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This week Forbes contributor Dev Ittycheria, published a column Avoiding Costly Recruiting Mistakes: The Importance Of High Standards. It’s excellent and I recommend you read it.

“The reality is that no one wants to work for a bozo, and employees can instantly assess if their boss is a bozo. The team who works for a bad boss will quickly get demotivated and leave. Then the bozo will hire other bozos into the company.”

What especially caught my attention was this punch line: “Hiring a bad leader compounds like high interest on a bad debt.’”

In my experience this is unequivocally true. I have written about my own unfortunate experience of this occurring during my days as an employee.

I would add to Ittycheria’s statement by saying it’s even more important to have an effective boss in sales and customer service teams, like agency recruitment.

The reason is quite simple. The world of agency recruitment contains daily rejection, a lot of it in fact; rejection from prospects, clients, candidates, potential candidates, colleagues even.

In a high performing team and high performing company this rejection is balanced by the optimism of the leader; not delusional optimism but the optimism of ‘there is a solution to this problem and you will find it, I know you will.’

Or …

‘You are having a tough time right now but I know you are better than this and you will show me that you are.’

In other words, the emotional impact of the leader is consistently positive, even if they are delivering a tough message about performance or behaviour. Here’s how researcher and author Daniel Goleman articulates it:

“Throughout history and in cultures everywhere, the leader in any human group has been the one to whom others look for assurances and clarity when facing uncertainty and threat, or when    there’s a job to be done. The leader acts as the group’s emotional guide. 

In the modern organisation this primordial emotional task – though by now largely invisible – remains foremost among the many jobs of leadership: driving the collective emotions in a positive direction and clearing the smog created by toxic emotions. 

Quite simply, in any human group the leader has maximal power to sway everyone’s emotions.”

The New Leaders by Daniel Goleman (Time Warner, 2002) page 6

The daily and weekly hunt for jobs and candidates, followed by the tightrope act of managing the assignment-filling process until the job is closed and the invoice is issued, contains all the elements of uncertainty and threat that make effective leadership critical.

Given the number of employment choices that any half-decent recruiter has if they choose to leave, it’s pretty obvious that a bozo boss, one who creates toxic emotions, rather than clears them, will destroy a recruitment team in a matter of weeks.

Even worse, as Ittycheria says, bozos replace the competent employees, who are fleeing the sinking ship, with mediocre replacements.

A quick scroll down the list of once-successful recruitment agencies in this country confirms how accurate this statement is.

At the other end of the scale you only have to spend a relatively short amount of time with Hays MD, (Australia/New Zealand), Nick Deligiannis, or his predecessor, Nigel Heap, to gain an insight into why Hays has an outstanding record of leadership development and leader retention in the recruitment industry. It’s no surprise that Hays don’t just lead the recruitment industry for profitability, they are among the elite when compared to companies across all industries in Australia.

One of the key reasons for this incredible success is no mystery. Hays talk about it openly in the most recent annual report:

“The success of our business is based on the quality and expertise of all of our colleagues across Hays worldwide. Key to our growth and continuing success therefore will remain our ability to hire, train, motivate and retain the best people in our industry. That’s why people risk is one of the key challenges we face. It’s why we are so focused on the global mobility of our people, moving high performers from established businesses to help grow and develop newer ones.  

We address the risk of losing key people through industry-leading training and development programmes, succession planning and incentive schemes (discussed on page 26). Over the years, we have invested to build the resources and infrastructure to manage these things well but we will continue to invest in upgrading this capability.”

Compare this with the complete absence of any mention of Clarius’s employees in the most recent Clarius (now Ignite Services) annual report under Key Strategic Highlights.

What are you doing to ensure you are hiring an effective leader rather than hiring a bozo?

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