Good Talent Blog

Welcome to our blog, here you will find thought pieces and comment from a Good Talent perspective. Topics of interest include, sustainable business, purpose-led business, conscious capitalism, mindful leadership and values based recruitment, onboarding and responsible business practice.

Good Talent Sustainable Business Presentation

Leon Richards - Friday, May 29, 2015

Leon Richards Founder of Good Talent was invited by Manchester Business School to deliver a webinar to students, the main aim of which was to provide insight on sustainable business to an audience of MBAs. 

Success! What's Success?

Leon Richards - Tuesday, January 15, 2013
(A guest post by Giles Hutchins - The Nature of Business)

What is success?

Is it competing and winning?

Is it doing better in some way than those around you?

Is it making a lot of money?

Is it being recognised by your peer group or wider society for what you doing with your life?

The current prevailing paradigm tends towards quantifying success through money – a fat bank account equals success in the eyes of many. Does it matter if in earning that money one has polluted oneself, society and the wider web of life? Is a City trader taking home millions in bonuses more successful than a nature reserve warden or midwife taking home a below average income?

So often these days we ask people ‘what do you do?’ as if that is the best way to effectively measure the integrity of the person. And often we are impressed by people who are financially wealthy due to what they do, regardless of what true value it serves life. For instance, a senior executive working at Goldman Sachs maybe viewed by society as more ‘successful’ than a primary school teacher.

In the name of ‘success’ (or a perverted societal perception of success) many of us find ourselves bringing great stress upon ourselves and those around us, often leaving a trail of damage in our wake. Due to prevalent cultural norms and their power for steering human behaviour, life can become little more than tireless striving towards ever escalating stages of perceived success.

Prevalent cultural notions of what success is tend to be concerned with the outcome of what one does. The idealised destination – whether it is a fat bank account or recognised status among others or a ‘get away’ holiday home in the Med – becomes the goal rather than the act of ‘doing’ itself. Often, alas, the destinations are goals based on freeing oneself from the ‘doing’ of the work needed to attain the destination. The ‘doing’ of the action is seen as a means to an end. The destination and not the journey is what is seen as important.

We run up hills so we can enjoy the views, yet we seem so singularly focused on the successful outcome (which may take much struggle to realise) that the act of doing is perceived as laborious, un-joyful and often a stressful means to an end. There are of-course some who work for the love of it, yet many work for attaining distant horizons of freedom ‘if only I could have some more money, then I could be happier’ many of us say in the midst of the laborious, slaving away between weekend to pay the bills and budget for the next holiday. Let’s buy a lottery ticket; better still let’s buy one each week and wish our moments away until we win! Oh, how life will be better when we getting to
the destination.

On your death bed, how will you judge the success of your life?

In our pursuit of success (or happiness and freedom) we often focus on the doing, the outputs, the rationalisation of what makes success in the societal perception of it. While realising ones potential is important to attaining personal development along with happiness and success, often we a) get so enthralled with attaining perceived success that we know not what success means for our unique self; b) get so entranced with the doing of the tasks ahead of us on the ladder of success we isolate ourselves from the present moment of actually enjoying the doing by being in love with what we are doing at any given moment. In turn we dis-connect ourselves from what really matters and so
incur unhappiness in the pursuit of happiness. Such actions (which focus on the ends and not also the means) can lead us to do things in ways that are stressful and toxic to ourselves, our neighbours and life in general. Put simply, our life mission could be to ‘help heal the world’ but if we do not undertake each action and interaction with love then we often add more to the problem than to the solution. No matter how noble the destination, the journey is vital.

It’s not WHAT you do; it’s the WAY that you do it.

The road to hell is paved with many good intentions.

That is not to say that we ought not push ourselves and strive for personal betterment, and in so doing challenge our own comfort zone and so incur personal stress through fear of the unknown. Such personal betterment is vital if we are to realise our own unique creative potential in this life.It is not shying away from ‘doing’ per se, more it is exploring how we can encourage our doing to become infused with our being – our daily actions also being successful in their own right as well as moving us forward towards personal betterment. Take each small step with love.

‘Don’t let a mad world tell you that success is anything other than a successful present
moment…sense of quality in what you do, even the most simple actions’ Eckhart Tolle

When the doing is aligned with a sense of being – that is success. This is when the present moment flows with universal abundance. This is when you realise your full potential within that moment (whether it be making a cup of tea, swinging a golf club, teaching a child, selling a car or trading financial derivatives). Often we are our own worst enemy in realising success, as our rational, analytical mind (over-excited by cultural norms that breed status anxiety) interrupts our state of ‘presence’ with a stream of chattering thoughts often in the form of energy draining worries.

Yet, the doing (paradoxically) can bring about the state of being present if we allow ourselves to consciously connect with what we are doing; then the chattering rational mind quietens as the present moment engulfs us and we enter ‘the zone’ which is our element : the moment where success is realised without the need for toxic activity.

Being while doing.

Being in your heart while doing with your head and hands.

This comes naturally to most artists, musicians and sports players as to realise their potential they have to consciously connect with what they are doing. Anything else is quite mundane in comparison.

There is a beautifully simple quote which reveals itself to the balanced mind: ‘the most amazing place you will ever be in your life is where you are right now’

The point of the journey is not to arrive : - )

To watch a 3min video on this see here.

To explore ‘the new paradigm’ further, join the Face Book community here.

Buy The Nature of Business for £10 (RRP £14.95) shipped globally from
www.greenbooks.co.uk/natureofbusiness – quote code NBGH in the promotion box at
checkout.

Can a Leopard Change His Spots?

Leon Richards - Friday, October 26, 2012
Many of you will be familiar with Kipling’s Just So Stories published in 1902, one of the most famous being, “How the Leopard Got His Spots”. Within this short story written by Kipling lies a moral that can be used in a situation faced by many organisations today. 

This moral is, experience counts. 

In the story, the leopard is described as a young animal with little experience, the human is an older and much wiser being. Faced with a changing environment both leopard and human struggle to adapt and hunt successfully, however the human is willing to take advice and changes his skin according to Baviaan’s suggestion. He realizes that by following the baboon’s advice and that of his own prey is the best way to become a strong hunter again. The Ethiopian recognizes that he is no longer equipped to hunt in the way that he is used to.

When faced with change, the educated and experienced individual will make it quickly. It does not take much hardship to make this type of person want to make an improvement in their life. 

Deloitte recently released a fascinating publication titled Toward Zero Impact Growth. Taking the general premise that our economy is bumping up against some hard limits in terms of resource availability, climate impact and a context of growing population their postulation is that the global economy and business in particular needs to change - and fast.

Of particular interest is the work that Anneke & Ralph have done around mapping the current position of a number of high profile companies on that path of transformation. Some solid analysis using a robust trajectory model developed by Volans clearly highlights where these organisations have got to and what still needs to be done.

What struck me from these results was the relative slow pace of progress toward maturity on this scale for many of these businesses. The fact that most of them seem to be battling at an “enterprise level” of development highlights the difficulty for most companies to break free of the myopia around their own business confines and parameters. The implications of truly embedding sustainable business practice mean engaging in change right the way up and down an organisational value chain. This barrier between internal and external or as the model articulates it "Enterprise" and "Ecosystem" seems to be a big jump.

There looks like a rich seam of research could be done here, looking through a sustainability lens at the difficulties incumbent organisations face when attempting to make this internal to external shift. Organisational structures, employee capacities, leadership, innovation, collaboration will all weigh heavily on the eventual success of shifting to another state of operation for a business. We all know the penalties businesses face for not changing, history is littered with their ghosts.

During a lecture this week at the LSE, Giles Hutchins made a bold prediction from his latest book The Nature of Business, he said that by 2020 at least 60% of organisations in business today would be gone. Why was he so sure of this prediction? Giles felt that current trilemma we are experiencing, financial, environment and social are just the beginning of a rapid transformation to new operating paradigm for everything everywhere including business. Jack Welch, of GE fame stated that for a business, “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” Perhaps this is what we are experiencing right now - change but on a scale and at a pace not experienced before.

Can incumbent brands and businesses transform to a new paradigm and do so quickly - can a leopard really change his spots? I think the answer for many will be no. Is this going to mean a catastrophic breakdown of life as we know it, again I think not. The answer to how business operates within a new sustainable paradigm tomorrow may lie at the periphery of what exists today. Outside of the behemoth brands and multinational corporates exists a whole eco-system of smaller companies, typically relatively young who don’t need to change because they have consciously embedded this new paradigm in their DNA from the very start.

Kipling uses the leopard to demonstrate the consequences of someone that is stubborn, not willing to take advice from others or learn lessons from the environment around them. The leopard sees little reason to follow what Baviaan said. I for one hope that as many as possible of those businesses operating today can transform to a new paradigm.

The call from Baviaan is clear, but could perhaps do with being a little louder!

Green Jobs or Jobs with Green Companies?

Leon Richards - Wednesday, July 25, 2012

There are some interesting elements to the employability & sustainability agenda that are being thrown up by a research paper I am developing right now with Nottingham Trent University. We are interviewing a host of business leaders within sustainable organisations which is throwing up some interesting findings.

1. There seem to be 2 main "buckets" into which any organisation can be placed, those undergoing a transition toward more sustainable business practice (the majority) and those who have established themselves with this as part of their DNA or have made the majority of the journey already (Method Products / Interface / Desso / Ecover / Steelcase / Patagonia). Depending in which bucket a company sits has a big determining factor on the skills they require. Those undergoing transition need trusted champions to promote change from within for sure. But I have also interviewed companies that don't even talk about "sustainability" - it is so embedded in their processes it is just part of what they do. It is therefore essential to understand where a company is at in terms of their journey in order to ascertain what they might need in terms of MBA skills (generalist, functional, or not an MBA).

2. In terms of recruiting not one of the 20+ companies I have interviewed have said they want more sustainable technical knowledge from MBAs. The majority provide their own training on their own processes. However there is something that every single company I have spoken to does want - and that is culture fit. If a company is truly pushing this agenda they tend to be mission driven and values led. This means what they look for in every hire is value alignment - an orientation to or sensibility of the sustainability agenda. 

3. We are also identifying some core capabilities that keep cropping up again and again which companies tell us future leaders and managers must have if they are to thrive and drive success for their business. Skills such as Systems Thinking, Peripheral Vision, Cross Boundary Working, Dealing with Ambiguity and Entrepreneurship. These are the things that leaders are looking for in new hires, especially MBAs.

Unfortunately most HE Institutions produce the antithesis of these capabilities, programmes teaching in functional silos create fantastic analytical thinkers but the issues and changing business landscape these companies face require a more integrated capacity - and in my experience that is not taught very well in class or supported by careers on the personal development front.

4. I talk to students every day from top 10 European institutions and beyond, almost all have not got the 1st idea about sustainability. Cradle to Cradle manufacturing, Closed Loop Economy principles, they know nothing, in most cases sustainability is not a core module, for 99% of schools it is certainly not done holistically and a large number of schools don't even offer an elective. This is a shame as many organisations are actively working with these principals right now.

Yet even in a school that did nothing by way of teaching around 15% of each of my cohorts wanted very much to "make a difference" with their career and did have an orientation to the sustainability message. So there is a fair proportion of MBAs at specialist sustainability schools and on mainstream programmes for whom this is a vitally important factor in their career decisions.

My take on it is this: as long as the company is "doing good" (there is whole article no doubt on what constitutes "good") then it doesn't matter what you do for them, marketing, operations, finance, you are still making a net positive contribution by helping the organisation thrive. That way if an MBA is discerning about which company they work for they can leverage their more attractive functional business skills, in whatever role, to make a difference. As every sustainable business operates in a comercial environment the better commercial talent they have the better they will do. It should be a win win, companies get the right talent and MBAs get to satisfy a driving motivation of making a positive impact.

So there are opportunities outside of just specific CSR roles which leverage a typical MBA skillset better and fullfil motivational needs at the same time. It is on this basis that I set up a company called Good Talent. I am also developing an education initiative to develop some of the capacity requirements highlighted in point 3.

As an increasing number of businesses move along the sustainability path there will be an increasing amount of opportunities for MBAs - those opportunities might not be as head of CSR but they will allow MBAs to leverage their skills to make a positive contribution to the world.

Leon Richards

MBA Recruiting - How it works

Leon Richards - Friday, April 27, 2012
After speaking with a number of MBA students recently who have struggled to grasp the mechanics of the MBA recruitment market I thought I would pen a piece outlining my view on how things work. As a jobseeker it is vitally important that you understand how a process operates so that you can position yourself accordingly, hopefully this article can help.

Generally how MBAs are recruited into an organisation can be split between 2 main types of corporate hiring activity, Programme hiring or an Ad-Hoc approach.

Programme Hiring
This is the typical expectation for many students when beginning an MBA, that by the end of their course they will be hired onto a big branded MBA Recruitment Programme. These programmes generally consist of a structured 2-3 year rotational tenure within an organisation, exposing the participant to a wide area of different functional activities before being placed in a relatively senior permanent position at the end of the rotation. The corporate rationale and thinking for these initiatives is driven by the belief that in exposing new starters to many aspects of the business they will be better equipped to make more holistic corporate decisions later in their career and be ideally suited for senior management positions. Examples: Amex, BT, Shell, Microsoft, Barclays

Other MBA programmes are not rotational in nature but hire into specific functional niches such as Marketing or Finance, this type of process is usually delivered around a structured training, development & support programme which lasts 2-3 years with the objective again of fast-tracking senior leaders through and up the business. Examples, I-Banks, Consulting Firms, JnJ, DHL, P&G, L’Oreal, WPP, Astra Zeneca

MBA Programmes share a lot in common with numerous High Potential Programmes and in fact many organisations seek out MBAs as ideal candidates to be part of this process. High Potential Programmes often operate in a similar way to a rotational programme however their intake is not restricted solely to MBA graduates. Examples: Prudential, BT – FTLP

You must be aware that Programme Hiring has fit with a certain profile of individual, candidates are typically aged under 30, still building a career, have the ability to be flexible geographically and tend to be motivated by building a corporate career. In Europe this profile is most strongly correlated with Full Time MBAs, a large proportion of which fit into this category. In the United States the correlation with Full Time MBA’s is even stronger, not surprising if you consider that many of the corporate programmes evolved from and have their foundations in the USA.

Ad-Hoc Hiring
The other type of hiring we see in the MBA market is of an ad-hoc nature, here organisations do not typically recruit MBAs in large volumes but hire according to organisational need at a given moment in time. These companies hire around demonstrable experience and skill-sets and are very specific with their requirements. Examples: Pepsico, Apple, Amazon, SME’s

The approach is akin to more general senior level recruitment with MBA engagement forming one part of a portfolio of candidate acquisition channels. Due to the nature of experience based hiring it has a correlation with all student populations however is particularly powerful for, older Full Time, Distance Learning & Executive MBAs and Alumni given their added maturity and experience which often deems them unsuitable for many MBA hiring programmes.

In my experience a larger proportion of European MBAs tend to get hired via the Ad-Hoc route, this is mainly driven by the fact that student profiles here in Europe tend to be more mature. The important thing to remember is that the approach methods for gaining a job can differ considerably between these 2 routes and you must have a carefully designed strategy for each. By understanding your fit, your aspirations and the most effective route to yield results you can apply your energies strategically.

Happy hunting!

Leon

Launch - Jan 2012

Leon Richards - Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Welcome,

It is with great pleasure and excitement that I launch the new Good Talent initiative this month. It has been a long road to get this far and it's  only the beginning. It certainly can be a little daunting to think of what lies ahead however as they say I am "living the dream" which will make all the hard work and effort to come worthwhile.

This initiative has been born of many years working within the recruitment industry and more recently my time spent with Warwick Business School. Whilst working with Warwick I noticed an increasing number of business students who were keen to "make a difference" with their careers. As this kind of aspiration often falls outside of the more traditional MBA career paths, such as Financial Services and Management Consulting many of these students were not left with much by way of careers advice and guidance. I guess the path less travelled is the path less supported!

At the same time some of the corporate recruiting clients I was engaging with had or were shifting business strategies and operations toward more sustainable practices. Big transformation programmes, small tentative initiatives, start-up organisations all looking at business as un-usual. I'm certain that the winds of change are picking up pace within the business community and whether it is called, "sustainability", "CSR", "shared value", "triple bottom line" or any other moniker we wish to use the outcome will be the same - change!

An opportunity was realised - those MBAs who want to make a difference are the type of individuals perfectly suited to help organisations navigate this transition. And so here we are, my task is now to bring these 2 elements together!

As a new initiative I especially do value opinion, so if you have a view on what we are doing, any suggestions for how we could do it better or just a line to say hello - please do get in touch!

Leon

 


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