Monthly Archives: October 2014

Who’s a Career Casanova then?

Sadly the fast and furious route to executive placement can turn out to be like a pick-up bar – full of promise from both parties, though often empty and ultimately unfulfilling. Think Tinder and Good2Go. Urrgh. It gives the illusions of satisfaction but really? Like a three act opera, LinkedIn plays that libertine Don Giovanni, inviting us to freely indulge in sensual pleasures magically solving all recruitment heartaches. Hiring anyone from CEOs to snake charmers, all you need these days is a cloud to float your tablet on, and you have your own virtual recruitment chorus.

Job boards, instant matching and corporate networks; could these inter-party relationships get any more romantic?

Acquiring executive search skills is a long term affair. It takes many years of devotion to the craft of pursuit, a passion for the market, commitment to networking, using the advances in behavioural science and psychology to profile latent and proven talent, and understanding organisational behaviours. Once found (head hunted) that perfect candidate then needs to be seduced into having a conversation about the opportunity and wooed right through to the consummation of the hiring process.

Quick fix hiring just can’t replace the slow burn, the deep enquiry and the working relationship built on strong foundations.

Reputable executive search firms offer a service guarantee, which comes with a realistic expectation that both clients and candidates will be satisfied with the experience. Don’t take my word for it though, I could just be another Career Casanova.

Have you ever fantasised about how easy it should be to find the perfect candidate or been seduced by a head hunter? I’d love to hear about it.

Featured image: Teddy Tahu Rhodes and Taryn Fiebig in Opera Australia’s production of Don Giovanni. Photo by Branco Gaica.

Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Beware the dangers of the overzealous non

In today’s marketplace, organisations across all sectors are very conscious of the need to retain good talent. Understandably, they worry about their IP walking out the door and going to the highest bidder, or employees setting-up in opposition down the road and taking with them the company’s ‘loyal’ customers.

Anxious employers, emboldened by their lawyers, will try all sorts of things. Enter the overzealous non-compete clause – or as my colleagues like to call it, the overzealous non.

From non-compete clauses covering specific timeframes, restrictions on geographical areas, to non-solicit and confidentiality provisions, employers attempt to shore up their business with all manner of contract provisions.

How practical and cost effective are these measures to uphold, and who is really missing out when a preferred candidate declines an offer as a result of the restrictions on their contract?

Australian law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth, in A regional guide to ‘restrictive covenants’ reports on the international challenges posed by post-termination restrictions in a global market: “There are few areas of employment law which differ as significantly between countries as the laws relating to post-termination restrictions.” Boston venture capitalist Bijan Sabet is an advocate for getting rid of non-competes altogether. “Non competes stifle innovation because the companies can’t hire the best talent,” he says. Citing California as a model state where non-compete agreements are unenforceable, he observes “Silicon Valley companies hire the best people without limitation. It’s a big problem if you can’t hire the best and brightest.”

It’s true that a small number of people will deliberately go out of their way to cause detriment to a past employer. But the majority act with the best intentions. Sharing market intelligence contributes to the greater knowledge base and benefits an industry overall. “Control is a double-edged sword,” writes Professor of Law at University of San Diego, Orly Lobel, in her book Talent Wants to be Set Free.

Lack of trust and respect are two of the highest ranked reasons for leaving a job, so wouldn’t it be better just to treat staff well in the first place, encourage their personal and professional growth and reward them for their efforts? The overzealous nons don’t think so.

Organisations certainly have a right to retain their intellectual property. They can expect to retain clients and keep their best people too when it’s deserved. So, if you are going to have restraint clauses, be pragmatic, set reasonable expectations, and beware of the overzealous non. It could end up saving you a whole lot of money and dramatically improve your recruitment and retention success.


Posted in The world @work

I feel like singing from the roof top!

It’s interesting for an organisation to articulate its unique culture values. And it’s always a bit of argy bargy to settle on just four ‘cultural values’, or in plain English “the way we do things around here”.

Let me recall a planning meeting some eight years ago, and then you’ll understand why reading Lucy Kellaway’s article in the Financial Review on 14th October, made my day.

A dozen of us were moving picture cards around a boardroom table in a ‘Values and Attributes’ session. You know the drill, you whittle down 50 choices to twenty, ten then just four. Between ten and four, I retired hurt because I couldn’t get up the one critical value that I felt covered so many bases for this particular organisation. Clearly my persuasion and negotiation skills had failed me, and I also recognised that ‘Values’ (not in the general vernacular or in HR speak) are far less likely to make it as a final Organisational Value card.

So why the rejoicing when I read the Fin Review article? My word has finally become de rigueur. Conscientiousness. Happy days.

“Researchers at Washington University in St Louis have spent the last five years studying married couples, most of whom both work, and matching the success of each against five personality types: extraversion, openness, agreeableness, neuroticism and conscientiousness. They found that the last one – conscientiousness – had a large positive effect… the world belongs to conscientious people. They take out the rubbish, they make sure there’s food for supper, they turn up on time, they do what they’re meant to do, are reasonably motivated, good at planning and refusing to eat that marshmallow just now.”

The article covers both the personal and professional wins that conscientiousness delivers.

“On LinkedIn in Britain only 92,000 of its 15 million members admit to being conscientious. In contrast 12 million claim to have people skills – whatever those are. At the time of writing, EY was trying to hire a passionate IT forensics associate while JP Morgan wanted a passionate oversight and controls officer when they ought to have been looking for conscientious ones instead.”

Lucy argues that what is needed is a great re-branding of the trait and I agree. Conscientiousness is certainly not cool or sexy. Yet.

What’s your point of view?

Posted in The world @work

Work is a thing we do, not a place we go.

I’m writing this article working from home (at 9:28am on a Thursday morning). I chose to do this due to the increased concentration afforded by the solitude of my apartment. It’s amazing how productive I can be when I have a little space for myself; I’ve been trying to write this piece for three days in the office to no avail. For all my colleagues know, right now I could be sipping a latte somewhere or sleeping in… but at least I know that when I do get into the office in a couple of hours time I won’t be hit by any sludge.

Hang on, what’s sludge?

Sludge is one of the most ingrained cultural challenges facing an organisation which is transitioning to an agile work environment. As we said in our recent blog, We’re Curious because Slade Group is embarking on the exciting prospect of Hot Desking. As we move towards a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE), we need to be aware of some of the pitfalls.

Sludge according to Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson (the designers of the ROWE management strategy) is “Any negative comment we make that serves to reinforce old ideas about how work gets done. Another way of looking at sludge is a kind of code for the status quo. We can’t come out and say what we want to say, so we talk around it.”

Here are some examples used in their book Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It (Portfolio, 2008).

Someone says, “Eleven o’clock and you’re just getting in?” because they can’t say, “That’s not fair! I got in at eight like everyone else.” Or someone says, “I can’t believe Toby got that promotion. He’s never here!” because they can’t say, “I don’t get it. I turn out the lights at this place every night, so why am I being passed over?”

What do we gain from treating each other like this? And how did it manage to get so bad that we now even start to anticipate receiving sludge and make up elaborate stories to avoid it?

Imagine you are running a few minutes late for work. Immediately you ponder what you can say to avoid judgement from your colleagues when you arrive into the office. “There was a flock of geese sitting on the tracks, so the train was delayed, they cancelled it half way into the city and I then had to catch a bus, the bus driver got lost… oh poor me what a big drama to get into the office.”   I’ve seen this happen many times and on reflection, I have participated in sludge anticipation a few times myself.

So how do we go about removing sludge from our lives? Ressler and Thompson suggest each person needs to reflect on their existing biases, whether it be acting as a clock watcher, silently keeping track of their team members hours of work or making the assumption that if someone isn’t contributing in a meeting, they aren’t listening. Once we all understand these biases, we can work on eradicating them from our daily lives so we can then focus our attention on important things like actually doing our work and striving towards that all important end result. Because that is after all how we are measured.

Have you been sludged? Tell us about it.

Posted in Professional Support, The world @work

A few minutes on mindfulness could be the gift of a lifetime

I was recently invited to a positive psychology talk (by my wife and daughter) with Smiling Mind – some of you may know the app?

Being receptive to new ideas, I went along. I was impressed by the panel of speakers who included well-known psychologist Michael Carr Gregg, author and meditation facilitator Tami Roos, and Professor of Public Health at Melbourne University Rob Moodie.

Some of the concepts that resonated with me were:

  • We have over 10,000 thoughts at work
  • Our day is made up of lots of unconscious thinking
  • The mind, body and spirit is our inner world
  • Mindfulness means slowing down your thinking and being present in the moment

Contemplating the psychological can be a little scary in the workplace, yet I came away thinking that unless we are careful, our days at work (which for me are often full of interviews and meetings), may also be full of unconscious thinking. In fact I’d argue that most of us are too often on remote control and not really listening to the people we work with or do business with.

Experts say first impressions are vital; we know they happen in the blink of an eyelid. In his ground breaking research about communicating feelings and attitudes, Dr Albert Mehrabian suggests that words only make up a small part of a person’s communication. In fact, “how the words are said, and how people look when they say what they say” are more critical than just the words alone.

To help you be more mindful (present and aware) at work, here are the signs to look for in your next face-to-face meeting with a colleague, client or customer:

  1. Listening – are you listening to hear or listening to learn?
  2. Eye Contact – read the person’s behavior with your whole body and mind
  3. Body Language – the body doesn’t lie, look for what’s really going on
  4. Vocal Tone – can you hear enthusiasm and passion in the voice or monotone and boredom?
  5. Pause – be present, be silent, really pay attention

Be more mindful of what’s really going on. Be present, switch on your mind, engage your whole body and spirit. You may see and hear a brilliant new world. I know I have!

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Posted in Consumer, Sport & Entertainment, The world @work