Wednesday 31 October 2012

The Strength of Weak Links.

Below you can find the second chapter of the book by Rob Symes "First Who, then Woo", Enjoy!

The Strength of Weak Links

“All animals are created equal but some are more equal than others”
George Orwell. Animal Farm

Definition of a Source “ A place, person or thing from which something comes or can be obtained. A person who provides information.”

  Weak links in a career context was thoroughly researched by sociologist Mark Granovetter when he asked a random sample of professionals who had just switched jobs how they found their new opportunity. Of those, who had found their job through a contact, Granovetter then asked how frequently they saw that contact. He asked participants whether they saw the person often (twice a week) occasionally (more than once a year but less than twice a week) or rarely (once a year or less). Only 16% of individuals had found their job through a person they saw often. The rest found their job through a contact they saw occasionally (55%) or rarely (27%). In Granovetter’s words, the contacts that referred jobs successfully were “weak ties.”

  Granovetter’s explanation for this was simple. The stronger your relationship with someone the more likely you are to know what they know: their friends, their restaurants and their job opportunities. This interconnectedness is limiting because you all have the same information. In contrast, weak links are outside the inner circle. They can uniquely serve as bridges to other worlds and pass on information and opportunities you would not hear about otherwise.

  Weak links are also a highly effective method of locating candidates. However, exploiting weak links cannot be done on a whim. It requires a fundamental shift of mind-set.

  Building sources that can bridge you to weak links is different from building traditional friendships. The criteria you use to build friendships is not only unrelated to building a network of sources but will actually harm your chances of being referred to weak links. When you build friendships you tend to focus on similarity, shared interests and what experiences you can have in the immediate future. In contrast, when you are building sources you attempt to look for different personalities, diverse interests and focus on the long term.

  The long-term focus is crucial. People are inherently self-interested but also reciprocal. It is illogical to expect someone you met yesterday to introduce you to his or her Rolodex. There is no benefit to them and even if they like you, they do not trust you. The key to building the relationship with your source quickly is to do something genuine for them first. If it can be a shared experience so much the better. Physical and mentally strenuous experiences are much better at building a trusting relationship than impersonal emails. Here is a recent example.   

I met Scottish entrepreneur and MD of Anvil mobile, Ian Phillip, at a post conference dinner. On the face of it we had little in common. We are twenty-five years apart, Ian is far more technologically savvy than I and we weren’t interested in buying each other’s services anytime soon. However, I quickly realised that Ian could be an ideal source because of his background running large sales teams for telecoms companies. It also helps he’s great fun to be around.  

In the three months that followed we exchanged emails, he appeared on our weekly podcast, I discussed his daughter’s post graduation plans with her over coffee and we arranged to play golf.  

Now during this time, I happened to be asked by a client to find a VP of sales. Remember, in my business, clients are difficult to win and devilish to keep so I was keen to find the best candidate possible to help them succeed and gain repeat business. Clients also expect speed. Reactions like job advertising and cold calling prospects is not only time consuming but usually ineffective for this kind of specialised position. Planning trumps reactions.

On that night I was calling the twenty people I’d designated as sales sources, I called Ian who gave me three names. One candidate only accepted the approach because of my referral from Ian. He is approached at least once a day by recruiters. He ended up being the client’s new VP. No one worthwhile is easy to find.

Just because you are connected on LinkedIn does not mean you have a worthwhile relationship. Just because you have a business card does not mean you’ll get a referral. In a world where weak links still trump technology it’s not about who you know, but how well you know them.

Thursday 25 October 2012

The Latest edition of Ambitions is out!

Here is the latest edition of Ambitions. We hope you'll enjoy reading it. Click here to view the original format. If you have any questions regarding the subjects of coaching and mentoring or simply would like to share your thoughts with us, please send us en email.
Dear Sir/Madame,

There is no time like Autumn to put the frustrations of the economy behind us and lay the foundations to grasp all our opportunities to accelerate our companies' and personal development.  When the going gets tough, execution focus is the key to differentiation and to rising above our peers.  Execution is the theme of this newsletter and we cover 3 dimensions of it below - recruitment, team development and coaching tools.  Thank you all for the feedback on our newsletters so far and I look forward to continuing our dialogue.
Best wishes, Simon

We are delighted to announce a new collaboration with executive search company Campbell Black. The aim is to combine Campbell Black's insights into technology and high growth companies' recruitment processes with SJ Associates's business coaching expertise.  An early fruit of this collaboration is the launch of a research study based where we interviewed 25 of the most successful CEOs and HR leaders on how hiring has helped them scale technology related businesses. What business leaders told us went a long way to de-bunk many of the myths of recruitment and this is a theme we will return to in future research. Read the first chapter of the resulting eBook here.

We are firm believers in individuals' capability to continuously stretch and improve themselves. Through their own resourcefulness they will discover new solutions to complicated problems and push ahead in ways their managers or peers could never have predicted.  Management by choice rather by requirement drives superior performance versus peers at competitors through creating a fun working environment.   I have seen enjoyment being the driver motivation that, in turn, drives positive team dynamics, successful recruitment, talent development, staff retention, and ultimately customer satisfaction and bottom line results. 

This is why the Motivational Maps analysis tool impressed me so much when an associate introduced me to it - ties together so many aspects of leadership that would have been invaluable during my time as a CEO .  To see if this makes the same impression on you please request your complimentary discovery analysis (map, action list and consultation).  It is remarkable how much actionable insight can be generated so quickly and easily - shared data opens up so many doors to deliver step-change performance improvement. Get more information on one-on-one and team motivation drivers here.

Monday 22 October 2012

Recruitment research – how to hire the best people

We are delighted to announce a new collaboration with executive search company Campbell Black. The aim is to combine Campbell Black's insights into technology and high growth companies' recruitment processes with SJ Associates's business coaching expertise. An early fruit of this collaboration is the launch of a research study based where we interviewed 25 of the most successful CEOs and HR leaders on how hiring has helped them scale technology related businesses. What business leaders told us went a long way to de-bunk many of the myths of recruitment and this is a theme we will return to in future research. Here is the first chapter of the resulting ebook.

First Who, Then Woo
Rob Symes

Recruitment research – how to hire the best people


The reason you’re talking to me, along with all these other people… is because there’s a huge difference between our very best performers and everyone else. If you take a long hard look at productivity, you’re seeing what easily amounts to a 300 percent difference. In fact, it’s probably a five-to-one gap.
Where else was I encountering some version of that five-to-one test?
The answer: Everywhere.
George Anders. The Rare Find

So many corporations, companies or start-ups proclaim the same thing:

“ABC is a leading company in the XYZ industry and we only hire the best people.” “People are the most important part of our business. It’s all about hiring A players.”

Unfortunately most companies don’t hire the best. Most companies compromise: they hire the available, the out of work, the keen, the desperate, the almost resumes and the just-about CVs because it’s just so much easier. On the surface, the reason they exaggerate is obvious: Money and reputation. Mediocrity in recruitment is easy.

  The paradox is that we know that there are people, as George Anders says, who are “five-to-one” candidates, the candidates that are five times better than their average competitor or teammate. This is not an alien concept. People often tell me how far ahead their top performers are. However, they miss that once you understand the five-to-one standard it should change your perspective. Now, bad candidates or average hires aren’t the worst enemy. The most serious mistake is not hiring a candidate capable of the five-to-one standard.

  Many technology companies talk about hiring “better people” than the competition. Unfortunately, in the technology industry, protecting your company from competitors is not enough. You need to protect your company from competition that doesn’t exist yet: the kid in the garage, the engineer with an Internet connection, the rebel or misfit or maverick with a dream. Five-to-oners are the best future proofers that exist.

Referrals, Referrals, Referrals

1)      91% of participants believe the most effective sourcing methods are personal connections or referrals.
2)      83% of participants ask for referrals only when they have a “direct need.”

  Toby Hunt, the Co-founder of Pebble Code, guided me through their trendily dilapidated offices in Vauxhall full of beanbags, Swiss balls and murals and surprised me within ten minutes.  He estimated the eight-month search he just completed for the right developer cost the company eighty thousand pounds in lost revenue. Pebble Code, a 15 person, software and application development company, is not alone. For Innovative technology companies failing to locate talent is not just frustrating but expensive.

  Although online and digital sourcing appears initially attractive, ninety one percent of participants believed that personal connections and referrals were the most effective method of sourcing top candidates. However, Michael Reynolds, the former CTO of Intrasonics, summed the problem up when he said, “by far the best method is my own network and referrals. The only problem is that the best people are never available.”
  Like Reynolds, many participants’ networks yielded an insufficient number of applicants or individuals who were otherwise engaged. Unfortunately, this led them to pursue other sourcing methods that were considerably less effective and often compromised the quality of candidate. 

  This problem is not that the participants asked for referrals. The problem is that they asked too late and too infrequently. Asking for referrals only when you have a need is like asking for water after you’ve died from thirst. Too many executives try to solve diverse and difficult recruiting requirements with easy and immediate solutions.

  No one worthwhile is easy to find.