How to Convert Diversity Aspirations into a Competitive Advantage

Contributed by Howard Fischer Associates

It is widely acknowledged that diversity is good business. As evidenced by a recent study from McKinsey & Company, companies with more diverse leadership teams – in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, and age – outperform their competition.

It is no longer a question of whether diversity makes sense for executive leadership teams and boards – it does. The question on the mind of most companies now is how to ensure that their diversity recruitment efforts are successful. While most companies have good intentions when it comes to diverse leadership hiring, they often fall short of their aspirations. Diversity of race, gender, ethnicity, thought, and experience are all important contributors to innovation and success.

In my experience working with C-level executives and boards, the root cause of this is that most companies tend to be reactive when filling senior level leadership roles, typically waiting to initiate a diversity search until after an active opening exists.

Time is the enemy of diversity. The longer a position is open, the more costly it becomes, and the less likely companies are to patiently wait for a strong diverse slate. Because there are fewer diverse candidates in the marketplace, they are more difficult to identify, and the competition to retain and attract them is intense. If there is pressure to fill an open position because someone left unexpectedly, was promoted, or was terminated, diversity can become less of a priority than filling the position as quickly as possible.

Many companies find themselves in this position because they don’t have a proactive, anticipatory, and ongoing external succession program that emphasizes diversity of all kinds. Such a program ensures that a company is better prepared for unexpected departures and has a pipeline of outstanding diverse candidates when the inevitable need does occur.

Why limit this to diversity talent? Another benefit of this pipeline of leadership talent is that it is often a catalyst for upgrading any mediocre talent (diverse or otherwise) that may exist in the organization. When a company meets an outstanding candidate, they can be opportunistic about finding a place in the organization for them.

“Progress isn’t just slow – it’s stalled,” said Sheryl Sandberg and Rachel Thomas in a recent article in The Wall Street Journal. Discussing what can be done to close the gender and diversity gap, they said, “Companies need to take bold steps to make the race fair.”

To help companies convert their diversity aspirations into a competitive advantage, Howard Fischer Associates has developed the Leadership Pipeline Program. You can learn more here as well as on their website.

Howard Fischer Associates Helps Comcast Recruit Dana Strong as President, Consumer Services

Strong will be responsible for the go-to-market strategy of the residential business of Comcast Cable, Xfinity

Howard Fischer Associates (HFA), one of the leading executive and board search firms in the nation for more than 35 years, has placed Dana Strong as President, Consumer Services at Comcast. Howard Fischer Associates serves as Comcast’s preferred executive search partner and has helped recruit many of the company’s top executives.

Strong will be responsible for the go-to-market strategy of the residential business of Comcast Cable. In her new role, she will oversee Comcast’s Xfinity brand and products, including its video, broadband, voice, home, and mobile products as well as the consumer sales and marketing, digital, Xfinity.com, and data intelligence groups that support the strategy and growth of the consumer business.

Click here to learn more.

Winning as an Executive Search Candidate

For more than 40 years, Howard Fischer Associates has helped leaders to secure executive positions in companies where they will thrive over the long term. During that time, we’ve worked with a range of experienced and successful candidates, those who have proven themselves to be valuable assets in the workplace. Being a successful job candidate is very similar to being a successful business person. It requires preparation, strategic thinking, and a vision for the end game. Whether you see yourself as an active or a passive candidate, if you agree to an interview you need to go in prepared. It is well understood that that means reading up on the company and the interviewers so that you can come across informed. What is less well understood, is that a candidate also needs to have a strategy going into the discussion and a game plan for subsequent rounds of interviews.

A candidate strategy such as this has three vectors. The first vector defines what you want to learn in each meeting in order to decide if you want to invest additional time in follow-up discussions. Think through what is most important to you as a candidate and what it is that would make a real difference to you in terms of your career satisfaction. Understand your own motivation for taking the meeting.

What does this new company and opportunity represent that your current company does not?  A better company culture? A stronger and more defensible market position? Accelerated company growth trajectory? Expanded responsibilities? Material increase in compensation? If you understand your own motivations, then you can ask better, more pertinent, and more strategic questions.

This strategy applies to every meeting, from the initial conversation with the recruiter, to the final discussion and offer presentation by the hiring executive. Taking this to heart, it behooves you to better understand who you will be meeting in an interview so that you can ask questions best suited to their role and experience. Certainly, some questions span across functions, but to ask the same questions of every executive neither projects innovative nor strategic thought. Depending on who you are speaking with and where you are in the process, “what you want to learn” changes.

The second vector is the personal impression of your brand that you want to leave the interviewer with when the meeting is over. Similar to tailoring your questions to suit the interviewer, your strategy around the impression you want to leave also needs to change. If you are speaking to the CEO, you might want to be sure to project strategic thought, success, executive presence, and leadership. Alternatively, if you are speaking to a potential peer, you want that individual to leave your meeting thinking, “I can enjoy working with this person. They are a subject matter expert in their discipline, and I can see them fitting positively into the culture of the company.” Specific to the audience, think through what is important to them and prepare your presentation on how you specifically satisfy that requirement.

The third and final vector of the strategy is to think through which aspects of your background the interviewer might be most interested in. What would be most relevant to them in your background either professionally, experientially, or culturally as they assess your fit with the job and the team. Think through the requirements of the role and the business problems that you will be asked to solve. How do these demands affect your interviewer personally and what have you done related to that that you can share to garner his support? Come up with specific examples beforehand and consider how you want to present those examples with clarity and conciseness. Get ahead of your interviewer and minimize the need to improvise under pressure.

In closing, whether you ultimately accept an offer or not, your candidate strategy will help you gather the right details and facts about the company so that you can make an informed and rational career decision. Own your participation in the process. Be strategic. Control the outcome.

For more best practices as a candidate seeking a new role, please contact me at [email protected] or 215.568.8363.

Brad Frank, Partner

The Key to Hiring a Truly Impressive Executive

Contributed by Andy Farrell, Principal, Howard Fischer Associates. 

In my work across the sphere of high-tech executive recruiting, I’ve had the privilege to meet a diverse population of leaders. Some I’ve met on the conference and speaking circuits, some have been clients, and others have been cherished coworkers. Most have been charismatic, intelligent, and passionate individuals, with a genuine sense of concern for the wellbeing of the people under their command and a vision for the future of their organizations. While many people in executive positions would likely earn a similar description, a much smaller portion of executives can be described as “truly impressive.” So what makes the distinction?

In my experience, and based on anecdotal evidence, the difference between a successful leader and those that fail usually has something to do with their ability to rally the rightpeople around an initiative and keep them engaged. Isolating and identifying that quality in an executive, however, is often not a priority during the hiring process. Companies face a tremendous amount of pressure when filling an open executive slot. The focus on hiring someone with the right industry experience, proven success rate, and educational pedigree can sometimes feel so aggressive that it becomes easy to forget that an executive’s job isn’t about “doing the work” – it’s about building and managing the team of people that “do the work.”

Click here to read the full blog post.

Assessing Cultural Fit – Key to Successful Hiring

Contributed by Howard Fischer Associates

When filling a vacant role, many companies are inclined to promote a current executive. This is not surprising given the number of benefits that make this approach attractive:

  • An internal candidate has established credibility as well as institutional knowledge about key stakeholders, company processes, and the industry in which they function;
  • Promoting an internal candidate can be a relatively quick and cost-efficient process;
  • Promoting from within shows goodwill. Employees appreciate company loyalty. Knowing that internal succession is possible will decrease turnover at all levels of your company;
  • Most importantly, an internal candidate understands your company culture and most likely already fits well within that culture.

External candidates are unknown, so many companies assume that they are making the right choice by promoting within. However, before you fill any role, you should always consider if an external search would be a worthwhile pursuit.

For example, if your company is in a disruptive industry, an external candidate might be the change agent and innovative thinker you need to pivot your company in a new direction. Or, if your company is currently experiencing slow growth, an external candidate may be the turnaround specialist you need to help push reset and find new footing within the marketplace.  Your company may prefer conducting an external search simply because an outsider brings a needed fresh perspective.

One of the biggest concerns (and often the biggest indicator of success) is how well an external candidate fits into a company’s existing culture. If you’ve decided to pursue an external hire, there are some steps you can take to mitigate the risk and find a cultural match.

Click here to read the full blog post.