Got Customer?

I just spent two days in the Windy City coaching talent leaders on Strategic Talent Acquisition. We were on the 20th floor of the NBC Tower overlooking the lake… an office I could get used to in a second! It was a great diverse group from global pharma to high tech to national advertising. Despite the industry, one theme resonated across all… how do I lead strategically and shift the hiring team to do the same?

They all wanted to know… What are the hottest sourcing trends? To what level do I dig into workforce planning? What are the best interview questions?

To shift from the transactional to the strategic, we started at the very beginning with a targeted exercise defining exactly who the customers are and their true priority. With a heavy background in marketing, and a self-confessed process geek, I wholeheartedly believe that this is the best place to start.

I find that a lot of people jump right into the solution or the “how” without fully considering whom the customer really is; particularly when there is the distraction of the newest, shiniest recruiting app. As you know, whenever you work within an organization and are providing a service internally, the term “customer” can get thrown around in a pretty loosy, goosy way. The loudest and the squeakiest determine who is most important.

While at Starbucks, I had several critical and key stakeholders for all of our Talent programs and processes. While all these stakeholders or “customers” were all very important, they each had a different level of priority. Without clearly delineating priority, we would have ended up with solutions that were mediocre at best, only partially serving all of the customers.

To be clear about your top priority and really meet the customer’s needs, I encourage you to take the following steps:

1)    List any and all potential customers by the following type:

  1. Those who receive your product or service directly or frequently are your Primary Customers. They represent the largest revenue.
  2. Those who receive your product or service indirectly or infrequently are your Secondary Customers.
  3. Those who don’t receive the product or service, but largely influence the way it should be designed are your Influencers. For example, for recruiting, and Influencer is the OFCCP (Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs).

2)    Of all of your customers, check the ones that could leverage extreme consequences if their needs are not meant. These in concert with your Primary Customers get top consideration.

3)    Once you have finished the steps, do them all over with your team to gain alignment. Does everyone agree? Use the final, prioritized customer list to really drive your design and decision-making.

It was a fascinating exercise to see how even like-minded talent leaders had some healthy discussion and disagreement around who the customer is when it comes to Talent Acquisition and Management. When I asked how this exercise would work in their own organizations, they said they couldn’t wait to find out.

Let me know how it goes for you!


Lord Help Me… Take a Risk

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where these thoughts run through your head…

I can’t, no I can, I can’t, come on… yes you can. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.

For those of you who know me, you may think I’m a risk taker. I’ve done several things in my life that would indicate as such… signed up for study abroad when I knew it was riding on me raising $5,000 I didn’t have as a student… walked into the president’s office, basically saying I was “smart” and that I was the right person to move to London… moved my family with my husband to Austin when I had the “perfect” set-up in Seattle and Starbucks… starting my own business. I spend my life and career encouraging others to take risks EVERYDAY. Risk taking is my name, until I met my match… Space Mountain.

From left to right…

MIDDLE ROW:  Coach #1: The calm, zen coach who talked about enjoying the stars inside as you zipped along.  ME: Yes, that’s me. The risk-taker. Yes, my eyes are fully shut. Yes, I am gripping the bar. Yes, I am… smiling.

FRONT ROW:  Coach #2: Yes, that says “Adrenaline” on his shirt. He planned that face and promised “epic fun.”  Coach #3: Reminding me… Come on, the kids want you to be part of this fun.

This was THE MOUNTAIN of TERROR in my mind. I know, for many of you, this is such a tame little ride. How silly. But for me, so many things would surely go wrong that this was a risk I wasn’t willing to take. I have never been a physical risk taker and the list of con’s made perfect sense…

  • Malfunction. For Pete’s sake, this ride is ancient after all.
  • It’s dark in there. When I am flung from the malfunctioning seat restraint, it will take HOURS to find my body.
  • Oh, and not to mention, my poor, poor, little children.. I need to protect them. It’s not just about me.
  • It was my first time to Disney and wouldn’t this be the first time it all broke down?!?

Reluctantly, I got into the line with the kids (who by the way, had NO concern in the world). As each minute passed, we inched closer and my heart started beating a little faster. I was a leader of this team about to embark on a dangerous mission, I had to remain calm and keep smiling. My other leader, my husband, was curious about lunch… how could he be so calm? Did he not know what was ahead?!?! We might die in there!!!

Well, as you can see from this post… die I did not. I did go into the Mountain. I did ride the ride. And this is how I was able to survive…

  • I was surrounded by those who didn’t have the irrational fear I did. They had experience and the knowledge. They knew it was not only safe, but could actually be fun.
  • I stepped out of my fear and envisioned what it would be like at the end of the ride. I would get to celebrate with my team, my family, about a first that we all got to share together.
  • My kids will see a role model, conquering her fear and that will be a powerful lesson and encourage them to do the same.
  • I listened to my coaches and thought about what they said, “MOM… there is a four year old getting on this ride. Get a grip.”

As a leader we step onto our own roller coasters everyday. Whether it be a new position, a complex project, that colleague we can’t seem to get along with… It may be scary and you might be fearful of the outcome, but challenge yourself to take the step. Surround yourself with the right support… other leaders, experience, knowledge, coaches… and just do it!

As I approached that ride, I thought most about how amazing it would feel for me to conquer a fear that I’ve always had. And it was. So much, that I actually rode twice.

Let me know how your ride went…

Gone Fishin’

Gone Fishin'

Nuff said. Looking forward to reconnecting next week!

In the meantime, and on another non-business note, please join me and the cast at this year’s “Listen to Your Mother.”  If you haven’t heard of it, this is a national series of live readings by local writers in celebration of Mother’s Day with part of the proceeds supporting Any Baby Can. The event will be on Sunday, April 29, 2012 from 2 to 4 pm at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center amphitheater here in Austin. Tickets can be purchased here. Last year was really fun and I hope to see you there!

Have a great weekend,


Flight Team

“M’am, I believe 12D is a little upset.”

Let me paint the scenario for you.

It’s Monday, small flight, first thing in the morning. The usual suspects of business travelers board and then the rest of the crew including me.

I usually fly American Airlines, being that I’m in Austin and that tends to be the most direct routes everywhere (or at least through Dallas). So, I tend to get on with the business crowd.

This trip, however, I’m on USAirways. I find their gray and white logo lacking a bit of confidence. Almost like… here is a generic clip art flag that we couldn’t afford to print with color, but don’t worry, our wings stay on during flight!

Ironically, the missing “color” was on the inside of the plane. The cast of characters was sit-com worthy. Here is the map to help you understand…

11A  Politefully listening, yet not wanting to Woman 11B  Man all about his religion and talking about it A LOT


11C  Ignoring Man #1 11D  The
“Best Friend”
12A Helpful, doting grandmother 12B Ignoring man #2 12C   Ignoring Man #3 12D HOLY S&#* GET ME OFF THIS FLIGHT. I’VE NEVER FLOWN.
13A  Hungover Dude   13C  Politefully Listening, yet not wanting to guy 13D  Chatty, gum chewing Kathy

There we sat with the scene playing out as you can imagine. The doors go shut, the plane starts moving and 12D is MENTAL. I mean, sobbing, can’t catch her breath mental. Really having a panic attack. 12A leans over 12B, looks past 12C to console 12D. 11 D hangs over the seat to passify 12 D. 11B is praying for her. A lot. 13D is having a hard time getting the words passed her gum chewing to let 12D know that “shit, these things never crash.” And finally, 13A shoots me a look like “someone kill me now.”

Meanwhile, the flight attendant strolls down the aisle and MISSES THE WHOLE THING. Misses it! I mean, doesn’t even notice one single outburst of tears.

So, of course, if you know me, I went into hyper observation mode. Hmmm… interesting play we have here. Is this the type of theater where you observe or are audience members asked to participate?

I stopped the flight attendant. “M’am, I believe 12D is a little upset.”

“Oh my. She sure is. Are you okay? If you’re not, now is the time to know so we can turn the plane around. Do you want us to stop?”

“No, I’ve just… never… sob, sob… flown before.”

“Oh, that’s it? You’ll be fine.”

“Wow, that’s some empathy,” 13A muttered to me.

What was really interesting is what followed. In the absence of an empathetic leader (our fearless flight attendant), this unpredictable team of support rose out of this cast of characters. Even Ignoring Guys, #1, #2, and #3 joined the effort. All to help 12D make it through the flight. They each, in their own way, stepped forward as leaders to speak to her, take her mind off of the flying, find out how to help her to manage through her fear. A team formed, united and led.

This event hit them at the core of humanity and propelled them into a true leadership moment. In times of crisis, you’ll have an opportunity to see who really steps up and releases their latent leader.

And in times of calm, what are you doing to inspire someone’s leadership? If there isn’t a compelling reason such as survival, what is compelling enough for your team members to step up to lead and act like a team? How are they motivated? What would get them engaged and in action?

If you don’t know, maybe it’s time to ask.

I fly home tomorrow. Wish me luck.

The Wave

A bit off topic from leadership, but not really…


You know “the wave?” Not the one done by face-painted middle-aged men at a Packers game. I’m talking about “the wave” that someone gives you from the car or the street after you’ve made a small gesture. Like…

“Thanks giving me that parking space.”

“Thanks for letting me back out of here.”

“Thanks for telling me my lights weren’t on.”

“Thanks for moving aside.”

So simple. Takes no time. Zero cost.

I do it all the time. I’m a firm believer in the wave. In between all my singing in the car (see this post for further explanation), I’m usually waving “thanks” for someone’s gesture. And I love receiving it.

So why doesn’t everyone do it?

And, why, when someone doesn’t, do I literally feel a small rage inside of me? Almost like the lack of “the wave” is akin to flipping me the bird.

Are we really that tired or busy to wave a little?

Maybe it’s because I really like the small human connection that happens with the wave. For that small moment, there was an exchange of kindness with someone just for the pure purpose of exchanging kindness. I don’t like being robbed of that.

Again, simple, no time, free.

We each have a choice with every exchange we have with another human to say thanks even in the smallest ways. Are you living your everyday moments with others with a smile and a wave? It could be the one small gesture in a tough day that gives someone levity and peace.

And that someone could be a peer, a boss, a direct report. Maybe it’s your spouse who covered you all week for evening events (thanks Steve) or your kids who finally brushed their teeth without asking.

Small thanks and waves add up. So start the adding!  What is your favorite way to give a small thanks?  Any other things you do besides the wave?