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Hiring Strategies

Opportunistic Outsourcing: Career Path Advancement for Key Contributors

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Business coach Peter Drucker was known for dispensing some sage advice that still rings true decades later: “Do what you do best and outsource the rest.” What comes to mind when you hear that mantra? An immediate list likely appears of all the tasks you know are not the greatest use of your efforts and energy. In the few seconds you spent thinking about what pops to mind you may already have vowed not to waste time any longer on select mundane projects or responsibilities that fill your plate and don’t leave room for much else. “I really need to hire someone to manage my schedule” or “someone else should be responsible for compiling our weekly reports” are certainly reasonable solutions, but the outsourcing we will cover next is far more strategic.

Instead of viewing outsourcing as a chance to create more time for you, shift instead to think through how outsourcing could actually create an opportunity for others within your team.

The Shift

Stop thinking of outsourcing as the things you no longer want to do and look instead at the opportunities you could create for others. A great leader is always one step ahead of career path advancement for key contributors. Take a moment (or a few hours) to evaluate each direct report you have; who are they each capable of becoming over the next few years and beyond? Now, what do you need to teach each of them to advance their responsibilities and skillsets?

You have now defined your first round of opportunistic outsourcing.

Think less about performance management and think more about professional development. Do you spend the same amount of time talking about where you see a key contributor’s career going as you do talking about how they are doing with deadlines or quotas? Is your coaching equally dedicated to skills that will help them achieve in their current role just as much as prepare them for the next step you believe they could grow into? Do you purposefully put key contributors in situations in which they may fail, but that failure propels growth?

At times, you may need to believe in others a little more than they believe in themselves. The best leaders help their team members discover their genius.

Survivorship Bias

When you focus too heavily on the “survivors” of a given group, you tend to ignore essential qualities about the rest of the population. Take entrepreneurship; we tend to gravitate toward the most successful entrepreneurs in the world when we study examples. Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg all dropped out of school; after learning about them many people conclude that a college education is not necessary to succeed.

But for every Branson, Gates, and Zuckerberg, there are thousands, if not millions, of other entrepreneurs who dropped out of school and failed in business. We just don’t hear about them, and so we don’t take them into account. The misconception is that you should focus on the successful if you wish to become successful.

How does this relate to our topic at hand? Until now, we have been focusing on key contributors – those whom you feel strongly will continue to play an integral role in the success of your organization. What about those who hover just below that line?
One option is certainly to “top grade” and perpetually focus on proactive hiring that improves the strength of your bench, not just hiring that fills empty seats. Spend less time addressing reoccurring performance issues and instead craft a hiring plan that proactively attracts the “A” or “B+” contributors to the team.

An additional option is to opportunistically outsource. Give others the chance to take on tasks and responsibilities they can succeed with and are passionate about. Be sensitive to the skills and interests of individuals; match the dreamer with more creative tasks and the perfectionist with the detail-oriented projects. Just think how much more would get done if people only did jobs for which they had a talent and a passion. Don’t focus only on the already successful individuals within your team but outsource thoughtfully to those to whom you are still trying to uncover their fullest potential.

Just Ask

Not sure what to outsource, and to whom? Challenge yourself to get to know those on your team. Ask questions to assess the present and design the future:

  • When you come to work each day, what things do you look forward to?
  • What are you learning here? What have you not yet been given the chance to take on, that you’d like to?
  • Is this what you want to do?
  • What can I do to make your experience here better?
  • What would you be excited to take on? (projects, responsibilities, clients)
  • When was the last time you feel like you massively over-delivered on something? What was it, and why did you work so hard?
  • What would make you listen to a call you’d get from a recruiter? Be honest; no judgment!
  • What’s on your personal and professional bucket list?
  • Fast-forward a year (two years, five years) from now; what would you be most proud of having accomplished?

Even when individuals are assigned difficult challenges, when they are involved in the decision there is a huge increase in performance. Those who volunteer look at projects as developmental, while those who are assigned regard the task as hard labor. Take the initiative now to truly engage the hearts and minds of your team, so they one day will have the ability to outsource opportunistically to the next generation of future leaders within your firm.

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How to Use Behavior-Based Questions to Gauge Emotional Intelligence in the Interview

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One of the goals of an interview is to assess whether the candidate has the emotional intelligence needed to succeed in the job. An emotionally intelligent person demonstrates self-awareness, empathy, motivation, and strong social skills. These tips will help you develop behavior-based questions that can effectively gauge emotional intelligence during the interview.

Facing Challenges

An important aspect of the candidate that should be assessed is how they face challenges. One way to do this is by asking about professional demands they have faced. Have the candidate tell you about past trials they encountered in their job and have them explain how they overcame it. This will give insight into how they approach problems. The focus of this question should be on finding candidates who are excellent problem-solvers and aren’t afraid to take on new challenges. Finding employees who can take a difficult situation and turn it into a positive is essential.

Resilience and Stress Management

The ability to bounce back from adversity is a powerful life skill to have. One way to assess a candidate’s resilience is to ask them about past projects that required them to work under pressure. Have the candidate talk about professional projects they have worked on that were stressful or that ultimately failed. Executive support positions come with a certain amount of stress. There are deadlines and goals that need to be met. It’s important to understand how a candidate behaves under pressure. Do they shut down when things become too tough, or do they push through and make the best of the situation? The goal is to find talent who has the emotional maturity to thrive in intense situations.

Proactive Drive

To ascertain a candidate’s level of drive, ask them whether they have ever assisted in establishing new goals for a company. Allow the interviewee to discuss a time where they helped establish new goals or objectives for a company they worked for. This can reveal a lot about a candidate. Are they proactive? Can they identify shortcomings within the company? If they managed to convince management to implement a new objective, this shows they are persuasive.

Growth and Leadership

In executive support roles, it’s vital that candidates have great leadership skills, adaptability, and a willingness to grow. To get an understanding of their strength in those areas, ask them if they changed the scope of their role in their last job. How did they redefine the position and why did they feel like they needed to? Did other coworkers follow suit and redefine their own roles? It’s helpful to see how well the candidate can adapt and grow. A candidate who is confident enough to take on additional responsibilities and has strong leadership skills will rise to the challenges of a new position.

Behavior-based questions are the most important questions you ask during an interview. These questions allow you to understand how a candidate would perform if they land the job. One of the goals of behavior-based questions is to assess the candidate’s emotional intelligence– how they handle stress, if they are proactive, and if they have the skills to readily adapt to change.

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Good Leadership Can Help You Overcome the Challenges of Onboarding

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Retention of high-quality, motivated professionals is essential for an organization’s success. This is particularly true for C-level support. High turnover adds to expenses and can lower the morale of the entire company. It’s important to develop the full range of competencies needed to successfully onboard new talent and establish them in your organization. Here are some helpful tips on how solid leadership will help overcome the challenges of onboarding and improve overall retention.

Communication Challenges

A prominent challenge many leaders experience is making assumptions about expectations without actually communicating them directly. While intuition can be an important part of success, it can never be a substitute for clear communication. During the onboarding process, leaders need to speak with new employees often to learn what they need to feel comfortable. Most new employees want to set goals and milestones. Onboarding is a good time to set expectations so they have a clear sense of direction from the start. Talk with new employees regularly to learn about their career goals, current objectives and help them develop a plan. Search consultants can support managers with appropriate questions to ask as they understand the concerns of new hires as well as client companies and can align intentions to a mutually beneficial outcome.

Expectation Challenges

Another important issue for transitioning new hires is time management. Often managers who are new to onboarding think it’s a one-week process. Many new leaders grow frustrated because the process requires more time than they expected. A search consultant can help establish some guidelines for the process. They can make sure both parties understand what to expect from onboarding and training. Even the most qualified candidates will require thoughtful training and communication. They have an entire organization to become acquainted with.

Onboarding Tips

An effective onboarding process often takes several months to a year. In the first 90 days, the goal should be to make the new hire comfortable, while establishing clear expectations and ensuring that everyone understands objectives. An executive should have a 30-day, 60-day, and 90-day meeting with their new employee to review goals and share feedback in addition to daily action items and priorities. Our search firm offers a post-placement program where we meet with the leader and new hire on a monthly cycle, through some of the most difficult challenges and then move to a 9-month and 12-month check-in. The goal of the meeting is to exchange feedback and foster a connection and sense of shared accomplishment.

Good leadership and direct communication will enable a thoughtful and effective onboarding process ensuring your new employee is established in a timely manner and can begin meeting the goals and priorities you set together. Providing clear communication and immaculate guidelines are essential keys to a smooth onboarding process. Once an employee trusts you and feels supported, they’re much more likely to be productive and stay loyal to the organization.

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