4 Steps to Hiring an All-Star

Here’s how to hire for players who will propel your team to greatness.

One of the things I often hear from companies recruiting candidates is that there’s a talent shortage. But award-winning author and sales management expert Lee Salz views it differently: The talent is out there, you just have to know what you want (and how to find it).

Lee Salz wrote the book Hire Right, Higher Profits, which I highly recommend. Too often, he says, companies focus on people, not processes. The days of receiving a gold watch for 25 years of loyal service have come and gone and Generation Y is anything but loyal. However, it is possible to find loyal talent. Here, then, are four steps from Lee to help you recruit the right candidates.

Always Be Recruiting.

Much like grocery shopping when hungry, a big mistake is looking for candidates when you desperately need to hire them. Always be recruiting and open to networking. You never know where it will lead.

Use the Tools Correctly.

Assessment companies provide data about a candidate, but it’s up to you to interpret it and combine it with nuances gleaned from those in-person interviews. The same goes for tracking systems, which are designed to make the hiring process more efficient. The problem is setting too many filters, which can shut out some great candidates. So manage these tools correctly and consider them part of the overall process, not the end-all be-all.

Do Your Homework.

When considering a candidate, be sure to assess all the factors that will help that person succeed or fail, as the case may be. Prioritize those factors based on their level of impact and come up with a “Performance Factor Portfolio.” This sheet will give weight to the qualities you’re after and help you keep score as you interview candidates. Base your interview questions on those priorities to see not only if a candidate is the right fit but what skills he or she has to offer.

Give Them a Test.

Before you make an offer, ask for a one-page business proposal in which the candidate explains how she or he would succeed at your company. Let him or her set the deadline. This step will reveal five things: whether she can communicate in writing; how well she gets the role; whether she’s aligned with your company and can meet deadlines; and whether she is capable of following directions. All of these are important.

Following these steps can help you maximize this market to find the dream candidates. To check out more from Lee Salz, visit his website or listen to my interview with Lee in full here.

How to Write a Killer Resume

Applying for jobs but not getting called back? Here’s how to get on hiring managers’ radar.

A resume alone will never help you get hired. It has to be relevant and compelling enough to get your foot in the door. Having reviewed thousands of resumes myself, I’ve found that most of them read like a cross between an obituary and a museum exhibit timeline.

First, let’s debunk a couple of resume myths. Resumes are not read, at least not at first. They are scanned, scored and sorted. Second, a good resume is not critical to getting you hired. It is only critical in landing an interview. Third, the real purpose of a resume is to catch someone’s eye. HR departments use resumes as a job-matching tool. They are trying to find a fit, and in this way they are solving a problem.

Most executives agree that you should never start with HR, so if you write your resume to match a job, then you’re writing for the wrong audience. Here, then, are four tricks to get the people with hiring power to notice you:

State what problems you’ll solve.

Executives are focused on solving challenges of time, money, and risk. When reviewing a resume, they want someone who’s overcome challenges in at least one of these areas, if not all three.

Explain who you helped.

Many resumes include companies that are not household names so add a short explanation. “Top 10 international provider of heavy construction equipment components,” for example, will give your performance some context.

Say what difference you made.

Here, I’m talking about specific measures you took to solve a problem. Did you increase work flow by 20 percent, decrease waste per manufactured part by six percent, or triple sales year over year? If so, be specific and compare your performance with that of your peers.

Show how your experience prepared you.

Your work history is cumulative, leading you on a path to greater opportunities. If you don’t say what you are ready to do next and how, then you’ll leave the conjecture to the reader, who is at best barely paying attention.

So what does all this mean? Let’s review: Write for a decision-maker using the tips outlined above, putting your experience in the context of problems that you can solve. Second, strip the job-matching language and focus on achievements instead. Finally, aim to get an interview with the resume, because, after all, it won’t win you a job.

Team Players Vs. All-Stars: Who Matters More?

A good leader knows who will help boost their business. Here’s how to keep them around.

Business is like baseball in so many ways, none more so than when you set out to build a great team. You want the best players, like that insanely great sales leader, but that’s not how the game is played.

Every company, like a ball club, is out to win as many games as possible. But every company is filled from the bottom up with two distinct types of players: You’ve got your organizational types and your all-star types. A good leader knows the difference.

This is not to disparage those people who get the job done day-in and day-out. This is to help you know that once-in-a-lifetime talent can take your business to the next level. As much as you want a workplace where everyone feels equal, as George Orwell wrote: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal.”

So, what are the characteristics of all-stars? For one thing, they’re innately talented and possess leadership ability. They’re also ambitious and strive to achieve. Beyond that, they’re engaged, and constantly developing themselves personally and professionally.

To help them fully harness their natural talents–because nothing is worse than talent going to waste–here are three simple, yet effective ways to keep them engaged at your company:

Challenge them. Give them the tough assignments, urging them to aim for greatness.

Spend time with them. Pass along your wisdom, helping them to develop big goals. Then find out not only who they long to be but when they hope to get to that point.

Show them the money. Obviously, you need to compensate your all-stars fairly. But beyond that, you need to invest in them. Spend your training dollars on them, sending them to the best seminars and the best sessions, which will not only help them develop but also put them among their peers, which will drive them to push even harder.

Businesses that last forever strive to keep the all-stars, and keep them happy. Their development coincides with your success, and those all-stars drive team players to push harder as well, elevating your business.

Build a team with engaged organizational talent and a few driven all-stars and you can count one thing: a lot more wins.

7 Steps to Creating the Ultimate CEO Fortress of Solitude

When work gets overwhelming, sometimes you need to take a quick break and recharge. Here are 7 steps to do just that.

I’m not sure if it was Peter Cetera or Kierkegaard who said, “Everybody needs a little time away.” Regardless of who said it, that statement is certainly true, especially for business leaders. In this 24/7, constantly-connected world we live and do business in, there will come a time that you have to find that spot that you can go to and be truly alone.

Even Superman had a place to go when the rigors of defending Metropolis got to him and made him feel less than super. For CEOs, there are a number of tasks that you will not be your most effective in solving if you attempt them working in a standard office environment. Maybe it’s annual reviews, terminating an employee, deciding whether or not to launch a new product, or even something as simple (yet, mind-numbingly complicated) as a customer issue. At some point, we all need our own Fortress of Solitude. You need to find a spot that will allow you to truly embrace the beauty that is complete solitude, a place that allows you to really focus on an issue, re-energize yourself, and go back to being super.

Here are 7 Steps to finding that perfect spot:

1. Embrace the beauty of being alone.

Even if you are the most gregarious person in your office, sometimes you want to enjoy your own company. In your fortress, one of the most important things is to be comfortable with yourself and only you. No Lois Lane, no Jimmy Olsen, and definitely no Lex Luthor.

2. Turn it off.

Being alone means not being bothered. Remember, you might not be able to be unconnected for a week, maybe not even a weekend. But, everyone can take a half an hour and just unplug. You won’t see any benefit to this time if you’re answering emails or speaking on the phone. Escape the surly binds of technology–the world will keep spinning, I assure you. Keep in mind though, even Superman had the holograms of Kal-El. If you’ve got a person in your life who helps you find your focus–and keeps you fighting for truth and justice–go ahead and spend a few minutes with them.

3. Free Your Mind.

Make sure your space is filled with furniture that allows you to relax and clear your head. Use scented candles, but nothing too perfumy. Sandalwood, sage, and citrus smells work well. Plus, candles are soothing to look at and will help you get into that relaxed mindset. Have your favorite snacks in the space, some cool water, things that help you relax. Don’t eat a full meal or drink alcohol, because that kind of defeats the point of clearing your head.

4. Enjoy the Silence….

Mediate. Use this time to clear your head. Don’t allow yourself to obsess over your P&L or that earnings report. This is your time. If you have one of those active brains–and if you’re the CEO, you probably do–that’s fine. Don’t fight the machine, but do try to distract it. Think about a beach, think about hiking or mountain climbing. It’s okay to think, just not only about work.

5. …Or Bring the Noise.

If meditation isn’t your thing, crank up the jams. Listen to that band you haven’t had time to listen to at full volume and sing along. Play air guitar or air drums and embrace your inner Eddie Van Halen.

6. Let’s get Physical.

For some people, the best kind of solitude is spent pushing their body to the limit. That’s great, do that: run, hike, bike, swim, whatever you do to get your body feeling worked and your head feeling free.

7. Color outside the lines.

Do something creative, or something that gets the creative mind working, but remember it can’t be actual work. Paint. Write. Sing. Slap the bass. Watch a TED Talk. Play a video game. Our brains are wired so that no matter how much you favor one side of them you can’t truly be your best if you don’t engage the other side. So go ahead, engage. You’ll know when the other half of your brain is ready.

The most important thing to remember is this fortress is about you and you alone, and that’s okay. Also, keep in mind, you don’t need to fly to the Arctic Circle and build yourself an ice palace. Your fortress can be anywhere, as long you understand the real fortress is in your mind. Your physical surroundings are important, but in the end it’s all about a state of mind. Get right with your head and you’ll be super again in no time.

Achieve Faster–Nobody Lives Forever!

Having goals is important for a business. Here are a few tips on achieving those goals a little quicker.

Goals are great, in fact they are paramount to actual success. Every single successful business in the history of time started with a goal, achieved it, and went from there. The only problem is, why do they take so long? Here’s a very simple, two-part process that will help you rocket to the finish line.

Part 1: Understanding the Path

  • Declare the goal. The best definition of a goal is a dream with a deadline. So declare not only the dream, but the deadline as well. What do you want to do and when do you want to do it by? These two very simple questions can help you to measure progress along the way and to know when you’re winning.
  • Create the path. The major difference between most goals and dreams is that a goal not only has a deadline, but it has a plan. What’s your plan? How do you intend on reaching that finish line and achieving that goal? Do you have everything you need to get you there? Have you anticipated roadblocks and pitfalls along the way? Do you have a plan to sidestep the landmines that you won’t see until the last minute?
  • Set mini-goals. Be sure you have measurable milestones–mini-goals along the path to let you know that you’re on the right road. The most important part is that they are three things: applicable, measurable, and attainable.
  • Define winning. The mini-goals and the major goal have to be tangible, specific. Again…measurable.
      • Bad example: “I want to grow my business.”
      • Good example: “I want to become the number one provider of services in my area.”
      • Also, understand that while you should celebrate the mini victories, they are not the goal. Think of them as points on the scoreboard that will help you come out on top when the buzzer rings.

      5. Review, re-route, and recommit. Along the path, you’ll need to check the map again and review the plan often to insure you’re headed the right way. You might stray and that’s okay, just re-route the plan and recommit yourself to it.

      Set the path, stick to the path, and keep the goal in sight. These are all time-tested, tried and true steps. Admittedly, this is Day 1 stuff. That being said, it never hurts to refresh this list yourself and with your team.

      Now, the second part is what will take you out of 101 and into graduate school!

      Part 2: The Shortcuts

      These are three steps that will help accelerate your plan and get you up close and personal with your goal faster than you ever imagined.

    • Prune your trees. Every gardener will tell you that to get the tallest and best plants and trees means you have to prune slow growth limbs. While it can be difficult to trim where there is still some growth, but if you want to get the fastest growth you have trim slower growth, not just failures.
    • Add more people. They don’t have to be employees, they could be supporters. You are looking for people who bring access, insight, or resources
    • Challenge your deadlines. This works especially well for mini-goals. Push your team (and yourself) to hit specific goals faster than what you initially set as your deadline. Expedite the process one goal at a time and before you know it, the major goal is in sight and reachable.
    • At that point, grab onto it and begin the process of defining the next goal. Winning once is great, but sustained success is what makes you a winner.


      9 Ways to Have Better Vacations

      If you are going to take time off work for vacation, make sure to really do just that and enjoy yourself. Here are some tips to help you relax.

      I am not a great vacationer. I wish I was. I am not alone, a lot of CEOs and senior executives confess that they do not disconnect well. They think about business a lot when they are gone, check in, keep their phone and email available, and are not as “present” on their vacation as they would like to be. As a fellow sufferer, I have studied how to be a better vacationer. I tested some guidelines on a recent break in Mexico and they worked really well.

    • Be gone for enough time to disengage–It takes me 1-2 days to disengage my mind and my sense of urgency from work. A three-day weekend is usually fun, but not truly a vacation because it does not allow me to totally release my mind from work. You have to give yourself enough time to break your rhythms of office life. I know for me that six days is the very minimum.
    • Unplugging may not be possible, so ration–All of the items I have studied about this topic have advocated a 100 percent disconnection. I know they are right and I know it is not happening. So I ration instead 20-30 minutes of email when I get up in the morning. I delegate or defer almost all responses to someone on my team back home or until I return. The “no contact” rule is better, but beyond my human capacity, so I ration.
    • Avoid digital temptations–Shut down the email, texting, and voice as much as possible. I am in Mexico watching three guys from my balcony overlooking the pool and beach. One is IN the pool on the phone, one is walking the beach on the phone, and one is at the bar on the phone. All are with their significant others. They can’t all be making dinner reservations. If the phone had been left in the room, they would not be on the call.
    • Go places that require your involvement–Whether you golf, tour museums, do ATV tours, or go antiquing, there are activities in your life that require your full involvement. Do as many of those as possible on your vacation. Get out of your head.
    • If you are a planner, have a plan–For planners, the idea of “making it up as we go” can create anxiety. A happy middle-ground is a couple of anchors in the day for events relieves some of the no-plan stress. A particular restaurant for a meal, a tour that has a set start time, or even a morning walk by the beach gives enough structure that the time does not feel out of control.
    • Feed your mind, body, and spirit–Take a book, make certain to get thirty-to-sixty minutes of exercise, and take some time for reflection. It can be very re-energizing. My favorite reflection exercise is to take ten minutes, write a person’s name at the top of the page and list all of the positive things about that person that make me grateful.
    • Keep a little pad of paper and pen with you–Ideas are going to come to you while you are on vacation, sometimes your best ones. If you can get them down on paper, you can get them out of your head and keep up with your vacation. If you don’t, you will obsess a bit on your idea and miss some of your relaxation.
    • Don’t burn up on re-entry–My worst habit is to book my day solid the first day I get back into the office. I am immediately thrown into the deep, cold water of work with little time to acclimate. As best you can, try for a light schedule at least the first day back so that you don’t become a meteor, burning up on re-entry to the work’s atmosphere.
    • Remember, you had the vacation, not your team–Your team has been working, so make certain that your boundless energy doesn’t become their endless task list. I used to have a boss a long time ago who was so concerned that everyone had goofed off while he was gone that his first week back he was a task-hurling S.O.B.–completely unnecessary, but I see it happen a lot.


      4 Ways to Manage Slippery Customers and Be Sticky

      You’ve worked hard to build a relationship with your customers, don’t let it slip away. Here are four ways you can become more “sticky.”

      Nothing is more frustrating in this competitive, hyper-commoditized world in which we live as businesses than working with a customer and believing you have developed a value-based relationship with them only to be tossed into a bidding war every year to keep the business.

      As I approach this idea of being “sticky”–which means not being so easily removed from a customer as a provider because of a lower priced competitor–let’s make a few assumptions:

    • You provide a good product or service at a market-relevant price. Not necessarily the lowest, and maybe the highest, but logically justifiable.
    • Your customers are regularly being approached by competitors who encourage your customers to “try them out” or switch entirely based upon promises of equal or better performance at same or lower prices.
    • Your customers can switch with relative ease, (or what they perceive to be ease), from you to you competitors.
    • If these assumptions fit for you, and you have felt some “slippage” with your customers, here are some things you can do to become stickier.

      Expand your connection net. Often in customer relationships, once the agreement has been made to work together, the management of the relationship thins. The sales person or account manager becomes the primary and often singular point of connection to the customer. On the customer’s side, they also thin their points of contact to only transaction processors. If you want to be sticky, you need more touchpoints in the relationship. We recommend that you look at a minimum of three connections that are occurring between your company and your customer’s company on at the bare minimum of once or more per month.

      Set regular meetings that do more than review your account performance. Account performance is important, but if you don’t bring additional value and insight about the marketplace, their competitors, and improvement recommendations, then you will get fewer people from the customer’s side attending and you will be less valuable. You have to be increasing the value of your company’s relationship with their company, or you will become slippery–not sticky.

      Lay claim to your “above-and-beyonds”. Too often, we believe that when we go above and beyond in serving our customer that it is recognized and communicated broadly inside the customer organization. Actually, and sadly, it is only noted by one or two people and forgotten quickly. Successful companies use their regular account review sessions to catalog their “above-and-beyond” service as a part of the agenda. Sure, it’s tooting your own horn–but if you don’t do it, you can’t be certain it is being done.

      Be aware of your competitors and what they are claiming. I see companies play pretend too often. By pretending that your customers do not know about the new invention, price reduction, or service expansion that is being offered by your competitors, you are truly only fooling yourself. Being aware allows you to prepare your response and often proactively take the issue off of the table with your customer. Responding AFTER the competitor approaches your customer is a terrible strategy. This puts you in the position of being behind the curve.

      More touchpoints, more moments of recognized contribution, and more scope of value widely communicated will help you to become stickier to your important customers.