Posts Tagged ‘Dan Erling’

Improve your organizational performance by making great hires

The CausePlanet team invited me to respond to the Page to Practice™ book summary of Match: A Systematic Sane Process for Hiring the Right Person Every Time by Dan Erling. I would agree with Erling that human capital is the single most important factor in accelerating a nonprofit organization’s mission performance. His book outlines accepted and tested best practices in identifying, hiring and retaining talent. Nonprofits should not underestimate the competitive environment for the very best employees or the costs of making the wrong hire. Nonprofit CEOs who focus on hiring processes and provide leadership for these best practices will see gains in organizational efficiency and impact through a more motivated and skilled staff.

However, to many executive directors and CEOs of smaller nonprofits, this approach to hiring may sound like a process that is only suited for large organizations. Actually, the inverse is true. The smaller the organization, the more critical it is to consistently build focus and discipline around hiring processes. The cost and impact of making the wrong choice is much greater when the organization is smaller.

While having a disciplined and consistent comprehensive process for hiring is important, there are three aspects that are critical and often overlooked. When talking with organizations about hires that did not work or when interviewing individuals who have exited positions that did not fit, it is usually one of the following three aspects of the search process that was neglected:

  • The Foundation: mission, strategic direction and organizational alignment
  • Choice: sourcing to build an applicant pool
  • Results: starting with the end in mind

The Foundation: mission, strategic direction and organizational alignment

Making the right hire begins with an understanding of the mission, as well as clarity about where this organization is in it lifecycle and its intended strategic direction. During work on over twenty searches over the last six years, boards and/or staff usually articulate a need for changes in how the organization functions, key success indicators and outcomes. It’s only by discussing the mission, whom a nonprofit hopes to serve, the outcomes to be achieved and how the next stage of the organization’s development differs from the last that the desired change becomes concrete, a tangible set of skills and attributes. These discussions about the foundational elements of the nonprofit also test the alignment and support for this future direction and enhance performance on the mission. Are the board, staff and key stakeholders all supporting the same direction, strategic vision and next steps for this organization? If not, how will these differences be addressed prior to filling an important position? Clarity regarding these most fundamental elements is critically important before proceeding with a search.

Choice: sourcing to build an applicant pool

Frequently, we make the wrong hire when we feel pressured to fill a position and settle on a candidate who lacks important skills or attributes. It’s easy to talk yourself or a team into picking the best from a group of applicants who do not fit the position.

Dan Erling talks about strategies for expanding the pool with diversified advertising strategies. Researching the best websites, association list serves and social media strategies for advertising a job can broaden the pool of applicants. However, you are only reaching people who want to find a job or change jobs. In all likelihood, the most qualified candidates are not looking and will not apply for the position you posted.

To reach this highly qualified cohort, sourcing is required. Sourcing is an action plan for reaching those individuals who may be ideal candidates for the job or know where to find those candidates. Review your contacts and identify at least 20people who are outstanding at the job you are seeking to fill or know people who have mastered the skills and attributes your position requires. Send each of these individuals the position description for the job and schedule a time to talk. Solicit feedback on the job, sources for candidates, and names of specific individuals and ask them to forward the position description to their key contacts. Follow up on suggestions and continue to network. This strategy will lead to individuals who are not in the job market and may never have heard of this opportunity without these networking efforts.

Results: starting with the end in mind

How will you measure the success of this position? What would a superstar accomplish in this job during the first 6 months, by the end of year one or two? What are the most important outcomes to accomplish first? What rate of change does the organization expect and/or require?

It is amazing how often I talk with someone new to their job (and regularly these are CEOs) who have no quantified performance outcomes. Frequently they are spending their first year on the job defining the job! How often do we set up a new hire for failure by failing to define success?

Part of the task when writing a position description is to prioritize the outcomes for year one and quantify the performance. If the team (board and/or staff) working on the position description cannot agree on either the outcomes or the measures, keep working. Failure to agree on this most fundamental statement of what the job will do for the organization means there is a lack of alignment regarding the role. Until that alignment is achieved, it’s unlikely anyone can succeed in the job. Do not make assumptions regarding outcomes; quantify the results your organization needs!

See also:

Winning with a Culture of Recognition

Fired Up or Burned Out

Nine Minutes on Monday

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Withstand unreliable times by making “people smart” choices

The article that follows by Tommy Spaulding tells a brief story about CEO, Ray Hunt, of Hunt Consolidated, Inc. Ray is a terrific example of the best practices author Dan Erling shares in Match: A Systematic, Sane Process for Hiring the Right Person Every Time.

Numerous studies report that the most successful companies are those run by leaders who understand that people are the most important part of the business equation. Despite these reports, CEOs still do not prioritize the hiring process and end up losing precious time and money. Losses in recruiting, training, and productivity can be staggering—up to 13 times that person’s salary and more for managerial or revenue-generating positions, says Erling.

Transformative leaders take something great and make it greater. Ray Hunt is a transformative leader. The Texas-based oil company was founded by Hunt’s father in 1934 and stands today as a testimony to the wisdom of what he calls “people smart” leadership.

Mr. Hunt, now in his late 60s, serves as the chairman, president and CEO of Hunt Consolidated, Inc., the parent company that oversees what’s grown into a multi-billion-dollar family of businesses. Chris Kleinert, the president and CEO of Hunt Consolidated Investments, introduced me to Mr. Hunt. Chris and I met when I spoke to the Young Presidents’ Organization, and Chris invited me to speak during the annual meeting of Hunt’s top 150 managers. I flew to Dallas the day before the conference and Chris introduced me to Hunter Hunt, the president and CEO of Hunt Consolidated Energy, and to Chris’s father-in-law, Ray, so that they could give me a better feel for the history of the company.

Since 1974, the Hunt family business has doubled in revenue and growth every five years and it’s on pace to do it again. In good economies and slow economies, the Hunts have not only survived but grown. They now have more than 3,000 employees and a diversified assortment of business interests that help drive that growth. But with such growth comes challenges, and it didn’t take me long to understand why Ray Hunt has been so adept at facing and meeting those challenges.

First of all, Mr. Hunt proves success doesn’t have to strangle humility. He is a gentle, soft-spoken, humble Texan–a world-class gentleman with a servant’s heart. I’m sure he’s had his moments of imperfection just like the rest of us, but it only took a few minutes with him to realize the authenticity of his character. That’s what drives his leadership: he cares about people.

In fact, Mr. Hunt made it clear that being “people smart” has been the key to his organization’s success. He pointed out, for instance, that he has nothing against people with doctorate degrees, but that he could only think of one person he’d ever hired who had that level of formal education. Instead, he’s done just fine by hiring based more on work ethic, communication skills and shared values. “If you can build with that,” he told me, “growth happens.”

One of the “five basic characteristics” stressed in the Hunt companies is “a strong corporate culture.” When a company’s employees operate with shared personal values and work ethic, they attract others who share those values, and that’s how you grow a strong, competent workforce.

When I met Mr. Hunt, he talked about viewing employees as family members, about hiring the right people and about focusing on building the right type of “corporate culture.” In fact, he must have mentioned “corporate culture” a dozen times in the 15 minutes he spoke about Hunt Consolidated. Frankly, it seemed almost obsessive. But in an organization racing forward so fast, Mr. Hunt knows the one thing that can take it off track is for it to stray from the values and culture that led to its success.

Mr. Hunt believes that a Chairman and CEO’s greatest responsibility is to protect its “corporate culture.” And it is also important to make sure the succession plan is in sync with the company’s values. Having spent time with Chris Kleinert and Hunter Hunt, Hunt Consolidated, Inc. is in good hands. They share Mr. Hunt’s passion for people-smart leadership that starts at the top and works its way down to every level of the constantly growing organization. He’s set them up for continued success, and their shared commitment to his principles no doubt will drive the company’s growth for years to come.

A candidate who fits your culture is as important as one who has the hard and soft skills you require, says Dan Erling. Assess your culture within the department where the new position will be filled and the nonprofit as a whole. Evaluating your own culture is very difficult because you work within it every day. Using any one of the tools available online or Erling’s scorecard will help you uncover important surprises that may impact your hiring decision.

See also:

Match: A Systematic, Sane Process for Hiring the Right Person Every Time

It’s Not Just Who You Know


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