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Straight Talk for the Recruiting Profession

Articles tagged 'diversity'

Fordyce Forum

When Seeking Diversity Talent, Companies Often Turn to Search Firms


Fordyce Forum 2013 logoNote: Larry A. Green is a a speaker at the upcoming Fordyce Forum 2013. His breakout, Diversity Is Good For Your Business, will show you how to connect with diversity candidates, and meet your client’s requirements that your candidate list be as inclusive and broad as possible. In this article, he offers insights to what you need from the hiring organization and what it should be looking for in a search firm committed to diversity. Register now at Fordyce Forum 2013.

Many organizations do a good job of diversity recruiting at the college and mid-management level, but often fall short when it comes to the senior management ranks. It is well-recognized that having women and people of color in the top spots will assist in your overall diversity recruiting efforts as well as in retention of diverse mid-managers and entry-level employees.

Dedication to attracting talented women and people of color who often are underrepresented at the senior management and board levels of many organizations has now become a priority.

Traditional recruiting methods used by internal recruiting departments, such as posting jobs and identifying individuals in similar positions may not yield the desired results when attempting to build an inclusive workforce. Thus, hiring organizations often turn to executive search firms, insisting on an inclusive candidate slate, but often are disappointed with the results.

Industry News, Staffing

Staffing Companies Could Be Losers In H-1B Reform Efforts

US Capitol

US CapitolStiff new immigration laws introduced by Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley could stop staffing companies from bringing in H-1B visa holders.

Declaring that “Somewhere along the line, the H-1B program got side-tracked,” Grassley reintroduced legislation tightening up the entire H-1B program. Similar efforts by the Senator last year went nowhere, but with the renewed effort in Congress to enact some form of immigration reform, some of his proposals could get make it into law.

A group of four Democrats and four Republicans –the so-called Gang of Eight — have been working for weeks to come up with a bi-partisan immigration reform bill. Among the thornier problems has been the issue of guest worker visas, especially in regard to the flow of low-skilled workers for jobs in construction.

Creating a path to citizenship, or at least removing or reducing the threat of deportation for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants is also part of the reform package the group says will be ready to present to Congress after it returns in April from its spring break.


AESC Partners with MinorityMBAs.com


MinorityMBAs.com, an online career community that serves over 5,000 MBA job seekers, has partnered with the Association of Executive Search Consultants.

As a part of the relationship, MinorityMBAs.com will offer candidate-sourcing support to AESC members searching for diverse senior managers and executives, and participate in AESC events. BlueSteps.com, the online career management service run by the AESC for senior executives, will also be promoted through MinorityMBAs.com.

Finding and presenting diverse candidates is “a priority of every search consultant and an integral part of the retained search process,” according to Peter Felix, AESC president.


The Importance of Culture and Diversity in Successfully Building an Organization


Finding, maintaining, and growing the right talent is crucial to business success, especially in this economy. But academic intelligence and a strong resume are not necessarily the most critical elements of a top candidate. It can be much more crucial to fit into the corporate culture, its inner values, rituals, rites, and perspectives, with a compatible personality, creativity, flexibility, and social adaptability.

The right culture fit may be even more important than having a top degree. Although education remains an important factor, the best people for the top jobs may not be the ones who are the most educated.

There are a number of people in the hospitality industry, including board members, who have reached fairly senior positions without having a college degree.

Many started their career in high school or college, gained significant positions of responsibility, got married, and dropped out of school. Today, they are in top positions at thriving companies and considered leading executives by their competitors.

On three different occasions, I conducted searches for top executives in the hospitality industry with clients who initially said the position necessitated finding a person who had a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Each time they agreed, in the end, to consider candidates without a degree.

In one of the searches, I placed a candidate who did not have a degree but was a strong self-starter, a respected leader, and a great fit for the corporate culture.

Corporate culture starts at the top with the vision and strategy of leaders who recognize the value of a team in sync.

As managers hire new talent, they need to know the art of matchmaking, beginning with the knowledge that excellent credentials and skills alone are not enough. The company must also identify core values that can be matched by a candidate’s personal integrity, intellectual honesty, respect, passion, initiative, and a desire to succeed.

In order to match a candidate to a company’s culture, it is important to thoroughly understand in what type of business environments the candidate has been successful, as well as to identify the candidate’s SWEAT (strengths, weaknesses, experiences, aspirations, and talents).

TFL archives

Diversity In Recruiting – Leadership – Paterson on the Passaic


Leaving the army in early 1965, I returned to an entry level assignment in the (battle)field of civil rights in Paterson, New Jersey. This was about the time that President Lyndon Johnson gave an inspirational plea to Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965. President Johnson spoke with passion about dignity and purpose. His words are just as moving today:

This was the first nation in the history of the world to be founded with a purpose. The great phrases of that purpose still sound in every American heart, North and South: ‘All men are created equal’; ‘government by consent of the governed’; ‘give me liberty or give me death’. Well, those are not just clever words and those are not just empty theories. In their name Americans have fought and died for two centuries, and tonight around the world they stand there as guardians of our liberty, risking their lives.

Those words are a promise to every citizen that he shall share in the dignity of man. This dignity cannot be found in a man’s possessions; it cannot be found in his power, or in his position. It really rests on his right to be treated as a man equal in opportunity to all others. It says that he shall share in freedom, he shall choose his leaders, educate his children, and provide for his family according to his ability and his merits as a human being.

To apply any other test – to deny a man his hopes because of his color or race, his religion or the place of his birth – is not only to do injustice, it is to deny America and to dishonor the dead who gave their lives for American freedom.

Paterson in the mid 1960s was an old city, a caldron rushing to erupt. James Hirsch in his book, Hurricane The Miraculous Journey of Rubin Carter, called it the “the wild west on the Passaic.” Christopher Norwood’s book On Paterson is vivid. “The mills, the redbrick buildings where people produced commodities and became commodities themselves still stand in Paterson, but most are abandoned now. The looms are no more, their noisy, awkward machinery long vandalized or sold for scrap. Vines, weeds and sometimes whole trees have grown through their stark walls, the walls unadorned except for small slits, outlined in a contrasting brick pattern, left for windows.”

In this period the mayor was sharply criticized for turning the city into a police state; there were charges of police brutality and torture. Jim Hirsch sets the scene in Paterson at this point in its history:

Paterson’s swelling black population especially feared the mostly white police force and resented the mayor’s apparent indifference to their grievances. By the middle 1960s blacks were about 20% of the city’s population. Between 1950 and 1964, 18,000 blacks and Hispanics moved into Paterson as 13,000 whites moved out. At the same time, good factory jobs were disappearing quickly, creating tensions between whites and blacks for a piece of the shrinking economic pie.

Many black immigrants settled in the Fourth Ward and established taverns and nightclubs. Housing there was a shambles. Old wooden structures slouched beneath the weight of their new occupants; many of the units lacked plumbing, central heating, or private baths. A citywide survey showed that when a black family moved into a tenement, the rent was increased. There were long waiting lists for low-income municipal housing, and when blacks tried to move out of the Fourth Ward, they were refused or stalled by white real estate agents. Health conditions were horrid. A protest group offered a bounty of ten cents for each rat found in a home and delivered to City Hall. A court injunction snuffed out the rodent rebellion.

Many times, while visiting the homes of families on Graham Avenue, I thought that people I saw in the slums of Korea were a step-up in living conditions and had more of a chance at a decent life. To describe Paterson in the late ?60s would take volumes. Daily life on Paterson’s River Street, Graham Avenue, and Fourth Ward had more than its share of riots, acts of civil disobedience, injustices, disagreements with the political and ecclesiastical power structures, anger, violence, beatings, fights with welfare, and court appearances. While the battle for Paterson was being waged, someone said: “We’re winning a few skirmishes, but losing the war.”

Stepping on to this tumultuous scene was the new leader of the Catholic Diocese of Paterson, Bishop Lawrence B. Casey, a tall German Irish American from Rochester, New York. There was no time for a ?getting to know you’ period; vital decisions had to be made and the church had to get meaningfully involved in the racial shame of Paterson. The new bishop jumped in and made some moves that made conservative clergy pariahs wince and pray for a return to the quiet old days.

Moves like letting priests working in the black community move out of the rectory and live in a six floor tenement on Graham Avenue, in the thick of the action. Moves like establishing a community center for black youths and families on Graham Avenue to criticisms of this ilk: “Why is he doing this? These people are not even Catholics.” Moves like purging anonymous letters from church files and taking action on anything that was detrimental to people, no matter who the perpetrators might be. Moves like judging people on performance, establishing a no baloney open door policy, getting rid of gamesmanship, making courageous decisions and taking responsibility for them. Moves like being one of the first bishops to start a priest’s senate in order to empower them and give them a voice.

The bishop and the priests on Graham Avenue had their differences. We got more than our share of ‘chewing outs’ but they were always carried out in a manly, honest way. He encouraged push-back but you had to have your facts straight. If the facts warranted it, he would change his opinion, even publicly, and you would hear, “Okay. Okay. What do you think we should we do?”

Like the time the inner city priests would not attend the Diocesan Civil Rights Committee meetings, which were held at a downtown hotel and not on Graham Avenue because some of the members were afraid of “that” neighborhood. Like the time we needed someone to quell the frenzy of the riots and to lessen the influence of out-of-town organizers. We asked him to come to the Center in the middle of one of the riots to shoot pool with the kids. After a “You guys are nuts!” He came down, played pool with kids for two hours and probably saved a lot of injuries.

The Bishop Casey stories could go on and on. What made him such a leader? All the women and men who worked with him would love to offer their reasons. Here are mine:

  • He challenged the status quo; knocked down nonsensical barriers and wanted others to do the same.
  • Bishop Casey was not afraid of change; he looked at change as a way to grow.
  • He knew and loved his people; he backed his troops when they were right or made an unpopular decision.
  • He led by example; always did what he said he was going to do; you wanted to work for him and tried to work as hard as he did.
  • The bishop always dealt with things quickly; things didn’t stay long in his “in-box” (I don’t think he had one.)
  • He picked his battles and was always prepared. He hated injustice and was thoroughly surprised when others didn’t.
  • You knew when you goofed but he always treated you with dignity and respect.
  • He was clear and consistent. He stayed on top of things and expected you to do the same. He called often to get an update.
  • The bishop looked for the best in you; always played to your strengths; and helped you with your weaknesses.
  • He was a “servant leader” who put the people first, trusted his staff and truly delegated.

Two quotes are fitting reminders of how Bishop Casey led. “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity” (General George Patton). “The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and will to carry on” (Walter J. Lippmann).

Let’s go back to the military for more advice and guidance on leadership. The U.S. Marine Corps invest in their front line by following five practices:

  1. Over-investing in cultivating core values: make an investment by intensely focusing on core values. Give your employees more than a brief introduction
  2. Preparing every person to lead, including frontline supervisors: training every front line person to lead has a powerful effect on morale
  3. Learning when to create teams and when to create single-leader work groups: genuine teams are rare in the business world where a single individual leading a group is the norm.
  4. Attending to the bottom half, not just the top half: find the time to attend to the poor and mediocre performers, even if it means personal sacrifice. Normally, it is cheaper and easier to rejuvenate under-performers than it is to replace them. Marine Drill Instructors never give up on a recruit.
  5. Encouraging self-discipline as a way of building pride. Demand that everyone act with honor, courage, and commitment.

Brace E Barber in his book, Ranger School, No Excuse Leadership, lists the U.S. Army Principles of Leadership:

  • Seek responsibility and take it for your actions
  • Know yourself and seek self improvement
  • Make sound and timely decisions
  • Be technically and tactically proficient
  • Train your soldiers as a team
  • Set the example
  • Know your soldiers and look out for their well-being
  • Employ your unit in accordance with its capabilities
  • Develop a sense of responsibility in your subordinates
  • Keep your soldiers informed
  • Ensure that the task is understood, supervised and accomplished.

The jacket of the book The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell, by Oren Harari, states: Colin Powell has established an entirely new paradigm for leadership excellence. Through four U.S. presidents and countless world crises the blunt-spoken four-star general has grown to become one of the world’s most effective, bottom-line leaders.” At the end of each chapter of this fascinating book, the author cites some leadership principles of this famous general. The principles speak for themselves.

1.Make performance and change top organizational priorities. Elevating performance and challenging the status quo are two keys to success. Help others do the same. Provide people with the tools, technologies, and training to build their skill sets and enhance their level of personal responsibility.

2. Define the new game, and expect everyone to play it. Clearly articulate a broad agenda (priorities, goals, values) and provide everyone with the tools and training necessary to take powerful action.

3.Make sure that your best performers are more satisfied than your poor performers. Reward those who demonstrate commitment to your new agenda.

4. Get rid of non-performers. Confront people who can’t or won’t perform.

5.Consider the possibility that if nobody’s pissed off, you may not be pushing hard enough.

6. Maintain a real, no b.s. open-door policy. The leader must encourage communication from every quarter.

7.Foster a ‘noisy’ system. Get everyone to participate in the information flow. Encourage a diversity of opinions and a clash of ideas.

8. Use every means to encourage communication, and never let rank or hierarchy get in the way. Smoke out the opinions of those closest to the front lines.

9.Use technology to improve communications. Harness the power of new technologies in order to insure that everyone is included.

10. Treat turf wars as the enemy of communication. Knock down barriers. Reward those who follow suit.

11. Look past today, and monitor the environment for tomorrow. Don’t get stuck in the past. Even in the best of weather, look for competitive clues on the horizon. Adapt to new situations, and, after embracing change, respond to it with innovative action.

12.Challenge the prevailing wisdom. What are the data telling you? Is it the same thing that your gut is telling you? If not, why not?

13. Guard against competitive myopia. Change your model before someone else changes it for you. The corporate graveyard is full of organizations that failed to take pre-emptive action.

14. Make change mean growth. Humans resist change. Change precipitates growth.

15.Live the old military adage: “No guts, no glory.” You are likely to accomplish more by taking calculated, intelligent risks than if you play it safe.

16.Do your best by pursuing every avenue. Pushing the envelope means leaving nothing on the table. Many a career has been stymied because of a manager’s unwillingness to take things to the next level.

17.Make everybody want to stretch. Whether you lead a small department or a large organization, it’s up to you to create a context in which everyone wants to take actions that make a difference.

18.Don’t punish for failure. As long as people are not subjecting your organization to undue risk, it’s never a sin to fail when pursuing a good objective using sensible tools and tactics.

19.Don’t invest in organizations that punish risk takers. If you work for an organization that smothers change efforts and punishes risk takers, start working on your exit strategy.

20.Be a “disorganizer.” Wage war on smugness and arrogance. Never stop doubting and challenging. Challenge habits and conventional wisdom. Always look for a better way to develop alternative and better paths.

21.Don’t accept things at face value. Maintain a health dose of skepticism.

22.Remember that success can breed failure and that complacency is the enemy. In today’s world, contentment with the status quo is dangerous.

23. Put truth and integrity above all else.

24.Dig, dig, and dig some more. It is the leader’s responsibility to constantly and proactively probe below the surface.

25.Challenge the pros to get better solutions. Whether it’s you challenging your superiors or your subordinates challenging you, remember that more opinions and more voices usually translates into more alternative options.

26.Emphasize dignity, respect, and honor while disagreeing. Disagree without being disagreeable.

27. Be patient. If you’re right, the wheel will eventually turn your way.

28.Build a setting in which all feel free to speak. If you’re going to be speaking out, you need to be helping out, too.

29. Execution is the key. Do not articulate a vision or a mission unless you are prepared to implement it with overwhelming strength. Stay cool under fire, think big, act fast, and go for the big win.

30. Pick your battles. Elevate to mission status only those causes that are vital to the organization’s success. You can’t slay the dragon every day. Make sure that you choose your battles carefully.

31.Remain flexible. Pick your battles, but don’t turn up your nose at opportunity.

32.Remember Powell’s Three Cs: clarity, consistency, and commitment. When you are clear, consistent, and committed, you lend enormous strength to your organization.

33.Keep it simple. Simple messages are the best messages.

34.Count on people more than plans or structures. Without great people who are empowered by supportive cultures, the best-laid plans are likely to be of little use.

35. Assume that people are competent, and that every job counts, until proven otherwise.

36.Spend at least 50 percent of your time on people. Planning is clean and people management is messy, so leaders are tempted to hang out in the clean task neighborhoods.

37. View people as partners, regardless of their place in the hierarchy.

38.Become a servant leader. Work “for” your people. Help people to accomplish the goals that emanate from the vision. Give them the tools they need, and turn them loose.

39.Master the details before and during the launch of a major project or campaign.

40. Use your mastery of details for great decisions and great execution. By mastering the details, you can avoid major missteps, capitalize on superb opportunities, spur a sense of urgency, and get people focused on the right direction.

41. Stay in touch with the “little” things.

42.Avoid ?analysis paralysis.” Attending to the fine points is not a license to micromanage, hide from a decision, or become obsessive-compulsive.

43. Remember that discipline in details is discipline strategy. Details dictate direction. Sound strategy requires sound execution.

44.Do not manage by fad. There are no magic elixirs that will suit every situation. A leader’s job is to assess every situation and adopt the direction and course of action that best fits the situation.

45.Be ready to change on a dime. Be prepared to change direction as the situation warrants it.

46.Don’t fight “the last war.” In times of uncertainty, don’t assume that ?back to basics’ or some other popular buzzword tactic is the right course of action.

47.“Ride” change, rather than managing it. It is impossible to manage the unforeseeable.

48. If your division or unit is not decentralized, consider a deep, pervasive, structural reorganization. In this past-paced world, those who are not in constant touch with what is going on in the front lines can’t make all the key decisions.

49.Use the Internet to make sure that all units and team members have access to information and to each other. All members of the team must have access to key resources.

50.Stay on top of key matters. Decentralization is not an excuse for being out of touch. It is still the leader’s responsibility to provide effective leadership.

51.Stay lean and supportive. The people at the core are the servants of those in small units in the field. The ranks of those who actually win the wars, or do the business of the company, need to grow much faster than the ranks of those who provide support at headquarters.

52.Don’t be over-reliant upon org charts or unduly impressed by job titles. Remember that leadership is more about the ability to influence and inspire others.

53.Curiosity is key. Curiosity is a key leadership ingredient. The best leaders arouse curiosity. They are interesting and are able to inspire others to act.

54.Always work on building your trust factor - building others’ trust in you.

55.Walk the talk. Leaders who talk a good game but do not lead by example will not be respected. Leaders must live by the traits they espouse.

56. Put optimism on your desktop and make optimism a top priority.

57. Don’t take counsel of your fears or your naysayers. Don’t let naysayers or partial facts tell you it can’t be done.

58.Spread optimism around the organization. It is the leader who sets the tone.

59.Make optimism the fuel for bold and disciplined action.

60.Strive for balance. Don’t neglect home and family life. Do not spend yourself entirely at work. If your workplace gets jealous, think about a change. Life is too short.

61.Have fun in your command. Research suggests that those who have fun in their jobs perform better, innovate on a more consistent basis, and are less likely to crack under pressure.

62.Don’t clock hours for hours’ sake. Don’t confuse activity with productivity.

63.Command is lonely. The ultimate decision rests with the leader, and strong leaders accept the weight of their position.

64.Lead by example. All employees are boss watchers. The rank and file will always take their cues from the leader. It is therefore doubly important that the leader love the values he or she espouses.

65.Know when to exit. Just when you’ve figured it all out, it’s time to pass it along to the next generation. Sometimes the act of leaving is the greatest task of leadership. Know when it’s time.

66. Leadership is, ultimately, responsibility, and, it’s the ultimate responsibility. Those who seek out responsibility have to be prepared to accept it, fully and unequivocally. Lead as though “the buck stops here.”

The strength of the group is in the will of the leader and the will is in the character of action. The great hope of society is the character of action. We are never going to create a good society, much less a great one, until individual excellence is once more respected and encouraged. If we will create something, we must be something. Character is the direct result of mental attitude.

Vince Lombardi

Leadership Bibliography

Ranger School, Barber, Brace E., Patrol Leader Press

The Tao of Personal Leadership, Dreher, Diane, Harper Business

Leadership and Self-Deception, The Arbinger Institute

Learning to Lead, Bennis, Warren; Goldsmith, Joan, Addison Welsey

Motivation, Lombardi Style, Celebrating Excellence Publishing

Synchronicity The Inner Path of Leadership, Jaworski, Joseph, Berrett-Koehler

Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell, Harari, Oren,McGraw Hill

Leadership on the Line, Heifetz, Ronald A., Linsky, Marty, Harvard Business School Press

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Maxwell, John C., Nelson Business

TFL archives

Diversity In Recruiting


Writing on leadership has forced me to select, describe and list the qualities of the two best leaders I have experienced in my careers. This month we will begin with Alfred E. Lucas, a burly African American, now retired in St. Louis. Next month with Bishop Lawrence B. Casey, now deceased.

Al Lucas, the most avid and knowledgeable baseball fan I’ve ever known, was the Chief of the Metro Division of the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity, in Boston. He later moved on to a series of sub-cabinet posts in Washington. I worked in the Urban Division and during my first year the only relationship I had with Mr. Lucas – everyone called him Mr. Lucas – was talking baseball in the corridors and in the men’s room.

When the job announcement for the Deputy Director of the Metro Division was posted, five of us applied. Four were interviewed the first week and their interviews lasted for about forty minutes. My interview took place the following week and it lasted for two hours. I still laugh when I think about it. Al Lucas opened the interview with, “You’re not going to get this job, someone else is.” That was that. He added, “But I want you to be on my team. The Executive Director okayed your transfer; you start Monday. I just put four hours of reading material in your new cubicle. Give me your recommendations on Monday and type them yourself because the whole matter is confidential. I have to give my recommendations on this sensitive matter to the Governor’s Council and the Congressional Representatives on Monday at eleven.” The interview part of our meeting took less than ten minutes; we talked baseball for almost two hours.

I gave him my typed recommendations at ten o’clock on Monday morning. I presumed that he asked the other dozen or so members of his team to do the same thing. He didn’t. When I gave Al my three typewritten pages, he folded them, put them in his coat pocket, and asked: “What do you think of the Yankees trade?” We discussed the trade and then Al said, “Okay, get your suit coat; you’re coming to the meeting with me.”

After the meeting got underway, Mr. Lucas was asked by that august assembly for his recommendations on the defunding issues before them. He took out my typed recommendations, read them verbatim, and put them put them back in his pocket. Then he defended, explained, and sold them for the next hour. I was amazed and shocked. Not shocked that Al was such an eloquent speaker and was held in such esteem by all those present but that he was reading these recommendations for the first time. On the walk back, Al said, “Now you know how much I trust you. I want that back in loyalty and dedication to the team and our mission.”

From then on I became a student and probably a disciple of the Al Lucas’s brand of leadership. Everyone on the team was strong in an area that Al was not as strong but he had the ability and talent to orchestrate and lead the group. His ego never got in the way of trusting people and giving them the credit for their work and their ideas. He empowered everyone on his staff. He used your mistakes to teach, never to punish. He pushed hard and we had to stretch, but we had a lot of fun.

He was the epitome of a gentleman. I never saw him reprimand anyone in public; he showed the utmost respect for everyone. He was the master communicator, you always knew where you stood; when you talked, he listened and made you feel that you were sharing the most important information in the universe. He always said, “Thank you.” He made partners of us all; he was flexible, loved the challenges that change caused; he always did what he said he was going to do; and he led by example. I worked for Al in 1972-73 and one of the lasting benefits is that when we talk by phone, he still makes me feel great.

Korn-Ferry International, a leading executive search firm performed a survey on what organizations want from their leaders. The respondents said they wanted people who were ethical and who convey a strong vision of the future. In any organization, a leader’s actions set the pace. To be an effective leader your people must have trust in you and they have to be sold on your vision. One of the ways to build trust is to display a good sense of character. Character is the disposition of a person, made up of beliefs, values, skills, and traits.

  • Beliefs are the deep rooted beliefs that a person holds dear.
  • Values are attitudes about the worth of people, concepts or things.
  • Skills are the knowledge and abilities you gain throughout life.
  • Traits are distinguishing qualities or characteristics of a person, while character is the sum total of these traits.

In Learning to Lead, A Workbook on Becoming a Leader, Warren Bennis and Joan Goldsmith ask, “What do most constituents want from their leaders?”

Purpose, Direction, and Meaning. We cannot exaggerate the significance of a strong determination to achieve a goal, together with the conviction, passion, and unique point of view that establish the energy and direction of the leader.

Trust. Leaders must generate and sustain trust. The trust factor is the social glue that binds commitment and promotes action necessary to produce results.

Optimism. All leaders need to be purveyors of hope. Their optimism fascinates other because it is so pervasive and so powerful.

Action and results. The last quality common to leaders is a bias towards action … Most leaders are pragmatic dreamers and practical idealists. They step up and take their shots every day, perhaps knowing that, as hockey player Wayne Gretzky once said: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”

As leaders, we need to understand these organizational elements better so that we can create and foster them where we work and live.

1. Alignment. Alignment with a common vision means have a sense of shared objectives and goals to which people can be dedicated.

2. Empowerment. What we mean by empowerment of all involved really has to do with people sensing they are at the center of things, rather than at the periphery; that everyone feels they make a difference to the success of the organization.

a. Proper leadership empowers the workforce. An empowered workforce is one that is committed, where workers feel that they are learning that they are competent.

b. They have a sense of human bond, a sense of community, and a sense of meaning in their work. Even people who do not especially like each other feel the sense of community.

c. A feeling of one’s significance to others is extremely important.

d. In organizations with effective leaders, empowerment is most evident in four themes or feelings:

01. People feel significant

02. Learning and competence matter – leaders value learning and mastery

03. People are part of a community – where there is leadership, there is a team

04. Work is exciting – where there are leaders who empower, the work is stimulating, challenging, fascinating, and fun.

3. Learning culture. A learning, inquiry-based culture is one where ideas and information come through unhampered by people who are worried or fearful.”

What about vision? Bennis and Goldsmith answer: “There is at least one ingredient that every leader shared: concern with a guiding purpose, an overarching vision. They were more than goal directed; they were vision directed … Vision animates, inspirits, and transforms purpose into action.

Leaders are the most results-oriented individuals in the world, and results get attention. Their visions or intentions are compelling and pull people toward them. Intensity coupled with commitment is magnetic. These intense personalities do not have to coerce people to pay attention; they are so intent on what they are doing that they draw others in.

We think of it this way: Leaders manage the dream. All leaders have the capacity to create a compelling vision, one that takes people to a new place.”

What engenders trust?

1.“The leader has a vision for the organization that is clear, attractive, and attainable.

2. The leader has unconditional empathy for those who live in the organization.

3.The leader’s positions are consistent.

4.The leader’s integrity is unquestionable.”

How about strategic thinking? There is an old saying, “Unless you are the lead dog, the scenery never changes.”

To extend that thought: For the leader, the scenery is always changing, everything is new. Because, by definition, each leader is unique, the circumstances are perceived uniquely. Out of the leader’s role in dealing with the chaos of our times and the constancy of change comes the demand that leaders be strategic thinkers. A well-developed strategy allows leaders to think of solution to problems that may not have manifested yet. A strategy takes the leader out of the reaction mode and provides for creativity and initiative.”

Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky in their book, Leadership on the Line, believe that the lone warrior myth of leadership is a sure route to heroic suicide. “One of the distinguishing qualities of successful people who lead in any field is the emphasis they place on personal relationships … The critical resource is access, and so the greatest care is given to creating and nurturing networks of people whom they can call on, work with, and engage in addressing the issue at hand …

There are six essential aspects of thinking politically in the exercise of leadership: one for dealing with people who are with you on the issue; one for managing those who are in opposition; and four for working with those who are uncommitted but wary – the people you are trying to move.

1. Find Partners. Partners provide protection, and they create alliances for you with factions other than your own. They strengthen both you and your initiatives. Finding the right partners can be tough. Partnering on an issue means giving up some autonomy, causing both you and your potential partners some degree of reluctance about getting together.

2.Keep the opposition close. To survive and succeed in exercising leadership, you must work as closely with your opponents as you do with your supporters.

3.Accept responsibility for your piece of the mess.

4.Acknowledge their loss. You may be asking people to close the distance between their espoused values and their actual behavior.

5.Model the behavior. Don’t ask the employees to do something that you wouldn’t do, e.g., do something that looks safe to you but dangerous to them.

6.Accept casualties. An adaptive change that is beneficial to the organization as a whole may clearly and tangibly hurt some of those who had benefited from the world being left behind. If people simply cannot adapt, the reality is that they will be left behind. They become casualties.

Lou Brambilla, the retired CEO of Community Newsdealers Inc., a division of the Boston Globe, and a former client, is now the Director of Development for the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center. I told him about this article and then said, “Hey, Lou, you were a CEO for a lot of years, how about giving me some bullets about leadership. Here they are:

  • A good listener.
  • Learn from the employees (I like to find something positive that an employee does, then capitalize on it).
  • Leads by example.
  • Pick your battles and train others to do the same, don’t nit-pick.
  • Let people vent.
  • Let employees challenge decisions. But sometimes employees have to trust your judgment and understand that you can’t always share the reason for your decisions.
  • Whenever possible allow employees to help with decisions, even the ones that may affect them. This is easier said than done.
  • Make sure the proper training is in place.
  • MBWA (manage by walking around)
  • Good visionary.
  • Good analyst.
  • Not afraid to make the tough decisions and deliver the tough messages.
  • Always be visible.
  • Train someone to take your job.

To be continued…

TFL archives

Diversity in Recruiting – Leadership


On a November night years ago, troops of the 101st Airborne Division were bivouacked in a remote US location. Most of the soldiers did not have winter gear and it was cold. About one in the morning I crawled out of the sleeping bag to respond to Mother Nature and to pay the price for drinking so much coffee. I saw a young lieutenant going from sleeping bag to sleeping bag rousting the GIs and ordering each one to do some exercises. When I asked him what he was doing, he replied, “It’s so cold I want to make sure my men are okay.” He did this all night until dawn.

Fast forward to the Central Highlands of Vietnam. It was June 1966. The enemy had heavy machine guns and automatic weapons dug in all along the valley wall and they used the cover of the monsoon rains to mount a major offensive. All the infantry companies of both paratrooper battalions of the 101st Airborne were heavily engaged. It was then that one of the most heroic actions of the war took place. Captain William S. Carpenter, Commander of Co. “C”, 2d Battalion, 502d Infantry found his unit surrounded and being overrun by what was later estimated to be a North Vietnam Army battalion.

As he spoke to his battalion commander the voices of the screaming, charging enemy could be heard over the radio. Captain Carpenter called an air strike on his own position. “They’re all around us and in us – let’s take them with us – put it right on top of us.” The enemy attack was broken and the company was saved. However, it was still surrounded until “A” Company pressed through the thicket of bamboo and heavy enemy fire to relieve the pressure on “C” Company. Captain Carpenter was decorated with the nation’s second highest award for bravery (http://www.screamingeaglesthroughtime.com/id105.html).

Earl “Red” Blaik, the famous West Point football coach, amazed the football world with a new idea, “the lonely end.” This became synonymous with the 1958 Army team. Hugh Wyatt describes it this way, “And then there was the far flanker himself, the person the formation was inspired by and designed for. Bill Carpenter, a 6-2, 205 pound junior from Springfield, PA, had missed most of the 1957 season because of an injury suffered in a military jeep accident, but he was 100 percent recovered and ready for 1958. He was a marvelous athlete, ?possibly the best offensive wingman in Army history,’ in Blaik’s words.”

People may remember Bill Carpenter as “the lonesome end” from West Point or as the hero in Vietnam. I remember him as the young lieutenant who took care of his men on a cold November night so many years ago.

In this and my next two articles we will take a closer look at defining leadership. Definitions of leadership have changed and evolved over the years:

  • 1920′s: “… the ability to impress the will of the leader on those led and induce obedience, respect, loyalty, and cooperation.” (Steward)
  • 1930′s: “… interaction between specific traits of one person and other traits of the many, in such a way that the course of action of the many is changed by the one.” (Bogardus, 1934)
  • 1940′s: “Leadership … is the art of influencing … people by persuasion or example to follow a line of action. It must never be confused with drivership … which is the art of compelling … people by intimidation or force to follow a line of action.” (Copeland)
  • 1950′s: “… the process (act) of influencing the activities of an organized group in its efforts towards goal setting and goal achievement.” (Stogdill, 1950-58)
  • 1960′s: “… acts by persons which influence other persons in a shared direction.’ (Seeman, 1960)
  • 1970′s: ” … a process in which an individual takes initiative to assist a group to move towards the production goals that are acceptable to maintain the group, and to dispose the needs of individuals within the group that compelled them to join it.” (Boles and Davenport, 1975)
  • 1980′s: “Leaders lead by pulling rather than pushing; by inspiring rather than ordering; by creating achievable, though challenging, expectations and rewarding progress toward them rather than by manipulating; by enabling people to use their own initiative and experiences rather than by denying or constraining their experiences and actions.” (Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus)
  • 1990′s: “Leadership means establishing direction: developing a vision of the future and the strategies to create it; aligning people: communicating direction in words and deeds to everyone whose cooperation is needed to create the vision; motivating and inspiring: energizing people to overcome major political, bureaucratic, and resource barriers to change by satisfying basic, but often unfulfilled, human needs.” (John P. Kotter)

In October 2003, Frederick W. Hill, an African American, and the EVP of Marketing and Communications at J.P. Morgan Chase delivered a talk, Leadership, A Personal Journey, to the Harvard Business School African American Alumni Association. Hill said, “Napoleon called a leader a dealer in hope. But that’s only part of the truth. Leadership is about raising the hopes, calming the fears, firing the imagination, and strengthening the resolve of real people.” As John P. Kotter wrote, “A peace-time army can usually survive with good administration and management up and down the hierarchy, coupled with good leadership concentrated at the very top. A wartime army, however, needs competent leadership at all levels. No one yet has figured out how to manage people into battle; they must be led.”

In my career I have grown through a galvanizing plant, the church, the army, teaching, the government, counseling, the placement business, a brief retirement, and now back to the diversity placement business. My bet is that some of you have experienced many new directions in your life. Some of my work and life experiences have taught me about both good and bad leadership

When it comes to a job or a career, the thing I remember most about my mother and father, my uncles and aunts, was that they worked very hard to provide for their families. The men worked in the trades, on the docks, as merchant seamen, milkmen, in sales; the women were telephone operators, waitresses, domestics and factory workers. They instilled in all of their children a strong sense of responsibility, the goodness of hard work and self-reliance, and the value of getting an education that no one could take from you.

After stints as a stock boy in a shoe store and a soda jerk, my first real job was as a laborer in a galvanizing factory during summers and school vacations. My lifelong study of leadership had begun. The foreman and bosses were direct and gave explicit commands in clear and colorful language. You knew instantly when you made a mistake or were goofing off; the whole plant heard your chewing out, and fellow workers busted you all day with mock reprimands. Flexibility, doing it your way, being creative, pushing back were yet to be invented in factory life.

Seminary training was eight years of boot camp, rigorous discipline, and blind obedience to rules that should have been outdated in the Middle Ages. No such thing as excuses or dialog. Disobey and you were out. The qualities of leadership were rarely mentioned in this hierarchical autocracy.

As an assistant pastor you had little or no input about the leadership or direction of the parish unless you were fortunate enough to have a pastor who believed in shared responsibility, who empowered, trained, and genuinely listened to you.

When I went into the army, I remember thinking, “Now I’m going to see some real leadership.” I did come face to face with all types of leadership in all varieties: exceptional, outstanding, excellent, good, average, and how did he ever get promoted to this job? Some officers and NCOs were memorable, great teachers who made a lasting impact on my life and growth.

The same is true of the world of education, government, non-profits, business, and the placement industry. In all these changes I hoped to find an environment where there was perfect leadership. The quest goes on.

Sure, there are always some great leaders and many not so great. I won’t bore you with examples of poor leadership. You have all experienced the intimidators, the ones who play one worker against the other, the shouters and screamers, the petty, the cowards, the ?my way or the highway’ types, the back stabbers, the power seekers, and on and on ad nauseam. I have to mention two because besides being ridiculous and childish, their actions were laughable. One was a typewriter thrower; the other would punish someone by ordering the rest of the staff not to talk to the one being punished for a week. Can you believe it?

Back to Frederick Hill’s talk at Harvard. Many of the lessons he learned about leadership in his career are shared by most of us:

  • Be friendly but not friends with the people you lead.
  • Be observant; trust and listen to your instincts.
  • Check and re-check details; if you’re not good at this, have someone on your staff do it.
  • Question everything – even the experts.
  • When you teach you have to motivate, set clear goals, fairly evaluate people and provide constructive feedback.
  • Communicate clearly and often. Keep people informed.
  • One of the easiest things to do is praise; one of the hardest is to criticize.
  • Give direction. Change bad attitudes.
  • Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks.
  • If you have to be the bearer of bad news, get it out quickly. Only then can you get out of the bunker and begin to move forward.
  • Wherever possible, don’t forget to have some fun.

I’ll conclude this month’s article with a few words on leadership and diversity, and then list the distinctions between leadership and management.

I genuinely believe that it is impossible to be a good leader in today’s world without a sound knowledge and understanding of diversity and without sensitivity to diversity issues. Whenever I write about leadership I think of a young priest in Passaic, New Jersey whose pastor was an old Irish monsignor. The younger priest worked with the poor and homeless. One day he went to the old monsignor and said: “There’s a man out here who says he is Jesus Christ, what should I do?” The monsignor said: “Look busy, son; look busy.”

Diversity celebrates and uses the differences in people. Diversity empowers people and takes advantage of the strengths and differences of each team member. The worst mistake a leader can make is to be insensitive to the benefits of diversity. Today’s leaders forge effective teams to compete and win. Today’s leaders will not be successful without a genuine acceptance of diversity.

Warren Bennis in On Becoming a Leader wrote: “Managers are people who do things right, while leaders are people who do the right thing. Managing is about efficiency. Leading is about effectiveness. Managing is about how. Leadership is about what and why. Management is about systems, controls, procedures, policies, and structure. Leadership is about trust – about people. Leadership is about innovating and initiating. Management is about copying, about managing the status quo. Leadership is creative, adaptive, and agile. Leadership looks at the horizon, not just the bottom line.”

Bennis and Jean Goldsmith provide this chart of distinction between managers and leaders:

  • The manager administers; the leader innovates.
  • The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.
  • The manager maintains; the leader develops.
  • The manager accepts reality; the leader investigates it.
  • The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.
  • The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.
  • The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.
  • The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.
  • The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader has his or her eye on the horizon.
  • The manager imitates; the leader originates.
  • The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.
  • The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person.
  • The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.

Teddy Roosevelt said it this way, “The difference between a leader and a boss: the leader works in the open and the boss in covert; the leader leads and the boss drives.”

General John J. Pershing believed, “A competent leader can get efficient service from poor troops, while on the contrary an incapable leader can demoralize the best of troops.”

Continued next month…

TFL archives

Diversity in Recruiting: How to Check a Company’s Diversity


Every now and again something happens which reinforces your values and motivates you to keep on keeping on. I had this experience the week after Easter in March 2005. You are going to find this difficult to believe but it happened. I was interviewing a black woman executive, who expressed an avid desire in leaving an organization because of its rampant insensitivity to diversity issues. The last straw came while she was discussing her potential for promotion with a more senior person. She was told, “You’re going to have trouble advancing here, let me show you why.” With that he placed his white hand beside her black hand.

American organizations are on an unfinished journey to diversity. Frankly speaking, some people have a natural bent towards fairness, some have felt and believed in a moral imperative to inclusion and diversity since they were kids, some came to this because it became politically correct, and some realize that diversity is a strategic imperative to bring about an effective workplace. Others, sad to say, just don’t get it. It’s sad because we Americans have this extraordinary dream of creating a nation where everyone has an equal opportunity, where there is justice for all and a prosperity that is shared.

Marilyn Carlson Nelson, the Chair and CEO of the Carlson Companies, Inc., in an address delivered in February 2004 to the 16th Annual Multicultural Forum, quoted Alexis DeToqueville, who authored Democracy in America in the late eighteenth century. “America is great because America is good, and when America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

A recent study, Senior Management Sees Benefits of Diversity, by Novations/J.Howard & Associates, a Boston-based global consulting firm (www.novations.com), surveyed more than 1,700 senior human resources executives on management attitudes and the diversity function.

Senior management at more than 60 percent of major companies accepts the business case for corporate diversity and believes such programs give a competitive advantage. The business case contends that diversity and inclusion efforts make a definite contribution to the bottom line by improving the performance and building new leadership.

While management at a majority of companies accepts the business case, at 18.6 percent there is ambivalence but even so they consider diversity good for the organization. At only 7.6 percent of organizations does management reject the business case but nevertheless acknowledges diversity as a “fact of corporate life.” Finally, management at only 6.9 percent of companies supports diversity primarily as a good defense.

Unfortunately, there is little we can do to counter the actions of corporate executives who just don’t get it. Maybe they will learn some day; probably not. I can’t help but think of Jimmy Breslin’s memorable line, “The only place that nothing is in doubt is the cemetery.”

What kind of information and guidance can we share with our diversity candidates? How can we help them to take a closer look at a prospective employer’s diversity, to evaluate its stance on diversity issues, fairness, and promotions based on performance?

Many people want to work for a company that is welcoming, inclusive, and in many instances committed to diversity. Some women and people of diversity are making a company’s commitment to diversity an important element in their job search. Why be one of a kind? Why work in a place that is not inclusive or where you will not be judged on your performance?

Here are a few methods to explore a company’s record or stance on diversity:

– Contact the alumni office at your college. Find out who works at the specific company; call them to find out how well women and minorities are represented

– Check out the company’s website. Some websites have a lot of window dressing “All that is baseline. It’s not proof of a real commitment,” says Sondra Thiederman, a consultant on workplace diversity issues in San Diego. “It’s a nice symbol but symbols aren’t worth very much. You have to go further. Many proclaim the right things but nothing is really happening at the company. A word of caution: if you have to be an MIT graduate to navigate their website to find diversity, it is doubtful that the company is serious.

–Surf the Internet to track down articles about the prospective employer; look up pending discrimination suits. Look at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s website (http://www.eeoc.gov/); it lists major lawsuits and settlements. Call EEOC to discuss public information they may have about the company.

– Use the peripatetic method of getting information (Aristotle walked about while he was teaching, so, in order to learn his pupils had to walk around with him). When you go for the interview, get there early, walk around, talk to people; note how many people of color there are, look at interactions, cultural differences; are people friendly, interacting with and respectful of each other, working across cultural lines, etc.

During interviews:

o At the initial interview, observe the number of minorities and women in senior or professional positions; ask about minority representation at executive levels and on the board of directors; investigate what kind of diversity programs are in place

o At subsequent interviews ask to meet and speak with women and people of diversity; meet them and pose pertinent questions better to do it sooner rather than experience negative surprises later; these questions are fair; make them tough but respectful

o “Candidates should not be shy about telling a hiring manager that they care about diversity and ask about the company’s efforts and policies in that area. Ask how many senior officers are women and minorities, and how that figure has changed in the last five years. Find out if women and minorities are moving up at some kind of reasonable rate and whether they are interviewed for every opening. Ask about retention rates: high turnover among people of color is a bad sign.” (Taking a Closer Look at Employer’s Diversity, Kemba J. Dunham from the Wall Street Journal Online)

o Ask industry specific questions, e.g., in investment companies, how many diversity employees hold the most coveted high paying investment banking jobs?

o Ask the various interviewers to describe the culture of the company; ask them whether or not they use diversity suppliers; do they do business in the ethnic communities; are they interested in the emerging diversity markets

o Candidates should not be upset if the numbers are bad remember you are trying to measure the company and find out what they plan to do in the future are they serious or playing games?

o One way to judge the answers is by how nervous the person is in answering your questions; they should be comfortable in talking about these issues

o Does the company have affinity groups, diversity councils, how are the CEO and senior leaders involved?

o Find out where the accountability for diversity lies. Is diversity on the table? What is the leadership’s role in diversity? Are the managers held accountable for diversity? Are their bonus plans tied into diversity?

o Luke Visconti, partner and co-founder of DiversityInc, advises, “Remember that few places likely will be perfect. Only 5% of Fortune 1000 companies have a serious involvement in diversity.” He defines “serious” as a concerted, coordinated diversity effort with top management attentive, measured, and accountable.

For many years we did a great deal of diversity recruiting for the old Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). I got to know all the popular lunch spots and watering holes frequented by DEC employees and would advise prospective candidates to go to these places, get to know DEC people, and do some data gathering.

To this day when making sales calls, I still go to companies an hour or so early and employ the peripatetic system of getting information. This has been very helpful, most of the times informative, and a few times humorous and surprising. We completed searches recently at two major hospitals in two different states. In both instances I sat in the main reception areas and watched the world go by. I learned that both hospitals had large numbers of diversity patients and employees. One time, a few years ago, I arrived early at a very large company with well over several hundred employees on site. I spent an hour in the most spacious and magnificent reception area I had ever seen. Painted on the wall was a spectacular mural of a tribal scene in darkest Africa. The people in the mural were the only black people I saw all day.

I asked a few HR and diversity leaders what kind of advice they would give to diversity candidates who are interviewing at companies.

“The thoughts I have are around researching the organization prior to an interview, and then some specifics I look for in the interview process. Prior to an interview, I look at the organization’s website just to get a visual on the types of people represented in the pictures. I look at the mission of the organization for clues to commitment to diversity and inclusion, and whether diversity and inclusion are part of human resources goals. Finally, who comprises the leadership team, and do they reflect a commitment to diversity.

During an interview, is the topic of diversity raised, either directly or indirectly through the questions and conversation? If not, I would ask questions on topics such as commitment to community, values around decision making, etc. to assess if diversity is at the forefront of the hiring manager’s thoughts.” Linda E. Cataldo Tufts Human Resources Director Employment/ Employee Relations

“Many organizations have learned how to articulate aspirations for diversity, but for the prospective employee who wants to understand where an organization might be on the commitment continuum, evidence of access and inclusion is more important than diversity statements, awards, or presence at diversity events. Some basic considerations might include: ‘Are there diversity employees in key business roles, on the identified growth tracks and in senior leadership roles in the organization? How long has the organization demonstrated this level of commitment to access and inclusion?’ Ultimately this is where one gains insight about the culture and the realities that one will face as an employee.” Sadie Burton-Goss, Managing Partner, Goss Associates, Boston

“I take several things into account: what is my level of interest in the position? Is the business the company is in something about which I can get excited? Is the position an opportunity for me to grow and learn in my profession? Then I will do my homework which includes going online to research the company. What does the mission statement say? What do the news clips tell me? What are they most proud of? I try to find out online the composition of their leadership team and what they say to prospective employees in their human resources section.

Then I see if I know anyone who has worked there, is working there or knows someone who has worked there or done business with them and find out their story. I will also consult with friends and colleagues to get some other perspectives. When I visit the company, I look around and get a feel for the place. Can I see myself in this environment? How do people dress at work? What’s the feeling tone? Do people look upbeat and glad to be there? Phyllis Barajas, Human Resources and Diversity Consultant

“One of the errors diverse applicants tend to make when assessing the diversity-friendly climate of an organization is to examine various elements in isolation and make decision based on one or two positive — or negative — indications. For example, personal anecdotes from current or former employees, if taken alone, can be misleading as they very likely reflect that individual’s reaction to the corporate climate rather than a true sense of the overall situation. Similarly, indications like turnover rates, representation or lack thereof in the upper echelons, and assessments done by external organizations, if taken alone, can distort the true picture. The trick to assessing which organizations will best encourage our personal and professional success is to add all factors together to obtain an overall sense of where the climate lies and in what direction it is apt to be going.” Sondra Thiederman, Ph.D., author of Making Diversity Work (www.Thiedeman.com)

“Speak to employees who are in the demographic that is experiencing the most challenges in that geographic area. Find out what they think. Try to get a sense of the climate when you visit the company. Does the company encourage and support affinity groups? Talk to members of your affinity group. Is there a mentoring program? If so, what is the process to participate? Are there flexible hours and is their meaningful participation and access? How difficult is it, and how long does it take for employees with disabilities to request and get accommodations?” Deb Dagit, Executive Director of Diversity and Work Environment, Merck & Co., Inc.

I appreciate their sound and practical advice and thought you would, too. Let’s end this article with two quotes about actions.

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit. Aristotle

A person’s actions define what he stands for. Pope John Paul II

TFL archives

Diversity In Recruiting – Returning Veterans


“A man (or woman) who is good enough to shed his blood for this country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards. More than that no man is entitled to, and less than that, no man shall have.” Theodore Roosevelt

As the costly Iraqi conflict wears on, we are reminded daily, and many times tragically, of the enormous sacrifices made by our military forces. We make special efforts to let people know how much we appreciate the selflessness of our men and women in uniform. We wear flags on our jackets, post emblems on our cars, and proudly display the flag at our homes.

But what do we do to help our returning veterans make the transition to civilian life? How can people in our industry give advice and practical career direction to these heroic Americans when they come home and are looking for jobs? I have a friend, a cancer survivor, whose mantra when you tell him a problem or he hears about someone in trouble is, “What can I do to help?” We professional placement gurus certainly know the job market, the hot industries, the growth companies, the growing career paths we have to or we perish. Sharing this knowledge with returning GIs is one way to help. The objective of this article is to describe other ways to help.

At the risk of being accused of waving the flag or giving a sermon, let me describe a pet peeve. I’m old enough to remember the times in our country when returning military people were not only not honored, appreciated, and respected but were shunned, shamed, and slandered. Bad times. Disgraceful times. Terrible memories. Please, God, we as a nation have grown and learned how to appreciate those who make sacrifices for us. Now for the pet peeve.

I believe in the value of diversity without reservation. I embrace it in all its forms. Across America we celebrate all sorts of groups and events. The history and culture of almost every ethnic minority and majority (even the Irish) are honored in some way in many of our communities. We have diversity programs, multicultural celebrations, holidays, fiestas, and the like in our businesses and schools. There are festivities and galas to mark everything.

We want our children and our citizens to be culturally sensitive, welcoming, and inclusive. Great! That’s the way it should be. But, how about studying the history of, honoring, respecting, and appreciating the people who maintain and protect the four freedoms, our way of life and who defeated every “tyranny that would seek to enslave us?” Schools should not deprive our children of the value of learning about the “Greatest Generation.” One day each November just doesn’t do it.

I’ll end this ‘homily’ with a quotation and then get to the practical. Nicholas Provenzo, the founder and Chairman of the Center for the Advancement of Capitalism in a 2004 article entitled, Let Us Never Fail to Honor the Heroic Again, wrote:

The truth is we veterans are as much a part of the … community as any other group. Our military experiences make us unique; we are part of a fraternity not of race or of birth but of choice; we choose to affirm our freedom by serving in the nation’s armed forces. That commitment took us to the ends of the earth, separating us from families and loved ones and testing us in ways unimaginable to most: from tedium, to despair, to the elation many of us feel from being part of hard-won achievement.

The failure to learn about, commemorate, and thank our heroes, is wrong. Enough said.

Why hire veterans?

In a July 1999 article in The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Tammy Joyner tells about a former Marine who underestimated how far his ten years in the military would take him in corporate America. “I didn’t think companies were looking for what I had,” said the twenty-eight year old decorated Desert Storm veteran. He was wrong. He got three job offers and today he is a manager at Photocircuits Corp. The general manager at Photocircuits tells us why, “These people hit the street running. Most job candidates stack up equally when it comes to the technical side of the job but the military vets often have the managerial edge. They’ve managed hundreds of people. They are responsible for tremendous budgets and similar maintenance-type issues that we face in industry.”

Most people who spent time in the military will tell you how much responsibility and accountability they had at a very early age. The same age groups in civilian jobs never experience the discipline, teamwork, skills in managing people and delegating tasks that our GIs do.

Returning veterans are the single largest source of prospective employees. About 180,000 of these well educated, highly motivated men and women enter the civilian job market every year. They are not casual job seekers, ‘tire kicker’, they are serious and mean business. Their military time has made them mature and responsible; they are used to working in an organization that expects them to meet high standards and to depend on teamwork to accomplish the mission. They are confident, know how to make decisions, self-reliant, know how to get the job done and get along with all types of people. James Webb, a former secretary of the Navy, had this to say about military service:

I wish we had more people in the country going through the military because it’s the greatest experience in the world in terms of helping you understand the cultural makeup of the country and how you can work together. Whether you’re in for three years or for 30, you take that back to your community, and you have a totally different understanding of this country by having served. There’s no greater thing a young person can do than to be responsible for other people in the military environment. It helps you to learn who you are, how to make decisions, and how to lead.


Thousands of websites provide career information and assistance to the returning veteran. The websites of many states detail training programs and job opportunities for veterans. The Department of Labor describes the laws and lists guides to the rights and considerations that must be afforded to military veterans www.dol.gov/vets. Here are a few websites so you can help, too.

The Special Forces Search Engine: www.sfahq.com/Recruiting_Employment/Veterans

U.S. Department of Labor Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) www.dol.gov/vets/

Military.com: www.military.com/Careers/Career

VetJobs: www.vetjobs.com

National Veterans Employment Assistance Service: www.vfwdc.org/NVEO

Recruit Military: www.recruitmilitary.com

Quintessential Careers Job Transitioning for Vets and Former Military: www.quintcareers.com/former_military.html

U.S. Veterans Employment Resources: http://dir.yahoo.com/Government/U_S_Government/Military/Veterans/Employment

Military Exits: www.militaryexits.com

We will end this article on returning veterans with quotes from two veterans who returned years ago.

It is the soldier, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a free trial.

It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of speech.

It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of press.

It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to demonstrate.

It is the soldier, not the church, who has given us this precious freedom of worship.

It is the soldier, who consented to serve, who gives the objector, the freedom to conscientiously object.

It is the soldier, who defends the flag, salutes the flag, and whose dead body is draped by the flag in death, that gives us the freedom to spit on the flag, disrespect the flag, and burn the flag in protest.

Charles M. Province, a veteran of the US Army, is the sole and single Founder and President of the George S. Patton, Jr. Historical Society.

Who is a veteran?

He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn’t run out of fuel.

He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.

She or he is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for a solid year in DaNang.

He is the POW who went away one person and came back another, or hasn’t come back at all.

He is the Quantico Drill Instructor who has never seen combat but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang members into marines and teaching them to watch each other’s backs.

He is the parade riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.

He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass him by.

He is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb of the Unknowns whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean’s sunless deep.

He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket, palsied now and aggravatingly slow, who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come once more.

He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being a person who offered some of his life’s most vital years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.

He is a soldier, a savior, a sword against the darkness, and he is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony to and on behalf of the finest, greatest nation ever known.

So remember, each time you see someone who has served our country, just lean over and say, “Thank You.” That’s all most people need, and in most cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or were awarded.

Fr. Denis Edward O’Brien left the seminary in 1941 to join the Marine Corps. He fought in three campaigns, Gloucester, Peleliu and Okinawa. After the war he became a Maryknoll Missionary and served in Africa and Mexico; he died in 2002.


What does it take to persuade a potential client to hand over an assignment to you? We have given you the factors that go into the Cost-Per-Hire equation (TFL 6/98) and, by now, our readers should be well-schooled in the other techniques that go into selling a search or acquiring a client things we cover on an almost monthly basis. But the one elusive ingredient ignored by many is the cost of an unfilled job.

We had previously quoted corporate guru Dr. John Sullivan when, in an “industry prediction” survey in the Spring 1999 issue of Employment Management Today, his answer to the question: “If you could change one element of the recruiting function, what would it be? And why would it be so important to make the change?” was:

“It would be to target our efforts on top performers who are currently working and happy. Recruits who are easy to find are not what we want. If we don’t have to fight to get them . . . they aren’t the kind of people we really need.”

That, of course, is almost a mission statement for the search and recruiting business, even though that was not the context in which Dr. Sullivan made his remarks. Even so, he is an acclaimed observer and participant in the hiring practice arena and recently penned the following article covering this elusive topic. Add this arrow to your quiver to educate hirers about this vital topic.

TFL archives

Diversity In Recruiting – Equality and the older worker


The client reacted very positively to your candidate’s resume and then queried you in depth about your assessment of the candidate. “How did she interview? How does she measure up to our job specs? Her strengths?” And finally, “When can I see her?” The interview is scheduled; the candidate is prepped; and you hope for a positive outcome. After the interview, your client calls you with the feedback, “Great candidate but overqualified for this position.” You probe, “Where is she overqualified? Give me some specifics.”

“She’s just not a fit for us right now.” That’s it. How often has that happened to you? How often has it happened to experienced executives you presented to clients? I honestly think that the “overqualified lullaby” is a convenient phrase to hide behind, probably a lie, and a cover up for something that the client does not want to share with you. In many instances, it’s a dodge to get out of hiring an older candidate.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits discrimination in the workplace on the basis of age. To establish a case of age discrimination, a claimant must demonstrate that he/she: is in the protected of age 40 or older; was performing to the employer’s expectations; was subject to an adverse employment action; and that similarly situated and substantially younger employees were treated more favorably. ADEA also proscribes discrimination against job applicants on the basis of age. The ADEA is a separate law apart from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which is the basic federal law that covers most forms of discrimination in employment.

Relax. This is not going to be a column on ADEA or the Civil Rights Act. It’s just good every now and again to see a summation of the law of our country in print.

In 1954, Thurgood Marshall was a civil rights lawyer arguing Brown vs. Board of Education, the case that ended the “separate but equal” system of racial segregation. Asked by Justice Felix Frankfurter during the argument what he meant by equal, Mr. Marshall replied: “Equal means getting the same thing, at the same time, and in the same place.” Equal treatment also applies to the older worker.

Maggie Jackson writes Balancing Acts, a column that appears twice a month in the Boston Globe. Last December she wrote that companies that tap older workers can profit from a wealth of experience.

Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, the engineering research and development firm in Cambridge is so eager to make use of experienced talent that one-third of its retirees wind up returning to work part time … Draper with its flexible work schedules for semi-retirees and generous benefits for workers whose average age is 48, is a model for the future. The lab ranks first in AARP’s 2004 list of 35 Best Employers for Workers Over 50.

Deborah Banda, AARP’s director in Massachusetts, says, “Employers that face this demographic imperative today gain a competitive edge tomorrow.” The Bureau of Labor Statistics presents some interesting facts:

-Baby boomers, now ages 58 to 40 will begin hitting retirement age in just a few years yet many intend to keep working at least part time

-Most Americans save too little to retire comfortably; older people are healthier than ever and want to stay active

-More than 60 percent of people 55 to 64 years old worked in 2002, up from 55 percent in 1982

-Given these trends, workers 55 and older will grow from 14 percent of the labor force to nearly 20 percent by 2012, while workers aged 25 to 54 will shrink to 52 percent in that period.

Maggie Jackson concluded this column, “The employers on AARP’s list are the enlightened or those already forced to search for new sources of talent. But what will it take to shatter still strong stereotypes of older workers as ready for pasture, not promotion? To start, we have to take the long view and start seeing elders as crucial resources, not impediments to progress. Perhaps the ingenuity and determination of older workers will change mindsets.”

What does all this mean for our industry?

“Older workers soon may find themselves in an unfamiliar position: as a much-coveted commodity. As workers approach their retirement years, they are used to being cast aside as companies cultivate young and rising talent. But with an unprecedented number of people set to step out of the work force, the threat of an employee shortage is forcing companies to re-evaluate their priorities.” (WSJ.com Older Employees Gain New Favor)

In a minute we’ll take a look at AARP’s 2004 list of best employers for workers over fifty because it may be the source of future business for TFL readers. One of the most challenging issues our clients will face through the next ten years is their increasing inability to find and recruit the staff and skills necessary to run their businesses. The baby boomers and their expertise will retire and every business and profession will be affected by this.

Jim Carroll (PROFIT-Xtra/9/9/04) doesn’t think the Gen-Y people are the answer to the pending labor shortage. “Generation Y is the generation born between 1977 and 1999, which today makes up nearly one-quarter of the population. Having grown up with computers, the Internet, video games and hundreds of TV channels, the members of Gen-Y can become extremely bored, extremely quickly which could prove a unique challenge to the corporate sector.”

The demand will grow for older workers. Some businesses, particularly in healthcare and retail, are increasingly focusing on hiring and retaining older workers as the nation’s 78 million baby boomers age.

“By virtue of their sheer numbers, employers have no choice but to really look at this … as a continuing pool of resources that they might need in the future,” said Deborah Russell, manager of AARP’s Economic Security/Work Section.

AARP has been active in promoting employment of older workers. And workers aged 55 and over have been gaining a bigger slice of the employment pie since the 1990s. Their share of the work force increased 2.4 percent, more than twice as fast as their rise as percentage of the population. (http://msnbc.msn.com/id/4916661)

Before we look at AARP’s 2004 list of Best Employers for Workers Over 50, let’s debunk some of the myths out there about older workers. (Source: American Business and Older Employees, AARP, Washington, DC Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Myth 1: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Reality: Studies show only negligible loss of cognitive function of people under 70. While older workers take longer to absorb completely new material, their better study attitudes and accumulated experience lower training costs. The fastest growing group of Internet users is people over 50.

Myth 2: Training older workers is a lost investment because they will not stay on the job for long.

Reality: The future work life of an employee over 50 usually exceeds the life of new technology for which the workers are trained.

Myth 3: Older workers are not as productive as younger workers.

Reality: Overall productivity does not decline as a function of age. Productivity can actually rise due to greater worker accuracy, dependability, and capacity to make better on the spot judgments. Older worker’s production rates are steadier than other age groups.

Myth 4: Older workers are less flexible and adaptable.

Reality: Older workers are just as adaptable once they understand the reason for changes. They are more likely to ask why, because they have often seen past changes in processes and procedures abandoned in mid-stream when they didn’t bring expected rewards quickly enough.

Myth 5: Older workers are not as creative or innovative.

Reality: General intelligence levels are the same as younger workers. Eighty percent of the most workable and worthwhile new production ideas are produced by employees over 40 years old.

Myth 6: Older workers cost more than hiring younger workers.

Reality: While workers with tenure are entitled to more vacation time and pension costs related to number of years worked, replacing workers is not cost free.

Myth 7: Benefit and accident costs are higher for older workers.

Reality: Total sick days per year of older workers are lower than other age groups because they have fewer acute illnesses and sporadic sick days. While individual older worker’s health, disability, and life insurance costs do rise slowly with age, they are offset by lower costs due to fewer dependents. Overall, fringe benefits costs stay the same as a percentage of salary for all age groups. Older workers take fewer risks in accident prone situations and statistically have lower accident rates than other age groups.

How are the AARP Best Employers for Workers Over 50 Selected?

Employers interested in being considered for the AARP Best Employers for Workers Over 50 honor must submit a comprehensive application that includes questions about their human resources practices and policies. Because policies that are good for mature workers are often beneficial for all workers, employers are not required to have programs dedicated exclusively to mature workers. However, employers who can demonstrate that their programs are particularly valued by mature workers may receive additional credit through the evaluation process. Areas of consideration include:

-recruiting practices;

-opportunities for training, education, and career development;

-workplace accommodations;

-alternative work options, such as flexible scheduling, job sharing, and phased retirement;

-employee health and pension benefits; and

-retiree benefits.

AARP’s Selection Process

Applications submitted will first be evaluated by an independent survey firm using evaluation guidelines developed by AARP’s workforce experts and research staff in consultation with external labor experts.

After the survey firm’s review, the applications and initial ratings will then be sent to AARP and an independent panel of judges.

Next, the panel of judges comprised of private sector, nonprofit, and government labor experts will review the applications. The opinions of the judges, together with the initial rating, form each applicant’s final rating.

After the evaluation is complete, finalists are vetted to ensure that any organization recognized as one of the AARP Best Employers for Workers Over 50 has practices that are generally consistent with AARP’s public policies and values.

Workers Over 50 Honorees for 2004

These companies and organizations, recognized by AARP for their best practices and policies for valuing the mature worker, are roadmaps for the workplaces of tomorrow.

Adecco Employment Services, Melville, NY www.adeccousa.com A staffing and human resource solutions company that places temporary and full-time employees at client locations.

Beaumont Hospitals, Southfield, MI www.Beaumonthospitals.com A provider of health care services, medical education and medical research.

Bon Secours Richmond Health System, Richmond, VA www.bonsecours.com A not-for-profit, multifacility health care system with three hospitals and more than 24 outpatient service sites.

Brethren Village, Lancaster, PA www.bv.org A not-for-profit continuing care retirement community offering choices and services to keep residents living independently for as long as possible.

Centegra Health System, Woodstock, IL www.centegra.com A health care system that includes several hospitals, the Centegra Primary Care physician network, a fitness center, and over 20 additional sites throughout its service area.

Deere & Company, Moline, IL www.johndeere.com Manufactures, distributes, and finances a broad range of agricultural, construction, forestry, commercial and consumer equipment.

Delaware North Companies Inc., Buffalo, NY www.delawarenorth.com A hospitality and food service provider that provides visitor services at national parks and attractions, resorts, and at more than 50 sporting venues and 30 airports in the United States.

DentaQuest Ventures, Inc., Boston, MA www.dentaquest.com National administrator of dental benefits.

First Horizon National Corporation, Memphis, TN www.firsthorizon.com A nationwide financial services institution providing services to individuals and businesses.

Gemini, Incorporated, Cannon Falls, MN www.signletters.com A manufacturer of metal and plastic letters for outdoor signage and customized, decorative metal plaques.

Hoffmann-La Roche Inc., Nutley, NJ www.rocheusa.com An innovation-driven healthcare company, with core businesses in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics.

Lee County Electric Cooperative, North Fort Myers, FL www.lcec.net A not-for-profit electric distribution cooperative providing service and energy products to 165,000 customers in Southwest Florida.

Lincoln Financial Group, Philadelphia, PA www.lfg.com Provides financial and security products to individuals and businesses.

Loudoun Healthcare, Inc., Leesburg, VA www.loudounhealthcare.org A not-for-profit healthcare organization providing a full continuum of quality healthcare services.

Minnesota Life, St. Paul, MN www.minnesotalife.com Provides insurance, pension and investment products to more than 6 million clients in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

Mitretek Systems, Falls Church, VA www.mitretek.org A non-profit research and engineering company.

New York University Medical Center, New York, NY http://med.nyu.edu A not-for-profit healthcare organization comprised of the NYU Hospitals Center and the NYU School of Medicine.

North Memorial Health Care, Robbinsdale, MN www.northmemorial.com A non-profit health care provider with more than 800 physicians and 5,000 employees in its system.

Pitney Bowes, Inc., Stamford, CT www.pitneybowes.com A provider of integrated mail and document management systems, services and solutions.

Principal Financial Group, Des Moines, IA www.principal.com Offers businesses, individuals, and institutional clients a wide range of financial products and services.

Scottsdale Healthcare, Scottsdale, AZ www.shc.org A non-profit healthcare provider with two hospitals, outpatient centers, home health services, and a wide range of community outreach programs.

Scripps Health, San Diego, CA www.scrippshealth.org A not-for-profit, community-based health care system that includes five acute and tertiary care hospitals, numerous outpatient facilities, and home health care services.

Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation, Clayton, MO www.smurfit-stone.com A manufacturer of paperboard, paper-based packaging, and other packaging materials and paper-based products.

Sonoco, Hartsville, SC www.sonoco.com A manufacturer of industrial and consumer packaging products and provider of packaging services.

SSM Health Care, St. Louis, MO www.ssmhc.com A healthcare network sponsored by the Franciscan Sisters of Mary that delivers patient care in the St. Louis region.

St. Mary’s Medical Center, Huntington, WV www.st-marys.org A regional medical center in the tri-state region of West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky, specializing in cardiac, oncology, trauma, and neuroscience services.

Stanley Consultants, Inc., Muscatine, IA www.stanleyconsultants.com A multidisciplinary consulting firm that provides engineering, environmental and construction services worldwide.

The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc. Cambridge, MA www.draper.com A private, not-for-profit corporation engaged in applied research, engineering development, technology transfer, and advanced technical education.

The Methodist Hospital, Houston, TX www.methodisthealth.com A nonprofit health care organization made up of a flagship hospital, The Methodist Hospital, and three community hospitals.

The Vanguard Group, Valley Forge, PA www.vanguard.com An investment management company that provides an array of financial products and services, including mutual fund investments and employer-sponsored retirement plan services.

Volkswagen of America, Inc., Auburn Hills, MI www.vw.com Manufacturer of passenger cars and trucks.

WELBRO Building Corporation, Maitland, FL www.welbro.com A full-service construction management and general contracting company.

West Virginia University Hospitals, Morgantown, WV www.wvuh.com A private, not-for-profit corporation that is closely tied to West Virginia University and includes three hospitals, a trauma center, and the WVU Eye Institute.

Westgate Resorts, Orlando, FL www.westgateresorts.com A privately-held timeshare company that employs over 5,000 people throughout the country.

Zurich North America, Schaumburg, IL www.zurichna.com A commercial property-casualty insurance provider serving the multinational, middle market and small business sectors in the United States and Canada.