Thermoforming Report

Project Management: Stacking the Deck with Talent

by Keith Brown, President & Owner, Siena Group

House projects. There are small jobs and big jobs, but they all follow a sequence. The more complex the project, the more steps are needed. The parallels to adding new talent to your team are more similar than you would think! As I’m in the process of a fairly big backyard deck renovation myself, let’s jump in and see where we can connect some dots! 

  • You had someone leave your team. Or, you are growing and need to add a key new member. Or, you unfortunately have someone who isn’t delivering, and you need to make a replacement. All of these signal a need to make a new hire.   
  • In my case, my deck was beyond repair. Replacing random rotting boards just wasn’t going to work any longer. I had to do something, and it required a full replacement.  
  • So with the need identified, leaders need to decide what to do next. Is it a straight one-to-one replacement? Or do you need to upgrade the level due to expected growth? Or maybe you can knock it down a level and work to find a hidden gem that you can develop? Or maybe even an organizational change? 
  • For me, I needed to overcome a few things on the existing version: design problems that were inherently safety issues and functionally, it just wasn’t very useful. I decided to expand it a bit and adjust the stairs to two sets to make it flow more efficiently and safely.  
  • If you are making more overall impactful shifts in the organization, you must invest the time to design the organization to align with the decision… understanding any constraints you may have, and probably not do anything overly dramatic without significant buy-in from all principals. Obviously, this step may not be needed for a straight replacement of a team member.
  • With the decision made, I calculated the new dimensions of the deck and created several mockups that worked with the constraints I had in place. Plus, I was trying to be smart and conserve resources by not doing things that were overly crazy or costly. Even though it would be different, I didn’t need to go overboard.  
  • Though an obvious plug, it pays to ask for help on a search need for your team! Don’t get me wrong: taking advantage of extensive networks is always smart. There is the reality that between 70-80% of every job filled is done through networking. But even that is a form of help, right?! Asking your teammates, colleagues, and your A-Players for referrals works. As a niche recruiter, I use this tactic constantly! However, when you get stuck or need assistance on a confidential search, reaching out to someone you trust external to an organization – say a niched recruiting company like Siena Group – can be very helpful!
  • Ok. In terms of my home reno, this part is huge! I’m fairly handy, but a project of this scope is beyond my ability. And I know it. So I reached out to a couple of friends who were not only more than capable… but also willing to come alongside me and help. And they did! 
  • Now that you know what you are going to do and have considered the specifics of the project, there is normally prework and preparation. In the case of a retained search for a senior leader, this is absolutely critical! Investing the time to understand the need in great detail, gain insight into the team dynamics and culture, clarify expectations and deliverables, and more are paramount to deliver the right person for the role. Though it is not as extensive for lower-level roles, the concept still rings true. If you do not prepare, the likelihood of hitting the mark with the first few candidates is significantly reduced and the process can become more costly and take longer than expected. 
  • For me, the site prep work was fairly dramatic and certainly critical to move forward. Remember the rotting wood? It had to go – a lot of it. There was some additional electrical work needed. And some cleanup. And debris removal. I knew where we were headed and invested the upfront time to be ready to hit the ground running when our start date was planned. 
  • How does this connect to finding new talent? Well, it takes work to sort through everything!  Typically, most of the work is on the front end – working through lists of people and resumes, having lots and lots of conversations, sifting through the information, and more. Now, it does get easier when you are highly niched, trained, and experienced. Even so, the upfront work takes effort… but boy, does it pay off
  • When it comes to home projects, this is also a big one! The amount of time, effort, energy, and expense associated with getting the foundation in place is a lot! And it tends to be a lot of heavy lifting and grunt work. I was definitely the most tired and worn out in those first several days of work! And yes, I was/am most certainly the grunt in this project!
  • So, this is where experience and expertise come into play. As we approach our 10th year in the business, I can certainly see the impact of time doing the job. I don’t recall exactly where this comes from, but I remember some leadership training I received early on at Kimberly-Clark Corporation. It was something like: (1) you don’t know what you don’t know, (2) you know what you don’t know, (3) you know what you know, and (4) you don’t know what you know – or something like that! 😆 My point is that when you do a thing for a long time, you learn and grow. You succeed and fail and hopefully learn from both. Relying on that knowledge, experience, and the developed expertise over time has helped us to be successful at Siena Group.  [There is a great HBR article about a high-level study: The Making of an Expert.] 
  • Likewise, seeing and hearing my friends in action is truly a blessing! They are true SMEs when it comes to building things! I am privileged to see them work and come alongside to assist and learn.  Could I have built the deck on my own? Yes. But it would have taken me MUCH longer, and it probably would not have been nearly as good! 
  • As in, “the devil’s in the…”  And they will eat you for lunch! Or cost you a bunch of time, expense, or resources. Though we iterated and worked through the design together before we even started the demolishing, we’ve run into a few things as we’re building and have had to adjust. 
  • The same goes for a search – be it for a Process Engineer or a Vice President of Sales. You have to do the work, get feedback from both the client and the candidate, and adjust. It is rare for everything to just click and fall into place from the start. Most of the time, some things need to be adjusted or tweaked. It happens. However, if you “measure twice and cut once” – do the prep work and lay a good foundation – the details that may have been unforeseen tend to be minor.    
  • Though not the last part of the project, this phase of building a deck means you are getting close.  And it is exciting! You can see the fruits of your labor. You can see your vision coming to life, if you will, right before your tired eyes.   
  • The same goes for interviewing, especially when you get to the onsite visit. This is where the work gets to be more fun. You can see how this new team member will impact your organization. You can start to see how well they will turn a struggling team around. You realize that the empty seat, or one previously occupied and was not going well, is close to being filled with a strong new person. And it is exciting! 
  • One key aspect of the build that I’ve learned is how important the decking is to the overall build. It locks in the entire structure and is known as the diaphragm. “In structural engineering, a diaphragm is a structural element that transmits lateral loads to the vertical resisting elements of a structure” (Wikipedia). Though the foundation was strong, as the deck boards are being installed, the entire unit is becoming rock solid. 
  • This is what happens when the right person is hired too! All of the previous work makes sense when that right person shows up on his or her first day and gets after it! 
  • Now it is time to enjoy the results of your labor! For me, it will be lots of relaxing, grilling, and hanging out with friends and family on a well-built structure.  (And I will be doing a lot of cooking for my two friends in an effort to pay them back for all their help!)   
  • For you, allow that new hire’s energy and expertise to make those needed impacts on your team and company. There will be some upkeep over time to be sure, but the right person in the right role is definitely something to be proud of! 

At Siena Group, we are your Thermoforming Talent Partner! We’re here to help in any and every way possible! With more than 30 years of experience in manufacturing, hiring & recruiting talent, we bring a greater understanding of the companies we partner with and the candidates we pursue. Let’s Strengthen Your Search!

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