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Merry Christmas

Category : 2017

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Is Your Brand Positioning You for Your Next Job?

Category : 2017

The perks of some jobs are nothing short of regal. How would you like a no-limits salary package, frequent first-class travel to exotic destinations, multiple residences, luxury cars, and guaranteed employment for your lifetime?

If that sounds like a job for a king (or queen), you’re right. The world’s 29 reigning monarchs enjoy privileges like these — and more. From the well-known House of Windsor to the lesser-known kingdoms of Bhutan, Brunei, and Tonga, being king is a career to die for—or more often, a career that isn’t yours until someone dies.

Earlier generations occasionally sped up a royal succession with a bit of homicide. In modern empires, the long life spans of reigning royals create a unique challenge for their successors: How do you prepare for and demonstrate you are ready for a job that won’t be yours for decades?

While most executives aren’t in line for a gilded throne, they share with future monarchs the need to use a current role to get ready for the next. For a leader wanting to move to the C-suite, using this interlude to enhance a personal brand is a vital step. Consider these actions:

  • Know yourself. Few of us are omnicompetent. While a C-level executive needs a broad knowledge and skill base, trying to do everything equally well or attempting to create the impression you can do it all is counterproductive. Leverage your strengths and develop the ability to quickly identify people who can compensate for your non-strengths.
  • Seek insight from those around you. Complete a comprehensive 360 review with anonymous input and use what it tells you. However far off something seems, there is a modicum of truth you are wise to consider.
  • Get a mentor. Very few companies provide the coaching and guidance a developing executive needs to move up in an organization. Find someone who has succeeded where you want to go, has nothing to gain or lose in your success, and learn all you can.
  • Cultivate accountability. The farther you go and the higher you get in an organization, the less people around you will tell you the truth. Some of us think of “accountability” as a tough conversation that occurs when you don’t accomplish something. That’s not what we are illustrating here; it’s getting insight and input, so you don’t fail. Include regular conversation with someone you trust who will ask candid questions and challenge your thinking.
  • Invest in the Package. The brilliance of a brand is easily dimmed by dated packaging. You can’t avoid the reality that people make an initial assessment about who you are by what they see. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Ensure you have the physical stamina to lead a team of energetic, young professionals.

In a highly-competitive market, investing in yourself while you prepare for your future is more than good branding, it’s smart business.

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EXECUTIVE PRESENCE: It’s More Than Commanding a Room

Category : 2017

Executive recruiters look for it.  Leadership surveys try to measure it. A long list of consultants and coaches want to help people get it.

This hard-to-define, yet widely desired trait is executive presence.

Search for a concise definition of executive presence and the 1.2 million results Google offers include an endless list of attributes and behaviors – appearance, charisma, communication, gravitas. humility, social skills, style, body language, composure, decisiveness, and more.

One of the “experts” defines executive presence as “the ability to master perception. That’s making people feel like you are honest or compassionate – even if you aren’t. Coaching people to master perception, project an image, and command the crowd makes the journey to develop executive presence sound like a manipulative sales technique or a one-style-fits-all formulaic approach to leading people.

Presence happens. Executive presence is a cumulative effect. What composes presence is paramount. Presence is the outcome of developing authentic character, expressed through the self-awareness, social awareness, likeability, engagement, communication, and appearance that frame genuine character into executive presence. Without character, executive presence is posing at best, and in a weaker moment, a well-positioned ruse.

Emerson said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”  When an executive focuses on perception and projection, people will likely see an inauthentic representation of who the leader supposes they should be—not who the leader is.

When you have authentic presence, you are able, as John Eldredge suggests, to “let people feel the weight of who you are.”

Are you in the Dallas/Fort Worth, TX area and do you want to explore how to develop executive presence? We will partner with the Dallas Business Journal at 9 AM on November 6, 2017 to present an interactive seminar about this important topic.

Registration Information:  https://www.bizjournals.com/dallas/event/161896/2017/developing-executive-presence.

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Leadership, Loyalty, and a Leader’s Brand

Category : 2017

Does one question really tell it all? If it tells the story for a company, can a similar question tell the story for a company’s leaders?

In 2003, Bain consultant Fred Reicheld reported the singular factor most indicative of customer behavior was loyalty, measured by simply asking, “What is the likelihood that you would recommend Company X to a friend or colleague?”

While the now, well-known Net Promoter Score has its critics, from Google to Apple to Facebook to Walmart, the list of companies using this process is both impressive and extensive: http://www.netpromotersystem.com/about/companies-using-nps.aspx. Why? Bain discovered companies achieving long-term profitable growth had NPS scores two times higher than the average company.

Take NPS to a personal level. How much should an executive care about loyalty to the brand associated with his or her name? If customer loyalty drives strategic growth for a company, how much does loyalty to a leader impact growth at a tactical level?

Over a decade ago, Gallup’s research confirmed people do not leave companies as much as they leave managers. If a leader wants to engage and retain his or her top talent—the people most directly responsible for results, investing time in building associate loyalty is a prudent endeavor.

For an executive trying to create differentiation in a competitive space, the leader will find value in frequently and honestly answering one question. “How much do people like working for you?” Loyalty (and engagement) aren’t about a willingness to work for a leader, loyalty is defined by wanting to work for a leader.

That kind of loyalty only grows in the fertile ground of trust. People work with someone they respect, they follow someone they trust. That means while a leader ascends the career ladder, authentic engagement, transparent communication, and personal involvement with the team remain priorities.

This journey isn’t about gaining popularity. Loyalty isn’t the result of giving people everything they want. Loyalty grows from giving people what they need. A leader’s associate satisfaction score grows when a leader stays engaged, speaks the truth, promotes autonomy, accepts responsibility, and practices accountability.1

Asking, listening, and acting are a sure path to creating loyalty—with a customer and with a team.

1 Harvard Business Review, Proven Ways to Earn Your Employee’s Trust, by Carolyn O’Hara, June 27, 2014.

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Putting a New Edge on Ockham’s Razor

Category : 2017

Hanlon’s is funny – “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”

Alder’s is allegedly sharper – “If something cannot be settled by experiment or observation, it is not worthy of debate.”

Rand’s is a bit of a head-scratcher – “Concepts are not to be multiplied beyond necessity, nor are they to be integrated in disregard of necessity.” Huh?

But since the 14th century, Ockham’s razor has sliced through more layers of complexity than any other philosophy. Friar and philosopher William Ockham proposed that “among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.”

If Ockham were sitting in a corporate board room instead of his convent, he’d likely say something like, “Simplicity and focus lead to the best outcomes . Don’t waste time assuming anything, especially that more options result in better choices.”

Companies often use assumptions to complicate the selection of a search firm . . . assumtions like-

  • Bigger is better. Individual search practitioners – not the size of the firm drive search success and produce results.
  • Diversified service offerings like assessments, leadership development, and succession consulting lead to a more effective search.  Staying with Ockham’s theme, people supporting diversified services are not actively engaged in an executive search. Complexity doesn’t generally produce efficiency.
  • Search firm brands attract talent. The best search leaders use resourcefulness, relationships, and hard work to find the best talent and effectively present a role to the candidate as a valid career option.
  • Contingency firms are the most cost effective way to complete a search. A “contingency” is an event that cannot be predicted with certainty.  To be retained is to be “engaged in one’s service.” The second option sounds more like you will get singular attention and meet a few of the best talent, not meet a parade of options in an effort to fill an order.
  • Global search firms are best suited to perform domestically based roles. While an international pedigree is impressive, if your search is in Atlanta, a firm’s offices in Dubai and Singapore won’t be much help.

In a quest for simplicity, here is our point. The focus at Leapfrog Executive Search is retained search for key HR leadership roles – the same focus we’ve had for over 16 years. Clients value our ability to simplify the search process, identify the ideal candidate, and build client relationships with excellence. The result is consistently exceptional outcomes. Or simply stated – clients get the quality of talent they expect and the dedicated attention their executive search deserves.

Call us today to discover why companies continue to trust us to fill their most important HR roles.

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You Can’t Build a Puzzle if all the Pieces are Round

Category : 2017

Those jigsaw puzzles with pieces that are all the same size and shape were designed by people who love to inflict pain on others. Imagine what kind of person would create a puzzle with pieces that are only round. That person seems to be driving how teams are built in companies today . . .

From Starbucks to Salesforce to Staples, workplace diversity is getting some much-needed attention. The Census Bureau says the U.S. population is over 35 percent multicultural. That fact and some uncomfortable analytics are promoting companies to actively pursue greater diversity in their teams.

Beyond it being the right thing to do, building greater diversity across our enterprises has a direct impact on results. McKinsey & Company found “a linear relationship between racial and ethnic diversity and better financial performance: for every 10 percent increase in racial and ethnic diversity on the senior-executive team, earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) rise 0.8 percent.” Boston Consulting Group’s study of 171 companies found “a clear relationship between the diversity of companies’ management teams and the revenues they get from innovative products and services.”

But one dimension of diversity we don’t hear much about—where the round puzzle piece is dominant, is cognitive diversity. Harvard Business Review researchers Alison Reynolds and David Lewis define cognitive diversity as “how individuals think about and engage with new, uncertain, and complex situations.”1

The impact of cultural diversity is lost if companies continue to hire “in their own image” or if recruiters take the safe route and only present candidates who are highly skilled and highly compliant. To streamline and accelerate decision-making, many senior leaders build teams of executives that think alike and readily agree, when what they need is a better process for making decisions within highly divergent points of view.

From problem solving to decision making to innovation to market expansion, executive teams accomplish more when there is both cultural diversity and cognitive diversity. In other words, the most productive teams don’t readily agree. They engage in what Patrick Lencioni calls “productive, ideological conflict: passionate, unfiltered debate around issues of importance.”

That kind of diversity will make people uneasy. It will challenge the insecure. Cognitive diversity will force static organizations to change their xenophobic cultures and willingly consider issues from multiple angles, giving equal consideration to unpopular options when making decisions that solve real problems and accelerate profitable growth.

Cognitive diversity is apparent in teams that pursue—

  • Collaboration more than cohesion.
  • Alignment more than agreement.
  • Unity of purpose more than unanimity of thought.

Regina Dugan, head of Facebook’s secretive Building 8 hardware team is right. “You have to get to the place where you aren’t made comfortable by the fact that everyone is the same, but rather feel inspired by how different we are.”

Executive branding helps a leader define that difference and use it productively to advance a career—and bring value to an enterprise.

1Harvard Business Review, March 30, 2017. Teams Solve Problems Faster When They’re Cognitively Diverse. https://hbr.org/2017/03/teams-solve-problems-faster-when-theyre-more-cognitively-diverse