“Like saluting the flag or bowing your head in church, there is no cost to being insincere.”
Today we will focus first on how important it is for leaders to set the example for their team by modeling the right behaviors through action and communication.
In segment two, we will look at the three things executives in transition should worry about when they meet their outplacement coach for the first time.
Our opening line — “Like saluting the flag or bowing your head in church, there is no cost to being insincere” — came from Wall Street Journal columnist and editorial board member Holman Jenkins, Jr. It was taken from a column he wrote last Saturday regarding President Trump’s decision to leave the Paris accord climate agreement in four years. While the President’s decision has been extremely controversial, it is not the focus of this SelfPerspective episode. Rather, we are going to look at the critical importance of modeling positive and authentic mission-driven behaviors in being an effective leader.
The most important word in that last sentence is ‘authentic.’ If you are not authentic — if you are not sincere and truthful — in the types of behavior that you say are important, or with the methods you use to communicate their intrinsic value, your colleagues and your employees will be able to sense it a mile away. And employees hate frauds. They will not do their best work for those kinds of executives. In fact, most will find a way to get out, if possible.
So there is definitely a cost for insincerity for senior executives who fail this important test.
Like working in a hospital or caring for patients, leadership is a privilege, not a right. It is not some executive entitlement with a hefty salary and incentive plan, although far too many CEOs act as if that were the case. Being a CEO, or a member of the senior leadership team, is not something you deserve — or a position you should hold on to — just because you excel at command and control, or because you are exceptionally good at whipping an organization into shape with a take-no-prisoners approach.
Leadership is an “all-eyes-are-on-you” experience. You cannot be someone you are not, nor should you say things and model behaviors that you do not care deeply about. So if your values and beliefs are not aligned with the spirit and the letter of the organization’s mission, vision and values, you need to take a step back and think carefully about whether this is a place or role you should be in.
Moreover this is a point where many CEOs stub their toes: being a leader is not about you. It is about the CEO placing his or her employees first, followed by the quality and value of the product and the exceptional service the team delivers.
There are certainly critics of this employee first, behavior-modeling style of leadership. For them, the only reason you should be in business is to make money. And while that is certainly an immutable business truth, many CEOs use that line as an excuse to focus only on the money. They grind away on the metrics. They pummel their team with criticism and threats when they do not perform. The money that should be invested in their people is thought to be just an unnecessary expense that eats away at the bottom line.
That type of approach to leadership exists, but it is horribly misguided. It will lead to diminished performance over time, financially and with customer service, and organizations with that culture usually short-change their bottom line with the high cost of turnover.
You have to be sincere, you have to be authentic, and you have to set a good example for your team, not just go through the motions with behaviors and communications that fail to ring true.
Herb Kelleher, one of the founders of Southwest Airlines, offered up one of my favorite quotes to define his values for his company. It is a favorite of mine not because it has a nice ring to it, but because Herb, as his employees called him, believed it. He modeled this behavior every day: “If you take care of your people, they will take care of your customers, and the customers will take care of your investors.”
For Herb that was from the heart. He was sincere. The result was that his team and loyal customer base rewarded the company’s investors many times over.
The behaviors you model as a CEO, as a member of the senior team, or an aspiring executive, should be authentic — they should be truthful — and they should inspire the trust of your team members.
Again, you can’t just show up and go through the motions — doing and saying those things you think your team wants to hear. You must be authentic — truthful — and if you are, your team will trust you and they will make your customers and your investors happy.
Next on SelfPerspective, three things an executive in transition should worry about if he hears his outplacement coach say.
With the ongoing consolidation and contraction in several business sectors, including healthcare, the outplacement business continues to thrive.
Outplacement, for those of you who do not know, is a consulting service designed to help an executive or manager transition from one position to the next. The services provided by outplacement coaches or consultants include resume preparation, support in developing or expanding professional networks and of social media to connect with recruiters or potential employers, and advice on the art of interviewing.
As is the case with most service industries, the quality of the services varies widely, both in terms of price and the quality of the advice.
Hopefully as an executive you have not had too much experience with outplacement firms. So today we want to share with you three things that should give you pause when working with your consultant.
Well, not really. Having a coach with industry perspective is important. Running a concrete plant is not the same as running a hospital. There are, how should we say, certain nuanced differences in the business model. Not having a coach with specific industry experience will affect your overall preparation, as well as your marketing strategy in addressing any career glitches. You need to work with someone who has been there. Who has a feel for the issues and can give you meaningful advice about dealing with sensitive topics, like how to deal with short tenures, terminations for cause, contacts at search firms, etc.
Some firms that offer clients bargain basement professional fees for outplacement work on scale. If you are a healthcare executive, attending a class of 15 to 20 newly terminated or laid off manufacturing supervisors, inside sales managers, or warehouse managers, listening to some general information lecture is not going to give you anything you need for a successful, high-level executive search. When evaluating a firm to guide your transition, ask about the industry expertise of the consultant and whether there will be one-on-one coaching. If you are being dumped into a career coaching mosh pit, demand a better deal from your HR, or just ask for the money it would cost instead so you can hire someone who will really help you. Let’s be honest, some companies look for the best deal — the cheapest deal — for outplacement. It has less to do with helping you make the transition. The outplacement fee the company pays to the consultant is more about assuaging their guilt.
Far too many outplacement firms seem to believe that their real value to the candidate is constructing a new winning resume because they see it as a tangible piece of the process that their clients can hold and touch. However, unless the consultant is willing to invest the time to get to know the candidate and their strengths and the quantifiable proof of experience and success, the resume, more often than not, misses the mark.
So many of the candidates resumes that we receive from outplacement firms are just average. Most do not convey a candidate’s true value, and in a very competitive job market, that is a problem.
The process should begin with the outplacement consultant trying to understand a candidate’s signature strengths and uncovering the evidence that confirms that profile.
Nancy Swain, a consultant who has been successfully coaching executives through transitions for more than 20 years, adamantly believes that until you understand the candidate’s value proposition, you cannot possibly develop the kind of resume that will speak effectively for the candidate in the first round of the search when they are not present — the resume review. That is the phase of the recruitment process where most candidates are eliminated.
By getting the candidate to develop their value proposition, and provide the quantifiable proof of their strengths, the consultant is helping them be more effective in communicating the winning reason why they should be hired over the 60 or 70 other applicants.
Once they understand the candidate’s value, that is when they can start building a resume.
When a candidate understands his or her value proposition, they become better communicators, and the best communicators are the ones who get the job significantly more often than those who struggle in the interviews trying to explain their real value to the organization.
Remember, in the outplacement coaching industry experience does matter and delivering the outplacement services in a one-on-one format with the executive is essential. Finally, the most important element of helping an executive transition is not just building a new resume. If you are in transition you must start the process by understanding your value proposition so that you can communicate yours better than anyone else in the process. That means understanding the employer’s needs by connecting the dots between your experience and your accomplishments and how they meet those employer’s needs.
That’s it for this week’s podcast. Join me tomorrow for our SelfPerspective blog on www.johngself.com or LinkedIn. If you are a subscriber, click the subscriber link on our blog page at johngself.com and you will receive a notification after 11 AM Central Time on Tuesdays and Thursdays when a new post is published. On Saturday, join us for another career management video on my YouTube channel.
If you have any questions or comments, you can reach me at AsktheRecruiter@JohnGSelf.Com.
Leadership is built on a foundation of trust. Trust cannot be achieved without truth — in what you say and what you do.
Truthfulness is not a value of convenience.
© 2018 John Gregory Self