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In the game of football, perspective is important.  That is where the leader of the team — the head coach on the sidelines – has a headset so he can communicate with colleagues high above the field in the press box.  They have a different perspective than he does as to what’s happening on the field so they can see things he cannot see on the sidelines.

perpsectiveIn bigger stadiums the press box affords coaches many amenities, complimentary food and nice restrooms.  They also have improved perspective because they can be 400 or 500 feet above the stadium.  In smaller stadiums the press box is much less lavish, some not much bigger than a walk-in closet.  The coaches that frequent these more primitive facilities do not have the same height advantage because often they are less than one hundred feet up.  They have headsets and two-way communication but because the stadium is so much smaller they could probably yell at their colleagues working the sidelines.

I share these observations because there are some interesting comparisons with the leadership of business and career management.

Running a small business, I would argue, can be much tougher than guiding a large corporation.  Ample resources and support infrastructure can significantly improve an executive’s ability to have access to  sufficient data and perspective to make the right decisions.  Smaller companies, especially start-ups, have fewer people to rely on, they may have access to data but small mistakes in interpretation can, and probably will, crash to the organization’s bottom line.

Adequate resources, seasoned talent, and the ability to see the playing field more clearly — good perspective — all improve the chances for continued success, or at least more wins than losses, assuming the right supporting team members are in place.

Executives in a job search are much like the coaches on the sidelines, they see and hear but they do not always have the benefit that perspective brings from being on high and watching the interview unfold.  Because they lack this type of perspective, many miss scoring opportunities with their answers.

Here is a good example.  A bright, well pressed executive showed up for an interview.  He spoke well but when asked how he would approach dealing with a potential employer’s reputation for having a silo-ed  culture with ongoing battles over turf, and people and technology that did not talk to one another, he struggled with an answer.  It was as if he had no real experience with dysfunction except that, in fact, he was coming from a company with similar characteristics.

The CEO who was leading the recruiting had charged his search team to find executives with the experience, insight and desire to change the culture by tearing down silos and promoting improved communications — people and technology.  This would be a major rebuilding campaign and he wanted his core hires to have a strong appreciation for a better way to organize and operate the business.  The reason this candidate was in the market was because he was exhausted by his current employer’s toxic cultural with ever intensifying turf battles.

Our well turned out candidate fit the selection criteria bill in many ways but because he was not adequately prepared for the interview, because he failed to do his homework about the company he was interviewing with, he missed the boat, along with an officers title and a nice 20 percent boost in base salary.  If only his career coach high above the interview room had whispered in his headset to emphasize his experience in dealing with this kind of infected workplace.

Preparation is the friend of good perspective and is essential for improved performance.  If the otherwise impressive candidate had done research he would have known what the recruiters were really looking for and could have hit the ball out of the park with his answer – that he had a deep understanding of the problems in such a dysfunctional company because for the past 5 years he had lived in that dysfunction.  He thought that if there were issues he should be aware of that he would be told.

The harried recruiter assigned by HR to find candidates did not make the CEO’s focus crystal clear and in the end, there was missed opportunity.