If a Tree Falls in the Forest…

04/15/2013 10.43 EST

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For the past month (at least), I have been harassed daily (at least) by my colleague who is responsible for posting blog entries on our website.  Her job is not to write them – even though she has about 30 IQ points on me.  Instead, her job is to annoy me, occasionally with good humor, to be sure we regularly post interesting blogs related to our firm and the world of talent acquisition.   It wasn’t her idea to bug me; we asked her to do this.  It’s part of her job.  But she does embrace it with more passion and relish than anything else she does here.   But that’s not what I want to write about.  I want to write about why she has had to bug me for a month.  Sure, it takes time to write and I am constantly swamped.  It also requires that I come up with interesting topics – easier some days than others.   But I’m starting to think the reason I’ve been dragging my feet is because I don’t think anyone reads what I write.   Blogs are supposed to be one of the central social media marketing strategies for firms like ours who are trying to get noticed without spending tons of money on advertising.  We like that the blogs give us a chance to sound like the experts we are, maybe educate people along the way, and create a positive, attractive brand presence in our field.  Plus...

The Rules of Engagement

03/01/2013 01.44 EST

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This article originally ran on TLNT.  To view it, click here.   Let’s face it.  The active candidate has become a second-class citizen.  Conventional wisdom says that there continues to be a glut of in-transition executives in the job market.  Just post a job on Monster.com and you can expect an avalanche of resumes to bury your inbox.  Or, set your corporate recruiter loose on LinkedIn and within a few days, she will be sitting in your office with a stack of profiles from which you can choose your next VP of [insert job title here].  The only catch is that the vast majority of these candidates are either out of work or have something going on in their current companies that is pushing them out the door.   That’s not to say there are not a number of talented executives in the active candidate pile.  There are.  You can’t have the type of economic upheaval we have experienced over the past several years and not some very talented professionals be displaced.  But, do you really want this demographic to make up the entire applicant pool for a critical senior hire?  That answer comes down to making a choice between whether you are looking for the best talent available or the best talent period.   In my opinion, this is where the talent acquisition function is currently failing its client base.  Many have mistaken the increase in candidate visibility for an increase in candidate quality.  That’s simply not the...

The Leadership Skills Companies Want

02/12/2013 03.34 EST

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In this year’s Women on Boards report, Philadelphia’s Forum of Executive Women found that while board seats at companies across the region actually dropped, the portion of board seats held by women have increased by nine percent since 2006.  Over the same time period, the number of top executives who are women jumped by 25 percent.   While the progress for female leaders across the country is slow, there is a growing business case for change.  At Salveson Stetson Group, where we place executives in senior-level roles at corporations and non-profits, a number of our clients have expressed interest in hiring more women into senior leadership positions to diversify their talent pool.   What are companies looking for when they are targeting leadership hires, specifically women?   As an executive search consultant, I hear a common “wish list” when identifying talented female leaders.  First and foremost, candidates need to have a proven track record in managing large, multi-site and global teams.  Secondly, they need to have strong talent management skills as well as possess the necessary emotional intelligence to effectively navigate in their roles.  The ability for a leader to juggle all of these responsibilities across a company is a tall order.   Many emerging female leaders continually ask for advice on ways to accelerate their development.  I have highlighted several recommendations that may facilitate being considered for future executive leadership roles:   Take on a stretch assignment.  If your boss is suggesting you move into a...

4 Ways Companies Can Fix Succession Planning in 2013

01/29/2013 04.15 EST

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Succession planning is a bit like flossing your teeth or going on a New Year’s diet – you know it is a good idea and that it can only make you healthier, but it is difficult to muster the discipline necessary to follow through on the commitment.   Most companies take a similar approach toward building a succession plan – or not building one.  The majority of organizations today lack an adequate pool of internal candidates ready to replace the executives who are slated to be promoted to the next management level or retire.  By first addressing the shortfall they have of candidates for key positions in the organization, companies can then begin to develop a comprehensive succession plan.   To stick to that New Year’s resolution of finally mapping out your organization’s successors, follow these four simple steps to get started.   Find out who cares about succession planning.  If the Board, the CEO or division leaders don’t care about succession planning, don’t waste your time trying to drive a program.  If you want to get them interested, remind them of some spectacular successes (or failures) in succession planning that had a real effect on the company.  If they still aren’t interested, update your resume and start looking for a new job. Conduct a “succession audit.”  Don’t panic – this does not have to be a big deal.  For each critical position in the organization, identify two types of employees who are already on staff: those...

What I Learned on My Trip to Thailand and Vietnam (Part 2)

12/12/2012 02.00 EST

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You may have read the latest blog post from my business partner, John Salveson: What I Learned in Bangkok (Part 1). We traveled to Bangkok in October for the annual meeting of IIC Partners, a group of independent executive search firms across 39 countries. This gathering provided us with an opportunity to better understand global business issues, share common practices and learn from one another.   John gave several interesting – and humorous – reflections on our trip in his blog entry. I thought I’d give a bit of a different perspective. Since I last traveled to Bangkok more than 20 years ago, some things have changed dramatically and others have stayed relatively the same.   What has changed? The city has grown and the infrastructure has expanded – there is a more complex and paved highway system today than two decades prior. But because of this, traffic has become so congested that it’s challenging to navigate the city except via its waterways.   What has stayed the same? The people continue to be gentle, kind and generally happy – you can tell their sense of joy just by looking at their faces. They are incredibly friendly and have a wonderful sense of humor. If you smile first, they will smile even more broadly. They are simply happy, regardless of their financial circumstances. It was a breath of fresh air.   After visiting Bangkok, my husband and I traveled on to Ho Chi Minh City – or...

What I Learned in Bangkok (Part 1)

11/26/2012 10.19 EST

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  A few weeks ago, my partner Sally Stetson and I spent a week in Bangkok, Thailand attending the annual meeting of IIC Partners.  Our firm is a member of this global network of independently owned retained search firms and this meeting is devoted to sharing best practices, developing relationships with each other and generally working together to strengthen our businesses.  We also do things like elect new board members and select board leadership.   Attending the meeting with us were about 70 colleagues, all of whom own and operate retained executive search firms.  They come from virtually every part of the globe: Europe, the UK, Asia, Africa, New Zealand, Australia – you name it.   For those who couldn’t join Sally and me in Bangkok, the following are 18 takeaways from our international trip.  What have you experienced in your overseas travels – in Bangkok or elsewhere?   It is a bad idea to eat a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese after getting off a 15-hour flight over the North Pole. Pepto-Bismol is the staff of life but is unavailable anywhere in Asia. (It is very good to have experienced traveling companions with you who pack lots of Pepto.) The airports I travelled through in Hong Kong and Thailand were huge, spotless, beautiful, new and comfortable. If I lived in Hong Kong, I would go to the airport on Friday nights for fun. JFK International Airport in New York is cramped, dirty, ugly, old and inconvenient....

Don’t Call Me a Headhunter

11/02/2012 04.13 EST

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Headhunter. The definition of a “headhunter” is someone who seeks, collects and preserves the heads of enemies as trophies or ceremonial objects. This is not what I do and I certainly hope it’s not something my competitors do.   Whenever I attend an event and meet people for the first time, most ask me what I do for a living. They are confused when I respond that I am an “executive search consultant.” Most of the time, I receive glazed looks in response to this term and almost always need to follow it with a more detailed description: “I am hired or retained by corporations to help them recruit for specific executive-level positions.” This is typically followed by more confusion until I give in and say I am a headhunter. Then the vacant stare shifts into clear recognition – “Oh, now I understand what you do!” – followed by a description of their job-seeking friend “Joe” and why he’d be perfect for my client. Now I am just frustrated. That is not what I do either.   While referrals are welcome, I wish people would understand the core differences between executive search and headhunting:   We work with clients on very specific assignments. Even though “Joe” may be a great guy, if I don’t have a search assignment that matches his background, it doesn’t matter. We are not a placement agency. We are a consulting firm that partners with companies to identify talented executives who have the...

In Praise of Non-Profit CEOs

10/10/2012 03.35 EST

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A while back, I was contacted by a journalist who was upset about CEO compensation for non-profit executives.  He thought many of them made too much money, which he found especially galling since he thought they had cushy jobs.   Specifically, he said things like:   “It’s not like they have shareholders!” “They don’t have to worry about competition!” “They shouldn’t expect to be paid well for their work – they are in a non-profit.”   I’ve written before about non-profit organizations and I serve on the boards of several right now.  I also spent the first few years of my career in non-profits, first in the mental health sector and later in a social services agency as a fundraiser.  But it’s really my board experience, including serving on or chairing several search committees for non-profit leaders, that has formed my views on the issue of compensation for non-profit executives.   First things first – I fully support the notion that non-profit CEO compensation should be transparent and should not create an undue burden on the budget.  However, I think we also have to be realistic about the unusual, complex skill set required for success in this sector.  In fact, I contend that it is probably a much more difficult job to run a $50 million non-profit than it is to run a $50 million private company.  Here’s why:   The non-profit has many more stakeholders; clients, foundations, board members, politicians, donors, customers, regulators – the list...