Month: April 2018

by Ruth McGowan Ruth McGowan No Comments

5 things to learn from on-line dating to help you recruit your next CEO

Selecting an online dating app is a bit like picking an executive search firm.

These days, if you want a new partner you can just jump online and tap into the many dating apps, services and websites that promise to deliver you plenty of hot talent to choose from. If you’re a Board member, or a Councillor looking to appoint a CEO, you are also in the market for an ideal partner – all be it one who will successfully lead your organisation rather than provide lifelong romantic fulfilment.  Luckily for you, instead of having to do the dating equivalent of hoping you might ‘get lucky’ in the local bar, there are specialised search firms that, for a fee, will do the hard work of finding a match for you.

Just like dating apps are now a ‘normal’ way for many adults to meet others, so too recruitment agencies can assist Boards and Councillors find the ‘perfect match’ for their next CEO.

For decades, online dating services have been helping people find their perfect match. Specialised ‘Head Hunters’ have also been helping organisations place top executives. They are not cheap but represent good value when the risk of a ‘bad hire’ for your next CEO could be a lot more serious for your organisation than personally going on a bad date.

If you want to source high-quality candidates for your chief executive role it’s time to call in an exclusive headhunter. But at first, how do you recruit the right recruiting agent? If you don’t come from a HR background and you have never employed a CEO before how do you avoid the overwhelm of so much choice?

Agencies are modern matchmakers

In the past, singles looking for romance used to place a ‘lonely hearts’ advertisement in the local paper. Now, online dating agencies boast of algorithms that can link you into databases of hundreds of thousands of potential matches. Recruitment agencies are our modern-day matchmakers, skilled at identifying, attracting and assessing qualified candidates to be considered for the CEO role.

And, just as there are plenty of online dating sites – all with different pricing, client databases, and success rates -so too with recruitment agencies. As a consultant, I support councillors as an independent adviser through their CEO recruitment process. The first step is to select an executive recruitment agency that will deliver a good match for the organisation.

So how to select which recruitment agency is right for your organisation? It’s a lot like selecting a dating app!  

5 questions to ask when deciding which agency to hire

1.      What is your reputation?

How good are they at their job? In my work in the local government sector, councils have the choice of several top recruiting agencies to partner with for CEO recruitment. It is a relatively small sector so it’s simple to ask other councils about the pros and cons of the agencies they have previously worked with. Word of mouth is effective. A potential recruitment firm should also be able to provide references and testimonials from like organisations.

Check their success rates and placement statistics. For example, one Australian dating site boasts that it has ‘been responsible for over 11000 marriages’ which sounds impressive. What are the recent success stories of your potential agency?  How extensive and diverse is their own database of potential applicants, either existing CEOs or ‘step-ups’ from senior management?

2.    Tell me about your experience?

It is useful to understand the background of different agencies and their experience in your sector or profession. Do you want a firm that is well known for appointing successful placements over many years? Or are you willing to try a new company with an innovative niche approach?

3.    Can you explain your processes?

When deciding on who to hire as your recruitment firm, their processes make all the difference. Ask about:

  • How do they source talent – how they find and reach talent; both through passive advertising (e.g. newspaper, LinkedIn, SEEK etc) and active means (such as ‘tapping people on the shoulder’ to apply or their own database?)
  • Psychometric testing – just as a ‘personality test’ is key to setting up an online dating profile, similarly, most recruitment agencies offer to test as part of their assessment processes. But not all psychological tests are useful. Check that the agency applies tests that are relevant to the skills (soft and hard), character and aptitude which is specific to the role.
  • Their guarantee – If the placement doesn’t work out, for whatever reason in the first 12 months, do they have a guarantee to refill the position free of charge? And is their dispute resolution process quick and fair?
  • Manage confidentiality – how do they manage candidates that wish to be discrete with their application?
  • Dealing with Internal candidates – how do they sensitively and fairly manage internal candidates?
  • Diversity – how effective are they are putting forward diverse candidates for consideration?
  • Fraud – how do they check and vet potential applicants. Just as with on-line dating, not everyone out there is exactly who they say they are. Careful security vetting is a must.
  • Support – understand how they will keep you (or the CEO recruitment Panel) involved, informed of progress and build ownership of the process?

4.    Who is your personnel?

Who will be handling your search – the top talent or her/his junior associate? The musical, Fiddler on the Roof has a famous song about matchmaker Yente, the village woman who knew everyone’s business and was skilled in arranging traditional marriages. When selecting an agency, you want to get the top talent, someone who is as experienced as Yente! Does your agency personnel know who’s who in your sector? Do they have a good network and understanding of who could potentially be a great CEO for your organisation? Are they like the ‘village busybody’ with a great handle on what’s going on?

5.    Are you a FIT for us?

There’s a dating app out there for just about any niche group you could think of; from a racial background, LGBTI to vegetarian. You can easily find the right ‘fit’ for your potential dating interests if you care to search.

When you are paying good money to hire an executive search firm to come and partner with you for several months in the search for a new CEO, you need a firm that understands you.

One that ‘gets’ your challenges, opportunities and your culture. For instance, in the local government sector, it is important that the recruitment agent understands the rare skills mix that is required to be a successful Council CEO in what can be a highly charged, political environment.

Swipe right and commence the search

Next time you need to select an executive recruitment agent to land your ‘perfect match CEO’, draw on these tips to ‘swipe right’ and select your ace recruiter. With a bit of luck, there will be plenty of fish to select from, including top talent that RSVPs ‘yes’ to your advertisement, ultimately producing a CEO that matches all your expectations so that you can work together in harmony for happily ever after!

Ruth McGowan is a consultant to local government and supports councillors as an independent adviser in the recruitment of their CEO. She is a former Mayor and has been appointed to numerous boards where she wishes she had known then, what she knows now about recruiting a CEO. 

by Ruth McGowan Ruth McGowan No Comments

Diversity in disaster

Every year many thousands of people and communities across the world are impacted by natural or man-made emergencies and disasters.

In 2017 the global cost of disasters resulted in the third-most expensive year for insured losses, costing US$ 337 billion dollars. Also, the UN reported 11,000 people dead or missing as a result of disasters across the globe, reflecting a devastating hurricane season and many destructive wildfires.

What can we learn about reducing the social and economic costs? What has diversity got to do with helping people prepare for, respond to and recover from disaster?

Quite a lot as it turns out.

Disasters discriminate

This week I attended a 2-day Diversity in Disaster conference in Melbourne, where speakers explored a range of strategies that organisations can employ to reduce inequalities and help build resilient communities at risk of disasters.

Emergency management agencies, organisations and communities presented on what they have learnt about being more inclusive of diversity their planning and response to disasters and emergencies. Their discussions would interest to any organisation wanting to better engage with diverse customers or clients around managing risk.

Powerful stories were told about how disasters do discriminate. Research shows that vulnerable and minority communities bear the brunt of the impact – in monetary and health terms and often sadly with their lives. A theme was that:

The sad fact is that diverse communities face a disproportionate risk during disasters. Research shows you are more likely to die from a disaster if you are from a poor or vulnerable community or identify with a minority group.

Many people from diverse, marginalised or underrepresented communities experience disasters differently, facing unique challenges that affect their ability to respond and recover.

Diversity matters

Increasingly the lens of Diversity and Inclusion is helping to improve the way programs are delivered around disaster planning and response. This is ultimately helping people from minority groups and diverse communities become better prepared for, cope with and recover from disasters. It’s even saving lives.

It is always powerful when you hear the stories of people with lived experiences of the importance of being included in decision making that affect their lives. At the Diversity in Disasters conference, people from diverse communities told their stories about empowering programs that were helping them be more resilient in the face of inevitable disaster risks.  We heard:

  •  About the power of art therapy in assisting community recovery following the devastating Australian bushfires in February 2009,
  • Reports on how agencies can partner with children to build resilience in emergencies.
  • From Sharon who shared her heart-breaking story about the impact a major bushfire had on her marriage as she and her husband struggled to recover from the trauma in the months of recovery. This was sadly backed up by research that that domestic violence reports triple following a disaster.
  • From Leroy, a young transgendered man, who spoke about how his fire brigade focussed on building an inclusive environment for volunteer firefighters by deliberately making their fire station environment feel safer and welcoming for LGBTI members such as unisex bathrooms.
  • From Ross, a blind man, who spoke about his unique contribution to a local council’s emergency planning committee as he had experience of someone with a physical disability who had survived a previous disaster.

Not easy but worth it

Incorporating diversity in disaster planning, response efforts and recovery programs is not easy, but it is worth it.

By asking the question ‘how can we be more inclusive?’ organisations can deliver a more robust program on the ground that is, in turn, more effective, saving lives and dignity.

Sometimes it may be far less challenging to roll out a ‘one size fits all’ approach. However, increasingly research is finding that treating ‘the community’ as one homogeneous blob, results in ineffective support and, at worse, additional loss of life.

The challenge for government agencies and organisations is to work with diverse groups, not as problems and ‘victims’ that need charity. The better-practices discussed at the conference, are working to prepare communities at risk with tailored support through respectful engagement. The result is programs that empower people to support them to bounce back and thrive when disaster hits. The launch of the National Gender in Emergency Guidelines include practical checklists for agencies with a genuine desire to improve diversity considerations in their planning for disasters.

The approaches taken by emergency response agencies to be inclusive of diversity can be adapted by organisations wanting to develop robust Risk Management Plans in a world where disasters are are becoming more frequent.

Minority communities can often be overlooked in risk management planning. The reality is they have unique viewpoints and experiences that can significantly add to organisational and community contributions to disaster planning. With the global trend to more and more disasters, it is high time to include a consideration of diversity in disaster planning.

Ruth McGowan OAM is a gender equity advocate, volunteer firefighter and consultant to local government. In 2014 she was recognised for her outstanding community leadership  with an Order of Australia  honour

by Ruth McGowan Ruth McGowan No Comments

How’s your G-spot?

How important is the very human characteristic of generosity to you? Do you have a ‘G-spot’ or a ‘blind spot’ when it comes to being kind to others or giving more than is expected? For me, this is a crucial quality in the people I work with and the leaders I admire. Imagine if we had workplaces where people ‘worked their G-spot’ instead of having a blind spot when it came to being generous. What would that look like?

I was recently struck by a story I heard about the funeral of the British actor, David Niven who died several years ago. It was reported that among the many messages from mourners, there was a huge wreath from the porters at Heathrow Airport. It came with a card that read:

To the finest gentleman who ever walked through these halls. He made a porter feel like a king.

David Niven was someone who, despite his fame, was known to be decent to everyone he met, no matter what job they had or how important they were. He was a generous person.

G for Generosity

Generous people are the people you know who have a collaborative rather than competitive mindset. They are happy to share information with others and provide their time and support as mentors or coaches. They give credit where credit is due. When teams are lead by leaders with a generous mindset or G-Spot, remarkable things happen in an environment where people thrive.

It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit Harry S Truman

Generous leaders are great leaders

Throughout my working life, I have been lucky to work with some inspiring leaders in a range of jobs and volunteering roles. Like most people who have spent a few decades in the workforce, I’ve experienced a variety of leadership styles; some good -some terrible.

Recently I have been assisting a board to employ their next CEO. Together, we got talking about the characteristics they wanted to see in their next leader. It got me thinking. What were the qualities of the good leaders that I’ve worked with? In reflection, it’s something quite simple and that is that they are generous people.

Generosity is about a whole lot more than being charitable or giving money to a worthy cause through philanthropy. Leaders with a ‘G-Spot’ are people who are naturally engaging and show compassion and fairness to everyone.  Leaders that ignore opportunities to be generous, display a Blind-Spot in their interactions with others.

G-spot vs Blind-spot

A unique human quality

Being a generous leader is that intrinsic quality that may be hard to put a finger on, but you know it when you see it, when you hear it and when you feel it. Having a generous spirit is a defining human characteristic. In the next 30 years, Artificial Intelligence is likely to drive automation of nearly every job in Australia. However, there is one quality that we will always seek in human leaders; the irreplaceable human trait of generosity. It’s difficult to imagine a machine being able to meet the definition of generosity of ‘being kind and doing or giving more than is usual or expected’.

Why we need to practice generosity

Writing in the Harvard Business Review about the value of generosity to your career, Jodi Glickman notes that when someone is being generous, “What comes across is a strong work ethic, great communication skills, and a willingness and ability to collaborate”. She goes on to explain the benefits are that “Leaders and managers who are generous engender trust, respect and goodwill from their colleagues and employees”. Show me a workplace that doesn’t need more of that!

Work your G-spot

What could you do to be more generous towards the people you work or volunteer with? It’s a uniquely human characteristic and one that people want to see in their leaders. By practising generosity in your workplace and community it will not only enrich your life but the also the well-being of others. Remembering the words of the great statesman who said:

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give Winston Churchill

Would people say you are a generous person?’ If not, it’s never too late to change. Find your G-spot and get going on being more generous.

Ruth McGowan OAM is a consultant, trainer and coach of leaders in local government and rural Australia. She also likes to practice the attitude and actions of a generous person 😉  

by Ruth McGowan Ruth McGowan No Comments

Time for Bystanders to Buy-in

It could have been your wife or your sister telling this story, a friend or your daughter. Or maybe your local councillor.

“He was standing there yelling and screaming at me in a public place being really aggressive. But no-one said anything. It was humiliating”

“After she walked out of the tea room, he turned around and made a comment about her breasts. The rest of the blokes sniggered. What could I say? I wanted to fit in as one of the boys”

 “He continually harassed me, so I complained to the Mayor, but it didn’t stop. I eventually resigned from council, but he’s still there today as a Councillor. I worry for the women staff”

These stories come from women I’ve met in my work as a gender equity consultant and coach, in the local government sector. Many other women (and some men) have similar stories from their workplaces. It’s either happened to them, their girlfriends or a relative. Maybe you’ve heard stories like this too?

What are the observers doing?

When I hear these stories, the #MeToo moments, I can’t help thinking why is it always up to the victim to complain? What about the bystanders to this appalling behaviour? What support and tools can assist those observers to ‘call it out’ and take action? How can organisations build a culture where bystanders take up  General David Morrison’s challenge of ‘The standard you walk past, is the standard you accept’?

Local government has recently been in the spotlight following investigations of sexual harassment claims by former councillor Tessa Sullivan and councillor Cathy Oke against the Lord Mayor of the City of Melbourne Council, Robert Doyle (who has since resigned).  The stories told by these two brave women were shattering to hear. Cathy and Tessa are to be applauded for doing local government a service and bringing sexual harassment out of the chamber and into the spotlight. Councillor Cathy Oke has called for a change “in the way systems support women speaking out”. She noted that even though “I consider myself a very strong and an intelligent woman, why is it that those power structures within politics stop someone even like me speaking out?”

Sexism shouldn’t be ‘normal’

A recent survey by Our Watch, a national organisation aimed at preventing violence against women and children, found that:

“sexism, gender discrimination and gender inequality are widespread problems in Australia” Our Watch

This was particularly a concern in male-dominated workplaces. No wonder many women councillors experience sexism and harassment. Council chambers are dominated by men with surveys reporting that a typical councillor is an older white male in their late 50’s and 60s.  Certainly, the vast majority of councillors are decent men, doing great jobs as elected representatives. But, could they be doing more to be active rather than passive bystanders? Many of the women councillors I talk to, think so.

If harassment and aggressive behaviour is a pervasive part of women’s work experiences from politics to farming, manufacturing to the military, then what can be done? It’s time for bystanders to ‘buy in’ and stop bad behaviour.

In his book Every Day Ethics, ethicist Dr Simon Longstaff notes that “harassment can occur whenever a person behaves in a manner that another person finds inappropriate and disagreeable”. He adds that every person has a ‘right to register their discomfort and ask another to refrain from specific behaviours”. From an ethical perspective, Dr Longstaff notes that when it’s time to ‘call someone out’, that ‘ideally the complainant will not have to act alone but will be backed by a network of supporters who are ready to offer assistance”. He quotes Edmund Burke

“All it needs for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”

Tools to bring in the bystanders

Rather than doing tick-the-box, compulsory sexual harassment training, research shows that workplace training on ‘Bringing in the Bystander’ is more effective in addressing inappropriate behaviour in organisations. Training can address the phenomena of The Bystander Effect in which “individuals are less likely to offer help to a victim when other people are present”. A recent article for the New York Times discussed the power of programs in American university colleges and the military that empower bystanders to act and ‘call it out’. The results were demonstratively better than compulsory sexual harassment training for employees.

It’s time to give bystanders and all those ‘good men’ the tools to feel more confident to challenge attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that normalise gender-based harassment.

Practical action

Here are some suggested tools can bystanders apply when they witness inappropriate behaviour:

  • Comment on the behaviour of the perpetrator and call it out to him/her as you hear or see it – “That joke wasn’t funny; it’s sexist” or “I found that the way you spoke to X was aggressive/condescending/patronising/sleazy and it made me feel uncomfortable”
  • Disrupt the situation, e.g. ask the victim if she wants to come get a coffee with you, or can read over your notes etc. Distract the harasser.
  • Take it up with the harasser later, by asking open questions such as “Are you aware of how you came across in that conversation?” Surprisingly, sometimes they are not!
  • Talk to your colleagues later to ‘de-normalise’ the situation by asking “Did anyone else notice that? Surely, I am not the only one that thinks that is sleazy?” (or aggressive or threatening etc)
  • Talk to the target of the harassment and let her know you saw what happened. Offer to support her if she wants to take it further.
  • Take it up with your People & Culture or HR department.
  • If you’re a leader in your organisation, check your code of conduct, policies and continually update them.

So . . .  back to those stories. What would you do? If your wife, sister, daughter or friend was harassed, would you feel confident to step up and take action to protect her? If no, perhaps organise some bystander training or try these suggestions. Buy in. Change it.

Ruth McGowan OAM is a gender equity advocate and champion for women in local government through her work as a consultant and coach.