Please welcome Mark McMillan back as a returning contributor to the HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board. Mark is co-founder of Talent Function, where he combines executive coaching expertise with ten years of recruitment software industry experience. He started his software career for the Oracle Corporation and later joined BrassRing as a Director of Strategy and Business Development. Full Bio…
I recently read Pete Carol’s book on leadership, Win Forever. Pete Carol is the head coach of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. The autobiography chronicles the evolution of his leadership through his failures and successes as a professional football coach. The book ended up leading me through a very confronting exercise.
Pete Carol’s leadership epiphany came after his firing by the New England Patriots– the second time he’d been fired by an NFL franchise. Searching for answers, he reviewed the works of legendary college basketball coach, John Wooden. Like Carol, Wooden had several undistinguished years at UCLA prior to winning his first [of ten] championships.
“Coach Wooden’s real breakthrough came the moment he had developed his philosophy in a full, complete, and systematic way….He had figured out absolutely everything about his program–his belief system, his philosophy, his delivery, and a million other details that made his first championship possible. He had done more than just become aware of all those details inside his own mind. He had refined them to the point that he could explain them to the people around him.” (Win Forever, Pete Carroll, page 70.)
Fully articulate your philosophy. Write everything down. It sounds dead obvious, doesn’t it? I decided to give it a try as if were leading a recruiting function. Giving it a try delayed this article by three weeks. This is my final result.
It was way more difficult than I would have imagined. Boiling down my beliefs and priorities forced me to review my experiences about what’s worked and what hasn’t. There is something inherently intimidating about it.
Have you fully articulated your philosophy? I work most frequently with leaders of the staffing function. I commonly see energy invested into the development of operating manuals that detail the recruitment process. Absent is the articulation of a leadership style or underlying philosophy. Most of the philosophy goes unstated.
Am I advocating the production of some slick, over-produced poster that sits in the recruiting conference room? No, I’m not. When I was an employee nothing made me feel more like a cube-dwelling wage slave that needed cheering up than programmatic “culture” collateral. The real value here is to go through the process as a way of clarifying your philosophy and the details of how things should work to define your leadership.
The recruiting domain is one of the most transient outposts in a business. A constantly changing recruiting staff engages with managers that recruit sporadically. It’s a petri dish of miscommunication. The ability to clearly articulate what you believe is a powerful tool to build effective recruiting teams. While I don’t believe in posters, I do believe you should be able to draw up your philosophy on a dry erase board with a moment’s notice. If you can demonstrate that you know what you are doing on the back of a napkin, then a manager will probably let you lead. Your contract recruiters will “get you” pretty quickly. Clarity produces resonance.
Professionals that produce at a high level have systems that are based on clear philosophies. A clear philosophy is like a piece of sculpture. You chip away at it. You look at if from different angles. You build it to reflect ideas. You infuse it with your experience.
And when it’s done, the piece has its own identity that captivates and inspires others. Because, leadership is about what happens when you’re not there.