Tag Archives: performance

The Ying and the Yang

I am repeating myself. I don’t want to be told who to hire. I am interested in your talent, your aspirations, your ambitions, what motivates, what inspires, what drives you, what you’ve learned, what you want to learn. Your gender has no bearing on my hiring decision.

Nor frankly does your sexuality, religious beliefs, favourite colour, shoe size or football team (well perhaps not entirely true!). I want the very best I can possibly afford for my company. That to me is just simple common sense. Many it would appear do not share my view. Frankly life would be dull if they did.

However the world is changing. Management speak is full of terms such as engagement, retention and diversity. Is this just lip service, or are people really embracing genuine workplace diversity and seeing the value that a range of views, talent, experiences, cultures and perspectives can bring to the workplace?

Long term vision and compelling purpose are topics for discussion as companies gear up post apocalypse for the promise of brighter days ahead. At the same time testosterone would appear to be on the wane in the Boardroom. Statistically this is certainly not the case as yet, but the rallying cry for more women in the boardroom was heard again this week from the CBI and the IoD in the UK.

This video from the always excellent TedTalks, evidences just how women are out performing men in so many areas of society today. I for one am delighted. The wider and deeper the talent pool, the easier my job.

If you want to attract the very best, if you truly want to succeed, then open your mind. A successful business today needs to combine the very best that Mars and Venus has to offer. It should not be about Men OR Women, it should be about Men AND Women.


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Filed under Hiring

Interview Nick Bollettieri Head Coach, IMG Performance Institute

Sport is a metaphor for life.  The emotions, the commitment, the effort, the highs, the lows, the blood, the sweat, the tears, the bouquets, the brickbats.  Follow a sport, play a sport, you can experience all that life can offer in ninety minutes, five hours, a day, five days.  There is much business can learn from sport and vice versa, not least sport would appear to acknowledge that the best players are not guaranteed to make the best managers.

Nick Bollettieri is one of those people who has managed tremendous success from the business of sport.  An American Tennis Coach, he has taken the likes of Jim Courier, Andre Agassi, Monica Seles and Mary Pierce to the world number one spot.

For those of you that aren’t familiar, MeetTheBoss.tv  is a great resource for all things Executive Leadership and Management Training.  Click on the link below for the full interview and here some great content from Nick on the lessons he has taken from a career in business and sport working with some of the world’s greatest talent.  You can subscribe for free, its more than worth the key strokes.

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Filed under Leadership, Talent, Uncategorized

What price great performance?

A report out this week highlights lifetime bonuses for NHS Consultants.  Let me say that slowly,

LIFE          TIME          BONUSES

That means exactly what it says.  Large pay bonuses cannot be taken away from doctors, even if their performance deteriorates.

More than half of the 36,000 consultants in England receive “lifetime” awards on top of their £89,400 basic pay, worth more than £75,000 a year to the best-performing consultants.

I am not making a judgement as to the worth of a Doctor.  Sure, I question the world in which we live where we reward a Banker above that of a Doctor, or for that matter a Nurse or Carer.  You cannot place a value on saving a human life.  What I question is any environment in which bonuses are not bonuses but an entitlement.  This is not the fault of Doctors but the fault of Management and in particular a lack of leadership.

It is a responsibility of leadership to understand what constitutes great performance.  It is a responsibility of leadership to communicate that understanding, to ensure everybody knows what great performance looks like,  how its measured, how it’s evidenced.  It is a responsibility of leadership to create the conditions for great performance, to create a culture of recognition and compensation that rewards great performance.    Set stretching goals and objectives.  Give people every chance to realise those goals, incentivise them to reach those goals and reward handsomely when they reach them.

Bonuses should be the exception, not the norm.  The norm is what you get paid your salary for.  The norm is what you get paid for turning up and doing your very best every day.  A bonus should not be something to which you are entitled, but something that you earn for doing something exceptional.  A bonus should be exactly that.  A bonus.

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Filed under Employee Engagement, Leadership

Your date of birth does not define you, your attitude does

Last week the UK Government announced plans to scrap the default retirement age of 65 with effect from April 2011.  From a personal point of view, this is a really positive decision.  I am a huge advocate of the freedom to choose, for the individual to be able to make their own decisions based on their own circumstances as opposed to having legislation forcing such decisions.  What however is the impact on employment?

Succession planning is clearly impacted by this decision.  Currently business are forced to focus on succession planning by legislation.  The benefit of the DRA is in the creation of a specific timeframe that businesses can work to.  The impact of the scrapping of the DRA may create some confusion, but it will force employers and employees to have open, frank discussions about plans and intentions for the good of all.  Surely a positive development.

The impact on management style and technique is positive.  Succession planning, talent management and in particular employee engagement and retention of key staff will be forced to the top of the business agenda (frankly they should be their anyway, but they are not).  The fact that employees are not retiring at 65 may create a block on opportunity for those younger employees who had been picked out to succeed the retiree.  The positive will be that organisations will have to genuinely engage with people (as opposed to paying lip service) to understand their ambitions and focus on initiatives that ensure they remain engaged, motivated and retained.  Organisations are going to have to come up with ever more innovative ways of retaining top talent to succeed.

We are going to have to get a whole lot better at performance management.  This change will force us to address the underperforming 64-year-old in the same way we should be managing the underperforming 30-year-old, rather than simply letting time take care of things.

With a number of notable exceptions (professional sports like Football and Rugby spring to mind), talent is not defined by age.  What matters is your attitude.  As a boy I had two incredible grandmothers, both of whom I adored.  From my earliest memories, one always appeared old.  She dressed “old”, acted “old”, didn’t like change, kept to a routine, was not physically active and remained that way for the 35 or so years I was fortunate to have had her in my life.  The other was the complete opposite, lively, positive, fit, active, happy to give anything a go, to go anywhere, to take on new experiences, she loved to see how technology was evolving and how we were using it even as kids (I remember that Atari oh so well!) and she stayed that way until the day she passed away.  They died at roughly the same age, and yet they were generations apart.

Assuming you are fit and healthy, age should not be a limiting factor in the workplace.  I know immature 50 year olds and people in their teens with maturity beyond their years.  I have a great – grandmother (in law) in her eighties with a netbook, ipod and facebook profile who surfs the net every morning and I have a 37-year-old friend who cannot SMS.  I have a father in his 60’s who texts in a language only my 15-year-old nephew can understand!

My point is that age does not define us.  We are living longer.  Technology is an integral part of our lives, our ability to utilise it is not dictated by our age but by our attitude, by our willingness to embrace change, to engage with new tools.  Our contribution in the workplace is not defined by age.    We should be free to work on our terms for as long as we want to, as long as we are contributing and adding value to our employers, colleagues and customers and ourselves.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Louis Armstrong who sums this issue up perfectly….

“There is no such thing as ‘on the way out’ as long as you are still doing something interesting and good; you’re in the business because you’re breathing”


Filed under Careers, Talent

In pursuit of happiness

This week the Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered “the most austere budget in a generation”.  He had to.  The UK has run up an enormous debt in excess of £900 billion, or 62% of GDP.  This has to be paid for and fast if we are to avoid disastrous consequences for the UK economy. 

News of Britains economic gloom is everywhere.  Even the World Cup doesnt escape scrutiny as the nations commentators grapple with how much of a contribution to GDP England flags on cars make.  We are obsessed by tangible measurement.  GDP and quarterly economic growth figures seem to be the cause of much of this obsession.

Are we measuring the wrong thing?  Business has for a long time been based on performance against tangible, quantifiable metrics.  Business is all about the numbers, performance against budget, the p and l, the strength of the balance sheet, returns to shareholders.  This is the language of business, but are we speaking the right language? 

Little it would appear gets done in business unless there is a metric that can be applied to measure perceived success.  However it matters not how good the product or service, if you don’t have fantastically engaged people through which to deliver to customers to achieve great things then all the measurements in the world count for little. 

Happy employees will do incredible things to contribute to the success of not only the organisation orbusiness but indeed to society as a whole.  Should we therefore be looking at ways in which we can measure happiness? 

“Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted” – Albert Einstein. 

I was inspired to write this by Chip Conley, founder and CEO of Hotel Group Joie de Vivre.  His TedTalk “Measuring what makes life worthwhile” focused on exactly this topic and I make no apology for taking much of his material in this piece.  I could not be in stronger agreement.  Check his presentation out via the following url;


Business is all about people.  Life is all about people.  Somewhere along the way this appears to have been forgotten amongst the numbers and a constant quest for tangible measurement. 

In Chips presentation he quotes a recent study whereby 94% of global business leaders recognised the intangible elements in their business, such as intellectual property, brand loyalty and corporate culture were the most critical to their success.  Included in this is employee happiness.  A happy employee is a productive one. 

For success in business, leaders need to create an environment that encourages people to flourish, to communicate, to interact, to get involved, to have fun.  The more we measure the more stress and pressure we introduce.  Conley quotes the King of Bhutan who aged 17 in 1972 introduced the concept of Gross National Happiness to try and remove the obsession with GDP as the only real measure of success.  He quotes Robert Kennedy who said of GDP

“It measures everything in short except that which makes life worthwhile”. 

We need our Business Leaders to create environments in which people can be people, not slaves to numbers.  We need our political leaders to do the same.  We need to be inspiring and to be inspired.  Lets stop obsessing with measurement and get balance and perspective back in to the world.  Lets start having fun again and watch people and as a consequence economies flourish.

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Filed under Careers, Employee Engagement

Emotional Intelligence is the future.

A regular feature of my blog centres around hiring for experience and firing for attitude.  I have also reflected on the lack of planning that goes in to hiring, how often recruitment is a knee jerk reaction to circumstances (usually the result of a “can I have a word meeting”) and therefore lets just go out and get someone.  Hiring is often very hit and miss with too much left to chance.  Some you get right, some you don’t.  The cost to business is huge.

So what can you do to improve your chances of getting it right?  How can you apply a little more science to what is an instinctive, intuitive, gut feel decision?  I have always maintained with clients and indeed with my own hiring decisions that you should trust your instincts.  However process and procedure dictates that we must be ever more considered in our choices and feedback.

Psychometrics is defined by Wikipedia, as “the field of study concerned with the theory and technique of educational and psychological measurement, which includes the measurement of knowledge, abilities, attitudes and personality traits”.  Online research suggests that approximately 70% of Employers are using Psychometric Tests in their recruitment process and undeniably they have a place.  I have long-held the view that what psychometrics give you are the questions to ask, not the answers.  If they are the only tool by which you make your hiring decision they can be flawed.  If however they are the basis for really searching interview questions they can be invaluable and as such a great tool to improve the effectiveness of the hiring process and as a consequence impact on retention and performance.

Increasingly pressure is placed on Recruiting Managers to evidence their ability to identify top talent, in particular in the Executive and leadership space.  The cost of hire is high, the cost of failure is even higher.  There is much research in this regard, but on average the true cost of replacing a Professional or Manager in an organization is equivalent to 12 months pay and benefits.  Take in to account the cost of termination, the recruitment cost of the replacement, the cost of the vacancy (in terms of loss of revenue or the cost of covering the post whilst it remains empty) and perhaps the most costly of all the learning curve productivity loss.  Psychometrics do not guarantee success in the recruitment process, but then can be an invaluable tool and should be used as part of a wholly rigorous recruitment process (more about that another day).

Increasingly as businesses becomes ever more global and crosses cultures I am struck by the part the Emotional Intelligence plays as a Recruitment Tool.  The consultants Haygroup describe emotional intelligence as “the ability to bring out the best in ourselves and others” and as “a crucial part of a leaders repertoire”.  The following is a quote from EI Pioneer Richard Boyatzis in 2008 –

“We find that most of the characteristics that differentiate the outstanding performers are these things that we call social and emotional competencies”.

Emotional Intelligence can be the difference between average and exceptional performance.  As Recruiters are placed under ever-increasing pressure to add value, the ability to identify and recruit exceptional talent and retain that talent to deliver exceptional performance will be critical.  The ability to measure and understand emotional intelligence gives a significant edge in ensuring best fit and there are some incredible tools in the market place.  My sense is that the future of profiling will become ever more focused on the measurement and understanding of emotional intelligence and I for one am a huge advocate.  It is the future of recruitment.


Filed under Recruitment, Talent

When it comes to pay, size does matter.

The issue of Executive Pay is big news. The size of the packet generates many column inches and the media loves to highlight the growing gap between rich and poor. The “b” word is still guaranteed to inflame a myriad of opinions.

This weekend the results of the Pay Report were published, commissioned by the Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Telegraph and Telegraph.co.uk. Executive Pay is at an all time high, driven by the rebound in share prices over the last 12 months. The best paid CEO in the FTSE 100 in 2009 was Bart Recht of Reckitt Benckiser who took home £92.6m, the bulk of which came after he crystallised share options accumulated over the previous 10 years. The remainder of the top five was made up as follows;

Tony Pidgeley Berkely Group £36.4m

Mike Davis Xstrata £25.5m

Frank Chapman BG Group £23m

Bob Diamond BarCap £18m

Big numbers. What this report doesn’t tell us is the amount these 5 or indeed their peers returned to shareholders. This would I suspect help to put things in to perspective. If, as a direct result of actions taken someone was to generate say £50m of profit for their company, they deserve in my view a healthy slice of that £50m by way of a reward. What analysis of the pay report tells us is the impact of the Banking Crisis has seen remuneration committees focus attention on pay for performance. Basic salaries for FTSE 100 CEO’s fell an average of 1% in 2009, with cash bonuses and benefits 28% lower. Share based incentives rose 31pc, leaving total compensation 6% higher at an average of £3.76m.

The good news is that it wasn’t just the CEO’s who earned a bigger slice of the cake. Despite staffing numbers in the FTSE 100 remaining static, wage bills amongst the UK’s largest companies rose 11% in 2009 to £232.67bn. Accepting that not all the 7.35 million people employed by Britain’s top 100 companies are employed in the UK, that is a huge amount of wealth creation, not only in terms of wages for those employed but also in those countries in which they work in terms of tax contributions to the public purse. This is the bit that gets forgotten. With all the headlines generated around large pay packets, nobody stops to ask just how many schools or hospitals tax contribution influenced by Bart Recht paid for. Accepting the against argument will be tax avoidance, non dom status, off shoring or any other smart schemes, he still makes an enormous contribution to the UK public purse and not only in terms of his personal tax bill. More arguably than most of us will make in a lifetime.

So called “self-made” millionaires rarely attract the same vitriol as our corporate “fat cats”. Of course they create wealth and employment through their own efforts, often from nothing. What is the difference between the entrepreneur and the corporate leader? Aren’t both self made? Was Bart Recht given the CEO job at Reckitt Benckiser? Was he born with that opportunity given to him as some kind of silver spoon? Absolutely not. He has, as have virtually all his peers, achieved that position through sheer hard work, determination, bloody mindedness, taking risks, sticking his neck out and putting himself on the corporate line throughout his career. He is now reaping substantial rewards for his actions.

An Entrepreneur sells a company and makes £100 million and good for you is the cry. A Corporate Leader makes the same having delivered returned huge value to his shareholders, (of which pension funds will make up a considerable amount, as a consequence benefiting a huge number of people), created a huge amount of wealth, employment and opportunity whilst at the same time generating huge sums of money for the public purse that contribute enormously to the huge range of public services we enjoy in the UK, not forgetting the huge contributions many such corporations make to charities.

We are quick to criticise our big businesses and their leaders, but there is a tendency to forget that Employers currently pay 12.2% of the its employees gross salaries in National Insurance contributions to the Government just simply for employing people. We need to have the very best individuals leading our very best businesses and being rewarded the very best remuneration in order that we continue to create an environment for jobs and wealth creation across the globe.

How does their worth compare to say a Nurse or a Soldier who earn barely a fraction? Well that is an entirely different debate and one that should be the subject of another blog. However without the likes of Recht Benckiser we would have far fewer nurses and far less soldiers to count on. The bigger the numbers, the better for us all.

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Filed under Remuneration