“We Will Sell No Wine Before Its Time”
The Paul Masson brand is best remembered for its 1970s marketing association with Orson Welles, who promised for Masson: "We will sell no wine before its time." An infamous outtake for one commercial from the Orson Welles campaign features Welles attempting to deliver his lines while very severely inebriated. From Wikipedia.
Recently, one of my best clients called to discuss an organization issue. The leadership was planning to terminate a key manager who was not meeting the expectations of the job. The partners, however, had different ideas as to how to fill the void to be created. Two of the partners were behind the promotion of a highly respected, but inexperienced employee. The CEO had another point of view, so he looked to me to provide an unbiased, third-party evaluation. His specific request was for a written report justifying our position.
The client company, a relatively new business, well-funded, it is headed by accomplished industry professionals. They have a proven concept and are moving into a period of rapid growth. In order to be successful it was our view that their key positions must be staffed with self-starters with proof of concept or rely on out-sourced solutions.
My first reaction was great pleasure to know that our firm was held in such high esteem to be chosen to complete this assignment. My next reaction was the realization that this request presented risk to our ongoing relationship. We would be touching on the political dynamics within my client’s culture. My goal was to give the client our very best advice packaged in a way that would be useful and accepted by all parties involved, a win-win-win. I was looking for a solution that would be a factual aid to the client’s decision; that would result in meaningful career counsel for their internal candidate; and which would demonstrate our integrity, protecting our long term relationship. After all, isn’t that the goal of any engagement? Especially since we focus on finding solutions that will ensure our clients long term viability.
The plan we developed consisted of six fundamental steps as follows:
- Initial review of internal candidate’s experience vis a vis the client’s job description.
- Personal interview with the candidate
- Candidate’s completion of Career Insights Profile diagnostic to reveal personal strengths, orientation to work, and personal motivators.
- Consultation with our associates to evaluate all relevant findings and craft the appropriate recommendation.
- Recap findings and recommendations to the client.
- Debrief key members of client’s team and internal candidate.
Our prep work revealed major gaps between the internal candidate’s background and the job requirements. Essentially she was too junior to have the skills and experience to perform the job.
My personal interview revealed that she is intelligent and articulate. She demonstrated her passion for the restaurant industry as a career choice, however she was uncertain about a specific path. She revealed stress related to less than clear communication and direction.
The results of her Career Insights Profile showed her to have a Supporter Style Profile. According to that profile, the candidate is “not outgoing by nature, they tend to rely on more assertive people to take the lead.”
Our team determined that putting this candidate in position at this time and without significant support and direction had a high probability of failure. We discussed the cost of failure to the client, both in financial terms and to their credibility as leaders. We spoke to the cost to the candidate’s ego and motivation to build her career. We believe that she will likely be a long term contributor given the proper positioning, training and development.
The debrief with the key players on the client team did not produce any significant challenges. Their decision now is to determine if they should initiate a search to fill the position in question, or to find an outside resource to manage that function. They must also give consideration to a development program for their internal candidate.
We were successful in this effort, accomplishing our goal for a win-win-win solution. We presented issues the partners had not considered. We were sympathetic to the needs of the internal candidate. We did not put on the hard sell to initiate a search or to provide the needed out-sourced solution. Our report was thoughtful and non-threatening. To successfully navigate any sensitive situation one must clearly understand the needs of all interested parties while maintaining one’s integrity.
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Jim Weber, President
New Century Dynamics Executive Search