Tuesday, January 19, 2010

First Who...Then What

In the book Good to Great, Jim Collins describes the concept of considering who before what. To paraphrase, he states that leaders of good to great companies understand three simple truths: 1) If you begin with who before what, then you can more easily adapt to a changing world. Employees are there because of who is on the bus, not because of where it's going; so if changing direction becomes necessary, it's OK with them; 2) The right people are self-motivated and want to be part of something great. 3) If you have the wrong people, you'll never be a great company - even if you ARE headed in the right direction.

So during this year of client service excellence, I suggested in an earlier post that to get off to a good start individuals should look at themselves and think about what education, resources, or relationships they will need to raise their game - to explore ways they can provide even better client service than the year before. Likewise, PR agencies and major corporations should consider operating on the "first who...then what" principle if they aspire to raise theirs.

Today's employment market is a sea of riches. The problem is that most agencies and companies are squandering this opportunity because they tend to embark on hiring strategies designed to eliminate people rather than engage them. It seems counter-intuitive, but here's the dynamic: The more applicants in the job pool, the more specific the agency/company becomes in its selection criteria. Unfortunately, that means HR people review resumes based on specific qualifications of "what" and often fail to consider people whose experience is different from their pre-set criteria. By eliminating "who" because of "what," they fail to consider some of the very best people for their organization. As a result, lots of great people who are hard working, smart, creative, etc., don't even receive the courtesy of a return phone call, let alone any serious consideration for an open position.

Consider the expression often spoken the day an employee quits or gets fired, "Well, (s)he looked good on paper. Not sure what went wrong." I suggest this approach: Hire people, not paper.

I have a number of brilliant, hard-working friends in the job market that any organization would be honored to have as part of their team. (They can't even get an interview). These are the kind of people of which great companies and agencies are made. Executive recruiters and hiring managers should embrace the current job market as the sea of riches for which it is. Finding the pearl involves something more aggressive than an elimination strategy. That means coming up with ways to include and consider rather than segregate and discard.

By taking a look at the person behind the resume, even going so far as to interview everyone, which I discussed last year, you'll discover the kind of people who won't just fill a slot, but will make your organization great!


  1. You have some excellent points in here!

    I can completely relate to this as I am currently seeking out jobs in Raleigh and Charlotte and have had little luck getting a return call even though I have specified that I am not seeing relocation compensation or any additional time to make the move. I can give the standard two-weeks notice just like anybody else.

    However, often I am immediately excluded because I live in another state. No one will talk to me because I am not local. I see this as an example of your exclusion of "who" because of "what" or even "where".

  2. great article... my sentiments are expressed by this post. ' will be visiting often.

  3. Thanks to you both for your comments. Tiffany, I experienced the "where" dynamic years ago when I was trying to relocate to Florida. Eventually, I got a dream job in that market. It's not always easy, but it can be done. Keep at it!

  4. Flexible Packaging CompaniesFebruary 1, 2010 at 3:12 AM

    Thank you for all the great posts from last year! I look forward to reading your blog, because they are always full of information that I can put to use. Thank you again, and God bless you in 2010.



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