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Attributes that Make Star Performers Bad Team Leaders

Have you ever worked for a “bulldozer” boss? Someone so focused on results that they leave a path of anxiety and intimidation in their wake? Or how about a “micro-manager” who leaves their imprint on every office matter while still complaining they have too much work to do?

If you can relate, you have probably seen a leader who is running off the rails. We all know pressure can sometimes bring out the worst in people, but when leaders of organizations lack the self-awareness to manage their negative tendencies, the consequences can be profound.

Hudson research shows over 60% of leadership strategies don’t factor in the risk of new or current leaders derailing1. This is despite 49% of new leaders underperforming when they transition roles2, often causing significant loss to the organization.

Leaders who derail can significantly impact the bottom line due to poor decisions and lost productivity. In a few months they can destroy positive cultures that took years to cultivate. And they can make life miserable for the people who work around them.

This is a shortcoming of many leadership development strategies used today. Most leadership strategies look at high performing leaders and try to isolate the key features that made them successful. They then seek to identify and cultivate those characteristics in emerging leaders.

But what is often lacking is an honest conversation about the character traits that make leaders fail if they aren’t understood and managed.

Why strength-based leadership models are not enough

The problem with looking only at positive character elements—such as being action-oriented or strong on empathy—is there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all leader. Different personalities will thrive depending on aspects of their environment such as the industry, whether the company is established or a start-up, the organization’s strategic priorities and the current economic climate. As you might imagine, the character profile that makes a successful start-up entrepreneur is very different than the leaders of a well-run government department.

Undesirable behaviors like micro-managing, on the other hand, are a lot more universal. In other words, while it’s not always the same attributes that make leaders successful, it is often the same things that cause leaders to derail. A leader who becomes insensitive and takes a “bulldozer” approach will derail in almost any situation.

These “derailers” blindside leaders because they often begin as strengths. They may even have played a significant role in the leader’s success as they climbed up the ranks.

Take someone who, in an individual contributor role, was recognized and promoted for attention to detail and for never missing a deadline. But leadership requires a whole new set of skills. Instead of empowering team members to make their own decisions and take calculated risks, this high performer comes across as a micro-manager who is anxious and tense about how things are done and displays little confidence in the ability of their direct reports.

Taking a new approach

Derailer behaviors often go unnoticed until the individual is put into a higher stress and demanding senior role. You are unlikely to discover them with traditional interview questions, but they can be identified early using in-depth assessments. Derailers don’t need to be a show stopper—it’s very rare for someone not to have at least one. By identifying and managing these potential behaviors, you can stop them from ruining the leader’s prospects for success.

The impact of derailer behaviors can be managed through well designed leadership development programs with targeted coaching.

These behaviors are very often ingrained. It can take some real self-insight for leaders to look objectively at how the traits that made them successful might now hinder them. Coaching can help leaders develop strategies to handle complex situations before their potential derailers become a problem.

People who have just been promoted are often on a euphoric high, and talking about the things that could make them fail can dampen their enthusiasm. However, when most are educated about how attributes that led them to success as an individual contributor could work against them in a leadership role, most are grateful for the knowledge and remark that it’s not something they ever realized. It’s a real shift in mindset for them.

No matter how you look at it, leaders who are more self-aware and open to feedback will likely get traction faster in their new roles and are set up for success… not to mention the benefits you get across whole teams or even the whole organization from having strong leadership.

1 Hudson’s Leadership Survey ANZ 2015
2 Van Buren M. E., Safferstone T. ‘The Quick Wins Paradox’, Harvard Business Review, January 2009.


Candidate ‘Ghosting’ Hurts Your Employer Brand

Urban Dictionary describes ghosting as “The act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone the subject is dating, but no longer wishes to date. This is done in hopes that the ‘ghostee’ will just ‘get the hint’ and leave the subject alone, as opposed to the subject simply telling them that they are no longer interested.”

The recruiting-world equivalent of “ghosting” is when a candidate goes through the interview process, and the recruiter ceases communication with the interviewee without any explanation. And no the “thanks but we hired someone else” perfunctory email sent to the candidate four months later doesn’t make up for it. That’s the recruiting-world equivalent of the “It’s not you, it’s me” lame excuse.

Urban Dictionary goes on to state, “Ghosting is not specific to a certain gender and is closely related to the subject's maturity and communication skills.”

Interviews don’t just take up time and energy on the company’s side. They are an investment of time and effort on the candidate’s part as well. A “mature” company that cares about its people (and by extension its candidates), communicates well not only when scheduling interviews, but also when they’ve decided to end the recruiting “relationship” with a candidate.

Communicate Well with a Customized Message

I once went through the interview process for a high-level marketing position with a Chicago-based technology firm. This process consisted of the original screening call, an hour-long phone interview with the head of sales and then a full day of one-on-one interviews with various members of the executive team (for which I used a vacation day). Feeling very positive, I left their offices with the assurance that the recruiter would let me know “next steps” within the next two weeks.

That was almost four years ago, and all I ever heard was nada… zilch… didley-squat. Not even a cowardly “It’s not you, it’s me” email about how wonderful I am but someone else was more “qualified.” You can bet I’ve shared my thoughts about that experience on the company’s Glassdoor page.

And why wouldn’t I complain about them on Glassdoor?  Could they possible be more blatant in their arrogance and disregard for candidates? Imagine how they treat people who’ve accepted their employment offers.

People love to blab about their bad experiences, and as the aforementioned story can attest, I’m one of them. A Dimensional Research/Zen Desk study revealed that “95% of respondents who have had a bad experience said they told someone about it, compared to 87% who shared a good experience.”

Just because the recruiter has decided to go quiet on the candidate doesn’t mean the candidate will reciprocate and go mum. In fact it’s unlikely. Make a regular practice of candidate ghosting, and it won’t take long for it to have an effect on your employer brand and reputation.

Candidates are Customers Too

“The customer is always right” is an expression that’s been around forever and ever for a reason. Customers buy your stuff, which keeps salaries paid and the lights on, so try your best to make them happy. It’s also why companies put so much effort into customer service training. It’s always fascinated me that companies can invest so much in sophisticated customer service training and programs to ensure an outstanding “customer experience,” but then drop the ball on candidate communications. Candidates ARE customers.

My husband once used a vacation day to interview with a large auto insurance company. After a 45 minute drive to the company’s headquarters, he sat down with the same recruiter who had originally reviewed his resume and invited him to interview.  She scanned his resume again (the exact same resume she felt qualified him for the role) and asked him, “Don’t you have xyz experience?”

“No,” he responded.

“Oh, you’re not qualified for this job,” she said as she cut off the interview.

You can bet that if this was the last car insurance company on earth, we’d gladly risk driving uninsured. They didn’t just hurt their employer brand, now they are hurting sales.

Recruiting “Closure”

Writing a custom note thanking a candidate for his/her time and perhaps providing a brief explanation about the decision to part ways is the right thing to do. It allows an applicant to move on and invest energy in other opportunities. Not to mention a job change is a major life event. The candidate could be waiting to make vacation plans or start those needed home repairs because it depends on the timing of a new potential job. Don’t leave them hanging.

The message doesn’t have to be a novel, but something that’s obviously not a form letter. Sending a courteous note demonstrates that you honor and value the time he/she has invested in exploring a potential work partnership. 

Plus you never know when this candidate might be perfect for something urgent that comes up. It’s a small world after all… and Glassdoor is only a URL away. 


Sending Out An SMS: Recruiting Texts From Last Night

This article originally appeared on Recruiting Daily.

In recruiting we spend a whole lot of time talking about striking the balance between automation and personalization, and how best to blend high tech with high touch. But for all the talk about email blasts, talent communities and employer branding, for some reason it seems like we’re all ignoring what seems to be a pretty obvious solution to what’s become a fairly endemic problem in talent acquisition today.

Imagine if a new SaaS product came out today that could guarantee a 90% open rate within three minutes of being sent. You’d probably pay whatever it takes to get your hands on what sounds to be a silver bullet for sourcing and candidate development.

I mean, 9 out of 10 candidates read my message within three minutes, I’m pretty sure we’d all throw obscene amounts of cash in whatever vendor could confidently make that guarantee – those response rates, after all, are pretty much unheard of in traditional talent acquisition technology.

Seriously. Name your price.

Why Text Marketing Crushes Social Recruiting
The thing is that product already exists, and you’re probably already using it; it’s called texting, and several studies support the fact that texts are by far the best way to make sure your message gets heard by the right person at the right time, in real time, all the time.

With an open rate ranging from between 90-99%, and with 9 out of 10 texts being read within three minutes of being received, the most powerful weapon in mobile recruiting may have been sitting there on your phone this entire time.

How many millions of dollars, after all, have companies spent to buy up followers and friends on Twitter or Facebook simply so that they can have the capability to get their brand message out to hundreds of thousands of people who could care less about your sponsored story, in the unlikely event they’d actually see it?

It’s easy to forget, but the reason Twitter is capped at 140 characters is because it was developed based off the SMS (that’s short message system) limit of 160 characters; Twitter caps user names out at 20 characters, thereby splitting the difference and establishing a whole new form of communication that’s never betrayed its origins as an SMS service. Texts were the entire point of tweeting, once upon a time not all too long ago.

Still not convinced? Well, let me try the old peer pressure approach: everyone’s doing it! Last year, users around the world sent an estimated 200 billion Tweets, a big number dwarfed by the deluge of an estimated 7.2 TRILLION text messages sent globally in 2015 alone.

That statistic alone should convince you of the need for using texting for talent acquisition. Think about the sheer volume of data represented in those 7.2 trillion texts (and counting) we send every year. It’s mind blowing, really, and it’s fairly safe to say that texting has become the predominate form of human communication in the 21st Century.

Don’t worry. It’s not a sign of the Apocalypse. It’s actually a pretty incredible opportunity to transform your applicant acquisition and candidate engagement strategies to be more efficient, and effective, than ever before.

Recruiting Texts: High Touch Meets High Tech
I know what you’re probably thinking. Sure, you send lots of texts, but those are personal messages, not professional ones. Am I right? That’s kind of the whole point of recruiting, if you’re doing it right.

That said, the perception that SMS communication is entirely driven by individual users isn’t completely accurate. According to a Pure360 report from 2013, 54% of US consumers receive at least one branded SMS message daily, and 50% of those who receive branded texts at some point convert into actual buyers. That’s right – fully half of those potential prospects actually closed due directly to a branded text message.

I have to believe that, three years after this original study, that the reach and ROI demonstrated by such successful texting trial runs have made this marketing approach even more prevalent, with the volume of brand-based texts skyrocketing to the point of ubiquity in 2016.

What limited data there happens to be available on current consumer trends support this belief. But for some reason, even as marketing departments embrace texting, recruiters are well behind the professional adoption curve on a technology almost all of us are already using for personal purposes, never thinking that maybe, just maybe, that silver bullet might have been in their hands this entire time.

This shouldn’t be a surprise, as recruiters are often late adopters, but this is one trend no talent pro can afford to miss.

Consider the question of where, exactly, you’d find candidate cell phone numbers to call if you were starting a search today. I’m going to guess it’s your ATS. Even in the few cases where a candidate’s cell phone number isn’t a required field, almost every resume in there is going to have their direct cell number prominently posted right at the top of the page.

If you’re not finding what you’re looking for there, I’d look at tools like ZoomInfo, Netprospex, Prophet or Spokeo. If your candidate has a cell phone, there’s a good chance the number is accessible on one of these profile aggregators, which makes building a lead list for texting campaigns far easier than trying to test a bunch of email matrixes to find out what address to start spamming.

Converting Contacts Into Candidates With Text Messaging: A Case Study
OK, so you’ve got a bunch of cell numbers. Now, most of the time, you’d probably start straight cold calling through your lead list, but this is where the true power of texting truly comes in. Chances are the only way you know how to send texts is through your cell phone, and if you’re like me, there’s no way you’re giving that number out like candy to candidates.

Good news: there’s actually an app for that. TextMe is a free recruiting tool that allows users to generate a random number for sending anonymous texts. While you’ll receive responses directly to your phone, you’ll hear a different tone to let you know whether or not it’s from a candidate. Pretty cool, right?

So, what more can I say? If you know how to cold call, the rules of the recruiting road still hold true when it comes to approaching text messaging. As evidence, I’ve got an actual example that I used with my team at Hudson. Contact information has been hidden to protect the innocent.

And just like that, what would have been a wasted InMail turned into an actual phone interview easier than if they’d actually replied directly on LinkedIn, where we had originally connected. Now, I know what some of you in the back of the room are probably thinking: “phones are for calling (or sourcing) – they’re certainly not for texting!” If that’s what you really think, well, all I can say is, think again. In fact, there are a few things wrong with that mindset that seem to be fairly self-evident.

First, calling and texting aren’t mutually exclusive; second, while I still believe that you can’t replicate the connection you can make with a candidate over the phone, when it comes to sourcing, the number of recruiters actually making cold calls has plummeted precipitously.

As the old adage says, “you can’t change the wind, but you can adjust your sails.”





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Hudson is a global talent solutions company. We help transform the workplace and unleash the full potential of organizations and individuals. Our expert team and proprietary tools provide you with unique insights and services that help you maximize your success. Across 20 countries, we deliver a range of recruitment, talent management and recruitment process outsourcing solutions to get you and your business where you want to be.