Most of us have heard that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Yet often, when hiring replacements into our organizations, we do what we have always done, expecting new results. We continue to define the person best suited for the position based on outdated paradigms from yesterday’s business culture and climate.
As I travel around and talk with executives from institutions of all asset sizes, I hear them concentrate on a couple of major themes: First, the need to constantly stay ahead of change, thus requiring visionary staff and leadership; and second, the continuous need to innovate products and services around the commodity of money.
As they are discussing these issues with me, I look around their organizations, and for the most part see a homogeneous staff – not in terms of physical appearance, but rather in terms of attitude, process and service delivery. One of the quickest ways to change as an organization is to change the makeup of those working in it. It should not be news to anyone that the employees of an organization are not only its face, but its heart and soul as well.
In a meeting I attended earlier this year, Bob Trunzo, EVP/COO at CUNA Mutual Group, was speaking about culture change at CMG and their need to enhance the marketing function and leadership in this area. In regard to this potential senior-level hire, Bob said that he told the recruiting agency, “I don’t want to see any candidate that looks like us.”
The inference was that an organization could not change if it continued hiring in its own likeness. This is the kind of visionary leadership that can and will lead to hiring change agents, and result in the desired infusion of innovation we require to survive as an industry.
In preparation for writing this piece, I perused more than 75 job postings from all over the country, and for a variety of different positions.
As I suspected, I found a common theme from among the desired traits listed in the ads. An overwhelming majority of the requirements listed could have been used verbatim 20 to 30 years ago. They contained phrases like these: “must have 10 years of direct experience in the job; must have X number of years experience at an X size institution; must have managed X number of direct reports,” and a plethora of various other must-haves.
Beyond the requisite education and a professional understanding of the process, I ask why this is. If the “must” is 10 years direct experience in a billion-dollar-plus institution, does that mean someone with seven years of experience in an $800 million dollar institution is blatantly unqualified?
Granted, there are certain jobs that do not lend themselves to the adaptation of creativity or innovation. Jobs in compliance, security and IT are among them. However, this does not mean that the people occupying these positions cannot inherently have dynamic characteristics such as strategic thinking, innovation, creativity and a secure grasp of the importance of high-level service delivery.
The point is that although the job is rigid and specific in nature, the person occupying the position can and should possess the traits necessary for the organization to accomplish its goals of innovation and change.
If we need to be innovative, strategic, dynamic, and service-oriented, then why aren’t these traits more prevalent in job postings?
I am reminded of the Dudley Moore movie, Crazy People, which is used in ad and marketing agencies around the world as an example of “out of the box” thinking and creativity. In this film, Moore’s character creates a very successful and innovative ad agency with people who have been institutionally committed. They are successful because of their open thought processes and because they are free from thinking and acting within pre-defined paradigms. In other words, they do not have the baggage of an anachronistic bureaucracy clouding their ability to create and change.
Obviously, as previously stated, many jobs in our industry require certain technical skills and abilities, and I am not suggesting otherwise. In my opinion, we could do a better job of attracting those talented professionals that think in an innovative, dynamic and service-oriented manner if we actually advertised for what we are looking for and desire to become as an organization. I like to think of it this way: If you want orchids, don’t plant daisies!
Anthony L. Emerson is president/CEO of the Credit Union League of Connecticut.