March 21, 2012

By Jim Leverette

Resumes cannot reflect the intangibles of leadership. Resumes only make a partial first impression. Having spent a significant amount of time in talking with and evaluating leaders in all functional areas of a business organization; a great many of them make similar “no cost” investments that dramatically improve the effectiveness of their people and business.

Here is one of the key “Table Stakes of Leadership” — And what to look for on — COMMUNICATION

Accomplished leaders have a well developed ability to describe goals and objectives using word pictures. Seeing is believing for most people and great leaders understand that “What You See Is What You Get!” When hiring for a key leadership role, communication is a tool that doesn’t cost anything to use… but certainly does if you don’t.

All successful leaders function as the vision engineer. The most successful leaders communicate ideas by breaking them down into manageable pieces of information for the team to understand. Once grasped, the ideas are then turned into “action-items” for the team to carry out.

From strategic to tactical – this can be reduced to “talking about it” and “doing it.” There are many things that a leader must do, but the most important job is to help people see the Big Picture. The next most important job is to do the best they can with what they have.

Successful leaders know how to get from where they are to where they want to go. Is the goal to get to the other side of the mountain? Leaders that want to rise — do the difficult. They begin with the end in mind. They are willing to stand in the question and ask themselves, “If I knew how it would look when we got there — What would it look like?”

Successful leaders lay out a clear path-and communicate what is the best path to take. There might be four or five options-1. Go around the mountain 2. Go over the mountain 3. Go under the mountain 4. Blow-up the mountain or 5. Forget about the mountain and go home.

The shortest path to achieving the objective may gain the intended objective, but can also bring with it the possibility of un-intended consequences. Successful leaders know that the broad way is often chosen by many. However, the path is often narrow that leads to success. Successful leaders do not allow their team to stumble blindly upon or down either of these paths.

Here is one thought to consider on the essence of “Communication” when hiring for a key leadership role:

What to look for– Language that creates word pictures. “Is it the Big Dog in the Fight, or the Big Fight in the Dog?’ The more 3-Dimensional they are able to describe things-the better! Successful leaders are skilled in using analogies to compare un-like things and make comparisons to “familiar or known” things in order help people “get the picture”. For example, “It’s like… “This” (fill in the blank), yet, the value we will receive by doing “This” will be a 3X increase in revenue for the company. This means every employee will receive a handsome bonus of X paid out every month that we exceed our stretch goals. These words create meaningful pictures and the communication is focused on doing those things that are attached to and that generate revenue for the company-today! Successful leaders always communicate in the context of — “When the company wins — We all win as a team!”

Look for patterns of communication and continuous feedback they have both established and provided to remove doubt and re-enforce the team’s confidence, and to make course corrections while moving ahead into new territory. Successful leaders communicate clearly and visually to mark and set boundaries, but also allow a degree of latitude for coloring outside of the lines for the innovative, creative and entrepreneurial members of the team to achieve the objective.

Leaders have many constituents with whom they must communicate with both up and down and across the organization. Who are their constituents? How do they communicate with them?

Ask for examples of when and how they empowered the team to rally around a cause?

When and how did they communicate the company’s vision with the entire team and then turned it into actionable and measurable things for the team to address?

When and how did they communicate mission-critical messages across the different functional areas of the organization? What communication methods do they use to coordinate the team’s efforts and elevate their performance even beyond their own expectations?

Jim R. Leverette is President of Randall James Monroe, Inc., and has successfully conducted executive search assignments for some of the most respected business organizations in the world. Roles include C-Level executives and their direct reports in all functional areas. Jim’s expertise is focused in executive search and selection and specializes in making the leadership, culture and chemistry fit. His core strength is in finding precisely the right leader to address specific business challenges and capitalize on unique areas of opportunity for each company he represents.


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