Successful recruiters that consistently deliver high numbers do so because they are constantly in action. Every minute of every day of every week of every month is an opportunity to make more placements as quickly as possible.
To work in the same office as Graham Whelan or Andrew Marty was to witness an incredible level of personal productivity on a daily basis.
Once a recruiter reaches a certain level of success there is likely to be an opportunity to take a leadership role. Most recruiters accept this opportunity.
Then the real challenge begins. I don't just mean the challenge of being responsible for the development and results of other people, I mean the challenge of having to rewire your brain to truly get that your job now is to do less, not more.
To do less, not more, at first utterance sounds ridiculous. Most recruitment leaders reading this statement would be thinking "You have to be kidding! I still have a billing responsibility AND I have people responsibility. That's got to mean more work."
However the research on leadership, and the actions of some of the world's most successful companies, is unequivocal.
In July this year, Google, who are fanatical about using data to understand and perpetuate high performance in their business, were reported as follows:
The two fundamental things they found which drive the performance of their people include:
- Ensuring goals are clearly written down.
- Ensuring there are frequent conversations happening between the manager and the employee.
Early last month, GE, the benchmark for twentieth century corporate leadership development, announced that they were scrapping annual performance appraisals and replacing them with "a new system of feedback and coaching" that "will require managers to communicate better and more often with their staff and to act as coaches and facilitators."
At the recent RCSA International Conference I presented the CEB research on sales manager effectiveness that concluded that the two most important things that a sales manager can do with her time (in the context of recruitment) is to provide skills coaching to each team member and to work with each team member to ‘unstick' stuck jobs.
What does all of this tell us?
The most effective leaders prioritise spending time with each of their team members ahead of everything else. This time could be spent coaching (ie observing an interview or a prospect visit) or having a coffee with their team member or having a formal one-on-one.
All of these activities require something that many recruitment leaders find very difficult to do: allocate time for this type of interaction, be still, ask questions (resisting the temptation to tell) and just listen, in other words not doing very much but having a very large impact on that team member. Why? Because nothing demonstrates to a team member that their leader cares more than the time their leader spends with just them.
The addiction that recruiters-turned-leaders have to immediate results means that the investment in spending time with each team member, each day and each week, seems to generate little immediate or tangible return. Which in the short run, might be true but the real benefits accrue over the longer term as the time invested in each team member is returned via each team member's higher level of skill, greater commitment, higher performance and longer tenure.
The culture in most recruitment agencies is, typically:
- The leader spends the most time with the consultant who is performing the worst and the least time with the consultant who is performing the best. This creates the, unintended, message that any time a leader spends with a consultant signifies a problem.
- The leader should be billing or doing other (immediately) productive things rather than ‘waste time' or ‘distract' consultants by spending time with them.
The single biggest difference in leadership behavior between the High Performing Workplaces and the Low Performing Workplaces was that leaders in HPWs spend more time and effort managing their people than leaders in LPWs (29.3% higher).
Source: The Society for Knowledge Economics (from research involved interviewing 5,661 employees from 77 Australian organisations in order to understand what separated high performing workplaces from low performing workplaces (January 2011).
The single biggest obstacle to recruitment agencies adopting this leadership behavior is the core instinct of recruitment agency leaders is that they should be ‘doing' lots of things.
Leaders: do less, but have more impact where it really matters.