The staffing industry is by nature a very reactionary business. When a client needs to fill a position, they typically need someone immediately. Every time the phone rings, it usually brings another challenge. And, what’s unique to our business is there are two customers to serve: buyers and contractors. Oh, and let’s not forget our shareholders have to be happy with the company’s results. It’s easy to understand how today’s division heads, vice presidents, and directors in the field get bogged down in the blocking and tackling of the day to day, leaving little time for strategizing, improving operations, and developing talent.

Since employees behave the way the boss behaves, here’s are three action steps you can take to help:

Model the concept of “coming up for air.”

Most executives admit they’re more reactive than they want to be. “I don’t have enough time to work ON my business because I’m too busy working IN it.” Sound familiar? Here’s the thing – there will never be enough time. As the President or CEO, if you make the time and the investment to get out of the trenches and take your direct reports offsite for routine strategy meetings, they’ll replicate your model with their own teams.

Show them how to do strategic planning in soundbites, so they see it’s doable. The most straightforward approach is to determine this as a team: What absolutely must get done this year, this quarter, or this month in the areas of people, process, and technology to create shareholder value? Make time for some fun, but keep the agenda focused and come out of these meetings with achievable, measurable actions.

Spread good news.

As President & CEO, you have unique visibility across the organization, so stay close to what’s working in the field, share it, and in the process, break down silos that can often constrain growth in larger firms.

Let’s say one division of your company developed a targeted social networking approach that’s bringing in more candidates. Get the word out as soon as you see it’s working. First, it’s a great way to publicly recognize the achievements of your direct reports. Second, it minimizes duplication of efforts between divisions. Third, it helps standardize processes for the company bottom up.  Sure, some of those with bigger egos may silently resist being directed to a peer in another division for education on their “great process for lead distribution,” but your most talented will appreciate and embrace it.   After all, those are the leaders you want on the team anyway.

Tie Succession Planning to bonuses.

Near the top of the list of what keeps senior executives up at night is an empty bench.  The predictions of the last ten years about the impending “Boomer Brain Drain” are now a reality. I’m getting more calls that start something like this, “I need to promote someone to a bigger job than he’s ready for because there’s no one else, and I don’t want to go to the outside. Can you help get him ready?” Those with the most institutional knowledge are retiring or leaving to join the gig economy. Gen X already occupies top jobs, so that leaves Millennials, who now outnumber every generation in the workforce. This is your bench, but the oldest are just 36. Keep talent development on the radar by including it as a key objective in executive compensation plans. Prioritize training, coaching, and mentoring high-potentials in the trenches. Consider putting a formal mentoring program in place to get younger employees ready for bigger jobs.


As the top leader, if you yourself prioritize taking time-outs for strategy work, replicating best practices across the organization, and developing succession plans, so will your direct reports – and their direct reports. The bottom line? Everyone will be more effective.

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