New Year's day began for me with the early morning sun streaming through the hotel windows, blue sky and puffy clouds floating above
a choppy Gulf of Mexico below, the Rose Parade on the television in the background and a few brave sailors tacking their way across the water. The scene simultaneously offered a calming peace - assurance that life is good and all is well - and promised excitement - while the sailing may not be smooth, the waters are navigable nonetheless.
As you hoist the sails for 2011, my best advice is get ready to GO. All indications in the executive recruiting world are that the new year promises to be a busy one. Businesses that survived 2009 in a bunker, and spent 2010 with skeleton crews to keep expenses down - just in case - are more serious than ever about filling significant leadership roles. And executive professionals who believe they have weathered the economic storm and are now open to new opportunities.
So, where does one begin? Whether you are an organizational leader tasked with building or rebuilding a management team or an individual seeking a new professional challenge, here are a few thoughts that might help you get the ball rolling.
As a business leader:
1. First, set the course. By now most organizations have defined larger business strategies that revolve around revenue goals, organizational size, market share, or geographic reach.
2. Now determine which key roles must be created, filled or changed out to enable the organization to accomplish that strategy. This can be difficult for many reasons. The organization's leaders may not be ready to let go of the cash required to fill a role that they've managed without for two or three years. Or maybe the redistribution of responsibilities appears to have been working - but rest assured those employees who've been holding down the fort are getting really tired and they will start looking at other opportunities. Or underperformers have neglected to improve and are holding the organization hostage with their limited capabilities because no one is up to the difficult conversation.
3. Share the plan, to the extent possible, particularly with those who will be most directly impacted. I often speak with professionals whose greatest frustration is that no one has bothered to share with them the visionary business goals or how the leadership team views their contribution to the organization. Most people won't drive in high gear in a fog.
4. The speed of the leader is the speed of the group...so organizational leaders must set the pace on focus, effort, work ethic, and integrity.
5. Finally, get on with it. Whatever you as the organizational leader say you are going to do, get going. Indecisiveness and inaction will kill the motivation of the team. Regardless of what lofty statements may be made, nothing really counts except the actions of those asking others to row, row, row.
As a prospective candidate:
1. (No, updating the resume does not come first.) Step one is to think. Think about what you really want to achieve professionally. Put together you own personal business plan. What must your current organization look like for you to achieve that goal? What do you need to change about your professional skills, your interpersonal skills, or even your presentation to convince others you are capable of doing what you say you can? Are you willing to relocate and is everyone in the household on board with that plan?
2. If you can accomplish at least part of your goal with your current organization, start there. Don't believe the proposition that frequent job changes in "my" specialty are industry standard. Nonsense. Most prospective employers consider frequent job changes a non-starter.
3. Now update the resume ensuring that it does not read like a job description. Include information about your accomplishments for each employer, geographic/multi-location reach of the role, appropriate and relevant metrics of success, the size and breadth of the team you manage, to whom you report, as well as other internal clients you influence and serve. And make it easy on the reader: bullet points are ideal and will draw the reader in whereas paragraphs over three lines will barely receive a glance.
4. Then reach out in confidence to professional colleagues and recruiters. Let them know about your desires and ambitions, the types of organizations of interest to you, and how you believe you could contribute. An occasional e-mail reminder might be appropriate - you don't want to overdo staying in touch - but be sure to answer the phone when it rings.
5. And when you land that new role...row, row, row.