The confusion between perfection and excellence

July 2, 2009

Always betterWhen hiring people, I have heard many times their claiming to be perfectionists, either as one of their top three qualities or one of their top three “weaknesses”. Actually, it has always sounded to me like everyone wants things to be “perfect” all the time.
On the other hand, I very rarely have heard anyone mentioning the word “excellence”. This is strange, because many of the “perfectionists” are not really looking for perfection, but they simply want to do an excellent job.
So, what is the difference between the two terms? Actually, it is very simple. Since nobody can define what perfection exactly means, perfection cannot be attained, and therefore should not be set as a goal. On the contrary, excellence, because it is a dynamic and relative concept can be translated rather easily into performance objectives that can be quantified.
Perfection is the quest of an abstract absolute, while excellence is the desire to constantly improve. Therefore, the so-called perfectionists can be split into two groups: the bitter idealists and the driven achievers.
Members of the first group are easy to identify, as they are never satisfied and always have to criticize or blame something or someone for the according-to-them unsatisfying performance. What is also remarkable is that they never seem to make mistakes and they are in never the cause for any problem. They tend to have a negative attitude and they never are happy.
Members of the second group are quite different. They, too, are difficult to satisfy, not so much because performance is below expectations, but because they see ways of doing better or of having been able to do better. Their attitude is generally positive and they are always ready to go again to improve things. Their main motivation is to do beat the previous record and certainly to always beat the competitors. They also do not waste their time blaming, justifying or criticizing, and if they realize that they performance is not good, they will feel mortified and they will take action themselves to correct the situation and meet their goals. Their drive and their knowledge that tomorrow is the other day when they will do better keeps them optimistic, happy and stimulating.
So, if you want superior performance, choose your group! Be enthusiastic, shake things, never give and deliver the goods! Do not focus on why things went wrong, bring solutions and fix the problems!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.

What has happened to good old-fashioned headhunting?

May 18, 2009

The more I dig in the world of recruiting and hear from those many talented people who never seem to get any response from their applications, the more appalled I become!

In my view, the whole recruiting process is going in the wrong direction. Everything is set up to just provide companies with “adequate” candidates, but there clearly is no effort anymore to go find out that special someone who will really add competitive value to his/her employer.

I can understand that recruiters seek some help in technology, but only if it creates quality to the customer. What they are doing is adding cost savings for themselves as they do not even read resumes anymore but let the computer do the screening. The keywords matching will sort out who will pass and who will lose. This is sheer laziness and if you ask me, it is cheating the customer. What happens with all the very valid words that are in the resume but just are not the right ones? Bad luck my friend, you used the wrong word, and therefore you are a loser!

And the beauty of it all is that thanks to this “black hole” nobody will ever know that very solid candidates were wrongly rejected. That is the greatest CYA I can think of. And companies keep paying obscene fees to such charlatans in a time where they should cut costs by eliminating all the useless suppliers! Companies do not get the best anymore, they only get the luckiest resume owners.

In my life I have hired quite a few people, and the only few times that I did it through recruiters, it has always been disappointing. They never have been able to send people who had the right personality and solidity for the jobs I wanted to fill in. All the real talents I have hired I found myself and trained myself, with simply the most amazing results and a performance for the company that our competitors envied and our customers valued.

I believe that technology’s purpose is for people to do their work better, not just easier. I also believe that when technology replaces the people using it, then those people purely and simply have no function anymore. They are redundant and irrelevant. Recruiter, you are fired!

I believe that if the way of the future is to screen job applicants by a computer program, then companies can  just as well buy the program and do the work themselves. After all, placing a job posting on Monster or whatever job website does not require a genius and the result will be the same.

As far as I am concerned, except for my first job, I never had to write and send a resume for any position I have held; and even for my first job, I had sent my resume while there was no job opening at that time. I guess that they hired me because they saw something in me. After that, all the jobs I have had have been offered  to me or created for me. I wonder what my life would have been if they had had a computer keyword screening.

In the future, I see two groups of recruiting activities:

  1. The real talent search, by this I mean looking and finding people who have above average abilities, will still be done by headhunters who will tap in their networks and actively work the field to find them one way or another. This will be a quality niche for quality employers. Talented people most of the time are passive job seekers. They are working, either employed or have their own business and can be attracted to another employer if this latter has matching values and offers a job at the level of those over performers.
  2. The bulk or commodity job market, in which companies are not looking for  superstars, but just adequate ones, as they are expendable. This market does not justify the level of fees that recruiters charge (but neither do real estate agents, to whom recruiters actually are quite comparable).  Companies will have the computer program and will go “purchase” the average commodity, and will try to underpay them, as is currently the case already.

Here is a link to an article I found in the National Post that present the current situation: Losing the best: the technology trap in hiring

I really feel sorry for all those people who currently have to find jobs in a very difficult economic environment and who are treated with such little consideration and who have about no way to get around the modern practice of recruiting.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.

The Resume Black Hole

May 11, 2009

Here is an article from The National Post by Cathy Graham titled The Resume Black Hole.
It sums up quite well how resumes are handled these days, and how job seekers are just treated as a commodity. So much for real talent search, just in case you believed there was such a thing.
It connects rather well with my previous post on this blog “Death of the Resume”

About Talent and Prejudice… and a bit of Happiness

May 11, 2009

Today, out of curiosity, I went on YouTube to watch Susan Boyle. I had heard about her singing performance, but I had no idea what it was and whether she was good indeed.
What I have watched and heard on the video is simply amazing! Moreover, it immediately inspired me the title of this article.

First, about prejudice: When she introduces herself on the stage to the jury panel, all she met was skepticism, smirks and disbelief. Can you imagine? An unemployed 47 year-old who is not particularly blessed by her looks and does not wear fancy clothes. In the audience, you can hear giggles and laughter at her, as well as eyes rolling. The general thinking probably was “What a loser!”. Her slightly cheeky attitude was just adding to the comic perception. And yet…

Now about talent: It did not take Susan Boyle more than 3 notes to make them all shut up. The eyebrows rose, the jaws dropped and the mouths went silent. Just 3 notes to realize that all that her looks made people think were simply irrelevant, because that lady on the stage is simply something else. She has an amazing voice and she can sing. A whole bunch of pop divas who are all about cute and sexy should simply ponder about what their talent is about, because they not even remotely can compete with Susan Boyle.

Click here to view the video

Finally, about happiness: Her performance not only stunned the audience, but you could see on the faces, by watching at the throats and by the final ovation, that Susan stirred some really strong emotions. The listeners really experienced something deep and very positive. When you listen to her, you cannot keep on thinking about the little worries in your life. No, all the rest goes on stand-by, because her voice is too beautiful to be missed by insignificant details that can wait for later. Susan makes us happy because she is happy herself.

The great lesson that comes from this is that she did not doubt her abilities, even if she probably had to deal with people who judge her on the wrong parameters. She shows that when you have a dream (no pun intended with the title of the song), you must keep chasing it, regardless of what others might think or say, because if you persist long enough, it will come true. It also shows that talent is inside, that too many criteria used to judge are irrelevant because not aimed at the right thing, and that the critics should not jump to conclusions. One can only wonder how it is possible that people supposed to spot talent have been able to not notice her for so long!
Her performance truly touched me and this article is dedicated to her.

Thank you Susan!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.

My experience with experience… and talent

April 5, 2009

Experience is one of these words in business that need very specific description to be understood. Just like quality, everyone wants it, everyone offers it, but what does it really mean?
Experience is very valuable, and nobody would argue about that. One of the most common misunderstandings about experience is to confuse it “number of years of experience”. Although one might legitimately think that the quality of experience is proportional to the number of years, this still needs to be proven. For having met people claiming more than 20 years of experience in their field, what they were actually showing was 20 times of only one year of experience, as they had been doing the same over and over again in the same position in the same company in a very routinely manner. Actually they were little adaptable and often acted as resistance agents to the change needed to improve the company performance.
Other people show an impressive list of many different experiences in very diverse fields, and yet this would not prove that they master any of these fields, either.
Too often, when recruiting, we tend to focus more on the quantitative side of experience than on the qualitative side (yes here is the “quality” word). A common misconception is to think that experience and talent are some of the same. They are not.
When recruiting people for my teams, I always have looked at their personality, and mostly their area of talent. This is what I have always looked for in a resume, and not so much for diplomas or the succession of jobs. This has always worked quite well, as each and every one of these teams has delivered superior performance.
The funny thing about the recruiting process is that job postings almost never list personality traits or talents. Instead, they focus essentially on education and experience (which in this case is actually job history).
Experience is valuable to an employer only if the potential employee knows how to share it and transfer it to his new colleagues and to his new employer, and this why personality is at least as valuable as experience.
Another misconception about experience is that people who have been in the business longer have more experience. As my personal experience has showed me, this is as untrue as youth being a guarantee for energy and dynamism. In fact, this is where the talent factor plays a paramount role: talented people, besides being more talented than their peers, also have the ability to learn much faster in their area of talent, and thus can catch up very quickly on any apparent shortage of experience.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.

Employee turnover, performance indicator of management

April 5, 2009

We all have heard this a million times: employees are the most valuable assets of a company. It sounds great, but in the everyday life, we can see many examples of companies forgetting this nice statement.
So, in the practice, what is the most valuable asset of a company? Did I hear you say it? Yes! Money! Well, this was an easy one, because management reviews the financial weekly and monthly, while they evaluate their employees only once a year, and that is if they ever do. And when they evaluate, in many cases it is only to bring up all the “bad” things they can to discourage the employee to ask for a raise.
Well, this is what mediocre managers do. The good managers know that the quality of financials are a consequence of the quality of the motivation and therefore of the performance of their employees.
Employee turnover is a sign of the quality of the company culture, and this for a simple reason. Why would people leave a company if they are happy and that they are treated fairly? Really, there are not many reasons why they would or should. Most employees would prefer to spend their all lives in the same organization. And most employees go to work with the desire of doing a good job and thus not have any conflict with the boss. Of course, there are always employees who will look to find something somewhere else, but these are a small minority.
The higher the turnover, the lower the morale and the poorer the company culture. For the reasons that I was indicating above about the general employee loyalty and ethics, it will have to take a fair amount of frustration and actually the realization that there is no hope for improvement for an employee to decide to go browse on the job market again. It has been said before, and it is very true: employees do not leave companies, they leave their manager. Ha! That is a good one for you to ponder about when someone leaves your department, isn’t it? Of course, it takes two to tango and there are many reasons why things do not work out the way they should, and maybe another reason for the employee to leave is simply that communicating on the issues at play did not happen. So it also takes two to divorce.
Managers have performance contracts, but these contracts are mostly linked to financial results (the important asset class) and some “non-financial, which in many cases end up to be some interesting project that are never quantified when it comes to their real added-value or degree of difficulty. Very rarely will employee retention (another expression) for employee satisfaction be an integral part of the performance contract.
And this is quite sad, because employee turnover is a plague. It costs a lot, just like it costs a lot to replace a lost customer. First it will cost financially, because the company has to place a job ad, and might have to pay some severance. Then several people in the organization will have to spend time for the selection process and the interviews. Once the new employee is hired, you can be sure that time (time is money) will be spend on training the newcomer, and this period can last up to 6 months, depending on the jobs. Indirectly, it can cost you money too either because people talk and the turnover will eventually give your company a poor reputation and in some cases because the employee who left might attract with him customers away from your company.
Some managers, reading this would say that the turnover is high because they have to fire people. Well, that is another indicator of the quality of the company, as they would not recruit the right people…

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.