Talent Selection: Skills or Values?

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My world view around phenomenal business success is clearly centered around the “soft” issues of business.

As Tom Peters brilliantly put it: “Soft is hard.  Hard is soft!”

Culture.  Team Work.  Service.  > Strategy.  Planning.  Analysis.

All are important yes.  But if we all hand endless resources we could apply equal pressure to all of them.  But we do not.

Lately I’ve spent an enormous amount of time trying to get the people area right, particularly in the area of NEW talent coming into the business.  And like any area where new energy is applied, you should start to see results emerge, which was the case in this area.

Since putting new pressure on ramping up the hunt for new, great talent, it’s clear that I’ll need a governing principle for selecting among a pool of qualified people.  How to pick among multiple highly qualified candidates?

  • Greatest skill set?
  • Greatest GBE?
  • Greatest personal story?
  • Best match to the job description?
  • Consensus pick among the interview team?  The “vote”?
  • Highest scores among a combination of key criteria?

All are important.  But I came down to one clear acid test:

The person that most closely matches the CORE VALUES of what the company is built around will be the candidate that comes in the door.  Period. 

Skills and job descriptions will always matter.  But the match to core values will be the difference maker.

The challenge for leaders will always be defining core values.  Living them daily.  Creating vivid pictures and stories about why they matter. Who lives them.

Every company is different.  All companies define Core Values differently.  Some seem generic, wordy and could apply to any company on earth.

At my company, LM Foods, our core values are 2 Simple Words:



Subject to interpretation?  Yes.  Crystal clear to everyone inside of the organization?  A work in progress, but getting closer everyday.

For talent selection, be crystal clear that the candidate selected is the superior match on Core Values.  Let this be your #1 difference maker, not the easily measured hard skills. 

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A Wake-Up Call For College Students (Reeks of Opportunity!)

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Every now and then I’ll break my early routine and read the Wall Street Journal before heading into work.  Today I came across a massive head scratcher article:

“Numbers of Students Taking Internships Rises Only Slightly”

Small Gain Comes Even As Employers Increasingly Seek Real-World Experience


This is unbelievable.

How can a GENERATION live through the great recession and STILL not figure out a better way to tilt the odds of employment in their favor?  

Everywhere you look there are stories of college grads graduating with massive debt loads and struggling to find work.  It is well documented and in the “no brainer” camp that an internship and the real world experience it provides will give grads a significant edge.

So why would less than 50% of college grads make a conscious decision NOT to go out and get this experience?

Can you think of any good reason why a college student would make a massive investment in an education and intentionally avoid an opportunity to apply their education in the real world?

Lack of Hustle is never a good formula.  No 6 figure degree will compensate for lack of Hustle.  


So where’s the opportunity and silver lining?

Half the population of students are making a deliberate choice NOT to give themselves a proven edge.  They are making a substantial investment and ignoring the number one difference maker.  Not 10%…..HALF!

What a great position to be in for students to compete in when HALF ignore a massive difference maker.

What Hustler wouldn’t love to compete in a market where 50% of them ignore ways to gain market share?  NOBODY

How about a shameless plug for my beloved alma matar!

Northeastern University is the best kept secret in higher education.  Where else is it part of the student DNA to graduate with 2 full year’s of work experience!


The world is going through economic change that occurs at the speed of light.  A generation of college students have not changed their behavior.  That reeks of opportunity.  But only for those that get after it.  Hustle is a choice.


“Internships Are Increasingly the Route to Winning a Job”

More Industries Pick From the Summer Talent, Raising the Stakes


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A Wake-Up Call to High School Principals

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This is Your Wake Up Call  Hustle or Bust, Where Old School Meets New SchoolI like “Wake-Up Calls.”  They signify the start of the day.  But if your’re like me with the START EARLY mantra, you probably don’t utilize them. There are a couple of professions that need proverbial Wake-Up Calls, they are asleep at the switch or tone deaf to realities of the marketplace.

One of my favorite posts was a “Wake-up Call To Sales” where I profiled a great sales professional that stands out, in a fantastic way among many that are average at best.  I affectionately refer to him as “Harry Hustle.”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about another segment of our society in need of the proverbial Wake-UP call: Education.  In particular, high schools.  Better yet, high school PRINCIPALS.  

The buck always starts and stops with the one in charge.

Although it’s been 20+ years since I cut up in high school, I have however volunteered in the high school classroom in 3 different, 8 week courses taught in ’97, 2008, & 2009 with one of the great non-profits, Junior Achievement.  Teaching Free Enterprise to the future of our country is nothing short of exhilarating and I highly recommend the experience to give back your talents to those that will soak up an outside voice in the classroom.  And if you’re in marketing, there’s nothing better than spending time with today’s younger generations.

It’s hard to relate to the NEW SCHOOL if you’re forever stuck in your OLD SCHOOL ways.

There are some take-aways I’ve had in these experiences that have me concerned; 2 come to mind…

  1. Personal Financial skills are non-existent in the high school curriculum.  Check books, basic investments, budgeting, etc.  The basics of spending less than you earn.  Absolutely no evidence that it is more than a fleeting thought in the classroom
  2. Goal Setting 101 – “College preparatory” is more than learning pre-calc, it’s about setting personal goals and achieving what one wants in life.

If you learn the PROCESS of achievement, the “WHATs” you need to know will take care of itself.

This country is in massive debt and there seems to be no end in sight.  We just came through the biggest “debt fueled” housing bubble in our generation.  Excessive Debt and poor financial decisions were (and still are) all around us.  I’m sure there are exceptions but High Schools aren’t responding fast enough.  And bold enough.

Gamechangers exist in all professions.  In teaching, I’ve written about a Game-changer in Music Education, the teacher of PS22 chorus.

High School Principals:  Game-changers needed

Image Credit: Pastemagazine.com

Here are 4 simple, executable ideas I would start with.

  • Scrap_____ (fill in your choice of Old School Elective that has existed for 50+ years) and insert “Foundations in Goal Achievement” as mandatory curriculum.  Nothing complicated, build it around SMART Goals.
    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Actionable
    • Realistic
    • Time-bound
Scrap another one, and teach the basics of Finance 101:   “Earn 30, you better spend less or the ink will be red, and bad”.
    • Utilize Excel in every class.
    • Throw in some basics on the stock market, how companies make money.
    • What living within your means is about.
    • The concept of an emergency fund.
  • Let the leadership oriented kids start optional clubs around these classes, something interesting will emerge…
  • Bring in business and community leaders weekly to bring these lessons to life from the real world.  All the principles need to do is ask, maybe even create a “personal board of directors” over-seeing this transformation.  This personal board would help hold the principal accountable, keep him/her motivated and continually adjust the approach.
    • Business leaders are notoriously busy, but who could resist a Principles plea to take his/her school to a new level?
Are the above suggestions the “best” suggestions to create the change we need in high schools?  Maybe not. What’s important is that SOMETHING changes, that schools become flexible enough to have a real time impact that address real problems.  Pick a general direction and move towards a more practical future.  In the process, we will equip our younger generation with a fighting chance…

Leadership and change is not always about coming up with the best plan.  It is about rallying everyone to a better future.

Like all investments, the greater the runway (time) ahead of you, the better the chance of a positive return.  Start with the greatest runway, our younger generation…..

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Mental Hustle & The Notebook

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The constant pursuit of new knowledge.  Staying sharp, up to date & relevant.  A desire to learn, assimilate and apply.  In the pursuit of excellence, capturing new knowledge, letting it sink in and applying it will never go out of style.  


So many people let their professions pass them by, when everything is blatantly obvious in front of them.  A generation of people have fought the Sea Change in Marketing and are risking career obsolescence.  The good news for those that look to stand out?  Many people CHOOSE not to.  Freedom is not only liberating, it’s a difference maker.

The information age has changed everything to stay sharp.  So many tools come to mind.  The Old School used libraries, encyclopedias, trade journals and seminars.  New School, not so much.

  • Google:  New knowledge is at your fingertips.
  • YouTube:  World-class presentations and seminars you used pay to attend
  • Social Channels:  Experts are a tweet away.  Not all engage, but listening is sometimes the best learning method
  • Blogs – Every topic known to man

An Old School tool caught my eye this past week:  The Notebook.

Old School Notebook

One of my team member’s tool of choice for learning her role is a notebook, with detailed “How Too’s” meticulously detailed out.  I get a kick out of the notes, details and discipline that comes with it.  You name the topic, there’s a chapter of notes, some with highlights, different colors, etc.

There is value in the NOTEBOOK….

  • Imagine having a work in progress playbook to the key lessons and recipes to success in your role.  Wouldn’t that help? Not a list of to do’s, the key procedures, check points and success factors.  

Here’s something that strikes me as glaring in business:  The person that does not ask questions.  Especially when they are either

1) New to a role, and/or

2) Team results are not at or above standard.

People that don’t ask real insightful, knowledge-seeking questions throw up red flags.  It could be a sign of the following:

  • They don’t do their homework:  
    • Ever have a job candidate not ask questions?  I’m sure you drew conclusions that they didn’t do their basic research, or they couldn’t think on their feet.  I can’t think of one person I hired who fell into this category.
  • They don’t push the envelope on results and how to “break through” inertia.
    • In other words, the let the game come to them vs. take themselves to the game.

Here are some things to capture in the Notebook:[Continue Reading…]

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A World-Class Teacher Disguised as Investment Guru: Jim Cramer

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Jim Cramer Mad Money

Don’t be fooled by Jim Cramer’s “antics.”  This guy is an educating powerhouse, and he proves it on his Mad Money program nightly.  He’s a classic American Success story, a couple links below are attached to 2 of my favorite videos, his childhood stock obsession and what he learned by living in his car for 6 months.

It may be difficult to relate to a world class investor, but we can ALL relate to childhood memories and classic struggles.  And we can learn from those lessons, so enjoy.

School of Hard Knocks

  • A 4th grade obsession of keeping a stock ledger.  Measuring matters to get a feeling for ups & downs.  Get started Early!
  • As a vendor @ veterans stadium – The value of Market power/share, paying his peers NOT to sell ice cream against him.
  • Sounds like the outdated 4P’s of Marketing Model
  • The false intimacy of nicknames, getting attention and standing out

“I never quit saving.  How poor was I, yet I still put away money.”

  • He saved, even while living in a car for 6 months.
  • Got mono and jaundice liver, & still put $’s away….in the Fidelity Magellan fund
  • Resiliency – He kept every single college rejection letter in his trunk

Cramer’s Childhood Stock Obsession


What I learned  from Living in My Car



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Business Lessons from Goodfellas

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I am a sucker for a great Mob movie, and Goodfellas is tops of the list in my opinion.  The modern day Godfather.  Great soundtrack, food scenes and some of the best performances from De Niro, Pesci, Liotta and Sorvino.

Some of the greatest scenes are lessons in business.


There is nothing sexy about the Mob, although Hollywood portrays it that way.  Nonetheless, it exists and has survived for many years because it is run very similar to a business……below clips provide entertainment & learning value.  Hustle is not just about hard work; it’s about finding learning value in odd places.  This certainly qualifies as an odd learning moment!  Enjoy!


The Lessons of Goodfellas


It all starts with your Market, the Customer.  Understand their expectations and look to over-deliver at every moment.

” Never Rat on your friends…..and always keep your mouth shut.”

Keeping confidences in business is one of the most important things for establishing trusting, productive working relationships.  Want to ruin relationships, do the opposite.  This isn’t about just keeping a high school secret; it’s about knowing when and how to communicate sensitive information.  Lack of discretion usually feeds office politics & gossip that which rarely translates to positive RESULTS.  Results are what matters, not chatter.


Effective teamwork, even in the most challenging circumstances not only improves results, it improves one’s quality of life.


Specialists matter, understand people’s true talent.  How often do companies make the mistake of promoting the best sales person to be a sales manager?


Branding:  Who you associate with matters and says as much about you as your own actions.  



The great Siskel & Ebert on reviewing Goodfellas

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Hustle: Your 100% Controllable Difference Maker

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Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until  2003, according to Eric Schmidt.

That is a staggering stat.  The world is moving at light speed.

Simply put:  You better have a strategy to TRY and keep up with this reality.
I call it Hustle.

It’s the only tool I know of to guard against being wiped out to the middle (or worse) of the bell curve.  Examples of NOT Hustling are everywhere you look.

Look at social media.  I wrote about sea changes in businesses, and what that means in terms of ignoring them (you’re obsolete).  If Fortune 100 executives can give you an example of burying their head in the sand, chances are many more are doing the same.

People being asleep at the switch always presents opportunity.

Think about our “institutions of knowledge” like colleges/universities.  They used to be the destination to spend 4 dedicated years to fill your brain with critical information that provided a foundation for a career.  Yes, principles of accounting in 1985 don’t change dramatically through the years.  But the reality is that the world is moving at light speed, and the end of year 4 may look very different than when the 18 year old entered college in year 1.  Yet another reason, I wouldn’t want to be on my heels if I were a College President:  I’d be awake at night.  Too many are, and you can see higher education Disruption coming around the corner.

Here’s the good news:  HUSTLE is a choice.

Choosing to make a commitment to stay relevant, up to date, and valuable is 100% in your control.  That is a liberating feeling.

There are role models all around us, and tools.  You just need to get off your heels and make that choice to step it up.

A Free Hustle Resource

I consider Twitter to be a great tool, not just for talking, but for LISTENING.  I think of it as the world’s largest cocktail party of likeminded people.  I have met many great, interesting people I wouldn’t hesitate to meet for coffee in the “real world” if I were in their neighborhood.

One person in particular I respect, enjoy and have learned from for many years?  Tom Peters.  He’s one of the great management thinkers of our time.  His mind is brilliant, and he’s witty and humorous at the same time.  It’s amazing what can be learned in 140 characters.

tom peters excellence now

He has also pulled together 30+ years of his materials into a free website, appropriately named EXCELLENCE Now.


Unbelievably generous work to give away for free what has taken years to amass.  An MBA worth of leadership material.

I have shared this site with lots of people in my business network.  Being obsessed with performance, bell curves and results, I keep a “mental tally” of the % of folks that have browsed it, or at least recognized how powerful this is.  I put the % at <15%.  Maybe I should double that % for those that have not responded, kind of like consumer complaints.  Pretty low, but the bell curve is one of those harsh realities.

Any way you cut it, not Hustling is all around us.

Sometimes entering the right side (excellence) of the bell curve is not that difficult.

You can choose to use your free time (on-line) in many ways.  Go shopping on Amazon.  Talk to your buds on Facebook.  Catch the latest viral You Tube Video.  I certainly do my fair share of goofing off.

But there is one thing you should be INTENTIONAL about.  Your “scale” should not be tipped towards the goofing off end of the free time balance.  Because there are people that have their scale tipped in the other direction.  Those people are staying sharp, engaging with thought leaders, and learning.  Some of them are competing with you for market share.

They are making different choices.  They are HUSTLING.

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Failure To ACT on The Sea Change Guarantees Obsolescence

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Key Words:

  • Sea Change:  A profound or notable transformation
  • Obsolescence:  The state, process, or condition of becoming obsolete

Rarely is it hard to recognize the Sea Change.  Often times however, people refuse to personally act, despite the risks of inaction, which are often times Obsolescence, or irrelevancy.

Mark Fidelman wrote a fascinating piece in Business Insider in ’11 that caught my eye relative to this topic, profiling the the top marketing executives in the Fortune 100, and their personal use of social media.  What did he find?

  • Only 15 of the 143 CMO’s and Chief Communication Executives (CCO’s) in the Fortune 100 had active Twitter Accounts.
  • Worse, 15% of them have a net zero social footprint (meaning no social activity).
“US marketers will spend $3.08 billion to advertise on social networking sites this year,” according to eMarketer. “Spending will be up 55% over the $1.99 billion advertisers devoted to social networks in 2010 and will rise by a further 27.7% next year to reach nearly $4 billion.”

Here’s the Question:

How can a functional leader have leadership credibility with zero hands-on experience?[Continue Reading…]

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Want a Surefire edge in business? Start early!

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The alarm clock, start early!

It is simple.  Starting early gives you a head start, whether you are running a marathon or a sprint.  The difference is that in sports, it is not allowed.  Business, however, it’s a choice.  And so many people choose not to take it.  That is OK.  But all too often there are people that are frustrated with the hand they are dealt in life, and many times these are the same people waking up a few hours later than the above alarm clock.

Some of the best advice I’ve always been told is simple:  Start Early!

Even better?  Start VERY early.

  • Work-out earlier.  Very early.  Get to the gym at 4 am, sweat for an hour.  Notice how many cars are in the lot.  If your gym is like mine, less than 5.  Why?  Because it’s tough.  It takes sacrifice and discipline.
  • Sit in the sauna for 15 minutes reading your favorite mag, you’ve earned it.  Shower.
  • Get to your local coffee joint at 5:30, relax, you’ve earned it again.
  • Get to your desk at 6 am.  You’ll have at least an hour before  the rest of the Hustlers show up.
  • You’ll have 2 hours before the remaining 85% wonders in and starts chatting about American Idol.

The early drive after starting workout early

This principle is as Old School as it gets, I know that.  Some call it a recipe for burn-out.

98% of people will cringe at the thought of the routine I have just outlined.  Nothing says you still can’t get your 7 hours of sleep.  The key with starting hyper-early is the work-out, jumping right into the work grind for your edge IS a danger zone waiting to happen.

There simply is nothing better than knowing you have done one of the key ingredients to healthy living (fitness), AND started your day with the quiet focus that only comes from showing up early.

Want to mix in a little NEW SCHOOL with this routine?

How about some education WHILE working out?

Put your I-pod shuffle to use on the treadmill.  Download a few pod casts.  Harvard Business Review Idea Cast, and Entre-Leadership are two of my favorites.  http://chrislocurto.com/ for great teaching’s on Leadership.  There are hundreds of great, FREE Podcasts available.

Update as of May ’13:  http://www.entrepreneuronfire.com/  John Dumas is a content machine!  DAILY (yes, I said DAILY!) podcasts with inspirational entrepreneurs telling their story.  Fantastic, hard not to get magical nuggets putting this on your i-pod.

Mix in half your work-out (30 minutes) with new learning and half with your motivational workout tunes.

Do the math on this routine for a year:  3 times a week, (give yourself 2 off days during the week) * 50 weeks a year (give yourself 2 weeks off too!) equals 4,500 minutes of additional knowledge, 75 hours!  All while your reducing stress and burning calories.

Compound this over a few years.  Think that will give you an edge?

Start Early.  Gain an edge while the competition is sleeping.

There simply is no substitute for HUSTLE.



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