This week I was talking to an industry colleague, Patrick, and we were discussing the different types of leaders we had experienced in our many years in the recruitment industry.
Patrick had worked under the leadership of, among others, Andrew Banks and I had worked under the leadership of, among others, Greg Savage. We talked about the things we remembered about our respective experiences in working for these leaders, both well known and highly respected within the recruitment industry.
One experience common to both of us was the individual attention given to each of us by Andrew and Greg respectively.
Both leaders were genuinely interested in the goings-on and performance of us as individual consultants. They each made time to talk about prospective clients we were pursuing, jobs we were working on and candidates we were attempting to place.
For both of us this was not an occasional experience, this was a regular experience.
‘Any visits you want me to come on, Patrick?’ was not an uncommon question from Andrew Banks. Can you imagine the impact this sort of interest, from one of the most well known and successful leaders in the Australian recruitment industry, had on a ‘mere’ consultant?
Patrick grinned as he recounted the confidence he felt in picking up the phone to make this call:
‘Just calling Mr Prospect to let you know one of my colleagues, Andrew Banks, will be coming with me tomorrow for our scheduled meeting.’
Unsurprisingly no client or prospect ever cancelled or rescheduled one these visits.
My experience with Greg was exactly the same. Greg would, without notice, sit down next to me and pick up a resume from my desk. He would then ask me a series of questions about the candidate and then ask me what action I was proposing to take on said candidate. He would listen then, maybe, add a suggestion or two of his own.
‘Let me know by the end of the day how you go with those calls, Ross.’
This was not a request to be ignored. If, by some mistake, I had failed to update Greg by 5.30pm, I could guarantee that he would be seeking me out. Being ‘sought out’ by Greg Savage was not something you wanted to have happen too frequently in your employment with him.
What Andrew and Greg each practised (and no doubt, still do) is a core part of how an effective leader spends their time.
In The Little Book of Coaching, legendary NFL coach, Don Shula, clearly articulates the importance he places in observing his players ‘at work’:
‘Managers are often not able to recognise mistakes because they do not take the time to observe their people. They give directions then clear the area. A good coach or manager is there to watch the performance and appropriately affirm or redirect … Affirming and redirecting are where organisations secretly outstrip the competition. Every mistake should be noticed and corrected on the spot. There’s no such thing as a small error or flaw that can be easily overlooked.
You cannot leave performance to chance. As a coach, if you let errors go unnoticed, you’ll ensure more of them will occur.'
The Little Book of Coaching by Ken Blanchard & Don Shula (HarperCollins Business, 2002), page 47
Andrew and Greg, and other highly effective leaders, know this. They also know it’s not just about affirming and redirecting after observing performance; it’s about providing individual attention that has the employee feel important and valued.
What Andrew and Greg also knew was that no matter what attention each of us may have been receiving from our direct manager, there was still a real and valuable role for them in observing our performance and providing feedback.
The world of a recruiter, especially a relatively new recruiter, is a world in which the recruiter is feeling unsure. The rookie is trying not only to succeed but decide whether this job and this company are for them. There are many rejections and many disappointments along the way. If these rejections and disappointments are not given context by a leader (the more senior the leader the better), then the new recruiter may become discouraged and quit, believing that they are not cut out for a career as a recruitment consultant.
The interest and direct regular involvement of a founder, director, CEO or other senior leader makes a massive difference to an employee’s confidence. Patrick and I both experienced this first hand and, as can be demonstrated by the clear recollection of our respective experiences with Andrew and Greg, the positive impact of these experiences has stayed with us more than fifteen years’ later.
If regularly observing consultant performance is important enough for Andrew Banks and Greg Savage to do, then what’s any other leader’s excuse?