December 21, 2021

#015: Best Moments of 2021

Hosted by George Randle

This episode is all about the best moments of 2021 in the Talent War Podcast. This year has been a rough one for a lot of people with politics and the pandemic. So for today, just sit back and relive some of the special moments you had on this podcast with your host, George Randle.

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Best Moments of 2021

As we head into the close from a talent perspective, what can be considered one of our most challenging years of 2020, from living in the pandemic, post-pandemic, vaccines to the great resignation, workplace flexibility in the office, work from home, work remote, work flex, back in the office to probably the most lopsided candidate-friendly market that I have seen in over two decades of working with talent. We have been privileged to have some amazing guests and what I thought is we would close out in 2021. We would go back and pull some of the absolute best pieces of advice, best quotes and best segments from people I admire so deeply.

To have Don Robertson, Tom Lokar, Myrna Soto and Lisa Schreiber, Rich Diviney, Brian Decker and Karen Clark on this show is an honor. When you’re starting your show and you’re trying to help people get better at talent all things related, truly getting a talent mindset, the people that we have had on the show in 2021, I don’t know how we’re going to top some of them, to be honest with you. One of the lessons that I learned a little bit later that I wish I would have is to make sure that I’m checking my ego in all that I do.

I’m well over two decades in the talent space so my learning has accelerated and in large part due to the amazing guests we have. I hope you stand by. We’re going to cue up some of the best of 2021 in the show. It’s things you can take notes on. It’s things that you can put into action right away to make life better, easier and your company more powerful and your people more impactful. Thank you for a great 2021 and reading. Send us your suggestions. Stand by for some of the absolute best leaders in the talent space.

Something that we would love to be able to do for you is to get you a free copy of the Talent War: How Special Operations and Great Organizations Win on Talent. One of the ways that you can do that is simply by leaving us a good review. We’re going to randomly pick a few and get copies out to those readers. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you do leave us a review. I hope we can send you a copy of our book.

A way to get a free copy of Talent War: How Special Operations and Great Organizations Win on Talent is to go to Get over to the Talent War Podcast and scroll down. If you leave us a question that we select as a topic or for an episode, we’re going to make sure that we get you a copy of our book. I appreciate you taking the time to read and please send us your questions. We would love to hear what is on your mind, what is challenging you the most and what we can challenge some of our top leaders with as far as questions. We look forward to hearing from you.

We kick off the best episodes of the show. First up on the agenda, episode one is a little bit of background. It’s Tom Lokar and me, chatting about how I came into recruiting at scale and mind-boggling scale at Hewlett-Packard.

In the 3 or 5 years when I headed up global recruiting, we hired 75,000 people.

That’s true and it sounds unbelievable to people but at that time, HP was one company. It was over 350,000 people worldwide in every country of the globe. I managed a portion of it that was somewhere between 45,000 to 55,000 people, depending on which portion whether they had ITO or BPO job, $10 billion to $17 billion in revenue. I know, George, you hired that many. In my five years at HP, I let go through best-shoring, which is the process of workforce planning your high-cost people out of the US and Europe into lower costs Asia and South America.

I best-shored 25,000 to 30,000 jobs and rehired the same amount in other countries. That was your staffing team that was doing it. You weren’t doing that just for me because you had moved up to the enterprise services role, the larger business unit that I was a part of. The scale at that time at HP and IBM is so mind-boggling. People think we’re bullshitting them but that’s what it was. You can look back at the statistics but what a great learning experience to do HR at scale.

This clip that you’re going to read is from episode two. Tom Lokar, Mr. PhD in all things talent, talks about the best way to stem attrition is to hire better because once you hire better then the results and fruits of your leadership are going to make a difference.

Who are we selecting? How are we selecting them? What questions are we asking them to determine whether they are ready to stand in a hot kitchen or work on a manufacturing floor or hospital? Try to gauge their level of vocation to the role. Have a fantastic, targeted cultural onboarding and orientation, as well as job-specific orientation, mentoring and pairing them up with an employee who has been there a longer period and can navigate that first shift, those first few hours.

Once you hire better, the fruits of your leadership are going to make a difference. Click To Tweet

I remember my son who is a shift manager at Chick-fil-A at age seventeen. Maybe he is a future CEO. I’ll have to tell him that. I remember his first week. He had to get used to the customer saying who weren’t getting what they wanted. He started in the middle of the pandemic. There’s no dining inside. It’s all delivery in the hot Texas sun on a nine-hour shift. They didn’t have the carry-out window set up yet. The stuff that he had to deal with is the same with my son who works at Starbucks. The stuff that they have had to deal with and hear from people is abusive. Helping them navigate through that is part of the retention process because you don’t want to have to go back into this labor pool.

This one is from episode three. As we got into bad leaders, all of us knew that people don’t leave.

They look behind them and there’s no one there. They haven’t mobilized a single soul toward any kind of strategy. They are all over the map. They are micromanaging and then unmanaging. They are distracted. They start interviewing after nine months. It’s like, “I quit. You’re fired,” year after year for those folks.

You and I knew one of those. We will affectionately refer to that person as a pumpkin head. That was a person in the position of Head of HR that I would follow but only out of sheer curiosity to see what was going to happen next. I want to make a point. As we’re describing this, I have been dying and I wanted to put in our book a statistic. I want you to guess what the number is because I’m still searching for it.

How many Heads of HR cut their teeth and came up through the ranks of talent acquisition? I believe they never come out of my function. Once I was in talent acquisition, it’s like, “Once you get to be VP, that’s it.” It doesn’t matter how good a leader you are. If you didn’t come out of L&D, comp and benefits or OD, you were at the pinnacle of your career once you made the VP of Talent Acquisition or whatever the head title was. They never come out of our function and we’re in the business of people. That’s my rant and complaint about the moment.

This one is from episode four. Tom and I got into a great discussion about the challenges of working remote and taking a look back at some of what we enjoyed, which was breaking bread with a lot of our coworkers and many times in different countries that had been restricted due to COVID and how much we miss that and what a true benefit that is.

There are some people that the employees are saying, “I don’t want to come back.” What does an HR leader do?

The answer to that for me as a CHRO is, do we know what our productivity has been since we have been more work from home than work in the office? If that productivity has stayed the same or gone up then maybe you don’t force the issue but then think about the long-term impact of people working away from each other and what it means for your culture, to be a company and for adding new employees. Those employees that have already worked for you have already been oriented and inculturated. You send them home for a year and they are working from their desktop. It’s working fine. They are knowledge workers.

I did a quick scan of contact center and call center businesses. Many of them are reporting productivity upticks via the throughput of work through their contact center. As you know with contact centers are highly automated but highly metric. We measure everything in a call and contact center. They are noticing an uptick. Frankly, I’m not surprised because when I was at HP, I had the opportunity to go to Vegas to one of the big contact center conferences before the HP Discovery event. The week before, they would overlap. This was already happening. I ended up flying there with a CEO of a company. He was the CEO of this contact center company. He had 1,000 employees. They all worked from home.

Here we go from episode five. A service that we have been doing an awful lot of at Talent War Group is executive coaching. Mr. Tom Lokar explains to us what an executive coach is and what it isn’t. I hope you like it.

To me, an executive coach is someone that can sit with a leader and talk them through the 360 of their leadership style, personality, approach and bring it into the context of their job. They identify ways that that person can leverage their strengths within the job context whether it’s leading a team, business unit or company in their first management experience. Also, it helps them take a look in the mirror either through assessment tools or through the coaching process, in terms of, “How do you enter into a coaching scenario? How do you exit? What are some of the best practices that I like around that?”

A coach is a person that can help you, the leader, look in the mirror and not necessarily wrestle with strengths. Part of my interview processes and a lot of people’s interview processes is you ask a job candidate or coaching candidate, “Give me an idea what you think your strengths and weaknesses are.” A lot of people, honestly, are good. With a little self-awareness, they can hone in. Especially when they know they are sitting across from a coach who is a professional either a psychologist or a well-seasoned executive coach, they are honest about their strengths and weaknesses. Filling those gaps is important but I find that the best coaches get their clients to look beyond that and get at those blind spots.

My evil twin, Karen Clark is a CHRO of a 3,000-person company. She walks us through the false belief that we can return to normal, helping our readers understand that what we’re in is our new normal.

We’ve all got Facebook. We’re all epidemiologists. We know exactly what to do. Now you’ve got to be running into the exact opposite.

You have a different opinion about what the new normal will be and when it will be. I giggle about that because we’re not through this. We’re getting through this at varying stages based on location but we’re not through this. If you’re watching any bit of the news on what is going on, we still got some strides to make. The issue is when things start to normalize, leaders go back to their default, “How I lead, what I have learned, what I know, this is what works. I’ve got to go back to what I know.” The issue with that is that it’s not necessarily going to align with the expectations of the workforce going forward. Our biggest struggle and I’m sure most HR folks can empathize is trying to help leaders understand that there are different ways and probably a transition time.

There’s a lot from episode seven. Brian Decker is the Senior Director of Player Development at the Indianapolis Colts. He gives this great quote about winners and losers. It’s etched in my brain. I hope you have a chance to write it down and remember it.

Winners and losers aren’t separated by their goals. All 32 teams want the same thing. There is a difficult balance that an organization has to maintain between building for the future while remaining competitive in the present. My personal belief is that what drives that is the mindset, beliefs and values that the head coach and GM have before they even get there. Chris is like anybody else. He is fiery competitive. He wants to win every game. Every coach wants to win every game but we also have to balance that with future needs because we want to be able to sustain success.

Your vision sets you out depending upon the organization and how far out your time is but 3 to 5 years or maybe longer. You have to have this long-term vision where you want to go but we have to make decisions in the present. It’s that balance of what we need now and what is better for tomorrow. A lot of that goes into the decisions you make on your roster and who is filling those critical roles both for their development and the performance of the team.

In episode eight, I had the distinct pleasure of having a fellow vet on as well, like Brian and some other guests that were coming up in later episodes. Dan Bradley is a hell of a leader. We were talking about the difficulties of success in your transition and some great advice came out.

I’m completely okay if you disagree with me but what did you find when it came to the leadership skills that you brought to the corporate world?

I agree with that. There’s an asterisk in communicating those skills. Communicating those processes is a lot tougher. You have to remember, when you have someone leaving the military at age 25, they have probably been doing this since they were eighteen. This is what they know. They have grown up with this. It’s not just what they know, it’s all they know. These things come second nature especially when you’re talking to guys who have come from working on the more elite teams and especially the small teams.

These things are not nice to have. These things are not, “It’s okay. We’ll get you there. We’ll teach it to you.” They can be the difference and have been the difference between who lives and who dies. You don’t get to slack on these leadership principles. Effectively communicating that in the military and the private industry are two different things. The company that I came to placed a huge emphasis on leadership principles and they could state them.

In episode nine, it’s hard to pick and choose favorites. Two people that I admire deeply, Myrna Soto and Lisa Schreiber, came on the show. I don’t know how we could narrow it down to 1 or 2 simple quotes. This one, for all of our leaders, male and female, you got to read.

You both said that there shouldn’t be a need for you to battle. I know that both of you have choices. You’re sought-after all the time.

I want to make one quick comment. It’s interesting because there is an enormous conundrum. I love the fact that states have taken on to say, “You can’t ask about historical.” That’s good because there’s wage compression for women across the board. If you ask about that, you have created a depressed baseline to manage that offer.

Women, unfortunately, we’re changing it slowly but surely, need to understand their value and not fear commenting on what they believe they should be compensated at. There are more data and elements. People raise their eyebrows and say, “That person made what? I need to rethink how I look at myself.” There’s also a conundrum in the search process. I know they don’t ask but a lot of the search firms will quickly price you out of consideration.

In episode ten, lieutenant colonel Lisa Jaster is the third woman to ever complete Ranger School, the oldest female and the only mom. She gives us a little bit of background on where Delete The Adjective truly came from.

I got to invite my friend, Sue Fulton, as my guest. There’s a box that the first lady has. I was sitting with Michelle Obama and then whoever we brought as our plus one got to sit somewhere in the West Wing and watch the State of the Union from there. It was a big deal, apparently that instead of bringing my husband, I brought this activist. Sue is gay. She is very active in Sparta. I wish I could tell you her resumé. It’s insane but she does a lot for underrepresented demographics.

TWP 15 | Best Moments Of 2021

Best Moments Of 2021: One of the great things about doing this podcast is getting some actionable information for the listeners from great guests.


If somebody was talking about your lesbian friend or your gay friend, I’m like, “How about just my friend?” She is more politically active than I am. She knew when to tell me to be quiet, “Have a glass of wine and walk around and relax. Put that glass of wine down. You’re too relaxed.” She was the perfect plus one but she was a perfect plus one because she was Sue, not because she was my lesbian friend, Sue.

At some point in time, she was like, “I wish people would delete the adjective.” When she said that, I was like, “I’m writing this down.” From that day on, I hashtagged #DeleteTheAdjective because she is a good friend and a good person. She isn’t a good gay friend or a good gay person. She is just a friend so delete the adjective and that’s how it evolved. General Milley is saying, “Be more public and put yourself out there.” Sue is saying, “There are qualities you have and they don’t necessarily anchor themselves in your adjectives.”

Episode eleven is Mr. Don Robertson. Whoever has the best talent, I don’t even need to key up this segment. If you ever get a chance to work with or be around Mr. Don Robertson, take it. He is a phenomenal leader and groomer of talent. He is the person who is going to invest more in you many times than you do yourself. It’s a great example that he set for me as a leader in the human capital space.

This goes without saying, “Whoever has the best talent is generally going to win.” We are in a talent war. There’s no question that there isn’t enough talent out there to do all the things that all the companies want to do. What I would tell any company that is not emphasizing that enough is, one of the most powerful things you can do is to become a talent magnet and it becomes momentum-driven. If you become a company that’s known to develop and grow talent and create opportunities for talent to develop and grow, you’re going to attract more of them.

There are several issues out there that companies are facing. It’s not just acquiring the right talent. It’s also now the talent needs to be diverse and have the right skillsets. Several factors come into play. It has got to be in the right location. Now that companies are allowing much more flexibility and remote capabilities, you’re going to have a challenge that anyone anywhere in the world can recruit your talent.

You can’t just be thinking about it from an acquisition standpoint. You also have to be thinking about it from a development, growth and retention standpoint. Therefore, it’s things like enabling your employees to have a career and achieve their lifetime dreams. It isn’t just a case where the company gets what it needs from the employee. The employee has to get what they need from the company and their development as well. There are two sides to this coin.

As we wrap up this best of the show, the last segment is I’m working on a book with this gentleman. I’m one of a few authors. It’s a real gift to have the author of The Attributes: 25 Hidden Drivers of Performance, retired Navy SEAL Rich Diviney. One of the great things is when you do this show is getting some actionable information out there for those people who are tuning in, which I’m so grateful for.

As long as I have been in the talent game, the guests that we have had in 2021 have helped me upped my game. I’m always learning and listening to have Rich Diviney on and talk about the hidden drivers of performance. If you’re in a position of hiring any influence whatsoever on the hiring process, this is the one you have to read and also pick up Rich’s book, The Attributes: 25 Hidden Drivers of Performance. It’s a must-read and great information. Enjoy.

What we have to understand about that is that even though we were using that environment to tease out those attributes and see if they have the levels that we were looking for, those same levels of those attributes apply to many different contexts in the job that we were conducting. Think about it. The fact that I can perform in that environment with that level of mental thinking, I can also do the same thing if I’m 20,000 feet up in the middle of the night and my parachute malfunctions. I could apply that level of decision-making, rapid thinking and rapid situational awareness.

I can do the same thing if I’m diving in the pitch-black ocean or a harbor and something goes wrong. These environments were telling us things about the candidates and ourselves because we all went through the same selection that applied across the contexts of our job. This is the power of attributes and this is what employers have to understand. If you understand the attributes you’re looking for and the candidates you’re looking for have those attributes, you can always train the skill.

We always used to say, “We can always train someone how to shoot. That is easy. Can we train someone to run into a room and within a millisecond decide who is bad and good, take a precise shot and then move on?” That is attributes. That involves patience, situational awareness, compartmentalization, courage, adaptability and things like that. If you focus on these elemental things, you dive down into performance. What we started finding is we could articulate it better but we also started finding the dark horses. In other words, they are the guys who didn’t appear on the surface level to be very skilled.

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