Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Questions Every Hiring Manager Should Answer

Happy Tuesday!! Today's article, courtesy of Ere.net and Dr. Michael Kannisto, highlights 40 questions an employer should be able to answer regarding their hiring process. As recruiters, these questions are great for probing clients on their particular needs and their timeline for hiring a qualified candidate. I found the article enjoyable, so I am sharing the wealth with you. Let me know if you come up with any additional questions you think are important or are missing and I will post them.

Enjoy your afternoon -

40 Questions You Should Be Able to Answer About Your Hiring Process
How many can you answer?
Tuesday, October 23, 2007 by Dr. Michael Kannisto
more from this author
Recent recruiting articles by Dr. Michael Kannisto:
Is Customer Still King (or Queen) in Your Business?: The fundamental characteristics all customers share
Developing a Written Talent Acquisition Strategy: Take part in recruiting conversations, even when you're not there
Three Questions to Ask Yourself About Millennials: Is your organization ready to identify and attract this unique generation of workers?
Manage Your Own Brand: What makes you unique?
view more...
recent popular articles

Before a job candidate becomes an employee, there are questions they should be asking you, their potential employer.

Some are questions they'd actually pose to you. Others, like #35, are rhetorical questions they'll ask themselves.

The more questions you can answer throughout this process, the more successful the employee will be.

The First 10 Questions

We begin with a set of very high-level questions one would ask when trying to decide whether they want to join a particular company:
  • Who are you?
  • What do you make/sell?
  • Why should I work there?
  • What is the corporate culture like?
  • What kinds of people work there?
  • What skills are necessary for success?
  • How competitive is your total compensation package?
  • What is your company's reputation, and are you an ethical company?
  • Where are you located?
  • What will having you on my resume mean for me in the future?

The Second Set

The next 10 represent questions one might ask if they're interested:

  • How can I learn more?
  • Where can I find your financial data?
  • Where are you located? Where can I find your open jobs?
  • How do I navigate your website?
  • Where can I hear from current employees?
  • What current corporate-wide initiatives are taking place?
  • Have you dealt with any major shake-ups, scandals, litigation, etc.?
  • How is your organization set up (reporting structure)?
  • What is this company most proud of? What is their heritage?
  • Who is your customer?

The Third Set

These questions ask very specific questions about your company's interviewing process:

  • How do I bid on a job?
  • What kind of interviews do you conduct?
  • How do I get to the facility? Where do I stay?
  • How much detail can I find in your brochures/website?
  • How can I get more detail about the topics that interest me?
  • How much information do you require from me, and when do you want it?
  • Where can I find detailed benefits information?
  • How will you compensate me for leaving my current situation?
  • How competitive is your relocation package?
  • Who in your company knows I'm interviewing? Is this job search on the radar screen of senior leaders?

The Fourth Set

The remaining questions represent the hesitation so many job-seekers feel upon recalling past recruitment horror stories:

  • When will I hear back?
  • How many interviews will I have? How many return trips?
  • What will drive my compensation package? Will you be flexible or tell me "That's what it pays, take it or leave it"?
  • If this isn't a fit, will you respect me by telling me in person?
  • Will your background process treat me with dignity?
  • How long will it take to get my reimbursement?
  • Will you value my time?
  • Will you pressure me into a decision?
  • Did you only introduce me to people you thought I'd like?
  • Will I feel like you respected me at the end of the process?

Believe it or not, I've got 60 more questions (all 100 will be in your November Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership). Those 60 questions cover the onboarding process, how an employee can add value once hired, how they can prosper as leaders, how they can leave their mark on the organization, and how they can attract more great employees.

Answering the 40 questions above, however, should keep you plenty busy for the time being!


"Motivation is a fire from within. If someone else tries to light that fire under you, chances are it will burn very briefly."

-Stephen R. Covey

Friday, October 19, 2007

As the friday afternoon wears on, I began thinking about the Red Sox game last night and that while they won, they still have two games left to win before the World Series. A difficult challenge; almost as difficult as identifying high caliber candidates in today's market.

Identifying and locating highly qualified candidates is almost as frequent as Big Foot sightings. These individuals are not banging down doors for interviews or even posting their resumes on the job boards, they are happy and content with their current position and would probably only entertain making a transition if someone brought the opportunity to their attention. So how does one go about locating these impact players?

Today's feature article, courtesy of Ere.net and Krista Bradford, sheds some light on strategies that companies and recruiters can utilize to identify high caliber candidates. I like LinkedIn as a resource, as it allows you to tap into your network and identify individuals two or three degrees removed from you. Here is a link to my profile for those interested in exploring LinkedIn:
LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/pub/2/234/470

Enjoy today's posting and have a relaxing weekend!! Go Red Sox -

Candidate Spotting
The shortest path to the ideal candidate
10/19/2007 by Krista Bradford
The Good Search/Bradford Executive Research, LLC

There is no shortage of job applicants these days. Rather, what we have a shortage of is qualified applicants. And whenever there's a severe shortage, posting a job often makes it worse, not better. After all, when you post you waste precious time sifting through candidates who leave you wondering why they've bothered to apply as they have so little in common with the job requirements.

When you base your entire recruiting strategy on job postings to attract active candidates, you are giving up control. And that is a frightening concept. You're left hoping and wishing, if not praying, that a contender will somehow surf by your posting and be seized by the impulse to apply for your job over every other opportunity out there. It's wishful thinking he will send his resume off into the great unknown with no guarantee any human being will ever see it or respond.

Candidate spotting is all about control. It involves identifying, profiling, and filtering passive candidates to come up with a hotlist of the most viable prospects. Instead of targeting every potential candidate at every target company, you're going to target the passives most likely to convert to interested, qualified candidates.

To recruit passive candidates, it no longer is enough to simply ask, "who is working in similar roles at our competitors?" and then attempt to recruit those people. Because, my friends, you will waste an inordinate amount of time recruiting people who are wrong or who simply won't respond to your outreach.

The problem with targeting everyone is that you are targeting everyone. There simply isn't enough of you to go around. It makes no sense for you to call and email everyone, often multiple times, to transform a mountain of names into viable candidates. Who has that kind of time?

This is where most passive candidate efforts fail. Candidate spotting puts you in control and makes the recruiting of passives far more manageable because you turn that mountain of passive prospects into a molehill. You replace the shotgun approach with one more resembling a sniper.

Candidate spotting is about surveying the landscape and spotting candidates who will be more likely to be responsive and more likely to be just what you are seeking. So you start with the same list of target companies as you would with any typical sourcing project, but now you're going to filter that list down to a select few.

I want you to start thinking like an investor picking stocks using stock filters, only you are an investor of a different kind. You are investing your time as well as your company's money and resources to find the people your company needs to win in the marketplace.

So you take that same group of target companies out of which you plan to recruit (usually your competitors), and you filter that list down to a tight target company hotlist.

The number and kinds of filters you employ are limited only by your imagination. That's where the real art of candidate spotting really comes in.

Filter on duress. Companies that are under duress make ideal targets. Look for poor earnings reports, depressed stock prices, mergers and acquisitions, layoffs, and rumors of layoffs. We call these opportunities "swoop-ins." People working at companies under duress are far more likely to return your recruiting calls. So set up news alerts to track all target companies. The moment a target company experiences uncertainty, target their people. If you respond more quickly than recruiters at other companies, you'll have first mover advantage.

Filter on annual reviews. People often decide to leave after annual reviews. So set up alerts to follow up with candidates as those reviews are being completed. If you don't know, they often occur at the fiscal-year end, a fact you can easily look up on information services such as Hoovers.

Filter on cultural fit. Find out where most of your company's hires have come from and target those companies.

Filter on location. Target companies whose offices are closest to yours.

Candidate spotting also leverages candidate profiling. Names and titles are no longer enough when so much information can be had through the Internet. Taking a moment to check for available biographical information can help you prioritize hot candidates and eliminate candidates who fall short of your standards.

Filter out recent hires. Generally, unless a candidate has a compelling reason to leave, job-hoppers are frowned upon. So eliminate candidates who have been on the job less than two years. We mark those in our system "on the bench."

Filter out odd career trajectories. Prioritize candidates whose career trajectories make sense, preferably a steady path upwards with no gaps.

Filter out companies with high retention. Every industry has them. These are companies that are generally the market leader and who treat their employees very, very well. Unless your company is prepared to spend what it will take to lure those candidates away, don't waste your time.

Filter out anyone who lacks must-have requirements. It may seem obvious, but when you are working off a list of names and titles, it is impossible to tell who has requisite education or experience. That is why we profile candidates, aggregating available biographical information whenever possible. The moment or two it takes to quickly Google for additional information or to check LinkedIn can save you wasted effort recruiting the wrong people.

Filter in award-winners. Prioritize individuals who have achieved recognition in their respective fields. This also includes inventors of patents and other forms of recognition.

Filter in top school alumni. Prioritize individuals who have attended the best schools and with an above-average GPA. Like award-winners, attending a top school makes them stand out and more likely to get an offer over the competition.

Candidate spotting is an effective way to proactively target and recruit by finding the shortest path to the best candidates. The time to try it is when you're not finding the candidates you need using other methods.

If you run the filters as suggested, you can narrow your target candidate list down to a hot list of the 20 or 30 most viable prospects. The technique can be applied to executive search as well as recruiting at the non-executive level.

Use candidate spotting to address a single opening or a group of openings by building out research on pools of talent and then filtering on profiles according to circumstance and your own recruitment needs.

Candidate spotting can be outsourced or done by internal search teams. However, if it's the latter, consult with a human capital intelligence expert to uncover the subtle patterns and markers that separate the wheat from the chaff, the rock stars from the roadies, and the Prince Charmings from the toadies.

In the end, you shouldn't have to kiss every frog to find Prince Charming. You shouldn't have to turn over ever stone. The next time you feel as if you are, it is time to try candidate spotting.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

And Here's The Pitch...

Before I lead into today's article, let me apologize for having not posted in over a week. I could blame it on the Red Sox losing lately, like many of my fellow Massachusetts counterparts, but I will instead take sole responsibility. Kevin Millar of the 2004 World Series Red Sox had a catch phrase, "Buck Up", and that is exactly what I am going to do.

Today's posting like many before, come from TheLadders.com and Laura Allen. I know I make a ton of plugs for TheLadders, but the resources they provide are well worth the praise. And while I have not personally met Laura Allen, her article below is well worth similar praise.

Trying to describe our careers and what we do can often be difficult for individuals to summarize into a brief "elevator pitch." Most of my attempts result in a response of: "So you're a headhunter?" Laura, a pitch specialist, provides insight and advice as to how to create a personalized pitch that will work for you. For those of you preparing to make a career change, this article may be timely as your pitch could make or break whether you land that next dream job. As always, I encourage feedback and please let me know if there is specific material you would like to see included in the blog. Enjoy -

By Laura Allen

"So, what do you do?" It’s the often the first question you’re asked when networking and it’s certainly not easy to answer when you’re looking for a new job. Even if you’re currently employed, it can be difficult to explain what you do for a living. If you’re uncomfortable pitching yourself and your skills, you’re not alone!

Here are some tips to help you pitch your way into a new position!

Skip the "Kitchen Sink" Pitch
Many job seekers make the mistake of using what I call the "kitchen sink" pitch. They tell you their entire life history and exactly what they can do right now. They’ll tell you they’re experts in everything from advertising to marketing to financial planning and they could even answer phones or wait tables if they had to.

The trouble with this approach is that no one wants to hire a generalist. They want to hire an expert who can fill the specific position they have open. So, focus on your expertise and the skills needed for the job that you really want.

Focus Your Energy
When job seeking, you’re faced with the paradox of choice: there are a lot of great jobs out there that might be good for you. So, like many job seekers, you might float from one great-sounding job description to the next. But the key is to figure out that one thing that you absolutely need in your next position and build that into your pitch.

Holly, a client I recently worked with, was certain of two things: that she wanted to move back to Japan and needed a high level, challenging position to support this move. So, she told everyone she met, "I am going to Japan" -- yes, phrased in the present tense. Then, every conversation she had was focused on Japan and she was able to easily mention how her excellent interpersonal skills would be the perfect fit for a company in Japan. She landed a job as a fundraiser for a major university with a campus in Japan.

Sam, on the other hand, had already found his perfect $100k+ job posted online, though the company name wasn’t listed. After a little industry research, Sam discovered the hiring company, and most importantly he found out his former Sunday school teacher was employed there. Sam landed the job by telling his teacher why he’d be a great candidate for the specific position. She agreed and immediately made an introduction for him. He was invited to come in for an interview the next day and joined the company as its CFO within 30 days of seeing the ad posted online.

You never know when an opportunity is going to present itself in the virtual or real world, so be sure you have your pitch ready.

Answer the "Top Four Questions"
By answering these four questions, you’ll be able to create an elevator pitch you can deliver in just 15 seconds. After all, every second counts when you see that perfect job advertised online or you hear about it at a networking event.

Remember, pitching yourself is all about putting your best foot forward and letting your audience know why you make a remarkable candidate.

1. Who are you?Introduce yourself using your first and last name. This simple step is the most important. When you’re asked "So, what do you do?" at a networking event, you want to be sure that they remember your name!

2. What do you do?Be as specific as possible. Don’t try to be too clever in your answer because it can be confusing. Instead, keep your explanation simple, while at the same time covering all of the necessary details. If people don’t know or can’t explain exactly what you do, they can never refer job leads to you or recommend you to others. For example, instead of saying that you’re a photographer, you could say, "I’m a professional photographer with 20 years of experience who specializes in high end fashion."

3. What makes you the best at what you do?You only get one chance to make that first impression, so be bold! Stand out in a positive way. Let them know what makes you better than all of the other candidates out there. To continue with our photographer example, you could say something like, "My clients include Versace and Kenneth Cole" (assuming, of course, that’s true!).

4. What’s your call to action?What is your ideal next step after this meeting? Most job seekers have a very vague call to action. They end their conversation with something like "let me know if you hear of anything." That’s not so compelling. You’re much better off saying something like, "I’d like to invite you out to lunch to learn more about how you got into this industry." Though it might sound a little clich?, the "let’s do lunch" concept still works.

Test Drive Your Pitch
You might not love this idea, but you need to take your new 15 second pitch out for a test drive. Practice makes perfect. So, go to as many networking events as you can. I like the "speed networking events" because they’re fast-paced and you meet a lot of different people. They also force you to be very concise about who you are and what you do. When you’re delivering your pitch to people, take note of what seems to get people excited, but also where they get confused. These are the areas that you’ll need to refine until they are perfect.

Laura Allen is a co-founder of 15SecondPitch.com and has been written about in Adweek, The Financial Times, Crain’s New York Business, and The Wall Street Journal. In addition to teaching 15SecondPitchTM workshops and speaking in various business venues, Laura assists private clients. Her 15SecondPitchTM is here.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Kevin Wheeler: Recruiting Trends 2007

Kevin Wheeler and ERE.net recently presented a survey, Recruiting Trends 2007. As was expected, the survey highlighted the dramatic talent shortage employers and recruiters are facing. This shortage will only get worse in the coming years and while some employers are hesitant to utilize third party recruiters, I am of the opinion that a shift will occur where more employers will tap into a recruiter's network/pool to identify highly qualifed impact players for their critical hiring needs. Now that you have my prediction, here is today's feature article; and as always, thank you to Kevin Wheeler and ERE.net for providing insightful articles on a regular basis.

Recruiting Trends 2007
Annual survey points to the talent shortage in a dramatic way
by Kevin Wheeler
Global Learning Resources, Inc.
email bio

Several weeks ago, many ERE readers along with other recruiting and HR practitioners completed our annual survey on the trends and issues they are facing. The entire report is available at http://www.glresources.com/.

We asked respondents to rate the importance of 14 different issues that could impact them in the coming year. The issue rated most important was that of broadening the sources of hire. The issue rated least important was moving all or part of their recruiting to a third party. They rated 11 of the 14 as "important" or "very important," clearly underlining the many critical issues facing the recruiting community.

As one might expect, the results illuminate the talent shortage in a dramatic way. Almost every person who responded to the survey indicated they are broadening the number and types of channels they use to find potential candidates.

When this many people are in sync, it is clear that finding the right people is getting tougher and tougher. Recruiters are trying to use more channels to find candidates.

While I counsel my clients to focus on a few channels that have proven successful and deepen and improve their access to those channels, it is tempting to feel that the grass is greener in some other place.

Many ERE writers have been encouraging recruiters to develop better communication with candidates. Gen Y, those folks approximately 27 and younger, expect authentic, personalized communication. They expect a clear indication of whether they are qualified for a job. They expect to be able to connect with someone, either by phone or email. Unfortunately, most recruiters feel this is a burden and not a core part of their job.

The survey, however, indicates that this may be changing. At least it's on the radar screen and more respondents than ever indicate it is something they are concerned about.

Recruiters are seeking the right type of messages for candidates and are slowly building processes and technology that allows them to more efficiently communicate with candidates. With the clear emphasis on sourcing, recruiters must find new ways not only to identify, but also to communicate and build relationships with target candidates. Recruiters are searching for the right motivating messages, sent at just the right time, with just enough personal touch.

This ability to communicate and track candidates using technology was also a key finding in our survey. Recruiting professionals were most passionate in their response to this question. The issue actually received more, "Very important," responses from respondents than any of the other 13 issues queried and over 88% of respondents rated, "Improve candidate communications," either, "Very important" or "Important" for them in the coming 12 months.
Developing talent communities was also seen as important to success, rating "Develop talent community" the fourth most-important issue for their organizations this year.

On the other hand, I was surprised by the responses to our question on the importance of Recruitment Process Outsourcing, the practice of having a third party do all or a significant segment of your recruiting. This practice has expanded rapidly over the past decade and is healthy, solid, and growing.

Yet the survey results indicate that RPO is not considered very important by the majority of respondents. Even staffing leadership told us that it is not important, more emphatically, in fact, than the overall survey sample of 440.

I am a bit stumped as to why this is the case, but perhaps it is because we perceive recruiting as strategic and because we feel it should be kept in house.

More and more organizations seem to be focusing on moving part of their operations to some global location such as India or China and global issues seem to pervade the popular literature. Yet as the graph below shows, there was a wide variation in perception on the importance of spreading the brand globally as well as on the need to include global candidates in the sourcing pool.

This most likely reflects the fact that many respondents were from domestic organizations with no global operations or that respondents were not aware of the value of casting a global recruiting net.

Overall, this year's survey reflects the issues we read about on ERE all the time. Sourcing is the challenge and everyone is focused on improving how they find candidates. For global organizations, global branding is important, but for domestic firms it obviously is not.

For the first time, we are seeing significant awareness of the need to better communicate with candidates and to build more robust talent pools. Maybe CRM is finally gaining the visibility it deserves.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Multitasking is Key

Marketing call, candidate interview de-brief, salary negotiation, marketing call, reference check, phone screen...the process is never ending. There is always someone I can be calling or emailing. But the draw and love for recruiting comes from this constant change in state. Today will not be like tomorrow, and tomorrow will certainly not be like yesterday. Each day is a new adventure and presents new challenges. This organized chaos is what brings me to work every day, and I LOVE IT!!!

Recruiting is Multitasking. There are so many intricate facets to this career path that there is no wonder the turnover rate and attrition are so high (well over 60% of new recruiters do not make it through the first year). Today's posting, courtesy of Kevin Wheeler and ERE.net, highlights how multitasking plays a critical role in a recruiter's success. Because I love what I do, I wanted to share this article with you. I hope you enjoy it -

Multitasking: The Key to Success
Challenges that only the agile recruiter will be able to conquer
by Kevin Wheeler
Global Learning Resources, Inc.

Sally's day at the office: "I get in early before anyone else, grab a latte, and write a quick post for our recruiting blog. At the same time, I check email and notice that three new candidates have sent in resumes. I also notice that two managers have opened new jobs, and I need to discuss those with them.

By 10, I have set up appointments with both managers for the end of the day. I have also scanned the resumes and have decided to telephone-screen one of them. I called and left a message.

Meanwhile, my boss has called a short meeting for 11:30 a.m., and then I have a lunch meeting with an agency vendor who is doing a critical search for us. There are still a bunch of open positions that need to get posted, and I need to find the time to do a search for potential candidates, as well. Maybe I can squeeze that in later on today. I have candidate interviews from 1:30 p.m. until 3:30 p.m., and then I have to update the ATS with my notes. At 4:00 p.m., I have to meet one of the hiring managers to discuss the new positions, and then on to meet with the next one at 4:30 p.m. Maybe by 5:00 p.m. I'll have a minute for investigating a potential vendor. I'd like to call a few references and search the Web about them. Maybe the reference calls will have to be tomorrow.

My husband calls at 5:00 p.m. to see when I'm getting home. Right now, it looks like not before 7:00 p.m. because I have to write back to a few candidates about their status and clean up a dozen little odds and ends. I may also have to take a call from China regarding a position I am filling there. And first thing tomorrow morning, I have to post those new positions that both look like bears to fill!"

I am often asked what the most useful skill is for a recruiter. I have been thinking a lot about that for a while and certainly salesmanship, technical skills, market knowledge, and communication are at the top of the list. But, first has to be the ability to multitask.

All of the best recruiters I know, like Sally above, this is what makes them successful and differentiates them from those recruiters who seems to move serially through tasks and get flustered when asked to do more than one thing at a time. Multitasking, in my definition, means the ability to do many different things simultaneously with ease, to "go with the flow," and accept the inevitable forces of change.

Here are some challenges that only the agile will be able to effectively conquer.

Sourcing is a Bear
Despite the economy or because of it, it is more difficult to find people with the skills we want than it was a few years ago. There is a mismatch between the skills hiring managers and recruiters feel are (or should be) available in the marketplace and what they actually find when they start to look. And, even though job boards teem with candidates and firms are inundated with resumes, not many get hired. Candidates report increasing frustration with the level of customer service they receive and wonder what kind of super-person actually got the job that sounded so perfect for their own skills and experience.

The recruiter's ability to source quickly and well, communicate openly with candidates, and provide impeccable customer service will be a hallmark of the best.

Value Propositions and Branding are Essential
We are a brand-conscious society, and many candidates are attracted to the organizations with high public visibility. Firms with positive reputations and strong name recognition seldom have much trouble selling themselves to candidates. Look at Microsoft, Starbucks, or Google. They may have trouble finding great candidates, but they have much less trouble convincing them to accept an offer.

Unfortunately, only 50 or so organizations fall into the positive-reputation, strong name- recognition category on a national basis. The rest of us have to get better and better at building niche brands and determining what our value proposition is to candidates. Then, we have to tell our story in a convincing and fun way.

Being able to know and sell the value propositions of various positions seamlessly to candidates, as well as to keep both the hiring authority and the candidate in the loop and informed, are key skills that require both flexibility and multitasking skill.

Free Agency is a Fact
Whether forced upon a person or voluntarily entered into, free agency (contracting, consulting, working part-time, and "temping") is a growing factor for recruiters to deal with. Many people simply don't want 40-hour-per-week jobs as regular employees, especially highly skilled Baby Boomers and lesser skilled Gen Ys. Many have decided that job security is an illusion, and the only way to be really secure is to work for themselves.

Many will enter and leave the workforce many times during their careers and will serve in many ways. The agile recruiter firm will find that a mix of regular, temporary, and contractual employees will serve them better and offer them the flexibility they need to deal with good and bad economic situations.

A great employment department will lead this agility movement.

International Recruiting
I get calls all the time from organizations that are "going global." The recruiting group is asked to start ramping up hiring in China or India or New Zealand or Germany. And, most recruiting departments haven't got a clue how to start.

Time is wasted as they struggle to figure out an approach and get things underway. Management may often see this slowness to respond as incompetence or a lack of motivation. So, it is as important to figure out how to take on a new challenge as it is to manage the perception of your function within the organization.

Agile recruiters will deal across time zones with ease, be culturally competent, and manage the communication process with skill.

I could go on, but I think we all can see that the ability to multitask, be adaptable, and carry a positive attitude are critical success factors for any recruiter.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Free Time = Creative Time

We all have free spots during the course of the day. Fifteen minutes between conference calls, half an hour between meetings; and while we use this time for email and returning voicemails, these periods can be extremely valuable in brainstorming innovative ways you can contribute to your company. I will use myself as an example - I have used these periods for this blog and reaching out to you through a different venue. Each of us can has this opportunity and thanks to Vince Thompson and TheLadders.com, today's post provides some direction for those interested in implementing this concept into their business day. So enjoy today's article and let me know if you come up with any creative ideas!!

Every manager has white space in his or her day. The key to being a great manager is knowing the right way to spend this time. Successful managers take advantage of their white space and use it as a time to brainstorm new ideas or work on things outside their normal job scope.
Defining Your White Space

What exactly is "white space"? White space is those gaps in your calendar in between meetings and other planned activities. Many managers fill that time by replying to e-mail or making phone calls. And while keeping in communication with people is certainly important, it’s not always the best way to use your time. The managers who are truly successful use their white space to connect their personal passions with their professional goals.

For example, consider the story of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computers. When Jobs was in college, he took a class in calligraphy and developed a passion for the artistic style of writing. Years later, when he was helping to design the first Apple computer, he questioned why users had only one font choice, especially considering that calligraphy and other font styles were so powerful for expressing ideas. As a result, Apple computers were the first to have multiple font choices, which accelerated font availability in DOS-based computers.

But not all white space activity has to connect to your passions or hobbies. Sometimes simply using your white space to think about things differently is enough to give your company the competitive edge it needs.

To create new opportunities for your company with this extra time, consider the following suggestions:

1. Study the business of your passion.
No matter what your hobby or passion, there’s an entire industry devoted to that one thing. So study the business of your passion and look for parallels that you can bring into your company.
For example, suppose you work for a computer company, and your passion is NASCAR. If you were to study the business of NASCAR, you’d learn that NASCAR is able to take category exclusive sponsorships and cut them down to a granular level. Intrigued by that idea, you may start thinking how your company could duplicate this idea. Perhaps you come up with the idea to sell category exclusive sponsorships to computer software, utilities, and peripherals companies, where they get advertising space on your computer boxes. Not only does this idea help your company form relationships with other vendors, but it also helps increase the company’s revenue.

The goal is to take aspects of your passion or hobby and see if you can apply it to your company in any way. Use your passions to "connect the dots" at work by uncovering new solutions to challenges and unique opportunities for growth. If you’re going to use this white space time to pursue some open-ended projects, why not focus on projects where you have some kind of a passion? The things you love and know are ultimately going to give you ideas you can act upon, and in the end it won’t seem like "work" at all!

2. Network outside of your industry.
Another option is to spend your white space time talking to your peers in other industries. Go to their events, trade shows, and conferences to get a feel for how the industry works and solves problems. Doing so enables you to get a completely different perspective on how to address challenges your company is facing.

Develop relationships with people who are at a similar level as you are or who have a similar scope of responsibility as you do, but who work in completely different industries. If you’re an accountant in a software company, for example, talk to accountants in manufacturing or professional services companies. Your standards and practices may be very different, but your peers have likely come up with some ideas and solutions that you can apply to your company.

3. Be your competitor for a day.
Use your white space time to write your competitor’s sales pitch. This will help you understand what your competitors are saying about themselves and what the opportunities are for your company.

For example, if you worked at Dell and had to write a sales pitch for Compaq, you would ask yourself what you could say about Compaq that only applied to them. Then you’d realize the true differences between your two companies and start thinking about how to capitalize on those differences.

A variation on this idea is to use your white space time to think like your customer. If you were looking for the products or services your company offers, what would be important to you? Write out a list of the top ten things you would look for in a product or service provider. Then you can assess how well your company really meets the needs of your ideal prospect.

Make the Minutes Matter
We all have parts of our job that are not completely defined. We all also have time in our day that’s unaccounted for -- white space in our daily calendar that’s prime for opportunity. Really look at what you’re charged to do, and then assess how much leeway for creativity and unconventional thinking you have.

There are wonderful things you can do for your company, outside of your core responsibilities, which can capitalize on who you are and what skills you have. In fact, many business success stories are of people who drew on their past and/or interests and brought that into the business.
Don’t be afraid to explore your passions! Look at the business behind your passions. Keep an eye on the business landscape, talk to other people in various industries, and be open to different perspectives. When you have time to explore non-traditional work, carve out some time to do that in the white space of your week. You may only have a couple of hours to devote, but those few hours can make a world of difference.

Vince Thompson is a Manager. Over the course of his career he has spent 15 years leading teams in a variety of hotbeds for learning: First in restaurants, then in television stations then for seven years as Regional Vice President of Sales for America Online. He is the author of Ignited: Managers, Light up Your Career for More Power, More Purpose, and More Success.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Good Morning -

I received an email this morning from our office owner and manager Joe Woerner in regards to corporate accountability and what it means to be truly accountable. While we all claim to be accountable, I believe that a good many things fall between the cracks and we pass them off as not our responsibility. Wrong!!

We all have a responsibility to one another and ourselves. So take a moment and evaulate what matters to you and be accountable. And in doing so, share this article with others - as I know a great many people could benefit from it's message.

All The Best -


Accountability, accountability, accountability. Everywhere in corporate America, people are talking about accountability, but talking about it like it is cheap change. My experience is that significant numbers of executives and senior leaders have no clue what it really means. So why I am considering it as one of the leadership Laws of Attraction?

A few years back, we conducted a large engagement with a Fortune 100 company. We distributed a workbook to the participating executives. The front cover asked them to write down their name, position, title, job description and accountability . You have no idea how many of them approached us on the break and asked, “What do you mean by accountability?” It was approximately 50%! There is no question in my mind why corporate America is melting. (Do you have any?)

Let’s first define accountability. There are so many conventional definitions. I do not mean any of them. If you actually break the word down, it comes to Account and Ability. Simply said, accountability means to have the ability to account for something. A leader can’t hold anyone to account unless they have the ability to hold themselves to account first, period. For extraordinary leaders it is not a game, it is a way of life.

There is nothing significant about accountability whatsoever. Great leaders realize that, and they embrace it. It shifts them from being spectators of life to prime players in their own game. (After all, they invented it!) Most people want to be accountable, they just do not know how to. Effective leaders have a way to create opportunities for people to take it on.

What to consider when creating an opportunity for accountability:

You can’t make people accountable; it is a choice. It can’t be put on people. The only thing you can do is to enroll them into the game and let them create their own stake in it with their declaration of commitment. Without choice, there is not accountability, only obligation. It is not for leaders to demand, only to ask, and it is ultimately for people to choose. Accountability is a choice, not an obligation!

Accountability is a way for people to contribute to you, the leader. Letting people take on accountability makes them a contributor to the fulfillment of the future. It makes them proud stakeholders, and you need to treat them as such. It dignifies their existence. Accountability is not another tool for punishment and control!

Accountability “shows up” on the court, not in the stands. It is a way of being, not a state of mind. It is what you bring to the game when it is crunch time; it is who you are being in the face of success or failure, when things turn out and when they do not. Accountability lives in practice, not in theory!

Accountability is an opportunity to participate in life. Accountability is a unique opportunity for a leader to invite people to participate in their own lives. It is part of the endless enrollment process leaders go through in the accomplishment of an impossible future. The point is, you enrolled them, and you are ultimately accountable for everyone’s accountabilities. You are never, and I mean never, ever off the hook!

Accountability is not yours to give, just to accept or decline. Just because people want it does not mean you have to accept it. The acceptance of a declaration of accountability is yours. That is your accountability as a leader. Lose the attachment to their choice – it will free you up. Accountability can be exercised only when it comes with specific conditions of satisfaction. Otherwise, how do we know that it is working? Remember, accountability can be revoked or suspended; it comes with an expiration date!

Accountability is an ability – a muscle that needs to be developed over time. If you stop developing it, you lose its flexibility and mobility. Make sure that people use it, exercise it, maintain it and nourish it. The more accountability the better, for it makes you (your future or vision) stronger!

Leaders knows that people want to be held to account, to be noticed, to matter to someone, to belong, to be part of a future in the making. People do want to account for something worth living for, they just do not know how. Although we struggle with being accountable, we feel good when we accomplish something extraordinary that makes a difference.

Without accountability, without “at stakeness”, there is no chance for breakthroughs. At best there can be peak feelings. Leaders know accountability is in their blood, that it is part of their DNA.

What makes it a Law of Attraction? It brings people out of the shadows into the light of truly living, not just of being alive. If that is not attractive, I do not know what is!

What are you Account – Able for? (That is up to you!)