourne Metro Rail project is underway, level crossings are being replaced, plans for ‘sky rail’ continue to cause controversy and an airport train could be back on the agenda. For roads, the Tulla freeway is being widened, the West Gate and Bolte will get improvements, and the Victorian Government is considering a proposal to build the ‘missing link’ Western Distributor.

Last December at the Engineers Australia Transport Year in Review, I listened with interest to Corey Hannett, Coordinator General, Major Transport Infrastructure Program on the current infrastructure program of works scheduled for Victoria. From a project resourcing point of view, the Government’s main concern is the lack of skilled project leaders to deliver this ambitious program of works.

Key themes presented were:

  • Ensuring the right balance between public and private resources to manage multiple, overlapping projects within optimum timelines
  • Sourcing skilled project leaders across different disciplines, including CEOs, Project Directors, and Senior Project Managers
  • Diversity in the Construction sector

From an executive recruitment perspective, these concerns certainly mirror our experience when consulting with organisations in building, construction and engineering over the last 12 months: Demand for experienced, diverse and specialist talent is at a premium. As the momentum for construction work Australia-wide continues to gather pace, the question remains how do we address this to help the immediate needs of Victoria?

There are serious concerns about poaching staff being felt across the sector, which is experiencing significant problems with retention (a fact that’s not lost on us when headhunting). Here are three points that were raised to consider when hiring, which also resonated with me:

  • When considering a candidate’s abilities, look for transferable skills, taking the time to consider all of their work history, not just the first page of the CV
  • You don’t need someone who has done the exact same job, you need someone who can do the job
  • Victorian employers may benefit from staff attrition with the completion of major projects interstate or could source talent from other sectors where demand has subsided, such as mining (particularly in WA and QLD)

I will be a keen observer over the next few years to see whether we have the appetite to meet the talent demands of the Infrastructure State.

What measures do you think are needed to address talent shortages for major infrastructure projects in your state? Share your point of view to continue the conversation.

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The year of the long shot

2016 has been a year that turned the tables on all of the favourites. In sport we saw outside wins by the Western Bulldogs, the Cronulla Sharks, Leicester City and the Chicago Cubs. Ireland defeated the All Blacks. In hockey, the Argentina Men’s Olympic Hockey team and the Great Britain Women’s Hockey team triumphed. On a global scale, who could have predicted Brexit… and now President-elect Donald Trump!

Common to all of these examples are the inner beliefs among team members that led to each outstanding achievement – what separates the firsts from the also rans.

Throughout my time in professional sport and the world @work, I’m constantly amazed by long shots.

I’d like to share four traits I’ve observed in all successful teams, on or off the field, which resonate strongly with me:

  • Vision – a shared belief in a common goal
  • Leadership – taking ownership of individual and team responsibilities
  • Desire – a strong will to succeed
  • Selflessness – it’s not important who receives the accolades

I am working with a well-established group in the FMCG sector at the moment whose brands are well-known to Australian and international consumers. They are in the process of rebuilding their organisational culture with a clear vision, which exemplifies these traits. Focussing on their talent, they have assessed their current capabilities, as well as the leadership potential of candidates. They are investing heavily in people who can add strength to those four traits to accelerate performance.

It just goes to show that no matter what business you are in – anything is possible.

When the adrenaline pumps, a team motivated by a shared belief comes alive and propels its own success. Witnessing such achievement is inspiring to all involved. So when you’re looking for leaders to build you teams and organisation, keep a keen eye on those four traits. You could reveal a long shot.

What are the milestone events for your organisation in 2017? Do you have the people with the Vision, Leadership, Desire and Selflessness to achieve them?

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