How to Get Your People Working on the Big Rocks

And stop sifting through gravel!

“We’ve got big goals to accomplish, yet I keep finding people working on all these little projects that don’t really matter.”

This was the sentiment of one CEO I spoke to last week who is already feeling the pressure of meeting this year’s goals.

People spend time on less critical work for lots of reasons. They don’t get it. They don’t agree (and may be passive aggressive in ignoring you.) They are good at doing some things and are a bit afraid of the new assignment. Their boss or other leader keeps throwing tasks over the wall. Or they just don’t really know what the focus is, how important it is and how they need to play a role.

In working with senior leaders and teams on building and growing thriving organizations, we’ve found a few critical levers you must pull to align and engage people around these, “big rocks.” No surprise, this starts with your leadership team. If your leaders aren’t fully aligned on and committed to the goals and to one another, you will spend your time dealing with renegades running personal agendas and functional silos. If you incorporate these 10 practices, you will exponentially increase alignment and success, and will have a lot more fun doing it.

  1. Get Crystal Clear. Be as clear as the priciest diamond you can find (to continue the rock metaphor – and conflict-free of course). Clearly define the most important goals. Describe what needs to happen to achieve these goals. Take the high-level goal into your larger initiatives or milestones. Once you’ve clarified, clarify again, and again, and again.
  2. Align Leaders on the Rocks. Telling them isn’t enough. Every leader must be clear on the priorities. You also need to uncover their perspectives on what will get in the way and what else they plan to continue to work on that may not directly deliver on one of the big rocks. Know the obstacles and have a plan to address these.
  3. Align Leaders as a Team. Every leader needs to understand their own style, motivations, and concerns and those of others on the team. And they need to view the leadership team (not their functional group) as their “first team.” Work together to establish the rules of the road to achieve the goals together and become a high-performance team.
  4. Shape the Culture as You Go. Even if you didn’t put a people and culture component to your strategic plan (and you really must), your culture can make or break your success. Engage people early and often to rally around important goals and emerge as a thriving culture. What needs to change for us to succeed? How are we unintentionally rewarding other behaviors? What could the unintended consequences be if we go about this in the wrong way? (You’ve seen this movie before-right?)
  5. Show the Line of Sight. Every person in your organization should have a “line of sight” between their work and at least one of these big rocks. Understanding how one’s work matters helps drive motivation. Those closest to the work, clients or patients know what’s working and what’s quite honestly ridiculous. Clarify what’s most important. Ask them for ideas and empower them to think and act.
  6. Fix the Talent Gaps. What’s getting in the way? Functional silos? Turnover? Can’t find people? Incentivizing the wrong behaviors? Align people and teams across functions to get things done. Quickly assess your people practices for strategic misalignment and address those most critical to achieving your goals.
  7. Minimize the Gravel. In Steven Covey’s big rocks first strategy, he mentions adding big rocks first, then adding gravel, sand, and water. Yet, if you completely fill the bucket, there’s no space to breathe, let alone think, recharge, connect, and reflect. Say no to or delay less important projects and find ways for greater efficiencies to allow people more time to focus on big rocks while not filling up the entire vessel.
  8. Drive Responsibility and Accountability. Be clear from the start on who is responsible for what. Insist that your leaders to do the same as they cascade work and collaborate across functions. Meet with leaders 1:1 and as a team regularly to ensure clarity (yes, again), to uncover gaps and obstacles, and to hold them accountable for their commitments.
  9. Celebrate the Big and Small Wins. Celebrating the small wins brings the momentum needed to achieve the bigger goals. Encourage people to hit above their weight class and take risks. Appreciate acts of courage and learn from failures. Have some fun and appreciate the work your people are doing!
  10. Become a better organization. The good news is that following these practices (even if less than perfectly executed) will bring you a stronger leadership team, culture, and business. You’ll build muscle along the way as you pick up and break down those big rocks.

In my three decades of working with leaders and as a leader, I’ve found that the greatest threat to any organization’s success is a lack of alignment. I firmly believe that a leader’s primary responsibility is to create an environment where others can thrive. Embracing these practices will set you on a path to an aligned, thriving organization. If you are serious about making this happen, then let’s talk. An exploratory conversation will bring possibilities into laser focus.

Here are some related resources you may be interested in:

Leadership Team Alignment Requires this Foundational Element

There’s a formula to organizational success

Align Leaders and Strategy to Navigate Challenging Times

25 Tips for Remote Employee Engagement

The New Normal: Aligning Remote Work Trends with Your Business

CEO Succession Leading Practices

Steps Boards can take for CEO Succession Planning

The pandemic, and the global turmoil left in its wake, certainly made it clear that anything can happen. Implementing these leading practices for CEO succession planning can ensure the organization is ready for unexpected and planned departures.

With our clients, some strategies remained vital over the past few years, while others shifted rapidly, often out of necessity. Coming out of the great global shut-down and an uncertain economy, companies continue to face The Great Resignation-at every level.

CEOs are not an exception. A recent study by Deloitte found that approximately 70% of high level executives are seriously considering leaving due to :

  1. Factors impacting their physical and emotional wellbeing
  2. The impact of stressors of the past few years
  3. The effect the current business environment has on their lives

Regardless of outside forces, board members recognize that even the best strategy unravels and the entire organization can be jolted out of alignment without the right CEO in place. Yet some boards find themselves unprepared for a CEO exit, despite having succession as one of their key responsibilities. Several factors may get in the way of having a solid plan in place. Often more immediate challenges and performance needs capture their attention. Or the board may not be aligned on succession strategies. For some, raising the issue to a current CEO may feel uncomfortable.

Here are several leading practices your board can adopt to create and maintain effective CEO succession plans. Read on to download a more detailed description and further insights.

1. Identify who owns the CEO succession process.

  • While the entire board may want to weight in on this critical decision, it’s more efficient and effective to designate a smaller group to lead the succession efforts while regularly engaging board members. This could be an existing board committee or a special committee for this purpose.
  • Agree on the criteria to clearly define roles, responsibilities and how decisions will be made by this committee.
  • Provide regular updates to the full board on the process, plans and candidates.
  • The current CEO may have some involvement such as identifying and developing internal talent. In the case of a planned departure such as retirement, the CEO may suggest potential candidates and ensure practices are in place for a smooth transition.

2. Define the criteria for selecting the new CEO

  • Agree on the experience, skills knowledge and leadership traits the new CEO needs to accomplish the organization’s current and future strategic goals.
  • Refer to the strategic plan to help identify the traits most needed in a CEO to accomplish the organization’s strategic priorities.
  • Consider changes the organization and the industry may experience over the next 5 years.
  • Review the organization’s structure to determine if changes can or should be made to shift responsibilities or add positions. If the CEO also serves as the Board Chair, consider if this is the best structure going forward.
  • Actively source diverse candidates that vary in race, age, gender and ethnicity.
  • Consider the type of leader needed to shape the culture whether this be to nurture the existing culture or transform it to enhance performance.
  • Identify the traits the new CEO would need to build relationships with and influence key stakeholder groups.
  • Consider other parameters such as the number of external board or leadership roles the CEO can hold without interfering with the CEO’s responsibilities and any potential conflicts of interest.

3. Establish clear and effective planning and CEO selection processes.

  • Describe goals for the process, timing and communication with the board. Include the CEO criteria, roles, responsibilities and how decisions will be made.
  • Source in and outside of the board’s network to bring most diverse candidates and eliminate existing relationship biases.
  • Use sound selection practices to mitigate the biases and inconsistencies that can otherwise lead to making the wrong choice in this critical role.
  • Include valid behavioral assessments, appropriate for selection purposes, to discover each candidate’s preferences for leading, communicating, building relationships, taking risks, and making decisions.

Try Out a Free Behavioral Assessment

Go on, give it a test drive. It takes just about 6-7 minutes. Discover deep insights into your own preferred behaviors, drives and motivations. Beyond your standard-fare personality test, this source of unbiased data drastically improves empathy, communication, and collaboration on your teams.

Don’t you want to have the same insights on candidates before you hire them?

Learn More

  • Develop structured interview questions, determine who will be involved in the interview process, including the current CEO.
  • Consider using team analytics to explore how the candidate’s style may influence or align with others on the leadership team and board members.
  • Once a process for selection has been set up, ensure it is being used consistently to be able to make sound decisions and treat each candidate equitably.
  • If using a search firm, provide clear criteria, questions to ask, assessments to include and stress the desire for diverse candidates. Have references conducted by a board member, not the search firm.

4. Ensure a smooth transition to onboard, introduce and support the new CEO.

  • Ensure a transition plan is in place to help the new CEO get up to speed on the organization’s strategy, culture, goals, challenges, and stakeholders.
  • Include a communication and change plan. Communicate the change and support of the board for the new CEO to all stakeholders- employees, media, members, etc.
  • Consider the impact of promoting one internal candidate over another or in selecting an external candidate over an internal one.
  • Examine a few potential change and risk scenarios and identify contingency plans to minimize disruptions.

5. Have an ongoing CEO succession plan and pipeline.

  • Let the new CEO know that succession planning remains a continuous process.
  • Be transparent about the organization’s succession process and responsibility.
  • Review the succession plan at least annually with the entire board.
  • Adopt these practices to bring greater effectiveness and equity.
  • Constantly scan the external talent market and build relationships that can help identify leaders to meet current or future needs and increase the capabilities and diversity of the organization’s leadership team.
  • Put an emergency or interim succession plan in place in the event the CEO leaves unexpectedly or is unable to work due to health or personal reasons.

Download the full report:


  1. “How the best boards approach CEO succession planning- And why it’s become more critical than ever.” PwC. September 2021.
  2. Kelly, Jack. “CEOs are Quitting and Joining The Great Resignation- Here’s Why.” Forbes. June 29, 2022.
  3. Hatfield, Steve, Fisher, Jen, Silverglate, Paul H. “The C-suite’s role in well-being.” Deloitte Insights. June 22, 2022.
  4. “April ’22 CEO Report: CEO Exits Hit Highest on Record as Recession Fears Loom. Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. May 18, 2022.

How to Have a Meaningful 1:1 Discovery Conversation

Strengthening relationships and ourselves through mutual understanding

There’s no perfect way to have discussions with another to strengthen or build a relationship. The willingness to have the discussion at all is a great start. Here are a few thoughts for having a meaningful 1:1 conversation with a colleague, a direct report or your boss. (They can also be useful with those in your personal life.)

It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is.”

-Hermann Hesse

1. Set Your Mindset:

First and foremost, consider your mindset before having this conversation. Be curious, open-minded and seek to understand the other person. Also be willing to be vulnerable and share your preferences and thoughts.

2. Share Insights in Advance:

We all have needs in the workplace as well as ways in which we prefer to communicate. Sharing some of these insights about yourself up front allows each person to take into account the other’s style and needs in order to have a productive conversation. If you’re looking for a tool to help build your own self-awareness and that of your team members, try this free, quick Behavioral Assessment to learn more about your leadership style and motivating needs.

3. Reflect on Your Style:

Consider how you prefer to make decisions, process ideas, resolve conflict and interact with others. Without judgement, think about how your style compares with that of the other person.

4. Begin with Ease:

Start with a few positive words expressing your desire to learn more about this person. Set the environment for an easy, pleasant dialogue to explore. You are both there to seek greater understanding, not to judge or compete.

5. Explore Similarities, Differences, and Insights:

Compare preferences with one another. Where are you similar? Consider if these similarities may create a bond and where they may create tension. Where do you have complementary strengths? How might these differences make you better together as you balance one another’s styles?

6. Share Ideas:

In your discussion, share a few ideas on how you might use this better understanding to strengthen your relationship and perhaps to make you a better leader (and human). Some find it useful to create a shortcut phrase to use when certain behaviors appear to prompt both of you to select a more productive path.

7. Keep it Going:

Stay connected and keep talking. This initial conversation is a springboard. Continue learning about one another and yourself. You don’t have to become best buddies. However, you will strengthen the ability to respect others who are different from you, or where conflict occurs because you are quite similar.

We will never truly know all the ways we impact those around us by what we do, what we say and how we say it.

Understanding yourself and others provides opportunities to bring your best self to every encounter.

I wish you well in the never-ending journey to discover more about yourself and all those you interact with.

Do You Want to Learn How to Align Your Team for Amazing Results?

As a leader, you are expected to produce results and to build thriving cultures. Doing so requires not only the right leaders on the team, but having an aligned, cohesive leadership team. Do you know where the opportunities are for your team? Perhaps you have some thoughts, but what if you had real, science-based data rather than the movie running in your head?

In our 90-minute 1:1 Team & Strategy Alignment Session, you will discover insights about yourself, each leader and the team’s collective strengths and caution areas. You will also learn how well positioned your team is to deliver on your organization’s strategic priorities. 

You will be astounded by what you learn about yourself, your team and how well they align to their most important goals. AND, you will walk away with ideas you can put into action right away.

Want to learn more? Here’s a brief example. Now imagine a rich conversation about your team and the work you need to do. Still not sure? Take this free, quick Behavioral Assessment to learn more about your leadership style and motivating needs. 

Strategic Imperatives: Aligning strategy, leaders and culture to create thriving organizations. Here are a few ways we help strengthen leaders and build leadership team alignment.

Leadership Team Alignment Requires this Foundational Element

At a recent client offsite with a senior leadership team, I asked these leaders to consider how often they readily “assume positive intent” about the words or actions of another. These executives share similar drives of wanting to have influence over people and events. In essence, they all like to be in charge. Their bias for action and their agility helps them to move quickly, qualities that served their organization well as they navigated through uncertainty and disruption when Covid-19 upended the world as we knew it.

They continue to zig and zag and leap over unprecedented obstacles. Despite similarities in styles, every person has unique qualities. These leaders have sufficient differences which help them balance on another, but also periodically cause friction and misalignment.

How Often Do You Assume Positive Intent?

Assuming positive intent requires trust. And trust is the critical foundational element for any high-performing, aligned team. We may disagree on how to accomplish something, or you may want more details than I need, or I may feel totally comfortable taking a risk that makes you tremble.

The best path forward comes from first assuming positive intent. When trust is present, you can talk about your different perspectives and ideas, and you can respectfully disagree. You don’t feel the need to take your worries and criticism to others to vent or for validation. You remain open to talking through differences to find the best solution you can at that point in time. You may end up simply agreeing to disagree. Yet both will at least feel heard and respected, rather than dismissed and ignored.

The next time you find yourself jumping to assign motivation to another’s words or actions, take a moment to reflect rather than react. First, assume positive intent. Then openly explore one another’s perspectives. You will not only surface better ideas; you will build trust and strengthen relationships and alignment of your team.

Do you want to learn how to align your team for amazing results?

As a leader, you are expected to produce results and to build
thriving cultures. Doing so requires not only the right leaders
on the team, but having an aligned, cohesive leadership
team. Do you know where the opportunities are for your
team? Perhaps you have some thoughts, but what if you had
real, science-based data rather than the movie running in
your head?

In our 90-minute 1:1 Team & Strategy Alignment Session, you will discover insights about yourself, each leader and the team’s collective strengths and caution areas. You will also learn how well positioned your team is to deliver on your organization’s strategic priorities.

You will be astounded by what you learn about yourself, your team and how well they align to
their most important goals. AND, you will walk away with ideas you can put into action right

Want to learn more? Here’s a brief example. Now imagine a rich conversation about your
team and the work you need to do.

Still not sure? Take this free, quick Behavioral Assessment to learn more about your leadership
style and motivating needs.

Strategic Imperatives: Aligning strategy, leaders and culture to create thriving organizations.
Here are a few ways we help strengthen leaders and build leadership team alignment.

The New Normal: Aligning Remote Work Trends with Your Business

You wake up, make some coffee, and walk a few steps to your home office. It’s got a professional, yet personalized background for video calls and you found the perfect office chair online that makes sitting at your desk for a long call a breeze. Your dog jumps into your lap as you draft e-mails and prepare for a video call.

After a few morning video calls, you have a block of time to brainstorm for an upcoming presentation. You realize you’re not chained to the desk and a walk in the park just might help you have the energy to finish this presentation before the deadline. No one is stopping you as you walk to the door to ask you questions because you work from home, and instead of an office park parking lot, you set out for a walk at your favorite park. The stress and anxiety that used to hit you before a big presentation seems more manageable these days.

For an increasing number of knowledge workers these scenarios are the new normal. Large numbers of Gen Z and Millennials consider their workplace to be anywhere with a strong wifi signal and a good background. A child accidentally walking into your video backdrop, or standing up to reveal you’re wearing sweatpants with your suit jacket on a video call were both once immense faux-pas at the beginning of the pandemic, but is now something most have seen, experienced or understand. The reason for this is that remote jobs grew from 4% of all high-paying jobs before the pandemic to about 9% at the end of 2020, and more than 15% today (1). Projections are forecasting 25% of all professional jobs in North America will be remote at the end of 2022 and will continue to increase through 2023 (1).

               Burnout is at an all-time high, and the Great Resignation still looms, but remote work seems to be the salve to this open wound for some jobs. Employees are flexing their power and are demanding better pay and flexibility. 4.5 million people quit their jobs voluntarily in November 2021 (2). Many business leaders are hesitant to hand over the reins to employees on when and where they work due to business implications that are still being parsed out. Yet 90 % of remote workers surveyed in the Owl Labs 2021 State of Remote Work Report say they were as or more productive working remotely compared to in-office (3). Not only that, over 80% said that they would even be willing to take a pay cut in order to be able to work remotely because it makes them happier and is better for their mental health.

Takeaways for Business Leaders:

01 Explore ways to integrate remote work. While not every job lends itself to this model, many workers will hold out for remote work opportunities (1). If you want to attract and retain employees, seriously consider how you can offer remote or hybrid work opportunities. This means also aligning your in-office and remote work cultures. Consider ways to build teamwork and rapport between remote and in-person employees through virtual team-building and team strategy sessions. Schedule quarterly team meetings for in-person socialization and team building.

Align your team for top performance.  Build teams that trust each other, communicate, and hold one another accountable—to achieve outstanding results and a cohesive, thriving culture. Use a proven framework to help your team reach peak performance through expert guidance and first-of-its-kind people data. Understand different individual work styles and motivating needs. Contact us to discover how this can transform your team.

02 Align your hiring and onboarding practices to take into account remote work. Create structured interviews that ask questions to assess whether someone will thrive in a remote work environment in their potential role so you can have confidence in a new remote hire. Before recruiting and attracting new employees, determine which roles can be remote or hybrid and the criteria. Design your onboarding practices to help the new hire not only learn their job, but also create a strong alignment and bond with the manager, the rest of the team and the organization.

Attract and select the right person for every job.

Are you relying on resumes, the usual sources and “gut feeling” to hire people only to learn later they aren’t a fit for their role, the team or your culture? Do you have the right leaders in place? Building a company of top performers starts with putting the right people in the right positions. Evaluate the behavioral and cognitive characteristics of candidates against job targets to select the best people and build high-performance teams.

Not sure yet? Sign up here to try out these amazing hiring tools for free! Once you try this, you will never want to hire any other way.

03 Align your business strategy with the right workforce model. Concerns about the unknown future of work can be managed by considering scenarios and weighing the pros and cons of remote or hybrid work. Be creative when thinking about the different ways work can be done and try to avoid all or nothing thinking whenever possible. This may allow you to attract and retain top talent and perhaps save a bundle on office space and travel costs. Many employees are also more productive working from home. Business strategies aligned with people strategies have a greater chance of success. Consider changing and possible workforce models in your quarterly or annual strategic planning sessions.  

Do we have a real strategy or just a list of goals? Will our strategy stand up to the dynamic forces at work in today’s business climate? Do we truly know what our customers need and want? What about our employees? Can they get behind this strategy and implement it?

We will help you examine the forces at play and create and implement focused strategies for sustainable, prosperous growth. Our methods prompt you to consider scenarios and create flexible strategies to anticipate and withstand shifting environments. We engage key internal and external stakeholders to obtain input, spark creativity, break down old mindsets and create coalitions for change.

Contact us to discuss your strategic plans


  1. Remote Work Is Here To Stay And Will Increase Into 2023, Experts Say
  2. Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary
  3. Owl Labs State of Remote Work 2021


The Great Leaders You Might be Leaving Out

Re-entering the formal workforce after years starting and supporting a family was a daunting prospect. I had chosen to throw myself wholeheartedly into managing a household, moving back and forth internationally, juggling an entrepreneurial art career, and raising a young child. Each year the obstacle of returning to an office seemed more and more challenging with a longer gap on my resume, then came the pandemic, so I delayed my return.

However, in the process of becoming a mother and navigating international moves, I gained a completely new identity, strength in areas I didn’t even know existed, and an ability to create effective processes. Would anyone in the workplace understand or even acknowledge this growth that happened inside of me during these years outside of a traditional office? I wasn’t so sure anyone would.

This isn’t a story unique to myself, there is a reoccurring v-shaped employment pattern for women during times like the summer where childcare challenges are more present. In fact, around 10 million US mothers living with their school-age children were not actively working in January 2021 of the pandemic due to the industries many women work in, and due to the extreme childcare challenges of shut-downs during COVID. This drastic shift in women leaving the workforce has not only negatively impacted the career trajectory for many women, but has also negatively impacted the businesses and organizations they left. What left along with these women was their talent and institutional knowledge.

Recent research by Angela Passarelli and Spela Trefalt has brought to light a staggering reality: the ‘Motherhood Penalty.” An article profiling this research by Elizabeth Weingarten describes this phenomena as employers not understanding the link between “new mother,” and “leadership potential,” instead thinking that motherhood leads to a depreciation in leadership skills.

Weingarten, E. (2022, May 4). This may be the way to cancel the ‘motherhood penalty’ and develop leaders. Fast Company.

Are there some resumes sitting in the stack with gaps from time away from the workforce to raise a family that haven’t even been considered? Are there women on your team juggling daycare drop offs and pickups after sleepless nights that might have an extraordinary ability to multitask, persevere through challenges, AND read the room in an instant that could potentially lead a team to new heights?

Weingarten says Neuroscience research suggests that, “[…] new parents undergo changes in their brain that allow them to be more present, to empathize with others to collaborate more effectively, and even to respond to stress in a more adaptive way.”

Luckily for me, our CEO and President Diana Rivenburgh saw that there were unique skills I’d honed in the years of early motherhood that could be an asset. She not only hired me onto the team, but has consistently worked to mentor, coach, and provide resources for me to translate the leadership skills I learned becoming a mother. If more leaders had the same awareness and understanding that not only are these skills transferrable to the professional arena, but could potentially be an asset, the script on motherhood and leadership potential could be completely flipped.

This coaching I’ve received from Diana is exactly the kind of coaching that Passarelli and Trefalt’s research suggests can support mothers through this transitional period of their careers and impact women’s desire to stay in the workplace after returning from leave. Maternal coaching can change the story on the role of motherhood and its impact on leadership qualities and close the gap of retaining talented employees in the transitional period of early motherhood.

So how can leaders make this shift to maternal coaching, and when?

Passarelli suggests a coaching program should, “start as soon as the pregnancy begins […] That’s when the identity shift happens, that’s when [women] begin to face major inequities at work […].”

Passarelli and Trefalt also recommend that coaching be provided to both women AND their managers which could help a manager avoid well-intentioned behaviors driven by sexism.

The key takeaways exist mainly in awareness of leaders who have young mothers or new mothers on their team. When leaders shift their own mindset and view motherhood as an asset for leadership rather than a roadblock, cultural change can occur throughout the organization.

One way to easily make sure young mothers or new mothers aren’t being screened out of the hiring process or the leadership ladder would be to assess your employees on the drives, needs and talents they bring to the table rather than their status as a parent or the gaps on their resume.

It has been a true privilege to work for Diana and with our clients at Strategic Imperatives to help leaders gain awareness, institute fair and repeatable hiring practices that consider all candidates, and to find those with the best fit for their organizations and the role. Beyond the job offer, the best leaders and managers institute strong onboarding, development, coaching and mentoring practices to engage and develop employees throughout their career trajectory. It’s a win-win for these organizations and their people.

Go past the resume and assess candidates based on their fit to a role, their needs and drives in the workplace, and the unique talents they bring into the workplace.

Build awareness before you hire by signing up for a free trial of the PI Hire 2.0 hiring solution. You can take the guesswork out of hiring, hire better employees, and create fair and repeatable hiring practices!

Works Cited:

MISTY L. HEGGENESS, J. F. (2021). Tracking Job Losses for Mothers of School-Age Children During a Health Crisis. United States Census Bureau.

Weingarten, E. (2022, May 4). This may be the way to cancel the ‘motherhood penalty’ and develop leaders. Fast Company.

Stop the Guesswork of Hiring: Put the Right People in the Right Seats

A recent study revealed that a staggering 76% of executives do not believe they have the right people throughout their company to execute their business strategy.

CEOs, CHROs and other business leaders I speak with feel the pain when they can’t find the right people or keep the talent they have. One CEO client described finding and keeping good people as a “life or death” risk for his business. Desperate times don’t need to resort to desperation hiring. A lack of alignment causes great pain in organizations. Alignment starts by putting the right people in every role.

The good news is that leaders who believe they have the right people to execute their business strategy are experiencing 42% less turnover than those lacking the right talent.

Here are a few ways you can align people to jobs with the right people in the right seats:

Get fully aligned on what the job is before you determine the candidate requirements

Before jumping in to describe the years of experience or education required, start by getting really clear on what the job functions are. What will this person be doing that’s important and common to the role? It’s more important look for equivalent experience, skills and the right behavioral and cognitive match for the job than whether or not the candidate has a degree. Make sure all those involved in the hiring process are fully aligned on the position and the candidate qualifications.

For more than a decade IBM has been eliminating the need for a degree as a job requirement for many of its jobs. According to its CHRO, about 50% of US jobs no longer require a degree. They are more concerned with the skills, experience and fit for the job and their culture. NEC had this practice in place in the 1990s for just about all US positions including at the leadership level.

Select for fit aligned with all key aspects of the job

Having the right background on paper won’t matter if there’s a poor fit with the job duties. Assessment instruments appropriate for selection such as the behavioral and cognitive tools provided by The Predictive Index provide rich information on the candidate and how well they align to the position profile. For instance, a sales position may call for someone with more of a “hunter” profile than a “farmer.”

Understand fit with the team, the manager and the culture

Beyond aligning to the job, explore how the candidate might fit with the manager, the team and the company’s culture. Here’s a resource for insights on how different styles lead, work and operate within a team.  Consider if you need more of the same types of styles on a team or if greater diversity of styles might bring some balance and fill gaps. Your questions should certainly explore a cultural fit and alignment with the organization’s values.

Sign up for a free trial of the PI Hire 2.0 hiring solution while you can to help you take the guesswork out of hiring!

Attract Diverse Candidates

You may think you are already struggling to fill positions on teams with qualified, available candidates, yet alone those with diverse backgrounds. However, you may be overlooking great opportunities to attract and retain diverse talent and create more inclusive cultures. Consider practices you can take to uncover bias and gaps in your current talent acquisition approaches. Expand your view of diversity beyond visible traits of gender and race to include those with disabilities, the LGBTQ community and multiple generations. Remove any non-essential requirements from your job postings that may serve to discourage diverse applicants. Expand your recruitment sources to add other organizations, geographies and educational institutions.

Be extra diligent when hiring leaders and managers

Leaders and managers have a direct and profound impact not only on business results, but also on culture. It’s easier to get a sense of a candidate’s background and experience than it is to ascertain their leadership style. Understanding the styles of the team members may also reveal how different leaders can align with and shape the results and performance of the existing team. Structured interview questions, pre-hire behavioral and cognitive assessments and careful reference checking can come together to reveal traits that can make or break parts of your business.

For heaven’s sake, train interviewers to interview effectively!

Come on now – we’ve all been candidates being interviewed by people who had horrible selection skills. Years of interviewing experience doesn’t necessarily translate to doing it well. It’s a mystery to me why we leave critical hiring decisions in the hands of people who have not been properly trained. Train leaders, managers and talent acquisition professionals to probe deeply to understand a candidate’s experience and style using structured interviews, explore the individual’s motivations as they move through their career and tap into the rich data a valid behavioral assessment provides. IBM currently requires all those involved in the interview and selection process to be certified in the “Select for IBM” program. The training reinforces looking for skills over degrees and eliminating some of the bias that can appear in the selection process.

It’s time to power up the Talent Acquisition strategy, team and tools!

It’s never been more important to have a highly qualified, professional talent acquisition team, strategy and tools in place. No longer is the “recruiter” simply an entry level role for the Human Resources department. It’s time to up the game and get beyond “post and pray”.

These tips combine methods and tools to help you fit the right people in the right seat, aligned with your organization’s values. And yes, I’m passionate about assessments! I’ve used them for decades and would not ever hire anyone to work for or with me without them. I included Predictive Index solutions into the Strategic Imperatives solutions because I experienced the power of these tools and analytics as a PI client. Interested in checking these out? Use this link to take a Behavioral Assessment for yourself. It will take just about 6 minutes and you’ll find great value in the insights!

Here are some other really useful (and free) resources to check out:

Download this Guide to Structured Interviews e-book to power up your interview process with these key steps

Sources: Beyond more years of experience than I often admit to, here are several sources used to inform this blog and well worth looking at:

The State of Talent Optimization 2022 Report. 300+ executives reveal the cost of the “Big Quit” and the top drivers of employee retention.

Why IBM Chooses Skills Over Degrees. A Conversation With Nickle LaMoreaux
Chief Human Resources Officer for IBM, CHRO CONVERSATIONS, GALLUP, APRIL 13, 2021

Woods, Arthur, The Great Resignation Doesn’t Have to Threaten Your DE&I Efforts, Harvard Business Review, September 1, 2021

Get the Most from Your One-on-One Meetings

Communication constantly swirls around us in a barrage of text, slack, chat, social and email.  While these can be quite useful and quick, none will substitute for the powerful impact of a one-on-one meeting a leader or manager has with team member.  Yet too many of these meetings fail to make an impact and may come across as just another appointment on the calendar.  Each one-on-one meeting presents a stellar opportunity for alignment and impact.  

The most impactful one-on-one meetings embrace a dual purpose around the person AND the work.  They provide opportunities to solve problems, engage in strategic discussions and check in on key projects.  From a person-centered perspective, they also show team members that you care about them and are supportive of their career and development goals.  

Here are some tips for making these meetings most impactful for you, the employee and the organization:

1. Schedule regular meetings and respect this time.   

Determine a frequency that works best based on the size of your team, the roles and how often it makes sense for individual meetings.   Knowing there is regular time on the calendar may prevent some daily interruptions.  Show up on time and stay the full time.  If you must cancel, provide advance notice and reschedule in the very near term.  

2. Determine priority topics.   

While a formal agenda might not be necessary, you may get in the habit of sharing topics to discuss in advance important to either of you.  Some may be recurring themes while allowing time for other pressing topics.  At the start of your meeting, you can compare topics and perhaps even agree on time for each.  “Let’s go through these two items in the first 10 minutes so we can spend the rest of the time doing a deeper dive on the third topic.” 

3. Be present and create positive energy.  

Focus fully during the meeting to make the most of the time together and demonstrate you value the individual and their time.  Turn off the phone and alerts coming from your email, calendar and data-generating watch.  Start on a positive note with a compliment or acknowledgement of a recent win or effort.  Beginning with positive energy helps to open the dialogue and put the person at ease.

4. Solve problems and surface solutions.  

One-on-one meetings can be useful to dig deeper into challenges and collaborate on potential solutions.  You may ask the employee in advance to come up with ideas on a challenge the department faces or to describe the challenges they are facing and come up with ideas for solutions.  You’ll discover how the employee solves problems and will learn more about what’s happening a level or two deeper in the organization.  You can use this discussion to offer input and feedback and to identify road blocks that you can remove at your level.   

5. Dig deeper on strategic questions.  

Too many meetings cover issues at a surface, fire-fighting level. When grappling with more strategic issues, you may want to pose a question or topic in advance to allow the person time to gather thoughts.  These could be questions about a product or service, opportunities the company may be missing, a key customer or planning for the leadership offsite.  

6. Be a person talking with a person.  

Engaging as one person to another brings humanity to the discussion.  Everyone has personal challenges and celebrations.  Taking time to share something about you and asking about their life can encourage them to be open if they are facing a stressful situation.  People want to feel a sense of psychological safety and be vulnerable from time to time.  When you as the leader express vulnerability, you provide unspoken permission for your employees to do the same.

7. Engage on career goals and professional development.  

While coaching, feedback and learning often happen in moments of interaction, it’s important to also devote some focused time on development conversations.  This may be every meeting, or every other or in certain sessions.  Provide the individual with a heads up if the topic will be about development.  These personal conversations often require a bit of reflection by the individual to feel prepared.  During the meeting, ask focused, open-ended questions to encourage the employee to express their goals, experiences and challenges.  Ask what you can do to assist.  Offer up ideas after the individual has had a chance to speak to avoid shutting down the dialogue.  Express your confidence in their ability to continue to learn and grow.

8. Align, summarize, and clarify.  

It’s helpful to summarize any agreements you’ve made to ensure you are on the same page.  Include any action items each of you agreed to and clarify the timeframe and follow up.  Referring to commitments from the last meeting encourages accountability for the employee and for your own actions.

9. Acknowledge and appreciate.  

Leave a few minutes at the end of the meeting to express appreciation and acknowledge ideas and efforts.  Avoid generic or inauthentic phrases.  If there’s something specific to recognize, say it.  “I appreciate what you’ve done to ….”   In any case, simply pausing for a few seconds and saying “Thank you” shows you value the person and the interaction you’ve just had.  

Recognizing that the greatest threats to an organization’s success often come from a lack of alignment, the one-on-one meeting provides a venue to get aligned around the work and set up an environment for the individual to thriveLeadership requires balancing numerous paradoxes.  Aligning the human and results-driven factors may be among the most critical and the most rewarding.

Sign up for a free trial of the PI Hire 2.0 hiring solution while you can to help you take the guesswork out of hiring!

5 Ways to Stop the Great Quit

With 4.2 million Americans quitting their jobs in October 2021 alone, attracting and retaining workers rises to the top as a critical business priority.  Savvy leaders recognize that this is not just about people quitting.  It’s a worker revolution where people have greater flexibility to determine where, how and when they want to work.  These factors and more present CxO leaders with an opportunity and a responsibility to realign their business and talent practices. 

Has the Great Resignation impacted your business?  If so, you’re not alone.  Over 300 executives surveyed by The Predictive Index shared their insights about The Great Resignation summarized in the 2022 State of Talent Optimization Report .  The “Big Quit” is top of mind, and executives across industries are feeling the sting. Executives reported that one in five workers have quit in the last six months, and 75% of execs say it has impacted their financial stability. 

Top 5 Ways to Terminate Turnover:

On a positive note, the report revealed five turnover terminators to combat these challenges: 

1. Companies with the right people in the right roles have 42% lower turnover.

Most of us have experienced the pain of hiring the wrong person for a role.  Relying on resumes, the usual sources and “gut feeling” sets you up for retention roulette risking hiring someone who doesn’t fit the role, the team or your culture. The tight labor market brings desperation hiring to the forefront.  Aligning the right people in the right roles should be every leader’s dream. Building a company of top performers (and keeping them) starts with putting the right people in the right roles. People with a solid fit to their job, team and company culture are more engaged, more committed and more likely to perform well. 

2. Remote-friendly companies are experiencing 33% lower turnover.

Leaders of fully on-site organizations (either by necessity or by choice) reported a turnover rate of 24%. That number drops to 16% among remote-friendly organizations (i.e., those that support hybrid or remote work in any capacity)—that’s an eight percent decline (and 33 percent change).

A September 2020 global study by Steelcase revealed that while most people want to work from home to a degree, most also want an opportunity to come back to the office.   54% of US respondents say they expect to work from home one day a week or less; 26% say they expect to work from home just two to three days per week.

Bringing them back to the same old office, work environment and hours won’t cut it.  Leaders who take this massive shift as an opportunity to create better work experiences, inspire and engage people and help teams work together better in the future. 

3. Companies that prioritize health care benefits experience 27% lower turnover.

This pandemic-era work experience has not only brought forth physical health concerns related to Covid-19, it has also revealed behavioral health concerns as employees grapple with family challenges, isolation from social circles, financial challenges and more.   Desired healthcare benefits have moved beyond easy and affordable access to medical care.  These extend beyond the physical, into the realm of emotional health. Employees also value having a healthy workplace. Companies reporting that providing competitive health care benefits isn’t a top-three talent priority, executives reported a 22% turnover rate. By contrast, companies where healthcare benefits are a priority, the attrition rate falls to 16%—a six-point decrease (and 27 percent change).

4. Inclusive companies are experiencing 19% lower turnover.

Beyond physical safety at work, people also crave psychological safety.  The want to feel safe to freely share ideas with bosses and colleagues who will listen and value their perspectives. That feeling is so important, it’s making the difference between a quit and a stay.  Beyond illuminating the importance of healthcare, the pandemic put inequity in all forms in the spotlight.  Improving diversity is only the part of the equation.  Inclusion goes beyond diversity to embrace all voices and all experiences.  Doing so helps to reduce turnover. 

5. Companies practicing talent optimization are nearly twice as likely to avoid the brunt of The Great Resignation.

Talent optimization simply means ensuring your business and talent strategies are aligned.  When your talent is equipped to execute on business strategy, it means you’re leveraging each person’s natural strengths—and optimizing their potential. That’s what talent optimization is all about.  Successful businesses don’t run themselves.  Even the most well-crafted strategy requires the right people and practices to execute well.  Aligning both talent and business strategies includes designing the right teams and structure, hiring the right people for each role, inspiring them by providing development and coaching opportunities and keeping your finger on the pulse of your workforce by diagnosing and uncovering aspects of disengagement in teams or the organization. 

Read this insightful report to discover how executives are tackling The Great Resignation.  Ask us how we can help you to future-proof your organization. 

Future blogs in this series will dive more deeply into each of these areas with recommendations and resources. To identify the best actions for you to take for your company, first, quantify the talent problems you are facing and the impact on your business.  Next, identify the root causes driving workers to quit and to remain.  Then implement targeted, aligned magnetic workforce strategies to attract, engage and retain the best people for your organization. 

Contact us to learn how we can help you create, align and optimize your business and talent strategies.  Visit our Resources section for other useful articles, tools and reports.   


The 2022 State of Talent Optimization Report by The Predictive Index, January 2022.

The Great Resignation Doesn’t Have to Threaten Your DE&I Efforts by Arthur Woods, Harvard Business Review, September 1, 2021

Work Better:  It’s time for an experience that’s fundamentally better, Steelcase.  Work Experience Diagnostic Study conducted in September 2020 by Steelcase in 10 countries.