Recruiting and a “Blank Canvas”

There is endless advice all around about how to become a great recruiter. There are many outstanding “big billers” who have used, perfected, and shared their best techniques, often times here on The Fordyce Letter. I appreciate very much the advice that I receive, and look forward to each publication.

While I’ve been successful in the four short years that I’ve been in the search business, I’m still a long way away from achieving my ultimate goals. I’m driving hard to grow my business to $2.5 million in annual revenue. This will be a journey, and one to which I’m committed.

As I take an honest look at what makes me successful, and what will make me even more successful in the future, it is the extent to which I can control my thinking. There are hundreds of books written on the subject, and countless approaches. Staying free of fear, anxiety, worry, and stress are key to having the energy and focus to perform at a high level, and on a sustainable basis. None of the world-class recruiting techniques are worth a darn if you, the recruiter, are burdened with emotional baggage of fear, regret and worry. These emotions are absolutely paralyzing for the search practitioner. I think it is critical to pay attention to one’s “thinking” and emotional approach to work. Staying away from negative influences (like television) and negative people are critical. Making a conscious effort to read motivating or instructional material, spend time with people who will lift you up, enjoy nature and simple abundance, and in general be influenced in a positive way by the choices you make is very important. Regular exercise is also a key, as vibrant physical health is a prerequisite for sustained positive emotional health and energy.

There are several visual images that I use to set my mindset for peak performance and success each day. Some of these are:

Wake each morning looking at your day as a blank canvas

Each of us has this canvas on which to create our daily masterpiece. Yesterday is over, and nothing about it matters today. Tomorrow is not here yet. All we have is now, and putting all of our energy into each and every day, one day at a time, is a great practice supporting key performance. In painting your daily masterpiece, make sure to finish each corner. It is easy to leave the corners un-done, but that is often where the keys to success lay. That hard-to-find candidate; that reluctant new client; that new superstar employee who just needs a nudge to join your team….oftentimes these gems are hiding in the corner of your unfinished masterpiece. Also, this is “your” masterpiece. No one else’s. And, no one will judge you on it. It is entirely in your control, and it is up to you to finish it….a new one each and every day. After finishing your masterpiece, set it aside to dry. Get a good night’s sleep, and then paint a new masterpiece tomorrow, on a fresh, new blank canvas. Paint it completely, including finishing each corner. Day by day, week by week, month by month….this is a recipe for success in this business.

10,000 hours

There is magic in this number. The book Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, points out how it takes 10,000 hours to completely master any given skill. This is how long it took Bill Gates to become a superb programmer. It is how long it took Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretsky, and countless other world-class athletes to master their sports. 10,000 hours is five years of working full time, intently, on one single skill. Have you put in 10,000 hours to master the skill of recruiting? I know that I haven’t, and I know that the more I intentionally work on studying, practicing, trying, rehearsing, preparing, practicing, and repeating the process, the better I am getting at this business. This number gives me permission to be patient with myself, but it is also a reminder to keep on working very hard to perfect my skills.

Enter your office (or approach your desk) as if you are jumping into a river

One thing about the recruiting business is that it is full of variety. Each and every day brings new situations, opportunities, challenges, risks, and rewards. To me, this business is like jumping into a fast-moving river, and letting the current of opportunity take you to wherever it goes. I’m a good swimmer, so I’m not worried about drowning. The unknown about where the river will take me, if viewed from the right perspective, can be an exciting way to approach the journey. I love meeting new people. I love helping people. I love encountering new situations. I love solving new problems. The river of unknown is a thrill, if viewed from the right perspective.

Approach the day as if you are getting on to a trolley car

Similar to the analogy of jumping into a river, I like to think of approaching new days as if I were hopping onto a trolley car in a big city and going for ride….without having any idea where we are going. I visualize reaching up to the strap to hang on — barely able to reach it (because I’m a short guy) — but once I reach it, holding on tight for the ride. There are dozens of other people on the trolley car with me and we’re all going somewhere, but I have no idea where. Once the car stops, I jump off and see where I am….making the most of this new part of the city. This, to me, is much like the variety that can happen daily with the search business, and is part of what I like so much about this profession.

Recognize the fine line separating phenomenal success from huge failure

There are several great recruiters who “crush-it” each and every year. They’ve figured out the secret sauce to their own performance, and they repeat it year after year. I greatly admire these people, and I strive to become one of them. There are also, unfortunately, a great number of recruiters who fail in this business. Why? What separates the big-billers from the strugglers? While there are certainly elements of technique, skill, knowledge, personality, approach, and other learned behaviors that can be factors, I believe that a major differentiator is the emotional approach that big-billers take to their daily work. They have the confidence, passion, dedication, and no-fear ability to stay productive and focused all day long, each and every day. In our business, where our “wins” are big money (as opposed to selling little things that have little price tags), our wins come every now and then….not all the time. To approach this business in a sustained way to “win” as often as possible, a big-billing recruiter needs to stay on the winning side of the narrow line separating him from the side of failure. This takes awareness to remain positive, confident, focused, and high-energy, taking advantage of each business opportunity as it comes your way.

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Some other great phrases that I have written down on my office wall, and which I refer to often are:

  • Just let it be as easy as it is.
  • I cannot fail; I can only learn and grow.
  • Inch by inch, a mile’s a cinch.
  • This business can explode with one phone call…..make that one more call.

Finally, I daily remind myself to follow the Four Agreements, as spelled out by Miguel Ruiz in his book of the same title. These are:

  1. Be impeccable with your language
  2. Don’t take things personally
  3. Don’t make assumptions about others
  4. Do your best

As difficult as it is, striving to follow these “four agreements” each and every day, in every interaction, is guaranteed to increase the odds of sustainable recruiting performance over the long run, and ultimate success in this business.

Now, get out a blank canvas, and get to work to create your own individual and unique masterpiece….and don’t forget to complete the corners.

image source: Chris Palmer

Brett Blair is President of Sanford Rose Associates in Brighton. Brett comes from a 22-year corporate career, with prior experience with RE/MAX, 3M, and Alcoa. He enjoyed multiple functional roles over that time, culminating as General Manager of a $200 million automotive parts manufacturing business. Brett holds a BS - Industrial Engineering degree, and an MBA in Finance. He has also studied in Japan and has extensive experience working in Mexico and Europe. Brett is passionate about helping people and through his recruiting business he is able to help people and subsequently organizations.

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5 Comments on “Recruiting and a “Blank Canvas”

  1. Brett, as you know I have a blank canvas in my office (thank you!) and this concept truly works. Funny, on the days I’m stressed or anxious, I have a hard time looking at the canvas. So I force myself…and then begin to “paint.” This idea really really works.

  2. Brett…great article! One thing people fail to remember in our business is that you can never “master” people as referenced in your 10,000 hours analogy. You are dead on with the amount of work it takes to truly know your profession, but we all need to remember that people are the key to our business and we can never forget to LISTEN. We can never think we have all the answers, because when you do you will certainly be proven wrong! Thanks for the great article and I’m going to put some of this to use today!

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