Monthly Archives: January 2009

Part II – The Very Cranky Bear – A child’s tale re Consulting and/or Customer Service

Another of my favourite books I read my kids every night is “The Very Cranky Bear”, by Nick Bland, my son received this book from Santa this year and it quickly became the most requested book in the house.

The imagery is great, the story funny, simple and moving… and yet an amazing learning lesson for Consultants and/or Customer Service professionals.

Brief Synopsis:

“In the jingle jangle jungle, on a cold and windy day, four furry friends found somewhere warm to play”

OK this is where is gets hairy… forgive the pun… our four main heros include, Moose, with marvelous antlers, Lion, a golden mane, Zebra had fantastic stripes, and Sheep, now sheep was plain.

None of them had noticed, that sleeping in their sanctuary of a cave was a bear… a Very Cranky Bear to be precise (AKA THE CLIENT) … who chased them out of the cave into the cold, wet weather with a number of well placed, loud “ROARs!”

The four friends were pretty disappointed with this outcome, and decided that there had to be a reason for this bear to be so cranky, (apart from them interrupting his slumber of course) and that if they could make him happy, he’d simply let them share.

Zebra was the brains of this outfit… who couldn’t see the responsibility but could see the solution. Zebra loved his wonderful stripes, they always made him happy… therefore is this bear had stripes.. he’d be happy too.. Simple problem solved…? Moose interjects with the thought that Stripes are a bore…, his antlers always made him smile.. “let’s give that bear a pair”… Lion disagrees with confidence “no no no no no” says lion “antlers are a bore” ” a golden mane like mine, will cheer him up for sure”. Alrighty then… 3 of our 4 hero’s go collecting things to ensure that they will make Bear happy.

This leads to one of the funniest pictures I have seen in ages.. reminds me of the old saying that a camel is a horse designed by committee.

Needless to say, but the Bear, now sporting new stripes, mane and antlers is not impressed…. he gets angry again, and chases out helpful hero’s out of his cave. On his way back into the cave, he stops and Roars and the unsuspecting Sheep. “All I really want.. is a quiet place to SLEEP”

Armed with this information, Sheep, shaves of half his wool, makes a pillow for our Cranky Bear. This makes the Cranky Bear happy and he soon falls fast asleep, maybe dreaming of a plain but thoughtful sheep.

Here’s my link:

Sheep, was the only consultant… Sheep listened to the problem, accepted responsibility, acted, invested personally in the solution and won over the client… whereas the others tried to impose their own solution on the Client’s problem and were magnificently unsuccessful.

You need to listen to your client, find out where their pain is, what the problem really is and from there formulate your strategy from there. Ask the dumb questions, clarify, and get that tailored solution for your client.. that will get you remembered.. boost your unique value proposition, and will have turned that Cranky Bear client of yours into a client for life!

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Be the Lucky Platypus


It’s amazing where you can find inspiration. For those of you who don’t know me I am the proud dad of 2 young children and live by the adage “sleep is overrated”. One of my favourite times of day is pre bed story time, it is genuine quality time I get to spend with my children after whatever my work day did to me.. or maybe it is because it’s just before the house finally falls into peaceful slumber, that parents around the world love.

MAYBE it’s because I REALLY enjoy these books, the morals, the learning and the style of writing appeals to me no end.

For the last few years I have been bringing these stories into my day to day life occasionally annoying my work with analogies and stories… but tonight reading an old favourite I thought.. why not!? And if it goes OK it could become a regular post of mine, sounds fun to me… we have heaps of books.

One of my favourites is “Platypus and the Lucky Day”. A few years ago I photocopied every page and gave a copy to my immediate team (if you are a copywriter reading this.. please blink over this bit).. I liked it that much. I got strange looks, but the message was received.

Brief synopsis:

Platypus wakes up one morning in THE BEST mood, he knows today is his lucky day…. (see business globally start of 2008), then in his joyous mood he steps out into the world. It is here that things start to go wrong, the string on his kite breaks, the tree branch he is climbing snaps, the painting he is doing is rained upon and blows away… After a number of these negative events… Platypus wipes a tear from his eye, gives up and decides it best to go back to bed. (fair enough too! See business globally at the end of 2009).

When he gets back to bed, he finds a banana (or sandwich) he’d been looking for, a teddy he thought he’d lost forever, a billy cart he forgot he had, and found things in a closet to help him fix it…. and his lucky hat! His day is getting better!!!

He takes his newly fixed billy cart outside, with his lucky hat on, and takes it to the top of the closest hill… sets off down the hill….. all of the sudden he loses control and crashes his billy cart into a tree, and all looks bad with the day again…. then suddenly into his lap falls his kite from the tree. Ahhhh what a great ending.

OK my link… With the “War for talent” in full swing, Recruiting was one of THE professions to be in, it was exciting to get out of bed, you could tell you were going to make a huge difference and that your worth as a professional was getting increasingly valued… the it all turns…. the Economic crisis hits globally, downsizing is the word of the day, and the need for Recruiters decreases. Here’s the bit I love…. Do you give up and go back to bed and not try? Or do you keep your eyes open for opportunities? be flexible enough to capitalise on them and make your own fun again. Do you go out there again and have another go…. accepting that something else goes could go wrong, whilst also acknowledging that another piece of “luck” could come your way. What’s the old saying? “You gotta be in it to win it”

Be the Lucky Platypus people! All is not lost, there is always opportunity, you just have to be open enough to see it.

Dr Jeckell and Mr Hyde.. or more millennial… THE HULK.. Are we the same beast at work and at home?


Am I a different person at work and at home? Should I be? Isn’t being me the thing I do best?

At the start of my career I used to laugh at some girls in my office, who had an official phone voice….. you know the types, they would be talking to you normally, the phone would ring and then the voice would lower, their vocabulary would dramatically increase and the IQ would seem 20% higher. I could never understand it… why not be yourself? It is easier right?

Probably, but also probably not effective.

I’m not sure what happened to make me think about this question again, but something did and it has been burning inside for a little while. And then I had to ask myself the question… am I different at home, than what I am at home? You know what? I was shocked to find that I am. It shocked me. WHY? a) What’s wrong with everything Home Dan (HD) is that I want to keep him away from Work Dan (WD) and vice versa? b) Are the two versions of me embarrassed of one another?

The answer to those questions is a) NOTHING and b) NO.. neither HD or WD embarrass easily!

You need to have adaptable versions of yourself, you can’t react the same to everyone, ie for example your boss versus your kids.

Having a WD and an HD in my persona surprised me, how did this happen? why? when? and why didn’t I know about it? 🙂 I didn’t tell me…

Perhaps it is the fact that eventually the WD decided that to progress he had to grow up, to visibly mature. To look, act and sound like the professional I wanted to be. The relaxed, uber easy going attitude of HD had to be replaced, with a visibly focused and driven Dan. (It’s amazing how walking quickly around the office changes perception about your state of mind. Don’t scoff, Seinfield science works! AKA the Pensky file)

WD gets listened to a lot more than HD, is it a kid and wife thing versus the fact that WD does people’s performance review and that people get paid to listen to WD?

WD expects people to have their own minds, and for them to deliver, what is promised (yet tries to plan for non delivering). HD definitely wants to tell the kids what to do (bad dad) and gets more disappointed when people let him down, and leaves planning to others. WD is probably tougher on people and with himself, HD is more easy going. WD wont shy away from difficult conversations, HD doesn’t see the point of making waves on little points. HD picks his battles more, WD knows he sometimes has to put it out there.

WD thinks more before he opens his mouth, HD just lets things flow and is quite happy talking junk. WD laughs quieter than HD! 🙂

There is a point however where they intersect? You see a stressed WD makes a grumpy and quiet HD. A bad day at the office reflects more on HD, than a bad day/night at home reflects on WD.

Is there a preference that I’d prefer to be? HD or WD? you know what? I’m happy with the mix… my household may like to see more WD at times, and my work may want to see more HD at times. We are all a work in progress, both sides of me are developing, learning and hopefully becoming a better version of me everyday.

I’d like it known now however, I no longer scoff or laugh at the different phone voices of the girls in the office.

Work travel and work life balance

Now there’s a conundrum. How does one make the two work together. I am writing this from a hotel room, after a day of interviewing and attending one of the most inspiring meetings I have been to in years. I thought I must have been out of words… obviously not.

How does one travel for work and still maintain the family life? Is it really possible to juggle? I tried.. but not sure if I succeeded.. I stepped out of that awesome meeting as it was time at home to sing bedtime songs, a wonderful tradition we do every night (I really hope the door shut behind me, well there was no laughing or pointing when I returned so it must have been OK.)

By doing that though, was I doing either one full justice? I felt guilty for only being on the phone with my kids, and I felt guilty for stepping away from the meeting. (I got over the meeting guilt quite quickly I must admit)

With technology now, if you’re smart you can find ways of avoiding travel, skype has been my best friend, I’ve done countless meeting and interviews throughout the world with this, saving thousands and getting decent results, however nothing really replaces face to face contact, meeting the people across the table, shaking their hand and looking them in the eye whilst you talk with them. Applies to everything, clients, candidates and colleagues, relationships are built face to face, even with social networking, it cannot oust the human touch. Being told how good a place or vibe is, is not replacement for experiencing it. However, the plan must be sound, I get to see my wife and kids almost every night, and the results of recruits is magnificent, if yesterday’s meeting is anything to go by.

I have friends who travel heaps for their job… it’s tough, they miss heaps… I wonder a lot how they do it, or is it a case of that to be successful there have to be sacrifices? It is not a glamorous thing as it sounds to people how don’t do it.

It is ironic I think, or a cruel twist of fate, that around the 30ish age mark you really start to make a mark in your career, or have to to lay the foundations for your future, but it is also the time that people start to have families. Well you want to progress and excel in your career to set up your families future, but you also want to be there to experience all the family stuff, and they need you too. I have seen people who are strangers to their kids due to their work commitments, very sad. It is tough for parents with duelling responsibilities and those that support them at home.

If you are part of a National company or a global organisation, is it possible to be successful, or be in a senior role and not travel? Is it naive to expect to have that balance, or greedy to demand it? And if you are you able to keep that balance? I think as budgets get cut at the moment, and a lot of business travel has been reduced it is a thought that can and should be be discussed in preparation for the next wave really starts. I welcome comments on this please.

You have nothing to fear but the PHONE itself


Has the Internet killed phone skills?

Does social networking limit the need for actual contact?

In short… NO!

I have been sitting on this for a while, brief communication with Michael Specht and a recent article by Maren Hogan really did push a few buttons for me, and made me feel a little guilty.

Social Networking, those magical sites that everyone is talking about.. you know.. the Facebook.com’s, the Linkedin.com’s, the MySpaces, great for recruiting right? How can you not make a bucket load of money just by using those sites alone… (if you believe all the hype)… Passive candidates found on these sites are way better that those that end up in your inbox from ad response.. in fact why bother posting ads to these job boards? it’s all about the candidates found in these sites. Isn’t it? (please detect tongue in cheek here). If you spend enough money on the right tool, spend enough time trawling these sites, In-mailing, IMing, DMing people will fill all your vacancies! Woo hoo… what have we been doing all this time? How did this world turn pre social networking?

What has happened to the phone?
I think this little bit of technology, which has been around forever, well long enough to not be considered new, is still the KEY to successful recruiting. I recruited pre email, pre websites, pre job boards, and you know what? I was able to do my job and make money… truly! serious! I may sound it, but I’m actually not that old! not even 35 yet, and yes I have recruited without these tools.

I got on the phone! I face to face networked, spoke to anyone and everyone… had a bucket load of business cards and kept a database (not a CRM, an ATS or any other acronym).

I mentioned at the start I was feeling guilty about things.. what you may ask? I find myself at times being seduced by this new technology, (iphones, blackberries etc don’t help, bringing all your Internet, email etc with you everywhere you go) and ignoring the phone. Sending inmails on Linkedin, or just dropping emails to people… I sometimes placate myself with the idea that this is passive headhunting.. you know.. “if they aren’t interested then they just delete the email”, but basically it is lazy, and honestly doesn’t have the best results.

The best results have come from finding names, picking up the phone and finding a way to have a conversation with someone. It’s scary for people I know! When I was selling I had to really work myself up to it at the start.. lots of caffeine, hold my breathe and dial… (kind of sounds like when I was in high school, trying to ask a girl out)

However I went to a training course, from “sales guru” back in 1997, and whilst most of the session didn’t do much for me and I couldn’t find the interest to buy his audio tapes (remember them kids?) there was one bit that stuck in my mind about picking up the phone to strangers. What’s the worse they can say? “NO!” yeah and……….? If it takes you 4 phone calls to make a dollar, then every time someone says no, you smile think to yourself “Thanks for the 25 cents!”. Man that was powerful for me. This ideal, kept me on the phone. (in fact in my latest role, when I first started, I got questioned about the spike in the phone bill! That was great validation, especially when I could point at the record number of new hires.)

Now you may not have to do what I’ve heard of people doing in days gone by… I heard of people taping the phone received to their hand and wouldn’t let themselves be undone until X amount of calls were made, and no I don’t believe in boiler room style calling.

Confidence comes in the preparation (but don’t use doing lots and lots of research and excuse not to get on the phone. Yes that’s easy enough to do! Guilty your honour) You do need to do your research, qualify, whether it be for client or candidates, know what you want to say, or what message you need to get across. I don’t believe in scripts, as you have to engage in the conversation, however you need something to gain their interest nice and early, just like at the start of an advertisement. You need to have knowledge about the subject, and a compelling reason for them to talk to you. Once the conversation is started, all the fear will disappear.. trust me… 🙂 I twittered someone on this recently, my comment “just like getting into a cold pool. A deep breath and dive on in.. once done, it can’t be undone, gets easier from there. promise”

Just in case you are still scared of picking up that phone… in the dozen years or so, I can count on 1 hand the amount of times people have been truly rude to me.

It could be your differentiator, “WOW you’re a real person, not just an email address.”

Recruiting Leadership in a challenging economy

There was a discussion I was involved in on Recruitingblogs.com the other day, which took many directions, from the effect the US economy has on the rest of the world, to Leadership situational leaders v top down leadership. I saw and was intrigued through the conversation and the different angles people were coming from.

It did get me thinking about about the Situational Leadership (Thanks Steve) and relating it to myself and my situation… yes I do tend to make things all about me. Why not.. I like me. But then I expanded it a little.

When you are a leader in an internal Recruitment function and there is a freeze on or a slow down, how does one keep a team motivated, busy, productive and adding value… after all we are a “cost center” in most companies 🙂

How can you lead when a clear concise message from the business is missing? Lots of companies are in survival mode at the moment, unfortunately Recruitment is not at the forefront of business leaders thinking. If you can’t relate Recruitment to the business goals how can you keep yourself relevant? Saying that is a cop out… as a leader, you should know the goals of the business, how can you sell it to candidates if you don’t know? You have to deal with what you know.. if it changes, goalposts moved or something, deal with that when you know it for sure.

I have a few ideas/suggestions.

1/ Impose yourself in discussions at the top level. Recruitment is a business function, you need to get yourself involved in discussions at the right level. Just like getting involved in online communities.. don’t be shy get in there, say something Dan (good name for a blog that 🙂 )

2/ Engage many areas of the business, CEO, CFO, IT, Sales, HR, interstate, they all need you when the pressure comes on. Build up these relationships now, or even better, get your team to build their relationships with business functions they haven’t been involved with previously.

3/ Keep the communication strong within the team. Keep your communication open, keep having team meetings, one on one’s etc to ensure consistency and that any fears, frustrations etc can be allayed.

4/ Celebrate wins. Make a noise, ensure the whole business knows how your team rocks

5/ Gimmicks
. Ok this is a weakness of mine… I love a good gimmick. We have a mascot in our team.. the envy of the business. Pete King, the Recruitment duck. Agencies ring bells (well they used too in my day), we quack the duck. Whoever makes the latest hire keeps the duck! This mascot has had his own column in our newsletter, presented at company meetings etc. Now the gimmicks don’t always work… I have had many a lead balloon moment… more of those another day. Be careful, they need to be relevant to your team, not just amusing to you. (lesson learned)

6/ Don’t let you frustrations show to the team. As a leader you are the barometer, if you are always moaning about everything, being slack as there is no urgent need to hire etc.. your team will reflect this too. You and your team cannot afford that.

7/ Brainstorm for the upturn coming (they do follow downturns.. trust me.. the dates are just not set yet. I love these discussions, the freedom to think.

8/ Educate the business about your market. Get your team involved in this. You are the front line. Management/Directors, will and do make assumptions based on something they’ve read or heard or plainly assumed… make a Mgt newsletter or equivalent to add your market intelligence to their thinking. Biggest misnomer at the moment I think is that it will be easier to hire good people at the moment and those great people will be cheap as they will be thankful to be in work. Don’t let your Executive sound mis-guided, help them understand our world. (or is it just mine?)

9/ Educate your team – Do team webinars (ERE.net is a great source for these, ensure that everyone is reading articles and getting involved in online communities, (Recruitingblogs.com is a great area for this) and get them to report back to the group as to what they have learned or discussed etc. Or of course run some training yourself.

10/ Don’t stop Recruiting – But don’t lie to the talent pool you are building, ensure that your candidates understand where you are coming from. However, you need to keep building. The market moves quickly, people leave etc, you may be required to adjust and react quickly. If you are prepared with a real, well managed Talent Pool, which delivers, you and your team will really stand out.

It is a challenging role at the moment, hard to build momentum, to allow your team to feed (as I like to call it). I would like to hear other tactics people are using Internally to ensure that their area is still rocking even in this market. Don’t be down hearted, we aren’t in this alone. Have fun, enjoy yourself and bring your team on the journey, when the world turns once more and you are overloaded with requirements everyone will look back on these times with rose coloured glasses… “ahhhh remember when we had time to read and think?”

Pride without Predjudice, well maybe a little.


This is the time of the year where you catch up with family and friends, share in the news and fun that this season brings. You get to see some certain family and friends who you probably won’t see for another 12 months, but you are still connected, and somehow the time that passes under that well used bridge doesn’t seem to matter. You are constantly surprised at how much some kids have grown, to the point where some aren’t even kids anymore, and wonder “how did I miss that?” I mean my 6 year old Flower Girl is not 16 for goodness sake.. how can that be true? Well hey, suck it up Dan.. it is.

Catching up with a whole heap of people can be wearisome, you know, making small talk, interacting, all that eating and drinking.. yummmmm. But also there are some people I caught up with, these people I catch up as regularly as I can, but I viewed them in a different light this year.

Is it condescending to say you are proud of friends? I sure hope not. I have a number of friends whom I can truly say have made me really proud to know them, and to have been part of their journey. It only hit me, when speaking with them over this festive season, and when it hit me.. it hit me hard.

I have known this guy for over 10 years. When I met him he was an international student here in Australia, coming out from Indonesia. English as a second language, and really learning the ropes of what it was like to live in Australia, a western country, weird customs and language. Lucky for this man he had already found the woman of his dreams, (whom he is now married to and has 2 gorgeous kids).

This guy was determined to etch out a future for himself (and now family) in this new land. He went through, Visa issues, (having to return home for a year or more, due to some administrative mishap), to working as a car park attendant, a toilet cleaner and various Sales roles. His focus and determination (only slipping with a slight foray into a pyramid selling scheme) have been amazing. He didn’t lose focus of his goal/s and knew every step was going in the right direction.

His ability shone through. He is a engineer by trade, but a Sales person by passion. His ability to deliver results and relate to people have seen him ascend in his current organisation (after being headhunted back to them from a competitor) to the point where after only maybe 6 years in the Australian workforce he is being groomed to be a Regional Manager for one of the world’s largest companies. How good is that? I mean this guy and I had discussions years ago about what life will bring him… is he wasting his time here etc. However through those periods of self doubt, that we all have you know what didn’t wane? His ability, class is permanent!

I’m not sure if this is condescending or not.. it certainly isn’t meant to be, anyways.. bottom line, man, I am proud of this guy. An unbelievable effort. Makes me second guess what I believe I have achieved. I like to think I am doing OK, but hey, tough to compete with that kind of growth.

Most of our parents would have presched to us all the value of hard work, dedication and loyalty. I will add focus, determination, patience, creativity and risk taking to that list of traits which will make you successful. That said, we all know people who have or may be higher up in their organisation, I just hope that everyone has the blessing to have in their life a success story like this to inspire you daily on what CAN be achieved if you want it bad enough.

Those who know me will know of whom I am talking, those who don’t i hope for your sake you know or get to know people like this. (PS this is not to discount my other friends, I’m sure your inspiration will end up on these pages soon enough.

Thanks for reading.

Dan