When you say no?

yes NO

The older I’ve got, the simpler it’s become. When saying YES will be a complete waste of your time and/or goodwill.

How many of us think that we need to spread our net far and wide as you never know where that one hour coffee may lead to in the future? How many of us fall for the modern myth of giving something away because we will reap the rewards later? And how many of us think we should go for every opportunity that comes up because ‘someone’s got to win it’?

If that’s you then stop it. Step back and take a long hard look at WHERE your real and profitable work comes from. Think about all the people who have asked for your help in the past. Are they the ones who’ve come up trumps for you? If you’re someone who is naturally helpful and optimistic to the point of idiocy (like me) watch out for these danger signals.

  • Someone keeps cancelling or not returning calls. Simple rule – 3 strikes and out. Years ago, 1 in 14 of my week’s sales appointments cancelled. Now? Don’t ask. Even people who want me to help them cancel with aplomb. Actually, make that 2 strikes. On the same principle, leave if they keep you waiting more than 15 minutes in reception with no explanation. (Every time I’ve done that I’ve felt better about myself and there has been abject grovelling. Don’t fall for it.)
  • Winning a bid or delivering a short list is a long shot but you might just be in with a chance. Maybe. However, isn’t it better to use that time more judiciously (or frivolously)? Create your own scoring system of what must be in place before you’ll bid. I have and if it’s not 23 or more out of 27, I don’t. As for Invitations To Tender…what do you think?
  • Your client doesn’t treat you as an equal. They need you as much as you need them – because you are great at what you do and don’t let them down. You’re in this together. It’s the same when you go for a job interview or a pitch. If they don’t respect you at the ‘courting’ stage, they never will. Don’t be a pathetic partner.
  • Someone who always needs your help but they don’t ever help you. There are a lot of princesses in the world (male and female). Don’t kiss them because they’ll turn into a frog. Get to know the signs: A huge ask up front when you don’t know them; complete and utter lack of interest in you (or anyone else); a heightened sense of drama about themselves and a jaw-dropping expectation that you will do your professional work for them for free. Get out the frog repellent and back away.

Many of you will say that the world doesn’t work like that. You can’t afford to be high-handed. Is it being high-handed? Well, perhaps a little bit, but it’s really about self-esteem and personal standards and it’s making sure that you use your time to the best effect. Don’t fall for ‘the universe will provide’. It won’t. You will.

Find those people who are as generous and as courteous as you. Create real relationships with them over time and see what a virtuous circle it becomes. If you don’t think that’s possible, well there’s 180 of us here at http://www.interimity.com who believe that it is ….and are working damn hard to prove it.

How much!!?? What to pay for independent help…..

burning money Suddenly your organisation needs to find external help.

For us in HR, it’s a great opportunity to shine. We should sell against the traditional approach of hiring a big consultancy, who sell as much resource as possible, whilst keeping responsibility to a minimum.

Don’t think ‘they’ll take the problem away’. This is an opportunity. It allows you to develop internal skills through blending resources, save costs and get a better result.

Hire a great programme lead, who reports into the relevant CxO for larger pieces of work, and use your own talent as much as possible.  Supplement with one of three main types of independent help:

  •  selling change (consultant)
  • project/senior resource (interim) or
  • warm body (contractor)

So where to find these resources?

  •  DO start to build your rolodex of trusted independents, using recommendation and referrals.  You only pay the individual.  Ask every good independent you know to make one recommendation.
  • DO hire the Programme Manager directly if you can’t use one of your own team.  They will make the CxOs job much easier. Go for the maximum you can afford and task them to bring in a team, but check there are no kick backs. This happens more than you think. If stuck, use a great agency.
  • DO differentiate between a consultant and an interim and pay the right amount for the right work pattern and skills.  A consultant may cost more on day rate, but you should save on work pattern, especially if you have briefed them properly and assigned the right task.
  • DO understand how to benchmark the day rate
  • For an interim – work out how much you would pay as a top end salary only for the type of role, eg: £100,000.  Divide by 100 = £1,000.  Multiply by 85%-90%.  £850-£900 per day.  Don’t get hung up on how much they earn.  Independent workers are actually micro businesses, you pay for their flexibility and expertise (and they only do paid work 160 days according to the IIM, the rest is spent running their business).
  • For a consultant multiply by about 120% (£1,200 per day) or look at a fixed cost for the project.
  • If you are looking to hire on FTC it doesn’t make economic sense for a good individual to take all the risk around flexibility and expertise but only get paid the same as a permanent employee.  It’s a false saving.
  • DO avoid professional bodies You pay for their name and they use a consultancy who uses associates. One organisation paid £2000 pd to a Chartered Institute for a £650 pd associate.  Ask for a breakdown of the chain and costs. If they won’t tell you, don’t use them.
  •  DO go to reputable interim agencies Work with them exclusively and pay about 20% on the day rate.   Take care.  Some of the prestigious names are shockers (I’ve been a client and a candidate). Find a great recruiter and stick with them. The Institute of Interim Managers has a list of them. Good ones will also source consultants for you at the same rate, even though it is not in their financial interests to do so.
  • DO take care when using consultancies and hiring their associates – they will charge you 60% plus on top of the day rate.  Acceptable if they are taking the project risk only.

And finally

  • DON’T hire through your RPO.  Delicacy and nuance aren’t their long suits.  You also have to be quick.  Good independents don’t hang around for long and they definitely don’t like dealing with RPOs.

So the next time that cry for help comes from the business think what a fabulous opportunity you have to really show what we in HR can do and how well we can do it.  And demonstrate how cost effective the right solution can be.

Make the scary feedback monster your magic best friend

scream headYep, that’s what most of us look like when we think about ‘feedback’ – giving or receiving, it doesn’t really matter. It’s one scary beast.

And yet it’s the most powerful and effective leadership technique I have ever used – astonishing results.

Here’s the story.  A telemarketing company had incredibly high LTO and incredibly low performance, and a brave CEO who asked me to be the interim HRD.

Out of all the lots of different things we tried the simplest (and cheapest) was ‘instant feedback’.  Yet it had almost magical results. Starting with the top team, we set aside up to 10 minutes at the end of every meeting, presentation, pitch etc to critique dispassionately each person’s contribution or performance.  Even if there were only two of us.

It was quite daunting to start with.  We all acknowledged how we feared the scary feedback monster, which gave us our first important factor for success ….

  • Trust – this is a really magical bit. It just keeps growing as you give more and more instant feedback.  It becomes infectious.  In a good way.  However, it only built up because of ….
  • Discipline – it must happen every time.  It must become second nature.  And you must make sure that the ….
  • Content is brief and highly relevant to improvement of performance in the immediate situation.  Under no circumstances do the  – GOOD – BAD – GOOD format.  Just do the BAD and move on.  You haven’t got much time remember.  And when it comes to your turn make sure you practice…
  • Acceptance – Take it on the chin.  No justification, no pushback.  Because there is trust and you want genuinely to be better at what you do.

You then roll this out to your teams, which is when you find out it’s a lot more painful to take feedback from your direct reports than it is to give it.  At first.  If you never get used to it then honestly think about your role as a leader. Don’t underestimate the number of casualties there might be with this process.

This became such a powerful way of working we even got to the point of ‘coaches’ on the floor of the call centre to give instant feedback to the team leaders just after they gave instant feedback to their team members.

So far so lovely.  But what did it actually do for us? Using this technique, as part of an overall programme of change, we reduced LTO from 400% to 100%, increased the number of ‘on target’ client projects from 60% to 95%, and saw staff satisfaction rise by 25%.  Now that is something magical.

And best of all – the scary feedback monster was no longer scary at all.

Did you really mean to do that?

eggsI’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

I have a shockingly bad memory.  I forgot that I had read this quote several times. Each time I rediscovered it, it resonated.  And for the last year or so it has actually stuck.

That’s because I spend a lot of my time talking to prospective and actual members and clients for Interimity (a community for independent HR & Change professionals).

In spite of my shockingly bad memory, one thing that has really struck me is how often a name will come up and I will have an emotional response – could be good or could be bad, but I definitely have a sense of something.  And because of my shockingly bad memory, I tend to keep copious notes, including others’ opinions.  Every single time my written record has chimed with my gut feeling.

So, if you need to network, if you’re a leader, if you may just need some help from others in the future, or if you just want a large turnout at your funeral….bear this in mind.

We remember how you make us feel.

And to everyone who I haven’t made feel great? Sorry.

(Unless you deserved it.  I’m not a saint.)


What you really want…….

poll boxIs a professional body that ‘sets high professional standards’.  The most common response from all 104 voters, with ‘support for new entrants’ as the next most popular response, according to the poll on my previous blog. 

Hmm.  Interesting. Although professional standards was the most popular answer (34%) I am not sure how well this is delivered by the CIPD and also what sanctions members would be prepared to have in place for those who failed to meet those standards.  And indeed, how they would be policed?  Number of tribunal cases?  Bringing the profession into disrepute (ahem, last year’s embarrassment at a select committee)?  Breaking the law (that HRD at Sky who threatened to sack anyone who joined a union)?  The numerous examples where people get a really poor HR service?

It’s not to say it’s impossible and to be honest it was my favoured response as well……so, what do we do about it Mr Cheese?



The 6 key ways to stop wasting your recruitment time

big ben If I ruled the world…..every single minute of time that one person or organisation ‘takes’ from another would be chargeable, and include a cancellation policy. Can you imagine how transforming that would be?  Every business would be focused on making sure they were absolutely on top of their game in a ‘zero mistakes, zero wait’ culture. No more tyre-kicking by procurement departments.  No more last minute meeting cancellations or no shows.  No more working ridiculously long hours because 80% of your time is spent on fruitless tasks and in pointless meetings.

What a wonderful fantasy.  Especially for those of us who work in the recruitment industry on a contingency basis.  One of the very few examples of actually doing the job  – by producing a cracking shortlist – where you deliver exactly what is ‘contracted’ and you don’t get paid. With no redress.

No wonder so many recruiters respond by putting only a little bit of effort into a lot of opportunities. So clients then brief more agencies to try and get the quality up and … you get the picture.

Given I’m never going to be in a position of global dominance, it’s up to us therefore in recruitment to take control.  And if more of us did this, we could transform our industry for the better. For the clients, the candidates and for us.  So my 6 rules

  1. Never work without a full brief on a signed off vacancy.  Ever. You can write it and get the client to approve it, but it must be done.  If the client doesn’t want to spend time on briefing then you’re playing the National Lottery, not working in recruitment.
  2. Never work without an open and reasonable day rate or salary.  A client looking to find someone who is cheap is a client who is not committed to the cause.
  3. Never work with anyone other than the decision maker, unless the intermediary is a consummate professional and able to manage the decision maker. You’ve just lost 10 days of your working life (unpaid) otherwise.
  4. Always agree the process in advance (dates for review, interview processes, decision timescales) and book them in the diary.  Put them in the brief so all parties are signed up in advance and less likely to postpone.
  5. Always assess the offer, assess the market and revise the brief if needed.  If you can’t, then bail.  The amount of time wasted on a long shot, unless you are retained and paid for your time only, is far better spent on many other activities. Especially with your loved ones.
  6. Always assess the competition.  I insist on exclusivity but that’s because I have a turnaround time of 3-5 days for rigorously screened candidates. Screening covers psychometrics, behavioural evidence, verbal reasoning and skills.  I earn it. Over many a weekend and a holiday.

In spite of all this, it’s not a smooth path to success. Almost 40% of assignments disappear – the brief changes, the business changes, or the hirer changes. Even post appointment things can change early on and you’ve lost your revenue stream if you are paid a margin (the double whammy of contingency and servicing the interim market). So, the next step is to go radical.  And that’s for a future blog……..

If it’s not working……don’t fix it?

spannerFollowing on from my last blog about leaving the CIPD after 26 years, I’ve had quite a lot of feedback.

Some of it complaining about other representing organisations, some of it vehemently agreeing (‘but only in private please’), some of it suggesting that I’m taking it all a bit too seriously, and some of it raising some pretty good questions.

But the biggest question asked is WHY? Why do we need professional (indeed, chartered) representation. And until we can agree on WHY, then it’s hard to agree on HOW and even harder to agree on WHAT.  (Shameless steal from Simon Sinek).

So, have your say (anonymously) and select as many as work for you. (update 14/10/14 – and the results are here)