The One Talent Every Great Leader Has Mastered – Part 2

 

Because having the right people on your team is the greatest determinant of success, the talent to recruit and develop talent is the rarest and greatest talent of all.

Robert Half, considered by many to be the father of the staffing industry, was famous for often quoting, “Talent is rare.  Rarer still is the talent to identify talent.”  I’d like to amend his quote and add: …”And the rarest talent of all is the talent to recruit and develop talent”.

This is the second of a multi-part series.  In Part 1 of this series we discussed how the most successful managers take responsibility for recruiting talented people for their staff since the manager has the most at stake for the results his or her team produces.  Some effective ways to accomplish this include:

1.Don’t try convincing someone who is not a right fit for a job to stay in the job.  They’ll be miserable and so will you.  Best to make sure people you hire are right for the job before you hire them.

2.View everyone with whom you come in contact during your day-to-day job as a potential recruit.  Recruit the ones who have good soft skills, high energy, and desirable qualities.

3.Ask your good employees who they know that would be someone they recommend for a job.  Good people tend to hang out with good people, and won’t refer people who will reflect poorly on them.

4.Whenever a manager takes responsibility to recruit people for his or her staff, pretty soon the boss will recognize this high-value trait, which leads to career advancement.  

In this installment I’ll discuss some of the unusual recruiting methods that I’ve learned and seen used since I started recruiting and managing people in 1976.

Disclaimer: One of the benefits of having worked over parts of six decades is that you get to work for some brilliant people who teach you crucial skills and life lessons.  It also means that you get to make thousands of mistakes – and hopefully learn to learn from each one!  Armed with a newly minted college degree I began my career in 1976 as a retail manager-trainee and have been in training ever since…

“Why Are You Interviewing So Many People Today?”

Syracuse, NY March 16th 1984.  I was visiting a sales office in the region I managed and I noticed that the manager had several job applicant interviews scheduled for the day.  Since I wasn’t aware of any openings on her staff, I asked Marcia why she was interviewing applicants without an opening.   Marcia replied, “I don’t need job openings to have interviews…most days I have at least one interview.”  I knew Marcia was an outstanding manager but I was puzzled by her answer. So I asked her to help me understand her thought process and what she told me changed my thinking about recruiting forever!

Marcia explained. “We run a lean staff, so anytime there is an opening it’s critical to fill it quickly.  I got tired of seeing people fail because we hire someone out of desperation to fill an opening. So I started to recruit for people when I didn’t have an opening, so that when one did open up, I could hire the best of the best, who really, really wanted to work here.”  She went on to explain that sports teams have practice squads and farm teams as a source of ready replacements should a spot open up.  What Marcia was doing was building her farm team of applicants ready to go when she had an opening.

Absolutely brilliant! 

Lesson: The best time to recruit talented people is when you don’t have an opening. Build a farm team of A-player applicants so that when you need to hire someone, you won’t make a “desperation hire.”

I asked her how she kept good candidates still interested if she didn’t have a spot for them.  Marcia smiled and said, “It isn’t as hard as you’d think.  I call them at least once every three or four weeks to update them on when I think we might have an opening. On each call I tell them something positive about what the company and my branch is doing, and how our top earners are thriving.  And how much they should want to be a part of this…I tell them, ’hang on, don’t go anywhere, I will call you as soon as something happens.’ I lose a few candidates, but most will take my call and I’ll wind up hiring someone from the group.”

Lesson: When you find a great candidate but have no place to put him or her, initiate regular contact and keep selling the future, the opportunity…show by your actions that you care and candidates will be willing to wait a little while for the chance to work for you.” 

“I’m Looking for Something Nice for My Wife…”

Montreal, Canada June 24, 1987.  In January 1987 I relocated my family to Montreal to take a job as General Manager for a North American electronics distributor with nine branch offices (seven in Canada and two in the US).  My mission was to open up 15 new branches in three years in cities where we were not located. I needed about five salespeople per branch. Then company owner Robert threw me a curve ball.  “I don’t believe in help wanted advertising, since it is usually people without jobs who are looking.  I want you to find people who are strong producers who are currently working.”  “Bodysnatching,” I thought… Yikes!

This forced me to really identify what specifically I wanted in a salesperson for our company.  After carefully examining our top producers I identified the top areas of knowledge, skills and talents for which I would recruit. 

Lesson: Use your best producers as a model for what you want in a new hire.  What do they do that is special that makes them a top producer?

We had a terrific technical training program so we could teach anyone who was reasonably sharp the knowledge of electronics they’d need.  I could teach them the sales approach.  What I needed was someone eager to learn who had exceptional interpersonal skills, strong work ethic, who could work with customers and close sales.  And who were already working.  Hmmm.

Suddenly I knew where I could find hundreds of these people – they would be working in the upscale shopping malls selling high ticket fashion.  And that’s how I became a bodysnatcher!

Lesson: Never begin recruiting without identifying exactly what you want in a candidate in terms of specific areas of knowledge, skills, and talent, plus an action plan of how and where you will find them.

I was ready to put my plan to work and after a few tries I perfected my approach.  I’d go to the top fashion stores in an upscale mall and identify the most customer-oriented person who kept busy when not working with customers.  I focused on women’s fashion stores since I had the perfect cover story – “I’m looking for something nice for my wife.” 

Once I identified the right person, I’d manage to get approached by her and see how effective she was at asking questions, making suggestions, presenting items of interest, and closing me.  She did not know it then, but I was interviewing her!  During our back and forth I learned a little background…how she came to work there, what she liked about it, how long she’s been in sales, and what she eventually wanted to do.  I’d get her name and card. Next day I’d call and explain that I was recruiting sales staff for a new sales office and was thoroughly impressed with the way she treated me as a customer.  Would she be interested in an interview?

A few people might have thought this was creepy though most were positive. I hired more than 70 people this way, the majority of which turned out to be terrific salespeople once they understood our products. 

And my wife got some fantastic clothes to wear!

Lesson: Fantastic people are everywhere and they don’t need to be looking to change jobs for you to spot interview them and recruit the best ones.  

“That’s Not Learned Behavior…that’s Talent!”

Hobbs NM  August 23, 2007.  My client and I were having a lunch meeting discussing some of her company’s challenges.  Laura was the president of a telecommunications company of just under 100 employees. Unlike the major metro areas of the southwest, this was a rural community of a few thousand people a couple of hours from the nearest airport in Lubbock, TX.  It was hard to recruit talent there. We were discussing the strategy of hiring people with potential and developing them in-house.

It was the lunch rush and we were waiting for our server when something caught my eye that I had never seen before. I pointed it out to Laura.  The server for our section was two tables away with the people who came in ahead of us and was taking their lunch order.  Instead of just standing there this server bent and the knees and squatted down so she could speak to the customers at their eye level. You could see how friendly she was and her smile was authentic.  When she finished, she came to our table she did exactly the same thing. When she left with our order I told Laura, “That’s not learned behavior we just saw…none of the other wait staff here do that. Hire this person…she has empathy for people, relates to them on their level, and that is an amazing talent!” Laura got her name, interviewed her, and hired her.  She proved both of us right as she won employee of the year three of her seven years working there. 

Lesson: When you want to develop talent that can grow up in your organization, look to entry roles found in restaurants, retail, gas stations, and any place entry people work (including your employer).  Question is, are you always looking for talent? Have you trained yourself to recognize what makes someone special?

Bottom Line.  When you decide to become a primary recruiter for your own team, there is no limit to the creative approaches you can use to find and recruit talented people. Use these six ideas, and any other creative approach you can think of to recruit talented people:

1. The best time to recruit talented people is when you don’t have an opening. Build a farm team of A-player applicants so that when you need to hire someone, you won’t make a “desperation hire.”

2. When you find a great candidate but have no place to put him or her, initiate regular contact and keep selling the future, the opportunity…show by your actions that you care and candidates will be willing to wait a little while for the chance to work for you.”

3. Use your best producers as a model for what you want in a new hire. What do they do that is special that makes them a top producer?

4. Never begin recruiting without identifying exactly what you want in a candidate in terms of specific areas of knowledge, skills, and talent, plus an action plan of how and where you will find them.

5. Fantastic people are everywhere and they don’t need to be looking to change jobs for you to spot interview them and recruit the best ones.

6. When you want to develop talent that can grow up in your organization, look to entry roles found in restaurants, retail, gas stations, and any place entry people work (including your employer). Question is, are you always looking for talent? Have you trained yourself to recognize what makes someone special?

I love working with people and organizations who want to improve their effectiveness! Here are several outstanding resources that can help you and your organization to go to the next level:

I work with some of the world’s top employers by helping them get the most out of their talented people. My company’s extensive leadership development course catalog provides effective skills-building for everyone in the organization, from the new / developing leader to the seasoned C-level executive. My company’s coaching programs produce significant results in compressed periods of time. I also help job seekers, higher ed, and employment services connect people to better jobs faster. My company’s acclaimed career development tools help people navigate the ever-changing landscape of conducting a successful job search. To find out more, please visit us at www.boyermanagement.com, email us at info@boyermanagement.com, or call us at 215-942-0982.

Latest Leadership Posts

Feb
18

What to Look for When Hiring a Professional Coach in 2020 Continue Reading

Jan
07

The Only New Year’s Resolution You’ll Need in 2020 Continue Reading

Dec
03

Getting to the Heart of Motivation Continue Reading