A few years ago, I was asked to help find a new CEO for a family-owned electronics retailer that wanted to professionalize its management and expand its operations. I worked closely with the outgoing chief executive and the board to pinpoint the relevant competencies for the job and then seek out and assess candidates. The man we hired had all the right credentials: He’d attended top professional schools and worked for some of the best organizations in the industry, and he was a successful country manager in one of the world’s most admired companies. Even more important, he’d scored above the target level for each of the competencies we’d identified. But none of that mattered. Despite his impressive background and great fit, he could not adjust to the massive technological, competitive, and regulatory changes occurring in the market at the time. Following three years of lackluster performance, he was asked to leave.

Compare that story with one from the start of my executive search career. My task was to fill a project manager role at a small brewery owned by Quinsa, which then dominated the beer market in the southern cone of Latin America. In those days, I hadn’t yet heard the term “competency.” I was working in a new office without research support (in the pre-internet era), and Quinsa was the only serious beverage industry player in the region, so I was simply unable to identify a large pool of people with the right industry and functional background. Ultimately, I contacted Pedro Algorta, an executive I’d met in 1981, while we were both studying at Stanford University. A survivor of the infamous 1972 plane crash in the Andes, which has been chronicled in several books and the movieAlive, Algorta was certainly an interesting choice. But he had no experience in the consumer goods business; was unfamiliar with Corrientes, the province where the brewery was located; and had never worked in marketing or sales, key areas of expertise. Still, I had a feeling he would be successful, and Quinsa agreed to hire him. That decision proved to be a smart one. Algorta was rapidly promoted to general manager of the Corrientes brewery and then CEO of Quinsa’s flagship Quilmes brewery. He also became a key member of the team that transformed Quinsa from a family-owned enterprise to a large, respected conglomerate with a management team considered at the time to be among the best in Latin America.

Why did the CEO of the electronics business, who seemed so right for the position, fail so miserably? And why did Algorta, so clearly unqualified, succeed so spectacularly? The answer ispotential: the ability to adapt to and grow into increasingly complex roles and environments. Algorta had it; the first CEO did not.

Having spent 30 years evaluating and tracking executives and studying the factors in their performance, I now consider potential to be the most important predictor of success at all levels, from junior management to the C-suite and the board. I’ve learned how to identify people who have it and to help companies develop and deploy them. With this article, I share those lessons. As business becomes more volatile and complex, and the global market for top professionals gets tighter, I am convinced that organizations and their leaders must transition to what I think of as a new era of talent spotting—one in which our evaluations of one another are based not on brawn, brains, experience, or competencies, but on potential.

A New Era

The first era of talent spotting lasted millennia. For thousands of years, humans made choices about one another on the basis of physical attributes. If you wanted to erect a pyramid, dig a canal, fight a war, or harvest a crop, you chose the fittest, healthiest, strongest people you could find. Those attributes were easy to assess, and, despite their growing irrelevance, we still unconsciously look for them: Fortune 500 CEOs are on average 2.5 inches taller than the average American, and the statistics on military leaders and country presidents are similar.

I was born and raised during the second era, which emphasized intelligence, experience, and past performance. Throughout much of the 20th century, IQ—verbal, analytical, mathematical, and logical cleverness—was justifiably seen as an important factor in hiring processes (particularly for white-collar roles), with educational pedigrees and tests used as proxies. Much work also became standardized and professionalized. Many kinds of workers could be certified with reliability and transparency, and since most roles were relatively similar across companies and industries, and from year to year, past performance was considered a fine indicator. If you were looking for an engineer, accountant, lawyer, designer, or CEO, you would scout out, interview, and hire the smartest, most experienced engineer, accountant, lawyer, designer, or CEO.

I joined the executive search profession in the 1980s, at the beginning of the third era of talent spotting, which was driven by the competency movement still prevalent today. David McClelland’s 1973 paper “Testing for Competence Rather than for ‘Intelligence’” proposed that workers, especially managers, be evaluated on specific characteristics and skills that helped predict outstanding performance in the roles for which they were being hired. The time was right for such thinking, because technological evolution and industry convergence had made jobs much more complex, often rendering experience and performance in previous positions irrelevant. So, instead, we decomposed jobs into competencies and looked for candidates with the right combination of them. For leadership roles, we also began to rely on research showing that emotional intelligence was even more important than IQ.

Now we’re at the dawn of a fourth era, in which the focus must shift to potential. In a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment (VUCA is the military-acronym-turned-corporate-buzzword), competency-based appraisals and appointments are increasingly insufficient. What makes someone successful in a particular role today might not tomorrow if the competitive environment shifts, the company’s strategy changes, or he or she must collaborate with or manage a different group of colleagues. So the question is not whether your company’s employees and leaders have the right skills; it’s whether they have the potential to learn new ones.

By Claudio Fernández-Aráoz



Below is an excellent article written by guest contributor Amy Rodgers.  Amy is Vice-President of Global Human Resources at Citadel Plastics Holdings, Inc., a leading compounder of custom formulated polymer materials.   She has over 20 years of HR  experience, leading growth and talent initiatives in the Americas, Asia and Europe. In addition to her leadership role at Citadel, she is a board member at the Management Association of Illinois, an employer’s HR Association.   

Enjoy your reading!

Four Tips for Global Recruiting Success

Your boss walks into your office and tells you the company is expanding operations into a new international region you have never been and know little about.  Better yet, you are charged with hiring the executive team which is critical to the start up.  Are you ready?

As companies continue to expand their growth strategies to add operations and offices abroad, recruiting talent remains at the top of list for HR Departments to partner in business success. How do you find talent abroad without HR boots on the ground in the regions you are recruiting?  This is a challenge that more and more HR professionals and businesses are facing.

Here are four tips to be ready and make your global recruiting successful:

  • Build Your Global HR Team:

Expand your HR team beyond your employees to include recruiting partners, region experts and experienced international HR professionals.  Align with search firms that have a global footprint and can not only recruit, but help you to become knowledgeable quickly in different regions and cultures. Share your expansion plans with your network to locate HR professionals and people who have experience in the region. Attend international HR seminars to learn and connect with other professionals. A multi-faceted networking approach will present you with broad perspective and support.

  • Know the Recruiting Landscape:

Understanding the recruiting landscape early is critical to deliver on your plan.  International searches can take significantly longer than those in the U.S. due to notice periods and logistics of interviewing candidates in different countries and time zones.  While Linked In has changed the recruiting playing field for candidates and companies in the U.S., it may not be the primary recruiting tool for companies to use in foreign countries, especially where language can be a barrier.  Getting educated can help to establish an effective plan for searches, save time and keep your project on track. Use your team to educate you early on expected timing, challenges to expect and best path to success. Take a trip to the region as soon as you can, as there is nothing that replaces your ability to see and learn live.

     .  Understand the Local Culture:

While it would take significant time to understand all of the cultural differences in region, there are certain things you need to know before you begin recruiting so that you find the right candidate.   Length of time in a role or with a company may be respected in one culture but seen as not progressing in another.  Multinational companies can be particularly attractive to certain candidates, but not to others and selecting the right type of expat experience can be critical to leadership roles.   Understanding the norms in each of these areas will help to set expectations with your team on timing, cost to hire and keys to retention.

  • Focus on the Big Picture:

Without local HR, it can be quite overwhelming to learn all of the differences in employment and recruiting in different regions.  Focus on the key drivers to recruiting and retaining talent in the region. While you may never understand all of the details, keeping focused on the big picture will help you to ensure you are keeping your finger on the pulse of the issues that matter.

Expanding internationally is not only is good for business, it’s good for HR professionals to build experience, expand perspectives, and contribute strategically to the business. So when your boss comes into your office with an expansion plan, jump on it with both boots.


7 Productivity Tips To Squeeze The Most Out Of Your Workday.

1. Get Up Early.

The amount of work (and the quality of it) that I can achieve between the hours of 7am and 9am is incredible. If I don’t get up early enough to put those few hours in, I feel like I’m playing catch-up all day. What’s critical is not just that I “do work” for those few hours, but aim to bring a task to completion (e.g., write an article, send out a resume to a client, etc.)

2. Set Aside Time For Email.

Email is the great robber of your time at work.

It’s important to answer your emails – yes – however, it’s necessary to create boundaries around your email habits, so that you don’t spend all your day in your inbox. 

I’ve noticed that email has this odd tendency to be elastic – if you have an hour to do it, you’ll manage to do most of it in that hour. If you have 3 hours to do it, you’ll do pretty much the same emails in 3 hours.

My personal way of dealing with it is to allocate 3 periods during one day to deal with email. 30-60 mins as soon as I get up in the morning. Same again around lunchtime. Same again just before I finish work for the day.

3. Nail Procrastination.

I have a theory about procrastination – I think it’s a natural human behaviour which occurs when we do work that we’re not connected to.

I experience desire to procrastinate when I’m doing something which I don’t feel is worthwhile, creative and authentic. I avoid doing it and, inevitably, end up scrolling aimlessly through my Facebook feed. 

I experience this when I write. We all know that publishing content online is important. If, however, I sit down to write with the aim of creating an article “because I need to be publishing stuff”, I  find myself inevitably procrastinating (and the article I spawn typically sounds detached, clinical and hardly gets read). 

However, if I pay attention to my life, continually improving things and challenging myself – and then write stories about my experiences – the opposite occurs. Writing flows easily, feels great to write and makes a difference to others. Go figure.

4. Set Concrete Goals.

We are born into a world which is obsessed with short-term feel-good remedies (and credit card companies are profiting from that, but that’s another story).

Successful people, however, have this process in reverse. What they do today is informed by their goal for the week. Their weekly goal is part of their strategy for the month, and so on. 

Do you know what you want your life to look like in 3 years’ time? Create that vision and work all the way back from there to find out what your day today should look like.

5. Do Them.

Now that you have a goal (I bet that you didn’t do the exercise in the previous point – right? And I know I can’t make you – except to say that the power lays in DOING, rather than READING – so go back and give your long term plans some thought) – every moment you can check in with yourself and ask:

“Right now, am I moving closer to my goals? Or further away?”

At any point in time you’re either towards or away from your dreams. Every few hours check in with yourself and be brutally honest about the direction you’re moving in at that point in time.

Whenever you’re noticing yourself being distracted, acting out of fear, avoiding a conversation you know you need to have, do what needs to be done and resume the journey forward.

6. Schedule Your Day The Night Before.

If I wake up without knowing what’s on the agenda, I’m more susceptible to doing what I feel, checking out what pops into my feed, etc.

When I write my agenda for the day the night before, I wake up feeling like a focussed, clear laser beam.

7. Block Off Time For Big Picture.

Answering telephone, replying to colleagues, bosses, helping customers, fixing website issues (and replying to email, which is a point I covered above), are all reactionary tasks.

You can fill your whole day with them and tell yourself that you have “no time” for more strategic or creative things. It’s also a good way to escape doing things that confront you.

You will not have time for writing a chapter of that book you’ve been meaning to write or picking up the phone to call a prospective business partner – unless you block off time for it i your diary and treat is as an appointment you can’t miss.

By Irene Kotov


Relationships have the potential to fundamentally change the course of our lives; they open and close doors, they help us grow, they contribute to our success or failure. Simply put, relationships matter. And in spite of this, we often go through our day building (or damaging) relationships without even realizing it.

In concert with a small group of colleagues, I’ve been spending a lot of time focused on the importance of relationships – with our customers, our internal stakeholders and colleagues, and even in our personal lives. We’ve been thinking about the actions we take every day that either build or erode the quality of our relationships – those things that help us to establish credibility and trust with others and those things we do that quickly damage relationships.

In an effort to help our team be more intentional and impactful in our relationships, we’ve taken ideas from our real-life personal and professional experiences, articles and blog posts, and some basic social mores, to come up with a list of 10 Ways to Build & Damage Relationships. We hope you’ll consider these items and that they serve as helpful reminders in your daily life.

Top Ways to Build Relationships:

1) Give Before Taking

While we learned this in grade school, the old adage still holds true, especially as we progress in our careers. There’s no better way to win friends and build advocates than by being helpful and supportive to others without asking anything from them in return.

2) Ask More, Assume Less

In order to fully understand and work well with others, don’t be afraid to ask the obvious questions – clarifying early on can help avoid confusion and conflict down the line. Plus, it shows genuine interest, which is always helpful in building strong relationships.

3) Prepare Purposefully

Think of how much you appreciate it when someone comes into a meeting well prepared. Simply thinking through a meeting ahead of time and showing up with well-considered ideas and perspectives shows you value the time and makes meetings more productive.

4) Share Your Personality

One of the easiest ways to establish rapport with others is to let them see more than just the work side of your personality. By opening up and letting people learn more about you – your interests, your passions, your aspirations – there’s a better chance of connecting on a personal level and building a stronger relationship. You might even find that your professional relationship spills over outside of work.

5) Collaborate Compassionately

Working to understand where someone is coming from and putting yourself in their shoes before offering your perspective can vastly improve your ability to work productively with others. Asking someone what their goals are and how they’re measured can help you to understand their view and also enable you to support their success, which is one of the most powerful things we can do for others.

And Top Ways to Quickly Damage Relationships:

6) Contribute to Noise

Creating swirl around a situation and gossiping with others almost always has negative consequences. Rather, addressing situations in an open, honest and constructive way directly with an individual tends to be a more effective way of building rather than damaging relationships. This holds true for peers, direct reports and managers.

7) Withhold Information

One of the best ways to damage a relationship is by intentionally withholding information and/or not being candid about differing perspectives. While there are always sensitive situations, being upfront and honest about the things we can share helps to build trust and the transparency also helps others make informed decisions.

8) Digitally Distract Yourself

How does it feel when you’re in a meeting where someone is fully engaged and focused solely on your conversation? And how about those same types of conversations when someone is typing away on their laptop or phone, looking up every now and then to comment, but not fully engaging? Being present with mind and body is one of the simplest things you can do to build relationships. And doing the opposite is one of the fastest ways to show someone how little you’re invested in them and the conversation.

9) Set Unrealistic Expectations

Rather than over-promising and under-delivering, it’s much more effective to be realistic and candid about expectations and deliverables. Trust can quickly erode when you sign up for something you can’t deliver. Rather, understand any sensitivity around timing, be upfront about what you can handle, and communicate often to establish trust and inspire confidence.

10) Showing up late or not at all

Showing up late to meetings or not showing up at all sends a strong signal about how much (or little) you value someone’s time. There are very seldom things outside of our control and choosing to be late or standing someone up helps you to very quickly establish a reputation as someone who doesn’t value other peoples’ time. Instead, think about building buffers into your calendar so you not only have time to get from one meeting to another, but ideally you also have a moment to prepare for your next meeting.

There are many more items that both help to build and quickly damage relationships, but we hope these are a few helpful reminders as you think about how you want to “show up” when it comes to building your personal and professional relationships and investing in others the way you’d want them to invest in you.

By Alyssa Merwin


A common misconception in employee engagement, is that the top performers in an organization are the self-starters who don’t need extra motivation.

While it’s true that high performers are typically more upbeat than other employees, they too need a deep, purposeful connection with the organization to be engaged in their work just like any other person.

In fact, a 2013 Leadership IQ study found that in almost half of organizations middle and low performers are actually more engaged than high performers. This was based on key findings that showed high performers’ efforts largely going unrecognized while low performers reaped the benefits of constant motivation and recognition from their managers.

So how do you successfully engage a high performer? Here’s a quick guide:

1. Be aware of key engagement drivers

High performers generally feel a greater sense of ownership and take more interest in the organization as a whole.

Towers Watson concluded that top performers are most engaged when they are guided by a clearly communicated mission and vision, a dedication to core values, and a strong sense of positive corporate ethics.

Ensuring that these tenets are constantly demonstrated and reinforced is crucial to retaining high performers.

2. Don’t take them for granted

Since job performance isn’t a predictor of engagement, managers must engage all employees equally.

High performers can make exceptional work seem commonplace, but they will lose their motivation quickly if their actions go unrecognized.

Don’t take your high performers for granted — make sure that exceptional work is consistently recognized in your organization regardless of overall job performance.

3. Hold everyone accountable

When low performers aren’t held accountable for their performance, high performers are usually the ones who have to pick up the slack, and what’s worse, they begin to feel that their efforts are “expected,” killing their engagement levels.

Good leaders take action to make their employees more mentally and emotionally accountable. If low and middle performers are not motivated to improve, high performers will notice.

While high performers are similar to other employees in some fundamental ways, there are subtle differences in what they want from their organization and leaders. Managers need to be aware of these differences and adopt specific strategies to motivate and engage them.

This was originally published on the Michael C. Fina blog.


We feel that people are your most important asset and directly impact your profitability.   Please take a moment to read the following article.  Enjoy!

Workforce reductions result in immediate savings, but that’s just part of the overall impact.

Talent is arguably the only true source of sustainable competitive advantage that a company can have. Unlike technologies, techniques and products, which competitors can copy or replace, a company’s talent is practically impossible to imitate.

When it comes down to it, companies treat talent as either assets or expenses.

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines an asset as a valuable person or thing. Talent is clearly an asset, yet many companies treat it like it’s just another business expense.

Assets are carefully chosen and held in the belief that they’ll pay dividends and grow in value overtime. A company that views talent as assets recognizes that costs to acquire, develop and retain talent are investments that pay off over time. So, they’re extremely cautious when downsizing.

Talent should be managed carefully, invested in, and divested as appropriate much the same as a portfolio of stocks. Expenses are minimized and subject to cuts if business slows.

Treating talent as expenses can prove costly. It wreaks havoc on performance and engagement. And productivity will take a hit when business turns around and it becomes necessary to hire a batch of new workers who’ll need time and training to get up to speed.

People churn is the sign of an unhealthy organization

Workforce reductions result in immediate savings, but that’s just part of the overall impact. What’s not accounted for are the lost experience, productivity, knowledge, and sunk development costs of the fired workers.

These items would be accounted for if talent was truly treated like an asset. Companies could serve their stakeholders better if instead of viewing people churn as simply a cost of doing business, they explored it as a possible sign of an unhealthy organization.

So, does your organization’s mindset and practices treat talent like assets or expenses?


By David Jardin

Nine Tips for A Better Company Culture

We recently came across an article we felt impactful and worth the time spent reading.  Enjoy!

“Companies aren’t built by individuals, they’re built by teams with complementary skills. But recruiting good talent is half the battle — you also need to foster an environment in which your employees can flourish and grow.

We spoke with nine entrepreneurs to get their tips for building a great team and retaining the talent. Have any more tips? Let us know in the comments below.

1. Always Be Hiring “Hiring is a continuous process, not a punctual hunt,” says Alexandre Winter, founder and CEO at Placemeter, who advises you to avoid specific job descriptions. “Hire in tech, product or business, but only take people that really wow you.” It’s important to think about the person’s career path, too — let them adjust to new responsibilities and be mindful of where they are and where they’re going. Winter says one of the biggest mistakes you can make with bright and talented employees is burning them out by giving them too much work too soon.

2. Encourage Entrepreneurial Thinking “Inside of a startup, each and every person needs to think like an owner and an entrepreneur,” says Levo League CEO and co-founder Caroline Ghosn, who encourages people to ponder the thought, ‘What would I do if I were running this company?’ “Getting each and every person comfortable with asking for forgiveness, not permission, allows the entire team to benefit synergistically from their talents as a team being greater than the sum of our parts as individuals.”

It’s also crucial to hire and cultivate the “whole person,” she says. “We foster open conversations about the well-being of our teammates, their personal needs and situations.” That might include creating a flexible work schedule for a new mom or sending a developer to a coding bootcamp. In the end, it makes employees happier and healthier, makes them better at their job and increases productivity. “We care immensely about the success of the integrated person.”

3. Remember That Your People Are Your Business “Hiring is the most important thing you can do at a company at any stage in it’s lifecycle,” says Brett Lewis, founder of Skillbridge. “Great people versus okay people is the difference between success and mediocrity — and it is something that founders spend far too little time on early on.” He also says that in the startup world, your sixth hire should be a recruiter, who can devote time to finding other fantastic hires.

4. Lead by Example “As a leader in a company, everyone feeds off of what you do — the culture starts with you,” says co-founder Jojo Hedaya. “If you come in early, are always focused and happy, it sets the tone for the rest of the team.” Show passion for the company and its mission, set goals and expectations and work hard, and your team will follow suit. “I was always a believer that a great leader is one that gives a lot, but can also expect a lot in return,” says Hedaya. “I always explain to the team that we are a family with the same goals and values in mind. We are brothers and sisters who would do anything for each other.” Hedaya cautions that it’s more than just skill that goes into a successful team — you need people to fit well. Everyone should be having fun and enjoying what they do, and if the best developer out there is difficult to work with, you’re better off without them.

5. Character Counts

Baldwin Denim is based in Kansas City, and the mom-and-pop shop is in the business of people. “We want to hire really good people that communicate and exude positivity, and look at someone’s character, first and foremost,” says Matt Baldwin, who says Baldwin’s employee retention is high, and the business often promotes from within. “Our employees have to have the same qualities as our brand — authenticity, quality and attention to every detail,” he says.

6. Don’t Underestimate Freelancers Hiring someone is a big commitment — and what if it doesn’t work out? For some kinds of businesses, freelancers make a ton of sense. “I like to say we have an army of freelancers, which means I can hire great talent without having to lure them away with a salary we could never afford,” says Rachel Hofstetter, founder-in-chief of Guesterly. Plus, technology like e-payments and Echosign make compensation and paperwork simple. “Because we’re a startup, we can move fast and treat them like we’d want to be treated.”

Hofstetter also recommends hiring college students and recent graduates — they’re professional, eager to learn, affordable and enthusiastic. Plus, if you’re in the market for help in the tech department, these young people are likely ot be well-versed in the most cutting edge technologies.

7. Listen to Your Gut If you get a weird feeling or sense of doubt about someone, trust it — you probably have reservations for a reason. On the flipside, if you have doubts about a current employee’s contributions, don’t be afraid to let them go. It’s the old startup adage: Hire slow, fire fast. “Company culture is a proactive thing, it’s not something that builds itself,” says Alban Denoyel, co-founder and CEO of Sketchfab.

8. Give Employees Ownership and Flexibility “We really encourage everyone here to holistically be happy, and excited,” says Emmett Shine, CEO of Gin Lane Media. Shine says his agency seeks out ambitious, “auto-didactic” creative technologists who wouldn’t be attracted to a traditional agency — there’s an emphasis on what you create, rather than how much you create. “This makes our management structure as minimal and ‘flat’ as possible — encouraging our team members to take ownership of the things that we make, and their role in making them,” says Shine, whose company also permits flexible scheduling to fit left-of-center lifestyles. “We really encourage everyone here to holistically be happy and excited. If that means taking a day or a week off, to be with family or go on a trip — then that’s fine. A happy employee will be multiples more productive than someone not inspired, or stressed out about something.”

9. Work to Maintain and Build Company Culture “Arguably the most important decision you make as a startup or young company is who to hire,” says Jeff Jackel, CEO of BuzzMob. “And this decision is no less critical when hiring your fifteenth employee than it was for your third hire.” He emphasizes that in these critical early stages, each hire should fit well and improve the company’s efficiency and culture — if they don’t, they’re the wrong person.

While it’s largely the CEO’s responsibility to set and cultivate the company’s culture, it’s a never-ending task. “The importance of this nuanced element of business can’t be underestimated or neglected,” says Jackel, who spends one day per week focusing on company culture in one way or another. “Even the best products and services have fallen victim to a lapse in attention to company culture. If you constantly cultivate this as much as you do any other aspect of your business, you’ll have an efficient office full of happy people.”

By Lauren Drell