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The Best Team I ever managed & what made them great

Last week I was in conversation with a manager who was relatively new to their role. They had recently been promoted into a role that required them to essentially build a new team and grow her department. This would involve making sure current staff were deployed in the right roles as well as having to hire new staff into some open positions as this company ramped up. She reached out to me for some assistance as she began the hiring process. The interesting part about our conversation was that she asked me a question that I hadn’t been asked in a long time. She asked, “When you think of teams you have managed over the years, and when you think of the ‘best’ team you ever managed, what do you think made that team so? (i.e. the ‘best’) (Note to self – this is a great interview question).

The_bestWhat my colleague was getting at, was that she was trying to get beyond whatever necessary knowledge, skills and experience she would have to hire for, but focus more on what would make up the DNA of her team. She wanted to make sure she had the right people in these roles – ones that would take to their new roles, align with the vision and help her grow her department and ultimately the company. She was really applying a forward thinking approach moving her thinking beyond the ‘hire for characteristics and train for skill’ mantra.

After having given her question a lot of thought, I came to the conclusion that while there was a whole bunch of ‘stuff’ that made up the best team I ever managed, there were really only a few key (but critical) elements that made the team the “best.” You could remove a lot of elements that made up the individuals but you had to really focus on the collective and what made them a great team. Here is what I came up with when I think of the best team (group of managers) I ever had the privilege of managing:

1) Trust – Bottom line, we all trusted each other. We trusted that conversations we had as a team would stay confidential. No one ever had to say, “This never leaves this room.” We knew as a team that when we got together to discuss our department(s), our people, our plans and our challenges, these were all confidential conversations. We trusted that when someone made a commitment to the team that they would follow through with that commitment and we trusted that when the chips were down or we had tough times to get through (i.e. layoffs) we had each other’s backs and worked through the challenges together.

2) Respect and Candor – intrinsically linked to trust, was the level of respect we had for each other and the degree of candor we applied in our communications with each other. My managers were not afraid to speak their minds (with respect) when they disagreed with a colleague or me. If someone said something that they felt had no merit or fact, they would call each other out on it. It was this form of constructive debate that allowed the team to make informed decisions based on facts not emotions. Overall, our discussions, planning sessions and projects were all managed with respect. Everyone felt that they had a voice and that their opinion was valid. At the end of the day, the group moved forward with what was best for the team, but everyone left the room feeling respected and validated. It was this united front that was always presented to our employees and customers that made us highly successful as a team.

3) Accountability – at the end of the day, we held each other accountable. We were accountable for our actions, our words and our deliverables. Each member of the team had goals to meet and employees to develop. Everyone was accountable for the success of the team and because of this accountability, no one wanted to let anyone else down.  This is often a forgotten element (or even an assumed one) in successful teams.  I think of it as an essential pillar and if the team members aren’t accountable to each other, the whole thing falls apart.

4) Diversity of thought – this one is similar to candor, but takes it a bit further. The diversity of thought was as a result of the manager’s backgrounds, education and social upbringing. They each brought unique perspectives to the team and we always made sure to leverage their unique background when problem solving and meeting our customer needs. It was these diverse backgrounds that allowed us to effectively recruit, provide effective employee relations, payroll and benefits services to our clients. At the end of the day, it was not only refreshing, but highly effective to have employees with such broad and varied backgrounds as it only made the team that much stronger.

There are other elements that made our team great, but those four (or 4.5) are what I think made it the best team I was ever a part of and was fortunate enough to manage. I advised my colleague that if you kept those characteristics in mind as an ideal end state for your team (or at least hiring criteria), than you would probably be able to bring together a pretty darn good team!

What about you? What have you experienced or seen when it comes to characteristics and traits of the best teams you have ever been a part of (or managed)? As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons

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5 Attributes of Exceptional Recruiters

Last week I blogged about the 6 characteristics that make up a great Human Resources Professional. This week I wanted to take it a step further but in a slightly different direction. I want to focus on what makes up an exceptional recruiter. For purposes of this post, I am not looking at technical skills or educational qualifications. Things like sales ability, negotiation skills, etc. are pretty much a given and really are a ticket into the recruiting “game.” What I am looking at are those attributes that separate the crème de la crème of the recruiting world. These attributes apply to both 3rd party (agency) recruiters as well as in-house (internal talent acquisition) recruiters. What I am not delineating here are the differences in skillsets between recruiters and sourcers; I am simply getting at what is in the inherent DNA of the best recruiters. Based on my experience and observations exceptional recruiters:

Recruiting image1) Work with a sense of urgency – I am not talking about pedal to the metal, guns a blazing, helter skelter, frenetic energy. I am referring to the ability to quickly prioritize requirements, focus on working “closest to the money” and hone in immediately on what needs to be done to source/close a candidate. By doing so, these recruiters always give their clients the impression that theirs is the ONLY recruiting requirement that they are working on at any given time! Exceptional recruiters know that they only have a limited amount of time or a limited opportunity to identify and close certain candidates and they do not let an opportunity to close pass them by. They understand that if they are not talking to these candidates and working closest to the money, than their competition will be or maybe already is.

2) Are great communicators – great in the sense that they are great at engaging their clients, asking the right qualifying questions to hone in on the essential job requirements and they keep their clients and candidates informed at every step of the recruiting process. The best recruiters provide regular status updates to their clients and candidates in terms of what to expect next and when. They also update them when there is no update – this provides the benefit of giving the client and candidate the feeling that they are always top of mind with the recruiter. The best recruiters always follow up with their clients and candidates when they say they will. If you tell a candidate you will update them on an opportunity by end of business tomorrow, than you need to make sure you update them (even if it is with a “no news” message) by end of business tomorrow. Remember, trust and credibility are everything as a recruiter.

3) Have a high degree of “reachability” – this goes along with #2 but focuses a bit more specifically on how easy (or difficult) it is for clients and candidates to get a hold of you. Nothing is more frustrating than when a client or candidate is trying to get in touch with a recruiter to ask more information about a job, request an informational interview, or get a status update on a position they have applied for and all they ever get are voice mails or unreturned emails. The best recruiters return client and candidate calls and emails by end of business – especially on a Friday. Better yet, they work off the buddy system and designate an alternative contact on their voice mail or email response so that there are no significant time lags in communicating with candidates. Recruiters who are not reachable result in frustrated clients who go elsewhere, and disenchanted candidates who take other opportunities.

4) Are adept at “down streaming” candidates – this speaks to the recruiters ability to pre-qualify candidates and effectively move them downstream in the recruiting process. They are highly adept at removing obstacles/barriers to closing candidates. This also results in fewer back and forth phone calls between the recruiter, client and candidate during the negotiation process – something that causes frustration and often causes a candidate to take another offer. Recruiters that are adept at pre-qualifying and down streaming candidates remove objections and concerns early on during the recruiting process. If compensation is a major concern, the recruiter should be asking the candidate, “If I can get you $xx, xxx from my client, will you sign their employment offer?” This way, the candidate is making a verbal commitment and it is less likely that when presented with an offer that they will come back asking for something else. The best recruiters are also cognizant of what other irons their candidates have in the fire. They ask, “what other opportunities are you currently looking at and interviewing for?” They then know what else they are up against from a timeline perspective and can also properly educate their clients if they are dragging their feet during the decision-making process.

5) Proactively identify and recommend recruiting solutions – they work with their clients in advance to draw up the recruiting plan. They advise the client on what it is going to take to attract a proper slate of candidates for a given role. Because they have done some basic Boolean searching on LinkedIn, they know the approximate pool of candidates that are even out there to be recruited from. They advise their client on a proper campaign budget and identify 3-4 ways to drive awareness around the role. They do things like ask the hiring manager what has been successful in the past from a hiring perspective and who on their team currently would be an example of a successful hire for the role. The best recruiters than reach out this “ideal” internal person and work the company’s referral system like a champ! Number 5 is what differentiates “order takers” from recruiters.

These are but a few attributes of exceptional recruiters but ones that I believe comprise, at a minimum, what makes up the best. It is all about being proactive, being communicative and solutions focused. What else have you experienced with recruiters? What else would you recommend be added to this list? I would love to hear from you and see in your comments how we might increase this list.

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

6 Characteristics of a Great Human Resources Professional

Several days ago, one of my favourite bloggers, Laurie Ruettimann, wrote a great post about “The 5 Attributes of a Great HR Department.”  On its own, it was a great post and I encourage you to read it; however it also inspired me to take it one step further and look at what characteristics make up a great Human Resources Professional. When thinking of great HR professionals, I am referring to those HR pros that are involved, in some capacity, with recruiting, payroll & benefits, employee relations, etc. I have had the privilege of leading, working for and working with many HR Professionals over the course of 16 years as an HR Professional myself. Based on my own personal observations, here the characteristics that I feel make up a great HR professional (HR Pro):

1) Ethical behavior – kind of a given when you think of the work that we do; however I have found it to be not always so. I am not talking about the ability to differentiate right from wrong, but more looking at individuals who have a strong moral compass that guides their decision-making. They know when to extract themselves from certain situations, when to engage others in the organization to address an issue, etc. They understand the impact of needing to manage perceptions in terms of interpersonal relationships and the need for HR to be seen as neutral and unbiased.

HR logo2) Fearless – as a follow up to #1, these are the HR Pros that are not afraid to voice a countering opinion. They are not afraid to be the voice of reason or to escalate a particularly stinky matter to the “higher-ups.” Great HR Pros never “look the other way” because it is the easy thing to do. They also don’t toe the line because that is the path of least resistance. They are stewards for the organization and believe in good corporate governance.

3) Separation of church and state – they understand that they work for “the company” but also represent their profession and its code of ethics/conduct and are able to balance the two. They hold their professional reputation in high regard and would never to anything to risk tarnishing it.

4) Ability to build and maintain confidentiality – another one of those items that you would think would be a given for an HR Pro; however, I have seen far too many HR folks who simply cannot maintain confidentiality. It doesn’t matter what has been discussed with them or reinforced (i.e. this this for your eyes only) they feel they simply have to share the juicy gossip with someone else. Nothing undermines HR’s credibility more than HR folks who cannot keep things confidential. Simply put, confidentiality is the essential foundation of being a great HR Pro.

5) Humility & Coachability – two for the price of one. These are those HR Pros who have that sense of self-actualization or realization that they don’t know everything; or that they realize that they constantly need to be in a state of learning. The truly great HR Pros are those that openly accept coaching – from their manager, peers, business partners, etc. They are constantly looking to improve themselves professionally and elevate their profession.

6) Sense of humour – perhaps not quite as critical as the other five, but when I am hiring for my teams I always look for a sense of humour. We are constantly faced with so many challenging situations in HR (terminations, layoffs, harassment investigations, etc.) that without a sense of humour, you would quickly lose your passion and drive in your job. The best HR Pros I have worked with have all six of these characteristics.

What have I missed? What else makes a great HR Professional? What has been your experience in terms of working with other HR Pros? As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of basketman/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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