What Keeps You Up at Night?

I have met a number of very successful, driven, ambitious leaders over the years and discovered that regardless of level of leadership (C-level, division/department head, team lead) they all had at least one thing in common. None of them got enough sleep. Some might suggest that not getting enough sleep is the price of leadership. It is what they signed on to do and is why they are paid the big bucks. And there is some truth to this. Leaders will always have worries and concerns, some anticipated, some unplanned. There is however, one aspect of the business that all leaders deal with that, if managed properly, could be less of a concern and provide a few more hours of much needed sleep.

In a survey of CEOs and presidents of small to mid-sized businesses conducted by Objective Measure in early 2009, one of the overriding concerns along with the economy, the availability of capital and global competition was people. It was talent acquisition. It was finding the right people for the right position and keeping them. And it was the fear of not having a process in place that would consistently deliver qualified, interested and available talent when needed. Having the right people and enough of the right people when you needed them consistently ranked higher as a concern of those surveyed than did any other business factor.

In a recent interview with INC magazine, Kevin Ryan, the founder of DoubleClick that was sold to a private equity firm for $1.1 billion talked about his approach to building great companies. He used to think that business was 50 percent having the right people. He now thinks that it is 80 percent. With the two companies he is currently running Ryan spends better than 20 percent of his time each week interviewing candidates. He meets with his HR director every two days to talk about recruiting and other issues. He is always looking for better approaches to recruiting, hiring and retaining the best talent. Kevin Ryan still confesses to sometimes not getting enough sleep, but it is not worrying about talent that keeps him up at night.

What about you? Are you like many of the leaders surveyed whose main concern was having the right people to continue to grow? Consider the following questions.

  • Do you have a Talent Acquisition process that is aligned with your business plan?
  • Is HR/Recruiting a strategic business division of your company?
  • Is your company always looking for great talent or only when you have open jobs to fill?
  • How much time do you spend interviewing?
  • Is your company’s hiring process more about filling the position and less about hiring the best talent regardless of position to fill?
  • Have you lost business because you did not have the right people to deliver?

Maybe Kevin Ryan is that rare leader who places more value on the importance of having the right talent. Or maybe by answering the questions above you might see some opportunities for improvement within your own company and make some changes to your talent acquisition process before it is too late. Or maybe what keeps you up at night is that meat loaf sandwich at 12:30 AM and the fact that you forgot to take your Nexium.


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