Thursday, June 17, 2010

Oil Spill – Focus should be a Solution!

I just returned from 2 weeks in Europe, and it was interesting to see how the press there is handling the Gulf Oil Spill, especially in the UK.

Apparently, while I was gone, Obama has been referring to BP as "British Petroleum", when BP is in fact an international firm, with 40% of its stock owned by Americans. He also said he would have fired BP CEO Hayward, and he is infamously reported to have said he is trying to figure out "whose ass to kick."

Although there is vast criticism of BP in the UK press, they are not so happy with US-based Brit-bashing. Other factors: BP paid $1.4 billion in UK taxes last year, and BP is a major component in many pension investments. This has Brits worried, because the stock had plummeted after the spill. A BP bankruptcy would have worldwide economic implications.

Interestingly, today, a conservative US Senator (who has accepted lots of campaign contributions from O&G companies) APOLOGIZED (and has just UN-apologized) to BP, setting off a huge backlash.

In their final show of the season, Saturday Night Live ridiculed BP, in an opening sketch offering ludicrous and unworkable solutions to the spill by parodied BP execs.

All this has me thinking, why bother with all the rhetoric? When there is no solution, apparently all the leaders (corporate, US, UK, etc.) can do is TALK, with little results. When SNL does a spot-on parody of you, you know you're in trouble. What a waste of effort – looking for whose ass to kick, who has to apologize to who, who is to blame, and on and on.

All the more reason for everyone involved to be focused on results – what do we need to do to get a solution. Please, no more wasted words, hearings, press briefings and leaks. JUST CLEAN IT UP!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Flexibility in Staffing – Give Yourself Wiggle Room

Almost always, I advocate precision in hiring: Specify the critical results (in the form of SMART objectives) you want from a candidate, and hire someone who can deliver those results. This usually creates a job profile with very narrow parameters, and as recruiters, we aim to hit the bullseye.

Recently, we’ve had a client situation that calls for greater flexibility. An entrepreneurial company is replacing one senior executive with two people. To protect their confidentiality, I won’t state the exact functions, but the current person’s job can be clearly divided into two functional disciplines. Because the company is still growing and evolving, it is possible that a successful candidate could be found for each of these roles at different levels of experience. In fact, a couple of the key responsibilities could easily slide from one position to the other.
This employer is fortunate to be able to have this level of freedom in hiring, and it is really only happening because they have two slots to fill at the same time.

We never advocate changing a job description to fit a particular candidate. We say don’t hire around people, hire people to fit the specific slot – round pegs for round holes. In this situation, we can take a view of the whole system - in other words, the sum will be equal to more than the parts (each individual job), because strong top performing people in these roles will cover the whole set of key functions. I’ve written before about constructing a skills matrix, where you ensure that all the key functions are covered by a team. One person could be seasoned, another greener, as long as they cover all the objectives. A key ingredient will be to ensure that all new hires fit well into the management team, and can operate with credibility as peers with current senior execs.

When appropriate, a systemic approach – looking at how all the critical objectives are executed by a team - can pay off, if you hire excellent people no matter what level. I learned to be flexible to fit my client’s needs in this situation, and perhaps the same attitude can help others recruiting for multiple roles.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Robin Hood and The Tea Party

Summer is the time for blockbuster action movies, and one that recently opened is the umpteenth remake of Robin Hood. This time, director Ridley Scott and actor Russell Crowe (both reunited from Gladiator) do less folklore and more political allegory.

I loved NY Times critic A.O. Scott’s review, in which he asks if this new Robin Hood is one big medieval tea party. Scott / Crowe apparently portray Robin not as a socialist bandit who is robbing from the rich to give to the poor, but more as a libertarian rebel, fighting against high taxes and a government trying to impose its will on the people. Peter Travers, in the Rolling Stone review, also brings up that Tea Partiers will love the movie for this connection. Fox News writer Steven Crowder calls Robin Hood the “First Tea Party Activist.” This comparison has legs!

After the recent recession, one could easily understand that a movie that shows underdogs rising up against a privileged upper class that didn’t earn what they’ve got, would certainly be topical and relevant.

Roger Ebert didn’t like the film too much; he only rates it 2 stars. He longs for the folklore and story-telling side that was more present in prior versions of this story. I’m with Roger. Winter is the time for movies that make you think. Summer movies should simply make us want an ice cream afterward! Or maybe an ICED Tea.
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