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Over the past few years, I have noticed a disturbing trend as I meet with both our shipper and carrier associates. They have changed their leadership team again. The VP of Transportation or Logistics (in manufacturing and retail organizations) or the President or other senior officer (in transportation organizations) has now been replaced multiple times. In fact, in some companies, they change executives like some people do spring cleaning in their homes. “It is out with old and in with the new.”

What is interesting for me is that in some cases, as an outside consultant, I have had the opportunity to work directly with the business leader and the company. I have been able to observe their performance and that of their superiors and subordinates. I have the following observations to share with you.

In some situations, the terminated business leader was doomed to fail. The expectations for the individual may not have been realistic. He or she may not have received the full support of the business owner or senior executive or the collaboration between them wasn't there. The departed person was charged with implementing the failed or poorly conceived vision of the business leader. The terminated executive “took the fall” for the unsuccessful business plan or weak leadership of his or her boss.

In other cases, the individual did not perform at the required level. He or she may have not had the required skills, did not fit with the company culture and/or did not work well with his or her peers. In some cases, there was an overreliance on specific subordinates who were not performing their jobs at an acceptable level. This overreliance and/or a poor hiring process cost the individual his or her job.

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Passion

Posted by on in Career Advice

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Last week, I was watching the U.S. Democratic Party Town Hall on television that took place in South Carolina. A member of the audience stood up and asked Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont to talk about what he considers one of the most important traits of a leader. He replied that having a passion for what you do is a driving force for him. He then went on to amplify his response. That question and answer was quite revealing and has stayed with me ever since.

Two days later I received an e mail from Scott Monty who publishes a blog entitled The Full Monty (http://www.scottmonty.com/ ). Scott is an expert in Social Media. The title of his weekly blog was Passion. The fact that these two seemingly random events happened in the same week inspired me to write this blog.

As I reflect back on my over 45 years in the working world, the issue of passion has been a driving force for me. There have been times when I worked for some fine companies and great leaders. I got up in the morning and couldn’t wait to get to work. I was proud to represent my company and I was very driven to see the company succeed.

I am very happy to be running my own company at this stage of my career. I am very motivated to help our shipper clients save money on freight, to help our carrier clients improve their profitability and to help organize and host one of the best freight transportation conferences in Canada. I have a deep passion for all of these segments of the business.

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How to Improve the Hiring Process

Posted by on in General

Last weekend I was struck by an interview on leadership lessons in The New York Times.  It appeared in the “Corner Office” column of the Sunday Business section.  The interview was conducted with Tracy Matura, general manager of the Smart car division of Mercedes-Benz USA.  During the interview, Tracy was asked a question about what she asks prospective candidates whom she is seeking to hire.  Here is what she said.

“Tell me who your favorite boss was and why, and tell me who your least-favorite boss was and why.” Tracy commented that this gives you a sense of what leadership style works best for this individual.  “I would also then ask them about a time they took a risk and failed.  I have never hired people who have told me they’ve never failed.  You don’t learn if you don’t fail.” 

The interviewer then challenged her on the issue of whether anyone ever admits that they have never failed.  Tracy responded by saying that people might say, “You know, I don’t think I’ve ever really had a complete failure.  Really.  I don’t even ask the question in terms of just business.  Everybody has had some failure in their life.”

This led the interviewer to try to understand the underlying rationale for the question.  This was her response.  “Here’s what I want:  My leadership style is to be transparent and authentic, so if you’re going to tell me you’ve never failed, then it makes me wonder if you always hide your failures.  I don’t like that - - surprises are bad for everybody.  I can’t fix or try to fix something I don’t know about.  Some people have that fear factor if they admit to failure, as if they say to themselves, “If I say I failed, she’s going  to think I’m a loser and not hire me.  Quite the opposite.”

While Ms. Matura’s comments reflect what she is looking for in a prospective employee, the person being interviewed has an obligation to try to determine the management style of the prospective boss.  In order to make this assessment, the interviewee needs to ask a similar set of questions.  “Tell me about the employees you hire with whom you have had the most successful relationship and why, and tell me about the employees you hired that were the least successful and why.  How would you describe your leadership style?  Please share with me some of your teams’ successes and failures.  How do you describe your goal-setting process, how do you measure results, how do you communicate those results and what is the performance review process?  Also, please describe the work environment that you try to create.”

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