The Power of Focus – Expand Insight into Action

By Paul David Walker

Each insight is a flash of seeing into the true nature of things, and leads to another, providing you act on the first, if you don’t the spark dies, and an opportunity is missed. Being in “the zone,” simply described is one insight after another, acted upon in the flow of cause and effect. It is like dancing in perfect harmony with a band. Dancing to the rhythm and flow of the moment brings out our souls’ calling, and our natural genius, both of which have yearned to be expressed most of our lives.

As insight expands it can create momentum and turn into a compelling vortex that draws energy like a giant storm draws air. There is an attraction that brings in all manner of opportunities as the worlds, near and far, see a familiar intent and join an energy field that feels like their tribe; like going home again.

The key to creating a chain response of insights is our ability to act in the moment before the flash of insight fades. A professional athlete has the muscle memory from years of practice in a given sport to respond in this manner. But can business teams do the same? Why not, most have years of experience in their business. It is a matter of practicing the art of connecting insight to action as a basketball player responding during the flow of the game. A team of athletes has to practice so that when opportunity presents itself it is ready to act as a team in a fast break. Likewise a business team needs to do the same.

Knowing The Difference

An insight is a combination of two or more ideas merging to create a reality previously unknown. It has an expansive, curious, and inclusive feeling, even if stimulated by reading a poem, or seeing a painting. The observer and the observed becoming one to uncover new realities, paths, and understandings.

When ideas come from stored memory they seem to be cloaked with a “need to be right,” which prevents merging and expansion. It is like pulling the answer out of the internet or our past, the feeling lacks wonder, unlike a true insight. Only with practice do we learn the difference, but do not underestimate the tricks our egos can play on us.

First We Become a Team

The first step is becoming a team committed to each others success that knows each person’s strengths, weaknesses and potential. Each member of the team is committed to helping unleash each team player’s potential, the potential of the team, and business. This creates a safe field for innovation and exploration. Each understands and have expertise in their roles, and those roles synchronize to form a team ready to build on insight and act upon opportunities uncovered. This is a healthy high performance team.

Stimulate Insight

Once you have a strong team, as described above, it is time to stimulate insight and action. To do this the leader and the team has to question the status quo, and collaborate to understand new realities, then act on solutions that lead to manifestation. One of the CEO’s I work with, Celso Pierre CEO of Goodridge Americas, developed the following values for his team.

We Work Together To …

•  Bring a sense of possibility beyond the status quo
•  Examine possibilities until solutions emerge
•  Align our intentions to drive solutions

As this example illustrates, a clear compelling picture of the desired state is important. It is an aspirational statement that provides an understanding and a draw towards the ideal. A picture of the goal creates insight as we succeed or fail that is self-correcting in a positive manner. Insights that uncover hidden realities that are successfully acted upon create engagement. The purpose is for you and/or your team, as observer of the ideal, to become one with it, then create a new ideal.

The assumption that fuels insight, is understanding that there is no limit to what we can create together. As an individual I find that if I capture insights as they occur, not letting them fade, and take action, even deeper insights emerge. To facilitate this I always have my journal at hand to capture, understand and expand insights before the clarity fades. I allow time in my schedule to reflect. Likewise a team should have time as individuals and a team to reflect with the purpose of discovering “possibility beyond the status quo.” Business leaders who make this a priority tend to lead their sectors.

The Habit of Reflection

After a success it is easy for us to fall back into old patterns, as individuals and teams. So it is important that personal, professional and business growth is the default setting. Insight into the true nature of things followed by action invents futures that provide strategic advantage. To win consistently we have to teach each other, and those that follow us how to create a state of mind around insight that is similar to athletes “in the zone.” Each time I learn something my state of mind is lifted and I become committed to new levels of action. The same is true with teams. When creating insight is a natural habit, higher states of mind will drive intent and performance at all levels.

“Here you will find a treasure trove of distinctions, tools, and models that will allow you to engage people in a way that naturally harmonizes and enhances working with others—and that in turn advances the mission and purpose of the organization. More than that, you will be introduced to the thinking that guides and directs our most advanced leaders. There are years of learning available in Invent Your Future. Do not be surprised when, in the days and months to come, you find yourself referencing this book. It’s that good.”  — John King, Bestselling Author of Tribal Leadership

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2020

Paul David Walker is a Senior LCS Consultant and one of the few CEO coaches who has worked with numerous Fortune 500 CEOs and their key staff members for over 25 years along with many mid-cap organizations. Some of the organizations that Paul has worked with include Star Kist Foods, Von’s Grocery Stores, New York Life, Anne Klein, Rockwell International countless manufacturing, global utilities, service and consulting organizations. Paul is the founder of Genius Stone Partners and works with domestic and international companies to improve their bottom line today and planning for the future. Paul is the author of the best selling books, Unleashing Genius and Invent Your Future – 7 Imperatives for a 21st Century. You can reach Paul at paul@pauldavidwalker.com or call him at 562-233-7861.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, https://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

Customer Service is an Entire Company Endeavor

By Dana Borowka

“If you want to know how to retain customers, you need to step outside your own processes and consider what it is like from the customer’s perspective”, says Deb Brown, author of the upcoming book, Lifelong Loyal Clients.

Brown notes that a mere 5 percent increase in retention will increase profits anywhere from 25 percent to 95 percent, according to a Harvard Business School study (Reichheld and Schefter. “The Economics of E-Loyalty.” HBS Working Knowledge. July 10, 2000).

Clearly customer service has a bigger impact on the bottom line than acquiring new customers. Bain & Company (a leader in global business consulting) reports that repeat customers spend more with a company— up to 67 percent more in months thirty-one to thirty-six than months zero to six.

“Taking care of existing customers is a faster path to cash than pursuing new customers,” says Brown. “Long-term customers spend more and refer more. Knowing this, smart business owners focus on retaining customers.”

Brown runs a company called Touch Your Client’s Heart. She works with business owners who want to build better relationships and never let an important contact slip through the cracks.

In her book she also notes a study done by customer experience consulting firm, Walker, which predicted that by the year 2020, customer experience will be more important than price or product to customers.

“The experience the customer has determines their loyalty and retention,” says Brown. “Customer retention makes a huge impact on your bottom line.”

Nobody’s Perfect

“Customer service is often seen by customers as the place to go when things go wrong,” says Mike Wittenstein, an international customer service expert. “Designing service as an experience is how you can get things to go right in the first place.”

Wittenstein is the founder of StoryMiners, one of the world’s first customer experience design consultancies. Based in Atlanta, he is an accomplished consultant, designer, and speaker who works globally in four languages.

“Too many companies design their business around their expectations of a perfect customer’s needs,” says Wittenstein. “The problem is that most customers aren’t perfect. Most walk in expecting a business to fit the way they want to work.”

A big opportunity for customer service across most industries is to not only respond to customer requests when they ask—but to anticipate their needs earlier. Sensing what customers will need sooner means you can make them happier—and do it at lower cost to the business and with a lift for the brand.

“If you’re not supporting the customer or supporting those who do, what is the value of your job anyway?” says Wittenstein. “That’s a Home Depot adage. It applies to everyone. Customer service works best when it’s brought into the heart of operations. It is truly everyone’s job.”

Onboarding Customers is Job One

“Often, businesses focus on prospects,” says Brown. “They give attention, nurturing, and lots of touches to bring prospects though the sales process. Sometimes, when they come to the end of the sales process and make the sale, business owners breathe a sigh of relief and then stop paying attention.”

Brown says onboarding is where you can change the way you do business and make a big impact on your customers. Customers, at that time, may be feeling a little bit apprehensive about the investment they just made. They may be feeling excited about starting to work with your business, but if you stop the communication, the excitement wanes and they may be a little unsure about what comes next.

“Having a formal intake process can not only assure you have vital information like contact details and billing information, but also be a great way to start getting to know your customers.,” says Brown.

As you interact with your customers, continue to pay attention to details about them and about their lives. It’s those personal details that help you get to know them better and deepen your relationship with them. What are their hobbies, their families? Do they have kids, grandkids, or a significant other? Are there things going on in their extended families? Do they have parents they are caring for? All of these little details are very important to them, and when you pay attention to those details, you find out what matters most to your customers.

“Touching your customers’ hearts and really wowing them is the best way I know to build loyalty to your business,” says Brown.

According to Brown, there are several things you should know about your customers so that you can wow them in a personal way.

All Contact Info. We live in a virtual world and sometimes never meet face to face with customers. Other times, customers come to our place of business. It’s easy to think that the only information you need is a phone number and email address. Take the time to also get their mailing address.
Who Do They Care About Deeply? Most people have someone who is important to them, be it a significant other, children, parents, siblings, pets, or a close group of friends. They probably sacrifice for them and spend most of their free time with them.
What Are They Passionate About? Are there hobbies, activities, causes or organizations they spend their time with? Knowing what is important to them and what brings them joy helps you know them better as individuals.
How Do They Indulge Themselves? For some people, a piece of chocolate or a cup of coffee is the thing that makes them happy. Others enjoy going to the theater or reading a book. Knowing what your customers would do to treat themselves allows you to customize how you reward them.

We’re Sorry, So Sorry

Sometimes, you make one mistake and you can apologize and move on. Once in a while, however, you may feel the need to do a little more. It may be that you have dropped the ball more than once. If you need to apologize in a bigger way, it might be a good time to send an “I’m sorry” gift.

“It isn’t necessary to send a gift every time you make a mistake,” says Brown. “Often a simple apology in person or over the phone is enough to fix what went wrong. An email or personal note in the mail can add to your sincerity. Don’t overdo it. Once the other party has forgiven you, it is time to move on and let it go.”

An “I’m sorry” gift doesn’t necessarily have to cost a lot; it depends on how big the mistake was.

“The act of going the extra mile and sending something out to say you are sincerely sorry can do a lot to repair the trust you have broken,” says Brown. “You are showing your customer that you acknowledge whatever you’ve done to mess up his or her day or to take up his or her time. You understand the value of time and you’re willing to pay for it.”

When you take the time and effort to apologize with a gift, it goes a long way in repairing a situation. You are able to reestablish trust and that person is willing to try again with you. Hopefully you’ve learned your lesson and you won’t make the same mistake again.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2020

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”.  To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, https://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

How to Pick a Strategic Planner and Use In-Depth Work Style Assessments to Improve Planning Performance

By Dana Borowka

Scott Adams, the creator of the cartoon Dilbert, has lampooned strategic planning for years.

“I’m putting you on the strategic planning team,” announces Dilbert’s boss. “It’s like work, but without the satisfaction of accomplishing anything.”

There is a grain of truth in Dilbert, because strategic planning can fall short without the right facilitator and approach.

“Planning is simply not that hard; but finding a great consultant who can help you get a great plan written, and implemented, is critical,” says Steven Phillips.

Phillips has built an enviable reputation for his strategic planning. He is a sought-after speaker for conferences and organizations worldwide. He has solid advice on how to choose the right strategic planner.

“Too many times consultants will lock themselves up, do amazing analysis, offer up a plan, and then it sits on a shelf and never gets implemented,” says Phillips. “The secret to getting the plan implemented is to take a high involvement approach with the senior team while creating the plan. Consequently, hiring a consultant who will be seen by your senior team as credible and likeable is very, very important.”

Some consultants say it is critical the strategic planner you hire should know the industry.

“Choose a strategic planning resource that knows your industry and is willing to understand how your existing capabilities are or are not capable of achieving the strategy,” says Paul David Walker, a strategic planner with specialized expertise in many industries.

“If they produce the ideal strategy vs. one that works for your existing talent, then the plan will just gather dust,” adds Walker.

Beyond the Standard Screening Criteria

The standard screening criteria when selecting a strategic planning consultant is experience, results, references, and chemistry/fit.

Barri Carian, a former senior executive for two Fortune 500 companies who has been a partner or in the embryonic stages of three start-up companies, is a strategic planning consultant who believes in today’s fast paced and disruptive world there are two additional areas companies should pay attention to in their selection.

“The first is can the strategic planning consultant take us through a deep dive into the trends that will impact our future success?” she asks. “This includes societal (demographic and psychographic), industry and technology trends. Strategic plans that do not take these trends into consideration will not serve the company well.”

For examples of those who didn’t take trends into account think Blockbuster, the music industry, the taxi companies, and Kodak.

“Second, the plan must be executable.,” adds Carian. “So often, strategic plans sit on a shelf never to be referenced again. Or they are so lofty, it’s overwhelming and companies don’t know where to start. Can the strategic planning consultant help you operationalize the plan? That means prioritizing initiatives, assigning owners or champions, breaking large strategic initiatives into smaller bites and developing systems to track progress and removing obstacles.”

The challenge, says strategic planning consultant Marc Emmer, is that a lot of consultants are generalists. Many are very good facilitators, and they may or may not be true strategists.

“If you really want a formal, strategic plan based on research, it may be worth your while to hire a strategic planning firm, that has the resources to run a true strategy process,” says Emmer. “The first thing you should ask potential consultants is how many strategic plans have they written? How companies have they facilitated strategic planning meetings for? If they have done ten or twenty you might wonder if they have enough experience to help you.”

If they have many practice areas such as leadership or process improvement, you should consider if they are focused enough on strategy to be any good at it, advises Emmer.

“Finally, ask to see the tools and processes that they will use to ensure your team has an actionable plan that can drive competitive advantage,” adds Emmer, who recently published his second book, Momentum: How Companies Decide What To Do Next.

“People who understand strategic planning and do it well view it as central to their evolution of a company and the source of competitive advantage,” adds Emmer.

Insight Leads to Better Strategic Planning Team Performance

After a strategic planning consultant is selected, in-depth work style and personality testing can be a valuable resource for the strategic planning process. The true value of any assessment comes in using the insights it provides. Personality assessments lend objectivity to decisions that may otherwise be largely subjective.

Here are five ways to use in-depth work style and personality testing for strategic planning:

1. Get the real picture when choosing strategic planning team members. Naturally all candidates for your strategic planning team want to put their best foot forward. However, through an in-depth work style and personality test, you can uncover a great deal about their ability to work well with other personalities, their problem-solving abilities, their thought processes and their ability to tolerate stress. This testing gives you objective information that can help you make an informed decision about whether these candidates would be good fit for the strategic planning team.

2. Help team members be all that they can be. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Find out the real truth with an objective measure. Once you pinpoint the good and the bad, then you place them in the right positions and coach them on where to improve.

3. Treat team members the way they want to be treated. In today’s fast-paced world of business there is little time to get to know many of your coworkers. Using in-depth work style personality assessments as the basis for team building exercises can quickly get everyone to have a healthier respect for other ways of seeing the world.

4. Make strategic planning leaders better team leaders. When team leaders understand what makes their people tick, then they can be better leaders. Knowing the work style and personality traits can help with stressful planning sessions.

5. Set up strategic planning teams for success. Sometimes we hire the right employee and then give that person the wrong job. Understanding preferred work styles and where a person would be happiest goes a long way to improving retention and productivity.

A proper test should reach beyond simple profiles and decipher an employee’s underlying needs. This is key for team building, conflict resolution, and succession planning. Some tests only use five or eight traits to make an assessment; this is not enough. We recommend a test that utilizes the full sixteen traits to get a complete picture of the person.

A final thought: once you have used assessments to pick the right team, it might be a shame to use them only once a year.

“My view of so-called strategic planning is that today it is less an event and more an ongoing conversation,” says Larry Cassidy, a group chair with Vistage International for 30 years. “The most effective organizations are evolving, and for me that moves viable strategic thinking away from being an annual event and toward an ongoing conversation.”

Robert Scherer, president of TAG, an outsourced accounting and software solutions firm, believes that in order to maximize the likelihood of executing a strategic plan that attention to detail and follow-up are critical.

“Over the years, TAG has worked with many companies in various stages of their strategic plan, with many attempts to accomplish too much in one year,” Scherer said. “With planning it’s better to break down goals into shorter sprints, as it puts more urgency and focus on your goals, which defaults to a more agile approach.”

Trends to Take Into Account for Strategic Planning

Before his consulting career, Marc Emmer spent over 20 years in the food business, in operations, marketing and business development. Emmer, who writes regularly for Inc. magazine, offers these trends to take into account in your strategic planning:

• Get great tax planning advice now.
• Have a nimble strategic plan, that can change on a moment’s notice. Review it quarterly to ensure you are in a position to seize the opportunities ahead.
• Invest in technology. Ask of your management team, how is technology a strategic advantage? If your team doesn’t have the chops to answer the question, find the people who do. Weave technology into your strategic plan.
• Hire people before you need them. If the economy continues to heat up, and unemployment levels off at 4 percent or so, it’s going to be nearly impossible to find talent.
• Be a best-in-class employer and push the envelope on providing a flexible work environment (including virtual office space).
• Utilize collaboration tools that allow you to provide your team the ability to be effective, in any location at any time.
• Execute flawlessly. Given the rate of change, customers expect on-time delivery, great quality and seamless communication. Utilize agile principles to ensure your team can pivot quickly to meet evolving customer demands.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2020

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”. To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, https://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

The Next Recession is Just Around the Corner. Are You Ready?

By Dana Borowka, MA

Whoever coined the phrase, “What goes up, must come down” must have been an economist. Nothing does a better job of explaining the cyclical nature of our economy. The problem faced by business managers is that once we’ve identified which part of the cycle we’re in, it’s too late to do anything about it. Forecasting the next upturn or downturn, and preparing accordingly, is the secret to business survival.

To give our friends and clients time to adjust for the next change in the economic cycle, we’re recently held a special Open Line web event entitled, “Planning for the Next Recession – Now!”: AudioSlides.

The purpose of this article is to highlight a few of the points our panelists explored in more detail: Why expect a recession and what to do now to prepare your business for it.

The Ups and Downs of the U.S. Economy

History has proven there is a 7-10 year cycle in the U.S. that consists of periods of recession, recovery, accelerating growth, and declining growth. Like clockwork, every decade we cycle through all the stages. The last recessionary period was 2008-2009. Since then we’ve experienced a long period of recovery culminating in what some expect as accelerating growth in 2017. So far so good. But remember, what goes up must come down.

The Next Recession is Just Around the Corner

If the U.S. economy has been climbing its way out of the recession for the past eight years, we’re approaching the time when we can and should expect another downturn.

There will be another recession in the U.S. The only real question is when, but based on historical trends, that time is 6 to 12 months away.

It’s important to note here that I’m talking about the “normal” economic cycles we experience, not those triggered by major unforeseen events such as occurred September 11, 2001, or the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.

Recession? You’re Crazy, Business is Great!

For most of our clients and readers, business is good to great. Everyone is bullish about higher sales and profitability in 2018.

However, the clock is ticking. Our panelists from our monthly Open Line web conference believe it will likely be pre-staged by a series of financial events that trigger a severe pull-back in the market and a rapid slowdown of the economy.

One way to suspect that the downturn has begun is to study your order board. Are sales tapering off? Are orders being placed less frequently and for smaller amounts? This tells you your customers are feeling the change.

Are you noticing an uptick in job applicants? This can mean other businesses are beginning to shed workers.

Now What?

Rather than get distracted by attempting to pin-point the time of the next recession, it’s wiser to simply agree that there will be one, and it’ll likely occur within a few years. With that agreement in place you and your staff can prepare the ship for heavy weather.

Beginning immediately, you can take the following steps to prepare your business for operating through a recessionary period.

  • Your management team must accept the same economic picture and be driven to succeed in spite of it. This is a great time for imagination. Work with the team to build action plans based on three different scenarios: a. recession, b. fast growth, c. slow growth. Or, look at it another way. Build a plan for what actions to take if sales drop by 20%, another plan covering if sales drop 40%. If you don’t have an executive dashboard, ask your CFO to build one with indicators for business growth or decline.
  • Make sure everyone on the team is mission critical to building value for the business. Get lean, or refocus some jobs so they are contributing more to the value of the business in some way. If you’ve been adding staff the past few years, there’s a good chance you’ve taken on some “dead wood”.
  • Keep the team motivated. One good way is to identify and acknowledge key people in the organization and make known the succession plan.
  • By all means, get the right people into the right slots now so they are confident in their roles by the time the downturn is really felt. A recession is no time to be breaking in key managers.
  • Don’t overlook your Accounts Receivable department. This may become your lifeline during tough times. Invest in top-notch people and systems.
  • Get your line of credit set. Reduce debt.
  • If you believe the downturn will be accompanied by higher interest rates, do what you can to lock in prices for your raw materials and leases.
  • Take care of your customers. Go out of your way to be seen as invaluable.

The Secret Code

Did you notice a common thread in this advice? Six of the eight recommendations involve the quality of your employees and how well they work together as a team.

Placing the right people in the right positions, for example, requires skillful hiring aided by in-depth work style and personality assessments. Reduce the risk of hiring or promoting the wrong person. Learn more about our in-depth work style assessments.

Pulling the team together and driving forward with a single purpose requires serious team building, not feel-good exercises. An investment in team building now will strengthen the company’s ability to thrive when other companies falter. Learn more about LCS team-building services.

Developing your managers to have excellent communications skills is vital to an organization’s growth, and absolutely mandatory during trying times, such as recession. Learn more about how LCS empowers key personnel so projects flow more smoothly without frustration.

In closing I recommend a book by two economists who have been extremely beneficial to our business. The economists are Alan and Brian Beaulieu from ITR Economics. Their most recent book is, “Prosperity in the Age of Decline.”  I encourage you to read the book, listen to our Open Line panel discussion audio / slides –  and be prepared for the Next Recession.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2020

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”. To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, https://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

LinkedIn 4.0 – Learn About Accelerated Connectivity Like Never Before

By Rick Itzkowich

When people ask me how I became the “Rick I – The LinkedIn Guy,” I take them back to 2007. When the recession hit, I was searching. Like most people who originally sign-up for LinkedIn, I wanted to generate new referrals. Connecting on LinkedIn was free so I signed up. But quite frankly I had no idea what to do with it. And I didn’t do anything with it other than invite a few people to join me on it. That was the extent . . . for a while.

Then one day during my BNI – Business Networking International chapter meeting, a member requested an introduction to an individual. Since I didn’t know the person, I wrote down the name. I thought to myself, “Maybe they’re on LinkedIn.” I went back to my office, and I did a search. And sure enough I found him. To my surprise, I not only found him, but I also found that he was connected to two other people that I knew. I asked these individuals if they would be willing to facilitate an introduction. One of them introduced me, and I got my first taste of the awesome power of LinkedIn. The short story is that my BNI colleague ended up doing substantial business with this person, and that’s when the light bulb went on. The purpose of LinkedIn had worked through me in a big way. I began to realize it’s tremendous potential.

Technology is a means to an end—not an end in itself. New technologies emerge all the time. And this can be totally overwhelming. But, there are certain aspects of technology that are allowing us to advance in our networking. LinkedIn is a valuable technology that offers speed and convenience in today’s busy business world. It fosters relationship building and the ability to start conversations with people based on your connection.

LinkedIn gives you insight and visibility into the connections that people who you know have. It offers you this untapped potential that most people do not even know they have available to them. Plus, it helps you organize useful connections for you and those you know.

Here’s an example. Let’s say somebody who wants to meet Mike Smith doesn’t know that I know Mike. But they do a search on LinkedIn, and they find out that Mike is a second-degree connection to me, Rick Itzkowich. They ask, “Hey Rick, I see that you’re connected to Mike. I’ve been trying to connect with him because of his asset protection specialty. Do you know him?”

I can tell that person, “Not only do I know him, he worked on my estate plan. Let me introduce the two of you.” Before LinkedIn, they didn’t know that I know Mike, and I didn’t know they wanted to meet Mike. LinkedIn makes that possible in a very logical and reputable manner.

Now, there are three potential obstacles that need to be acknowledged so that the intention of LinkedIn is not misunderstood. First off, people mistake LinkedIn for a traditional sales channel. They assume that you meet people on LinkedIn to direct sell to them. They think it’s Facebook for business and may engage in an unprofessional manner or use pushy sales tactics. As LinkedIn is all about nurturing relationships and building your credibility and trust with your connections, a direct sales strategy creates ill will.

Another factor to consider is that you do need to spend time on LinkedIn. Not a high volume of time — just putting in 30 to 45 minutes per week can pay off big time. I like to allocate just 10 minutes a day. I might send out five invites to connect and write two recommendations for colleagues over my second cup of morning coffee.

The last obstacle is that there is no LinkedIn guide, and unfortunately there is a ton of noise out there about how to make LinkedIn work.

Let me offer ways to avoid those obstacles: focus on your profile, network, and activities. You need to have an effective profile. Be sure you include a professional head shot and in your profile copy speak to your audience in the first person about what sets you apart in a way that doesn’t read like a resume. Keep your profile complete and up-to-date, as it is your mini sales webpage. You need to build a large diverse network. Send out invitations. Ask for names and add them to your LinkedIn. Discuss LinkedIn so others know to find you there. Your activities need to have some congruency as well as a strategy for growth. If you already did an impressive job of having a thorough profile that actually targets specific things related to what you are wanting to accomplish, complement that by actively staying involved on LinkedIn and clearly speaking to target individuals. This way, others feel like you are real, that they know more about you, and that you know what you are talking about in your industry.

I’ll let two Vistage Chairs tell you in their own words how my LinkedIn guidance worked for them:

“I am in countdown mode for my upcoming event. Of my 31 RSVPs, all but two, are from LinkedIn. Your system rocks and worked perfectly for me, especially since my husband and I have only been in Scottsdale since September. You rocked IT! The referral system and my tenacity with LinkedIn outreach has given me a good start. I am anticipating 20 out of the 31 who signed up. Thank you for introducing your system to me. It’s been a terrific experience.”
Susan Giles Bischak, Vistage Chair

“I did two sessions with 17 referrals and [received] three immediate responses. One appointment for one-hour worth of work. Priceless.”
Tom Rodell, Vistage Chair

These types of results are typical when you have guidance on how to tap into the power of technologies such as LinkedIn. Furthermore, you can link other technologies and find more relationships to foster. With the mindset of a technology-empowered connector, you keep your connections alive through referrals.

In addition, LinkedIn supports trust-building and that’s why it’s effective when it comes to referrals. LinkedIn is used as a first point of referral contact that gives you visibility and reach. For my line of work, when I meet somebody offline, my first action is to send them a LinkedIn invitation to connect. I use LinkedIn to gather some basic information, and then use my invitation and LinkedIn’s messenger to start a conversation. Once we are connected, LinkedIn allows me to be visible to that person’s connections as well as allows me to search for professions connected to my new contact. Essentially, LinkedIn is a giant database that allows you to find more targeted people via a variety of filters. As you can see, if you use LinkedIn effectively, it will give you the opportunity to identify mutual connections and people you want to do business with.

Lastly, LinkedIn’s feature of being able to give people recommendations adds trust. A recommendation on LinkedIn is different from many other places because it can be traced back directly to the individual. If you leave me a testimonial, somebody can click on that and know that you exist. They can read your profile, which gives them confidence that this was a real recommendation, a real testimonial as opposed to one that was made up. In addition, you cannot change a single word of a recommendation or testimonial, which adds validity.

So, it’s not just having your profile up on LinkedIn, but it’s utilizing LinkedIn to the max. I am happy to give you my How to Monetize LinkedIn in 10 Minutes per Day guide at no charge. Click here to download the 15-page PDF or paste this into your browser: http://ntwrk.biz/monetizelinkedin

In closing, let’s connect on LinkedIn! Send me an invitation at www.linkedin.com/in/ritzkowich and feel free to ask me questions.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2020

Rick Itzkowich (It’s-ko-witch), aka “Rick I – The LinkedIn Guy” is a Vistage Chair and founder of 501 Connections, Inc., a San Diego-based business, networking, and referrals coaching company. Rick is a genuine people connector. He helps people bridge the two worlds of face-to-face and online networking. As an official member of the prestigious Forbes Coaches Council and successful entrepreneur, Rick coaches, writes and creates turnkey products that meet today’s demand for tools to increase profits through referrals. His products QuoteActions, Link Power Now and Rock-IT! Referrals have generated millions of dollars in revenue for businesses worldwide.

Rick is a sought-after author and speaker. He presents to a diverse group of sales, networking and professional organizations, and is a regular SCORE® speaker. Internationally his YIKES! LinkedIn workshop earned the Best Speaker Award at the Dubai “You Learn Twit Face” social media conference. As a former CEO and business owner of two successful companies, one manufacturing and the other in professional development, Rick has logged more than 30,000 hours of corporate training. Rick was born and raised in Mexico City. He speaks five languages and has traveled to 43 countries facilitating learning vacations. He resides in La Jolla, California. And, in his spare time Rick plays on a nationally ranked tournament baseball team.

Contact Information: Rick Itzkowich, Vistage Chair, Entrepreneur, Speaker & Author, (858) 456-7653, rick@rickitzkowich.com, www.rickitzkowich.com, LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ritzkowich, Twitter: @thelinkedinguy

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, https://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.  We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

Effective Leadership and Progressive Discipline

By Dan Hamon

Workshop is available for this topic: This program can be given live or remote in either Spanish or English.

To listen to and see slides on an Open Line web conference on this topic with Dan Hamon as the guest speaker, please go here:
Audio: https://lighthouseconsulting.com/openline/041918/OpenLine041918.mp3
Slides: https://lighthouseconsulting.com/openline/041918/OpenLine041918.pdf

Peter Drucker, the noted management professor and author famously said, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

One of the right things a leader must do is to practice progressive discipline. As someone who leads seminars for both English and Spanish speaking managers and employees on the importance of effective leadership and progressive discipline, I would like to set the record straight on this important leadership practice.

Yes, there are important legal reasons.

“The first question in any legal challenge is, ‘Did the manager manage properly?’” says Mike Deblieux, author of seven people management books. “Effective documentation shows the manager managed performance by setting clear expectations, monitoring performance, providing feedback, and redirecting performance by creating an opportunity for the employee to succeed.”

As the saying goes about documentation, the proof is there in black and white.

What is not always black and white is how progressive discipline is effective leadership. In other words, progressive discipline produces results.

Now I am no human relations theorist. I have played key leadership roles in product development, marketing, sales, and worldwide operations, and P&L. When I was 19 I assumed responsibility for my family’s manufacturing and retail business. So, this is real world effective leadership I want us to consider, not some academic view.

But to be fair, let’s start with the academic textbook definition of progressive discipline: An employee disciplinary system that provides a graduated range of responses to employee performance or conduct problems. Disciplinary measures range from mild to severe, from a slap on the wrist up to and including termination, depending on the nature and frequency of the problem.

There is a management adage that the best defense is a good offense: Using progressive discipline proactively is the best strategy to minimize the threat of litigation from wrongful termination cases. Some have nicknamed it the “three strikes and you are out” discipline system. While the baseball metaphor is handy to remember, there is no magic in three offenses equals termination. And termination is not really the goal; the goal is better performance.

Many leaders worry that writing up employees will hurt performance and cause workers to form a dislike of leadership. They reason that employees who dislike management will be less engaged.

This is miscalculated thinking about the attributes of leadership, morale, and being liked by employees.

Another favorite Drucker quote of mine is: “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked: leadership is defined by results, not attributes.”

Most leaders would agree that management is about achieving results through people. A manager must help his or her people succeed at the work they do, and regardless of what language they speak. A key to helping people succeed is communication, which is probably the most important thing a manager does. Managers need to identify and correct performance problems through proper communications (with a sensitivity to the language his or her workforce is most comfortable with).

As commonly believed, it is true with progressive discipline leaders use communications to protect themselves and their organization against legal action by getting incidents on paper. But there is more. These managers take steps to ensure solid, consistent documentation procedures throughout the entire organization. Most important, you will also identify and address potential performance problems with progressive discipline before they even happen. Preventing an illness is more important than curing an illness.

Prevention through coaching performance improvement begins with observing and communicating employee behavior. This means communicating in writing that follows Deblieux’s FOSA framework: facts, objectives, solutions, and actions. Managers, don’t just tell what you want when facts will sell what you want.

Managers must be objective and not subjective in writing down what is going on. Subjective means your opinion, and objective means what can be seen. Behavior that can be seen should be factually described by recording the what, when, where, who and how (also part of the FOSA framework):

•  What happened
•  When it happened
•  Where it happened
•  Who was involved
•  How it happened

Describe direct observations of behavior in your written evaluations. Deblieux’s work tells us to use phrases like “I saw,” “I heard,” “I touched,” “I smelled,” and “I tasted.” Remember you are describing objective behaviors, not your subjective feelings about the employees’ attitude or demeanor. When translated into another language, these objective statements are clear to understand.

So, to be understood a manager should not write something vague like “You were late today.” Instead, a better entry would be: “I saw you arrive at your workstation and clock-in at 7:42 a.m., which is 12 minutes past starting time.”

As another example, a manager should not write something like, “Don’t forget to wear your hard hat, protective eye glasses, and steel toe shoes next time.”

Instead, a better entry for this would read: “The company safety rules require you to wear a hard hat, protective eye glasses, and steel toe shoes at all times on the company yard. I expect you to put your hard hat, protective eye glasses, and steel toe shoes on before you enter the company yard.”

These entries document behaviors that are expected. Discipline is the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior. Therefore, training comes first, and counseling comes second. There is even room for the oral warning, and no need to be a stringent supervisor that starts with a written warning. Think training first, not punishment, to correct disobedience.

One way to improve manager/employee communications is through in-depth work style and personality assessment testing. Managers should learn how their people and job candidates are wired in order to hire the best and understand how to proactively manage individuals.

This type of testing can identify potential red flags for human behavioral issues during the hiring process. Another benefit is it helps managers gain insight into the strengths and weaknesses of staff and candidates. Perhaps most important, it can reduce the learning curve for understanding how to manage individuals for greater work performance.

The key concept to remember there is workers are individuals, and there is no “one size fits all” communication strategy for obtaining optimum performance. I believe nobody comes to work to make mistakes. Let’s think of mistakes as a chance to teach, to help the employee learn from his or her error.

Better communications will help the employees be more open to the learning. Managers can benefit from training in interpersonal coaching, especially through the use of the work style and personality assessments. As managers, sometimes we need to take a good long look in the mirror about our coaching skills.

However, when there is disobedience or on-going failure to achieve performance goals, then there needs to be an escalation. This includes written warnings. This can be followed by a last step option. This is a specific warning of termination. The final step is termination. While a termination may be a layoff, here we are really talking about firing someone for willful violation of rules or the inability to perform.

For an employee to willfully violate rules, they have to know what the rules are. Effective leaders need to identify the rules, explain the application of the rules, be aware of the exceptions and document the coaching process through progressive discipline.

To listen to and see slides on an Open Line web conference on this topic with Dan Hamon as the guest speaker, please go here:
Audio: https://lighthouseconsulting.com/openline/041918/OpenLine041918.mp3
Slides: https://lighthouseconsulting.com/openline/041918/OpenLine041918.pdf

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2020

Dan Hamon is a Senior Consultant with Lighthouse Consulting Services. Dan has played key leadership roles in product development, marketing, sales, worldwide operations, and P&L. He is particularly gifted at drawing together and leading the right internal and external teams for solving complex problems and achieving business results. Dan’s industry expertise includes software, semiconductors, micro-machines, high performance computing, cyber-security, and artificial intelligence. Dan enjoys giving presentations on management, technology, productivity and other interesting topics to managers and senior executives.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, https://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

Screening Job Candidates: The Top Ten Hiring Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

By Barry Deutsch, MA & Brad Remillard – Excerpt from the book, Cracking the Business Code

When hiring, make sure the person you bring into a critical job is, in fact, the person he or she appears to be. Too often the hiring process is a case of mutually crossed fingers— both parties hope the match is a good one, and hope the gamble they’re taking will pay off. And then, regrettably, when Monday morning rolls around and the work begins, it all unravels.

Whose fault is it when the person who seemed like a fired-up go-getter turns out to be indifferent to goals she didn’t set herself? Whose fault is it when the person hired to overhaul the organizational IT system turns out to be short-tempered, impractical, and a lousy communicator who alienates every functional department head? Whose fault is it when the new sales manager seems to have no impact whatsoever on penetrating two new markets — a mission-critical goal that he seemed fully capable of doing in interviews? Whose fault is it when the person who shows up for the job isn’t the person you thought you hired?

We believe the blame lies squarely with the hiring process itself, and we have compiled evidence to prove it. Our research focusing on more than 20,000 hiring executives during the past 15 years has identified the most common mistakes made in hiring. Through the course of our analysis, we’ve determined the actual failure rate for newly hired managers and executives reaches a staggering 56 percent in many mid-sized and large organizations. We wanted to understand why. Prior to writing our book, You’re Not the Person I Hired!, we analyzed the hiring practices of 225 executive hires in 134 target companies.

What we discovered was that almost every organization makes the same mistakes, over and over again. Most often, several mistakes occurred in each case. In nearly every situation, when new executives and managers failed to meet expectations, a major causal factor was that expectations had not been clearly defined in the first place.

Everything else fell out from there. Here are their ten most frequent mistakes, in reverse rank order:

10. Desperation Hiring: In 55 percent of searches, the hiring organization failed to budget enough time for the search, resulting in shallow sourcing and superficial interviews that failed to identify potential pitfalls.
9. Ignoring Top Candidate’s Needs: 55 percent of searches were handled with a primary focus on the organization’s needs and failed to build a compelling case for why top candidates should make the move.
8. Failure To Probe For Core Success Factors: The five best predictors of long-term success are self-motivation, leadership, comparable past performance, job-specific problem solving, and adaptability. A majority of searches failed to probe for these (56 percent).
7. Fishing in Shallow Waters: The search attracted only “Aggressive” candidates without seeking “Selective” and “Sleeper” candidates (62 percent).
6. Performance Bias: Interviews and offers were rewarded to the “best actor,” not the best candidate (63 percent).
5. Historical Bias: The hiring company used only past performance to predict future results (68 percent).
4. Snap Judgment: Hiring teams relied too heavily on first impressions to make final hiring decisions (72 percent).
3. Inappropriate “Prerequisites” Used Too Early In Selection Process: Hiring teams placed too much emphasis on specific education, technical skills, and industry experience to screen out qualified candidates (76 percent).
2. Superficial interviewing: Candidates’ backgrounds and claims were not deeply probed or verified (92 percent).
1. Inadequate job descriptions: These focused solely on experience and skills, not company expectations. A staggering 93 percent of searches that resulted in new executive failure made this mistake at the outset.

The Causes Of Hiring Mistakes

In their experience, the authors found that hiring mistakes are not caused by willful ignorance or negligence. Most often, new executive failure has several interrelated causes:

1. Inadequate preparation. Rarely had the hiring companies outlined a detailed, measurable definition of “success” that could be used to source, evaluate, and select candidates. Instead, they relied on outdated or insufficient job specs, focused around desired attributes, educational attainment, and so on.

2. Lack of information. After their work with the surveyed companies, nearly all dramatically improved hiring practices and (most important) the performance of new hires. They conclude, therefore, that at least one cause of their earlier hiring failures was not endemic organizational dysfunction, but a lack of information and training about how to hire more effectively at the executive level.

3. “Human nature.” Interpersonal situations like interviews, conducted in a vacuum, are often guided primarily by gut feelings. Hiring team members who have not been trained to minimize these distractions are easily influenced by preconscious perceptions and nonverbal cues. When provided with a tool set designed to counterbalance these biases, interview team performance is far more likely to overcome distractions and focus on more critical success-based matters.

With the most common hiring mistakes and their causes in mind, we have developed and refined the Success Factor Methodology™ (for a free copy go to the website,
www.impacthiringsolutions.com). This structured approach to executive hiring helps our client companies prevent repeating predictable, avoidable hiring pitfalls that plague many new employee hires. We believe every organization — large or small, for-profit or nonprofit, public or private — is capable of using this methodology to significantly improve its hiring success at all levels of the organization.

There is only one way we’ve discovered to make sure the next employee you hire is successful: tightly define what success will look like before the search begins, and focus like a laser beam on verifying that each candidate you see has the demonstrated potential to create that success. The Success Factor Methodology requires a rethinking of almost every part of your hiring process. The progress you make will correlate directly with the amount of dedication, focus, leadership, and effort you expend. It works when you work — and there are no shortcuts.

Stay Focused When The Finish Line Is In Sight

The interview is over. The candidate has left the building. Now comes the hard part; making sense of what you’ve just heard. Assessment, verification, evaluation, and in-depth analysis of the candidate’s stories and claims are on the docket for the interview team. Do you have a systematic process to ensure the candidates have been truthful? How do you ensure you are continuing with the right candidate as you move through various interviews?

If you’re like most hiring executives, when you interview a candidate, you scribbled a few notes in the resume margin. You formed a general impression based on a mélange of nonverbal cues and behaviors. You’ve already decided that you “like” or “don’t like” the candidate. But you don’t have a tool to help you compare apples to apples, and candidates to your Success Factor Snapshot.

The Water Cooler Is No Place To Debrief

We have frequently seen interviewers emerge from a round of interviews and then commiserate near the proverbial water cooler.watercooler talk

• “So, what did you think of Candidate A?”
• “Well, he seemed enthusiastic.”
• “She had a lot of energy.”
• “He was polite.”
• “Seemed okay. I think he could probably do the job.”

These abstract impressions are not grounded in what’s needed to succeed on the job. A case in point: One of the best people a client of ours ever hired nearly wasn’t invited back for a second interview. She was a powerhouse — highly accomplished, with more than enough demonstrable success behind her. In terms of her ability to do the job, she stood head and shoulders above all other candidates.

There was, however, a “problem.” The candidate was not a fashion plate. The company’s employees tended to be fashionable, with name-brand labels oozing out of every office suite. The candidate arrived at the first interview in a tasteful but conservative suit, her hair pulled back in a plain style, wearing minimal makeup. Some members of the interview panel (they never asked who, exactly) apparently fixated on her “lack of grooming.”

When we spoke to the hiring team after the first interview and they expressed reluctance to continue interviewing the candidate, we were puzzled. It took considerable probing to uncover the fact that the interviewers who had expressed reservations were subconsciously prejudiced based on the candidate’s “stodgy, plain” clothing and makeup.

However, the position was not one that required interfacing with clients who would expect flash and style. She would be managing sophisticated financial analysis, planning, budgeting, and forecasting.

Here was a candidate with phenomenal qualifications who had nailed the answer to every question they gave her…but she wasn’t “glam” enough?

We let the hiring committee know what a mistake they were making. The important question, we reminded them, was not whether this candidate subscribed to Vogue and Elle, shopped at Saks, or invested a fifth of her income in facials, French manicures, MAC makeup, or triple foil highlights. The important question — the only question — was whether she could do what the company needed done.

The hiring team rethought their position. The candidate was invited back, eventually offered the job, promoted twice, and last we knew, was still successfully making things happen nearly a decade later, Armani suit or no.

This episode crystallizes a universal truth about candidate evaluation: Superficial, irrelevant issues often get more of an interviewer’s attention than real substance.

“Criteria” To Toss Out

When you interview, what’s on your mental checklist? Some of the most time honored “criteria” have absolutely nothing to do with whether a candidate can do the job.

• Strong presentation
• Assertive or Aggressive
• Manicured
• Polished shoes in the right color (brown with navy, not black)
• “Enthusiasm”
• High Energy
• Good eye contact
• Strong handshake
• Well-spoken
• Instant, unhesitant recall of events from many years ago (honestly, if somebody asked you about something that happened in 1993, wouldn’t you pause and look up to the right as you tried to remember all the details?)
• Smooth speech without “ums” or stutters or backtracking
• Personable

Many hiring mistakes occur because the hiring team draws first impressions from factors like these, or because the candidate either wowed them or bored them during interviews.

The team can lose sight of the real goal: Measuring the candidate’s ability to deliver the results defined in the success factor worksheet.

Remember, you’re not hiring an actor; you’re hiring an Operations Director, or a VP of Finance, or a Plant Manager. In what way, exactly, does a candidate’s handshake correlate with their ability to succeed in those jobs? In some jobs, of course, presentation skills and a solid professional appearance are important. But focusing on “hot-button” factors like those in the list above does not help to select the right candidate.

The Eight-Dimension Success Matrix™

To eliminate interviewers’ ingrained tendency to focus on superficial criteria and miss substantive evidence, we developed a structured tool to help each interviewer evaluate each candidate—objectively, fairly, and comprehensively.

The Eight-Dimension Success Matrix is the tool we have our clients use to rate “fit” based on the examples, illustrations, specifics, results, accomplishments, and patterns of behavior that emerge in candidate interviews.

It is quick to use, easy to understand, and focused on the job itself. Perhaps most importantly, it calibrates interviewer ratings, keeping everyone on the same page. Built around the five key predictors of success, the Eight-Dimension Success Matrix forces interviewers to assess answers to questions in a uniform way.

Accountability to the group is vital. When interviewers know they will have to justify the ratings assigned to each candidate to the entire group of interviewers—especially if they’ve designated Candidate A’s Team Leadership ability 1 while everybody else assigned her a 2—the whole process is taken more seriously.

Because each member of the interviewing team fills out an Eight-Dimension Success Matrix form after each interview, by the end of a long interview cycle, a candidate’s file may contain twenty or more forms. The full file allows the person with final hiring power to evaluate full-spectrum of evaluation on all Success Factors. Skimming the right column helps the hiring executive to rapidly compare the same candidate interview-to-interview, and also to evaluate candidates’ qualifications against each other, on equal footing. For more information on the Eight-Dimension Success Matrix form, go to the website, www.impacthiringsolutions.com.

When References Go Bad

If a candidate makes it to the second round of interviews, it’s getting serious. You’ve settled on one, or possibly two, candidates. You believe with all your heart, soul, and mind that one is the right person for the job. He or she seems to be the cherry on the sundae, and you’re looking forward to making the job offer to the number one candidate.

You phone HR and tell them to make two quick reference calls based on names and numbers the candidate has given you. Once that’s done, you figure, it’s a wrap. Stop right there.
Even though most reference calls tend to be five-minute, rubber stamp, “Is-he-a-nice-guy/would-you-rehire-her/did-she-do-well” conversations, yours will not be. Your calls won’t even technically be “reference calls.” They will be 20 to 30 minutes long. They will go into great detail. They will be deep third-party verifications of what the candidate has told you in the interviews. You will push and probe for nearly as much detail with each reference as you did with the candidate.busy-880800_1280

You must do so, not because you do not trust this person (it’s obvious that you do, or you wouldn’t be on the cusp of offering him a job), but because verification is a mandatory step in a proven hiring process. Ordinary reference calls (and even background checks—more on that in a moment) don’t get to the heart of potential problems.

Most people who receive reference calls expect to be on the line for fewer than ten minutes.  They expect to be able to say simple things like, “Cathy is a great worker! You can’t go wrong hiring her. I’d rehire her in an instant.”

But you, as the hiring company, are about to invest literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in a new hire. To do so without fully verifying what the candidate has told you would be irresponsible. Up until now, you’ve had only the candidate’s word to go on. References, though, are a treasure chest waiting to be opened and explored.

Finding The Right Reference

First off: No family, friends, or personal references. While many applicants still include these in their list, personally invested people are unlikely to yield much useful information. When a reference’s primary relationship with a candidate is personal, there is an automatic conflict of interest. Their loyalty is to the candidate, not you, and most importantly, they are unlikely to be able to speak intelligently about the candidate’s work accomplishments.

Once you’ve decided you want to hire a particular candidate, ask them for three to five professional references. Ideally, these should be former bosses, peers, or individuals they have supervised. They suggest to their search clients that reference checks should be conducted on a 360-degree basis, including all the individuals who might touch this person, both inside and outside the company. Ask for the numbers of key customers, vendors, and suppliers. If the candidate is still employed at a company where they have been for a long time (five years or more), and they would prefer you do not contact their boss until an offer is made, work around it as best you can. Perhaps a former mentor from another department has left the company and would be able to speak about them. Maybe the person who hired them originally and saw them through their meteoric first few years is now retired and living in Key West—call her.

A Top 5% candidate, if he or she is interested in the job, will work with you on this, and may even agree to let you contact a current employer under certain circumstances. As a last resort, sometimes candidates will grant you permission to talk with their boss once an offer is formally presented. You can always make the offer contingent upon the successful outcome of reference checks. Because coworkers and colleagues have usually spent more time with the candidate than the boss, they are outstanding sources of verification. Usually “lateral” references can offer deeper insights into work style, team leadership ability, personality, and cultural issues. Pay particular attention to these areas when speaking to former coworkers, probing for any indications that the person may pose interpersonal problems or “rub people the wrong way.”

Going Deeper: Secondary References

Don’t stop at the first layer of verification. When you speak to first-tier references (those whose names the candidate gave you), ask whom else the candidate worked with, reported to, supervised, or led as part of a team. These are secondary references, and they are additional potential sources of objective verification. Then, go back to the candidate and ask them whether they would mind if you contacted these secondary references. A highly qualified candidate will usually agree immediately.

If you sense hesitation, it may be a red flag. If the candidate objects to contacting a secondary reference, ask why. Sometimes they will offer a good reason (“I was charged with supervising the team’s efforts. His department was always late with their deliverables and I had to ride him hard for a year to make sure he followed up on his commitments. I don’t think Judy, my primary reference, was aware of the ongoing friction between their departments, but Bob in accounting was on the same team. Would you like me to put you in touch with him?”).

Other times, they will be vague and evasive (“Um, well, they didn’t work together much and she didn’t have anything to do with my projects. I don’t think she’d really be able to tell you much.”) Listen carefully to the answers you receive from the candidate and make an informed judgment call before proceeding with a secondary reference verification interview.

As a rule of thumb, if you get strong verification not only from a candidate’s “first tier” of references, but also from secondary references, you can almost bet the farm you’ve found the candidate you’re looking for. (Almost. See “Background Checks” before you leap, though.) Finally, it is important not to “wear out” references. Third-party verification calls should be one of the last items on the hiring agenda, not the first. Not even the middle.

The Eight-Point Success Validation form is lengthy and intense and will take at least thirty minutes to complete; this is a significant investment of time, and you should let people know up front that the call will take this long.

A good third of the information you need about candidates is obtained in verification phone calls. It’s best to set expectations early in a reference phone call. Make it clear that you are not asking for a recommendation. Rather, you are verifying information that you’ve been given, and you would appreciate as much detail as the reference feels comfortable giving.

The Vital Role of Testing And Assessment

We strongly believe testing is a valuable adjunct to the Success Factor Methodology, because when administered correctly, tests can uncover useful information about personality traits, potential for high achievement, and other factors that may not be immediately evident in an interview situation. However, there are several cautions about assessment instruments. We highly recommend that our clients use an outside, third-party assessment professional who is specifically trained to select appropriate tests, as well as administer and interpret the results. Beyond using appropriate personnel, they advise the following:

1. The instrument must be appropriate to the job. Each selected test should measure traits, characteristics, and skills that are directly and obviously relevant to the job. Appropriate scales may be honesty and integrity — important qualities for the person who will be in charge of the company coffers. On the other hand, there is no apparent reason to administer an instrument like the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, which is designed to test for mental and emotional disorders.

2. The instrument must be valid and reliable. The Buros Institute, an organization founded in 1935 to catalog and evaluate psychological tests, publishes two comprehensive directories that can help you to select instruments that are known to be reliable and valid. The Mental Measurements Yearbook and Tests In Print are available at most libraries and contain descriptions and reviews of psychological instruments.  Be sure to ask consulting industrial psychologists whether the assessments they use are listed in these directories. If you are interested in how they were developed and validated, you can consult these reference works. At last count, the volumes had collected development, price, administration, and interpretation data on more than 11,000 instruments.

3. Be wary of free online tests. Unless they come from a highly regarded institute and/or are listed in one of the books mentioned above, they may not be valid and reliable instruments.

4. The instrument must be administered and interpreted professionally. We cannot emphasize enough that tests, inventories, personality profiles, and the like are difficult to interpret for a nonprofessional. Human Resources professionals are generally not qualified to administer psychological or behavioral tests. If you do choose to use some form of assessment to help you make a hiring decision, it is safer and more effective to delegate responsibility to a third party, who will likely ask candidates to sign waivers before taking the tests. These professionals will also ensure that untrained people on the hiring team do not focus on one or two potentially “negative” findings in a 20-page report—something they have seen frequently.

Getting the Right Information

As with any business decision, having the right information is critical. Work style and personality assessment testing can provide insight into potential hires, as well as your current workforce, in several ways:

1. Identify potential red flags: An in-depth work style and personality assessment can discover issues that are sometimes overlooked during the interviewing process and can quantify an intuition or feeling the interviewer may have about a particular candidate. It can be used to identify potential red flags concerning behavioral issues, help understand how to manage individuals for greater work performance and compare interpersonal dynamics of teams, departments and candidates.

2. Learn how to optimize employees’ work performance: An in-depth assessment can provide extensive information on an individual’s ability to work with their job responsibilities, team dynamics and company culture. Additionally, the assessment can show effective strategies to gain optimal performance from that individual within their particular work environment. It can also be employed to quickly identify the most effective management style for a new employee or predict how team members are likely to interact.

3. Ensure you have the right people in the right positions: Additionally, personality assessments can be utilized in rehires, or situations which call for employees to re-apply for their current jobs, as in the case of a corporate merger or restructuring. A personality assessment test can also ensure that your company continues to have the right people in the right positions and distribute assets & talents effectively.

Which Assessment Tool Should My Organization Use?

The following are some things to think about when reviewing various work style & personality profiles:

1. Training or degrees of those who are providing the debrief/interpretation of the data.
2. A copy of the resume and job description should be supplied to the testing company.
3. Scale for “Impression Management”
4. What is the history of the profile?
5. Cultural bias
6. Does the profile meet U.S. government employment standards? Has it been reviewed for ADA compliance & gender, culture & racial bias?
7. Reading level required (5th grade English, etc.)
8. Number of actual scales (minimum of 12+ primary scales – 16 is optimal)
9. Does the data provide an understanding on how an individual is wired?

These are some general questions and if a profile falls short in any one area, we strongly suggest additional research into the accuracy of the data being generated.

Frequently Asked Questions

A frequent question from companies and organizations concerns the legal guidelines in administering assessments to potential employees. Industry regulations can vary and the best option is to consult with your company’s trade association or legal department. As a general rule, if your company uses an assessment, any test or set of hiring questions must be administered to all of the final candidates in order to assure that discrimination is not present. Additional information can be found online at the EEOC website, in the Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Examinations of Employees section: http://www.eeoc.gov/docs/guidance-inquiries.html.

An additional question concerns how a new hire may feel about taking an in-depth personality and work style assessment. There is a certain amount of “test anxiety” that can be common. However, the test demonstrates that your company is serious about who they hire. If your company explains that the goal of the assessment is to reduce turnover and is only one of several factors involved in the hiring decision, the individual usually responds very well. In many cases, the candidate may accept a position from the organization they perceive to be more thoughtful during the hiring process.

An in-depth assessment is only one component needed for a successful recruitment and hiring program. It can provide valuable information for critical personnel decisions. Combined with an effective recruitment program and skilled interview techniques, it can benefit your company as a whole, in addition to your individual employees. Armed with accurate and quantifiable data from an in-depth personality assessment, the interview process becomes much more reliable. Ultimately, this only adds to your organization’s bottom line, allowing more effective management of your existing workforce and limiting the potential for wrong hiring decisions. For more information, please call (310) 453-6556, ext. 403 or email us at dana@lighthouseconsulting.com.

A Comprehensive Background Check

Finally, we reach the granddaddy of all pre-hiring due diligence: The Background Check. As with psychological and personality testing, we believe this is an activity best left to trained professionals who understand the legal and ethical constraints of such activities.

Background checks are often the last shield between a hiring company and a particularly slick candidate who interviews well. You might be surprised at how many people woman with mag glassmisrepresent their educational credentials, for example. In recent years, the media has exposed numerous scandals resulting from puffery in nearly every sector.

• In 2004, Quincy Troupe, poet laureate of the State of California and a tenured college professor, resigned his post. The reason? He had lied for years about his background, listing himself as a graduate of Grambling University. In fact, the professor (who was in charge of training graduate students, among other duties) he had never even finished a bachelor’s degree.
• Jeffrey Papows, former president of Lotus Software, was revealed by a 1999 Wall Street Journal investigation to have habitually exaggerated his past and accomplishments. While he claimed to be an orphan who rose through military ranks to eventually earn a Ph.D. from Pepperdine, he in fact had parents living in Massachusetts and a Ph.D. from a correspondence school. (He did, however, have a Master’s from Pepperdine.)
• Sandra Baldwin, former president of the United States Olympic Committee, resigned after admitting that she had lied on her resume about earning a Ph.D from Arizona State University. She had not.
• Joseph Ellis, a Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer and professor of history at Mt. Holyoke College, was immensely popular for courses that included his personal insights into the violence and mayhem he had witnessed in Vietnam. In 2001, however, the Boston Globe exposed him: Dr. Ellis had never left the States during the Vietnam War.
• In 2002, Veritas Software lost its Chief Financial Officer, Kenneth Lonchar, who resigned after his employer found out he had lied about his education, including an MBA from Stanford. He never earned such a degree. The company’s stock plummeted in the weeks following these revelations.

There are many more cases like these. We could fill ten pages with just recent examples of resume-padding gone horribly wrong. Obviously all these people were highly accomplished, but their basic dishonesty about degrees and other background information introduced high levels of doubt about their overall ethics and trustworthiness.

If such visible and respected organizations can be successfully bluffed in their highest-level hires, it can happen to your organization, too. The only way to be sure everything you’ve heard is true is to invest the time and money to verify the candidate’s claims on his resume or other documents he completes and signs after beginning the interviewing process.

Many third-party providers can run a comprehensive background check to make sure there are no skeletons in any closet. These companies are fully up-to-date on laws that regulate the extent to which such checks can be used prior to employment.

If you decide to wait to run these checks until after you extend an offer, be sure you make the offer contingent upon satisfactory results from the background check.

1. Criminal Background. In rare cases, charming, and charismatic characters, who just happen to be crooks, have made it all the way into positions of power. In their own experience, they know of a candidate who was offered a position as CFO without a criminal check. It was revealed later — too late — that he was under active investigation by the FBI and had allegedly embezzled huge sums of money in the past. A criminal background check would have revealed these issues before the company hired him; no matter how charming and convincing he had been in interviews.
2. Credit. For any candidate who will be placed in a role where they will have access to the company coffers (or even something as innocent as a company credit card), we strongly recommend a credit check. Does the person have a huge amount of debt in the form of mortgages and consumer debt? Does the person make their required payments in a timely manner? Has the person filed for bankruptcy? What is their credit score? They realize that nobody is perfect, and while a high level of debt does not automatically disqualify a candidate, nor does the occasional late payment, there is merit in being cautious and checking these items. Financial pressure and stress can cause even the most well-intentioned people to snap. Knowing a high-level executive’s financial straits up front can help to head off potential problems.
3. Educational Background. It may not actually be important to the job whether somebody earned an MBA or simply attended a year of a program without finishing. However, dishonesty about educational achievement is a huge red flag that should cause you to dig much deeper in every other area. If a candidate lies about this accomplishment, what else might he or she be lying about? Because educational background is frequently misrepresented, this check is the most likely place where you will uncover discrepancies. Integrity matters. We never recommend going forward with a candidate who has lied about their education.
4. State Drivers’ License Bureau. If a candidate has a record of arrests for driving under the influence, reckless accidents, or other egregious traffic violations, it may be a hint of deeper problems — and potential liability or risk to the company.
5. Social Security Verification. Social Security will identify the names associated with the candidate’s social security number. While most discrepancies can be cleared up quickly (marriage or adoption changed the last name, or a religious conversion changed the entire name), multiple aliases may be a red flag and should be explained by the candidate.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2020

Barry Deutsch is a well-known thought leader in hiring and peak performance management. He is a frequent and sought-after speaker for management meetings, trade associations, and CEO forums, such as Vistage International, a worldwide CEO membership organization of more than 15,000 CEOs and senior executives. Many of his clients view him as their virtual Chief Talent Officer. Barry is also frequently asked to present IMPACT Hiring Solutions award-winning programs on hiring, retention, and motivating top talent and leverages a vast knowledge base of 25 years in the executive search field, with a track of successful placements in multi-billion dollar Fortune 100 companies, entrepreneurial firms, and middle-market high-growth businesses. He has worked closely with thousands of CEOs and key executives to help improve hiring success, leverage human capital, and raise the bar on talent acquisition. Barry earned his BA and MA from the American University in Washington, D.C. Prior to his executive search career, Barry held positions of responsibility in Finance and General Management with Mattel, Beatrice Foods, and Westinghouse Cable.  Barry can be contacted at barry@impacthiringsolutions.com or 310-378-4571.

Brad Remillard, an executive recruiter with more than 30 years of experience, has conducted more than 10,000 interviews and been involved in more than 2,000 executive searches.  In 2005 along with his partner of 25 years, Barry Deutsch, he co-founded the company IMPACT Hiring Solutions. This firm is dedicated to providing best practices hiring techniques to companies seeking to reduce turnover, recruit qualified candidates, improve interviewing that reduces hiring errors and eliminates candidate embellishment and exaggeration. IMPACT Hiring Solutions accomplishes this via its on-site manage hiring workshops utilizing our trademarked, Success Factor Methodology. These comprehensive in-house workshops and training programs are highly customized solutions to the specific company’s needs. Previously he served as President of CJA Executive Search, which was recognized as one of the top search firms in Southern California. Brad has trained thousands of managers how to recruit, interview and retain top talent for both Fortune 500 and entrepreneurial companies.  Brad can be reached at brad@impacthiringsolutions.com or 949-310-5659.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.  To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and soon to be released “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

We recently launched a new service called Sino-Am Leadership to help executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, https://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.  We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

Keep What You’ve Got: Attracting and Retaining Top Talent

By Dana Borowka, MA – Excerpt from the book, Cracking the Business Code

During the next ten, twenty, and thirty years, finding qualified sales and customer service people is going to get more difficult, thanks to a shrinking workforce and a maturing population. Therefore, retention of your top people is more important than ever.

Attracting talent, retention, and training (or onboarding individuals) all fall into one big melting pot. Finding, supervising, and keeping employees are not stand-alone items — each affects the other.

Ten years ago the shot heard ‘round the recruiting world was the McKinsey & Co. declaration that better employee talent is worth fighting for. The 1998 bombshell article in the McKinsey Quarterly titled, “The War for Talent,” predicted a battle that would last for decades.

Publications like Fast Company quickly spread the news from the boardroom bunkers to the cubicle trenches. The reason was demographics and the retirement of the Baby Boom generation. The battle cry was to not only improve hiring practices, but to work harder to retain your best employees.

McKinsey’s supply and demand predictions have come true with a vengeance. The U.S. workforce, which grew by 54 percent from 1980 to 2000, is only expected to grow by 3 percent from 2000 to 2020.

During the past decades, companies have proven that you can’t win the war just by spending more. When it comes to finding and keeping employees, pay is secondary for top talent. But if you build up an outstanding reputation, people will line up to work at your organization.

You have to realize that reputation matters. People talk. Images get established. Web postings take place. Today, no organization can afford to have a bad reputation. A number of MC900231004[1]years ago, the airline industry did a study that showed that a bad experience was communicated to around 300 people and a great experience was shared with only 30 or less.

So, where do you start in order to build a positive reputation from within and without? It all begins with taking the time to uncover, identify, and understand how the team is communicating. No matter how high tech our world has become with instant messaging, emailing, and cell phones, the biggest problem we all have is still communications.

To illustrate, think of a whale. Probably everyone reading this article visualized something different. Some are seeing in their mind’s eye a peaceful pod of gray whales migrating south. A few think of a friendly Shamu jumping out of the water at Sea World. While others picture a scary Monstro swallowing Pinocchio. How often do you discuss a topic with someone in the workplace and they completely misunderstand what you wanted?

Communicating with prospective employees begins way before an application or interview. A number of years ago a client of ours identified some traits they wanted members of their team to have. The company realized they needed to position themselves in their narrow marketplace as the place to work. Whenever a company executive gave a speech to an association group they always ended the talk with mentioning that they are the Rolls Royce of organizations to work for. If anyone knows of A players who want to work at the best place to use their skills and talents, then have them give the company a call.

MC900437519[1]Fast forward a number of years. My firm conducts personality testing for all of this company’s final candidates. For certain levels, we also do phone interviews, always asking how they heard of the organization. Consistently we have heard it was because of their reputation in the industry for being the best place to work for utilizing skills and talents.

Learn what is driving your top talent people. If you help them to succeed you’ll create a high level of retention and become a magnet for recruiting. So what does all of this have to do with retention? It’s about setting your people up for success, and this takes active management and mentoring.

 

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2020

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. They also have a full service consulting division that provides domestic and international interpersonal coaching, executive onboarding, leadership training, global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training, operational productivity improvement, 360s and employee surveys as well as a variety of workshops. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He provides workshops on hiring, managing for the future, and techniques to improve interpersonal communications that have a proven ROI. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”.  To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

We recently launched a new service called Sino-Am Leadership to help executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, https://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.  We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

Global Strategic Planning – Top Considerations

By Tom Drucker, MA – Excerpt from the book, Cracking the Business Code

Planning

Planning is a process — not an event. It’s supposed to be a dynamic document, and not something that is prepared once a year then lives in a file that nobody refers to. It should be revisited frequently and updated along the way. If it isn’t, then something is usually wrong, since the world is fluid and so is a MC910215964[2]business plan.

Global planning and mapping requires an unbiased examination of your current sales, distribution strategy, and manufacturing costs, as well as a look at the various options available. A general assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of your firm as it operates today is a must before venturing out beyond your current borders. You’ll want to take a look at your readiness for a potentially changing global market, which includes looking at cultural needs, currency, etc. A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis can help in order to see gaps and to play out various scenarios that could take place.

Assumptions

Don’t assume your current business model can just be replicated or exported. Harley Davidson, when they first began to expand globally, made a huge mistake that we can all learn from. They assumed that the brand recognition would carry them around the world into new markets. What they learned very quickly was that the Japanese found ways to reduce production costs and designed products that were valued vs. the brand alone. They realized what had happened, restrategized their approach, then retook the market place.

On the flip side, never underestimate the value and power of your brand. Playboy’s global expansion saved the company at a time when US domestic revenues were deteriorating. At the time, they were the 3rd most recognized brand in the world so they were able to spring board globally with new product offerings.

Swensen’s, a very popular, San Francisco-based ice cream company in the 1970s, virtually disappeared from the US while flourishing in the Asian markets. Leveraging and understanding your product and service is key when determining markets that might be shrinking while others are expanding. These considerations should be a part of your strategic planning.

Looking Beyond

A global expansion plan may be accomplished most cost effectively through acquisitions rather than internal expansion. Study your competition locally and take a look abroad. Acquisition could be a way to jumpstart global expansion and broaden your sales base very quickly if done right. VingCard Elsafe expanded by observing customer needs. They found MC900200255[2]that individuals when using a safe in a hotel room wanted to charge their electronic devices. They identified a power outlet company and purchased them. Pay close attention to customer needs since they can be a driving force for growth. Through discussion and planning, creative ideas can come about for expanding in an efficient and cost effective manner if one is open to considering various methods for reaching an end result you want. Many different sources of capital are available from traditional financing to relationships with private equity firms. Again, exploring these options require time and developing a network of trusted advisors. Conferences, trade associations and groups that set standards for your industry can provide a good source of contacts and sources of referrals for financial information and opportunities.

Remember — not everyone thinks like you! A company that is considering to expand their sales through expanding their global distribution should integrate into their planning team, people with different nationalities and a diverse spectrum of business experiences.

Sometimes expanding can be driven by happenstance of a passionate partner willing to take a risk. An example of that is when In-N-Out Burger had an opportunity to expand into Singapore. They were approached by a high net worth individual who thought the brand would be well accepted in that part of the world and was willing to make an investment. This didn’t cost the company any money and yet they were able to expand into a new region. The experiment can be repeated. Quality and customer service standards must be maintained in order to not erode the standards of the brand.

It is usually best to test your plan quietly. When beginning the planning, try to anticipate a variety of obstacles keeping the end goal in mind and work backwards. That way your team can discuss various scenarios and anticipate the agility required if changes need to take place as circumstances arise. You may need to slow down your plans in order not to damage the brands’ reputation if you run into trouble with supply partners or marketing/ launch plans. Develop contingency plans. The new normal is to have “soft openings” to open the new storefront, hotel, etc., with no advertising or promotion. Let the staff and locals become accustomed to the operation. After an appropriate settling in time implement a larger, more public opening with a full public and press event.

Please Don’t Rush

It is really important to not rush your global planning and expansion. A number of components come into play and need to be well thought out. Components such as employee development, market tests, supply chain partners and a thorough analysis in these areas that are just the tip of the iceberg. If done thoughtfully, the process can pay off by reducing MC900055285[1]the risk of your immediate investment and the ability to refine and learn as you go. An example of this is when Alcatel-Lucent spent over a billion dollars on a fixed cellular network that proved less effective and efficient than a standard cellular network, because they had built the technology and had staff in place, but neglected to market test the product in the rural areas it was intended to be used in and had insufficient government relationships to ensure contracts. Consequently, cellular contracts were more rapidly signed and built out, causing that business unit to be closed and a billion dollar write-off absorbed.

Xerox Corporation, when expanding into underdeveloped markets, had a very disciplined process. They would turn to local high potential people for developing a plan over a period of twelve to eighteen months. That team would identify talent at all levels within the local organization. Together with seasoned professionals from more developed regions, they would build an organization ready to launch a sophisticated operation that could be successful from the beginning with pride in their brand and positive revenues within the first year of operation.

Recruiting Talent Abroad

This can be very challenging and yet filled with opportunity. It is critical to define the job, independent of culture, and look for “job fit” in the context of the culture. This means it’s vital to understand the goals and objectives of the job and how they will be executed in that specific culture. Recruiting firms that specialize in global search can be helpful, as well as networking with supply chain partners who have a vested interested in helping you identify potential employees.

It is also helpful to do in-depth work style and personality assessments to see how the individuals will fit into the team. Ideas for interviewing can be gleaned from the data and save valuable time and money, so you can focus into specific areas to probe during the interview and for reference and background checking. The information can also help in reducing the learning curve for managing individuals from day one.

Sourcing correctly and understanding cultural differences can make or break the expansion process. For managers at all levels having a high awareness of emotional intelligence on a global basis can reduce misunderstandings that could turn into missed goals and opportunities very quickly.

Books like Culture, Leadership and Organizations, can help your planning team and onsite managers gain insights that will help improve effectiveness at an interpersonal level.

This Is Not A Fad

It is highly important to be fact and data driven rather than being caught up in the emotions of wanting to expand your sales beyond your current boundaries. Gathering market and consumer data that can be purchased or commissioned from reliable sources could be an essential cost effective tool, rather than assuming that your business model and assumptions are translatable to other countries and cultures. Mining the data can help in mapping out a pathway to success. Success for your firm might be a decision not to move forward with global expansion.

Years ago, when McDonald’s was first introduced in France it was not an immediate hit. Sales in France dramatically increased when they started selling wine. They found that adult customers would go into a location when they knew they could have a glass of wine with their meal. This met the need of the culture and the perception for going to a McDonald’s as a family changed dramatically.

Collection formation from customers is often called “the voice of the customer.” It is a fundamental part of any world-class organization, either local or global. It is an essential and never-ending stream of data that must be honored and professionally executed. This is particularly critical when moving into new markets.

Sustainability

Sustainability is not just implementing a recycling program, as important as that is. It’s a mindset. It’s particularly significant when you’re considering expanding into new markets. The conditions, regulations, standards and policies of regions and countries are distinct and evolving. The mindset for the company is often described as an attention to the triple bottom line: a concern for social welfare, profitability, and ecological and environmental concerns. These factors should be taken into account in the planning process so that there are no surprises as you get closer to costing out your budgets and understanding the true cost of operating from different regions of our interconnected planet.

Have An Open Mind Policy

When thinking globally, you’ll want to look over your shoulder and over the horizon to see how your various ideas fit into a coherent plan for your business. Smart people know they don’t know everything. Global strategic planning requires a good combination of talent both from inside and outside your company. Many rapidly growing companies have lost MC900448544[1]significant money and momentum by not seeing their own blind spots. The key to minimizing the risk of global expansion is to being open to a diverse outlook of ideas and inputs. Thinking collaboratively, learning from others and getting various perspectives through different people’s eyes can help in making a good decision to move forward or to approach your vision in a fact based and professionally managed way.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2020

Tom Drucker is a Senior LCS Consultant and works with leaders to achieve business success by leveraging the strengths of their people and overcoming the very human, yet often unseen, obstacles that get their way. Tom has degrees in both psychology and business (from UCLA) and blends these skills to deliver usable insights that have lasting impacts on their business and most importantly on the hearts and minds of the people he works with. Tom has well over 30 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies, mid caps and start-ups. You can reach Tom at Tom@lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”,  “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

We recently launched a new service called Sino-Am Leadership to help executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, https://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.  We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.