In the recent months, still positively influenced by Nokia’s “Connecting People” way of life and belief, I happened to match executives needing to change horizon with clients looking for the rare bird. And it seems to have been happy marriages.
In each of the cases, our clients informally had turned to us, as they were unimpressed by the solution or candidates provided by official “executive search” companies.
Each time, though, the resumes which had been offered to them were first class. I did not even know someone could collect, in a lifetime, so many diplomas, degrees, masters and PhDs, visit and work under that many different latitudes, speak so many languages and have produced such outstanding results…
So, I wondered… How could it have gone so wrong? Why did our clients not feel totally convinced by the delivery of their consultants?
The discussions held let emerge similar story:
- The search had been done on with a transactional mindset. Rather than due to long term connections and relationships, the impression our clients were left with, is that the exec search firms had “gone on the hunt for cv’s”. As one client put it: “They most probably have an impressive data base and team of analysts! But they do not seem to intimately know the candidates”
- The clients felt that their own culture (and we please ourselves thinking that our corporate culture is so different from the others…) had not been well understood by the consultants nor well represented to the candidates. This, in the case of hiring, had rapidly turned the honeymoon into divorce. I remember personally being interviewed by McKinsey and Nestlé at IMD. It took five minutes to the interviewer and myself to realize, in a big laugh, that it was better to put an end to our otherwise agonizing interviews: I would never be happy there and they would always regret having hired me. I left the meeting with a solid respect for both companies, having such a strong and explicit culture that it was transpiring immediately in the interviews. On the contrary, I left, highly unimpressed a company with whom I must have worked five years and whom I had decided to leave, two weeks into the job, the day I would stop learning.
- Then there was something coming back, several times, under the heading “Not the right fit”… It did not have to do with the company’s culture (point no. 2) but rather with the candidates’ own belief system. We were half way between simple things such as manners and style (reason why high flying Private Bankers in Geneva and Zürich used to invite the candidate and their husband or wife to a private dinner in order to “smell” whether that person as well as her family background would fit, values wise with their partnership) and personal ideology (one of the most difficult, if not impossible trait to coach being a person’s private ideology).
Summarizing it, these incidents started to make me think:
Quid about an activity of “matchmaking” rather than hunting or search? What about something relationship based rather than transactional? What about an activity where I, as the intermediary, have as much a responsibility towards the person I am indicating for a position, than I have towards the company who contracted me to find the best person for the job? I have always been surprised, when much younger I was myself looking for a job (after my MBA at IMD for example or more recently, when trying to signal to “the market” that a brilliant personality was temporarily out of a job and looking for a new opportunity to join the labour maket) and turned down (or should I say “looked down at”) by the headhunting firms, proudly declaring: “We only act if we have a mandate from a client”. Well that may indeed be a bit late, and your like of open mindedness towards promising talents may be costly at the time you will have the mandate and desperately and frenetically will “look for a cv”…
But, on top of having that very different mindset, what about using our three Aristotelean levers to do the selection of right profile?
- Logos: Indeed the “cv work” will have to take place. Checking the competence fit, credentials, experience, track record, content knowledge etc… is a must.
- Ethos: What is the leadership/followership style? What behaviours (value destructing and value building) does the person display? What is their work ethic? What is their ideology about leadership and followership? Are they able to lead as much by the content that being true “context leaders”? Are they curious, explorational, determined, capable of taking difficult decisions and hold delicate conversations?
- Pathos: What drives them? What are their personal values? Why do they work? What do they like in the company they are willing to join? How do they read it? Culturally are they fit for it?
I have witnessed so many sad stories recently: People deciding to take “the Call to Adventure”, leave a good career, lured by another job and… miserably crashing in flames, some months later. I have also seen wonderful organizations, equipped with a strong Ethos and Pathos, become totally schizophrenic when a new leader took over, seeking to impose his views and style, without any respect for the deep values on which the organization was built, seeing the good people leave in mass…
Please provide me with your feedback on these initial ideas. Enablers is considering to enter the field of “Match making” between brilliant leaders and organizations in need of engaging leaders. Are we on the right track? Any advice we could receive from you, with humility? Thank you!