Driving Business Success: Limiting How Much We Look Back

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 2.41.39 PMSince I’ve been working from my home office the last few years, it strikes me that I don’t drive much anymore.  Well, I drive to the airport a fair bit, but day-to-day driving is a thing of my past.  I was thinking about it because I have young teens who are already anxiously focused on learning how to drive.  When we are in the car, they ask tons of questions about how the car works, what the driving laws are, how other drivers respond, etc.  It struck me that when they asked about mirrors and how often I use them, I really don’t look in my rearview mirror much.  Sure, I use it to check when I’m backing up and going that direction, or to do a quick check to ensure that someone else is not going to hit my car from behind.  What I don’t do is use the rearview mirror to determine my direction or progress driving forward.

So, why do we spend so much time looking back in business when we are trying to drive the organization forward?

I first ran into this thinking when I moved from the HR practitioner/ leader ranks to that of a full-time analyst. The thing that surprised me the most was that analysts tend to do surveys that predominantly focus on what happened in the past as a way to predict the future.  Now, that IS very valuable, however, business leaders don’t necessarily benefit from only looking to the past to determine their future direction or approach.  In fact, there are some clear barriers to predominantly focusing on the business rearview mirror.

Barriers when we look back

  • Best Practice- Analysts and companies provide statistics on the “best practices” of an industry or company.  These are certainly interesting data points to consider in your organization, and I do value these.  However, when we try to adopt some other organization’s “best practice” without understanding what our real business issues are, we run the risk of choosing and implementing a process or solutions that may not apply to our workplace.  It also may not drive the appropriate business results.
  • False Solutions- A trap many leaders bring to a new organization is proposing a solution based on what they did in a prior company.  Similar to the best practice, this false solution may not address any of the current company’s problems.  Time and again, we find leaders pursuing a solution in search of a problem, not the other way around.
  • Failure Focus-  There are nay-sayers in every organization.  The barrier is letting these people get you hung up on what went wrong in prior projects and letting that derail future progress.
  • Excruciatingly Slow Data Analytics-  A majority of organization leaders I talk to say that they do not have access to all the data they have.  This means they have no simple, efficient, accurate way to pull data together in order to make a business decision.  By taking too long to get data on the past, the data becomes stale and can lead to missing out on opportunities to make the organization better today.
  • Future Fear- Showing other leaders that we fear the future is going to influence them in embracing their fears as well.

While there are many other barriers, you get the point that by primarily focusing behind us, we may be missing out on opportunities to excel, to drive the business forward, or to fall behind competitors.  Everything we do should not be a response to someone else’s move.  As leaders, the best thing we can do is suggest new and innovative approaches to process, to thinking and to solutions.

What are you doing today?  Are you looking back, or to the future?  Let me know what techniques you use to move yourself, your team and your organization forward.  Please share in the comments.

Decisive Recruiting: 3 Benefits for Leaders

Several months ago, I decided to give my bathroom a facelift.  I don’t know if you’re like me, but once I get an idea like that in my head, it’s on and there is no stopping me.  After choosing just the right paint color, accessories and all the amentites a bathroom needs, I was nearing the completion mark.  Save one item.  The mirror.

You see, my home came with those large, plain, rectangular mirrors that the builder installs.  All I knew was that I was not about to leave that plain mirror up a moment longer.  I began the search of all types of stores for the perfect mirror.  Then, I found it.  It was a colorful, mosaic mirror at Pier One.  But I did not buy it.  In fact, I doubted that something so colorful and unique would work in that space.  I kept thinking that maybe there was still one more mirror out there I had not seen.  So, I left the store and went home.

I continued to look at mirrors but my mind kept coming back to the mirror with the mosaic frame.  I finally decided that I was crazy not to buy it, even if it was bold and even if it was different than all the other mirrors in the house.  I headed back to Pier One, ready to make the purchase.  One problem…

The mirror was gone.

Sold out.

Can’t be ordered.

The same thing happens each day as leaders make hiring decisions about high potential candidates.  Recruiters work hard to source just the right person, one with the mix of experience and skills that also has a strong possibility of being a culture fit.  Sometimes, the leaders stalls on the decision though because the candidate seems just a little too unique, too cutting edge or too different than the rest of the team.  The recruiter tries to keep the candidate warm on the idea of joining the company, but many times, the candidate is lost once the hiring leader comes to his or her senses and decides to make that offer.

The reasons for a leader to be decisive are many, but three strong benefits of a faster decision are:

  • Cost-  The longer you wait to fill the role, the greater your chance you will lose the strong candidate and have to keep the recruiting process going.  As days to fill increase, so do your costs.  Also, you run the risk of needing to pay current employees overtime or hire a contract employee if the role remains unfilled for many months.  Making a decisive decision will cut your expenses up front.
  • Tone-  When a candidate has the interview process and hiring decision dragged out for months, even if the offer comes through and the candidate accepts, it plants that nagging seed of doubt about how other decisions in the company are made.  It leaves the candidate not feeling as valued or wanted as they join the organization.
  • Impact on Current Team-  When positions remain open for long periods of time, it puts stress on the existing team.  Often, they are not fully aware of the behind-the-scenes activity so they may begin thinking that the role will never be filled.  This may mean that they are doing more work and feeling over extended which if there is no end in sight, may impact their decision to stay.  By communicating the progress with the team and that a quick decision is the desired outcome, it gives them confidence they need to pitch in and work even harder while the interview process is going on.
The goal is to find the best candidate and make that offer.  Next time you see the unique candidate, don’t make them your mosaic mirror.   If you do, you just might be to late once you make up your mind.