When I started my recruitment career many years ago with Recruitment Solutions, the world was very different. We did not have email. There was no such thing as Seek. Twitter was just a typo for those who were unable to spell twit. As for LinkedIn? Yes, the tools at the disposal for a young recruiter were incredibly different than they are today. My induction was very thorough and I am forever grateful for the level of detail my manager, Fotina Hardy (nee Fotakis), went into to ensure that I was fully prepared to become a Recruitment Consultant. She was an unbelievable mentor and part of the reason for her success in developing people was that she always “sweated the small stuff”. She was a perfectionist and made sure that we became perfectionists. For me though, the part of the induction that has stuck with me forever came from some home-made induction videos. Senior staff at Recruitment Solutions prepared some videos on how to become quality recruiters and the thing that was emphasised in these videos was that good recruiters took the time to work out one thing about their customers both internally and externally; what is important to them.

In every formal appointment that I have ever done, I have asked what is important to my customers and ensured that I have addressed this. Sometimes my delivery hasn’t been as good but it was always drummed into me that the critical thing for me to ascertain is what is important to my customers. Every time I have hired somebody, I have always asked questions around this point as well. If I take the time to work out what is important to them so that I can evaluate whether we can work together. Once I find this out, I can make a decision whether we are aligned, whether we need to modify or adapt our service offerings or whether we cannot work together. “What is important to you” has been part of my tool kit for such a long time and it has been the most valuable question I have ever asked.

However, the answer changes over time when asked to the same people. What is important to a guy in his 20’s is usually totally different to what is important to a guy in his 40’s. Never has thisWhats-Important-To-You
realisation been so stark for me as it has over the past year and it demonstrates how goals change and how important it is to take the time to get to know your customers and team thoroughly and not assume things.

Approximately four years ago, I started a process to recruit a close friend of mine, Jason Buchanan, to Optimum. I worked with Jason years and years ago and I regularly say that he was in the top three people that I ever worked with. He was a brilliant recruiter and great to work with. 15 years or so passed and we started working together again. During this time, he had worked for another large recruitment business, worked in human resources and become the MD Asia Pacific for two significant companies in the Global Market Research Industry. He had experienced things professionally (let alone personally) during this time that gave him different skills and perspectives and I was as excited as I have ever been in a position to hire someone with this background.

Jason has been the inspiration behind out Employee Life product; a product that has been worked on diligently for over two years and a product that will go a long way to underpin the success of Optimum Consulting well into the future. However, to say that things have not been smooth sailing is an understatement of the highest order. We have had our ups and downs over the past four or so years as we have faced development and staffing challenges. However, Jason has never faulted in his goal to do what is best for the business and while the journey has been tough, I am very confident that it will be successful in the long term.

I was thinking about our working relationship the other day and what I would have done differently in order to smooth out the bumps we have endured on this journey. Interestingly, when I took the time to think about things I realised something that should have been obvious to me; I had been managing Jason based on the goals he had 20 years ago. Times had changed; Jason had changed; it was me who was stuck in a time warp.

In December 2014, Jason dropped a bombshell on me and I had no idea how to respond. He told me that he and his fiancé were wanting to move to Bali to live and that he wanted to keep working from there as opposed to Perth which was where he was living at the time. I had no idea how to respond and I had no idea why in the world he wanted to move to Bali. He explained his reasons; he wanted to experience a different culture and he felt as though his move to Ubud could work on his yoga, study further and get his health in order. Yoga? I nearly fell off my chair. I struggled to understand his motivation and, to be honest, I didn’t ask too many questions. I am not really sure that I ever fully listened to him. I nodded my head in cerebral agreement but I was still numb. I thought he had lost his marbles!

Bali has proved to be a challenge for me but a bigger one for Jason. Communication challenges have made his role very difficult to execute. Secretly, I hoped that these difficulties would lead to him moving back to Australia and privately I think I celebrated these stresses. However, Jason continued to soldier on, modified his role and continued to contribute to the business. My hope that he would move back to Australia or a western country like Singapore or the UK was not aligned to his personal goals at all and I struggled to accept it.

Recently, I had the pleasure to have a family holiday in Bali. The reason for doing this was twofold (please don’t tell my wife this); firstly, to have a family holiday and secondly to see where Jason lived and get a feeling as to why he wanted to stay living in Bali. I caught up with Jason twice over this week as Ubud was over a 90 minute drive from where we were staying at Nusa Dua. On the trafficedrive up to Ubud, I found myself scratching my head as to why Jason had chosen to move up there. Traffic was terrible and it was a third world country. When we arrived at Jason’s shared work hub, my perspective changed. Firstly, he looked fit and healthy and he looked as though he was ten years younger. His office was a hive of activity; it was a proper work environment even though everyone was in shorts and bare feet. His house was beautiful and Ubud was gorgeous. Most importantly, Jason was happy and he was in a great routine.

He came down to Nusa Dua on the Saturday and we had the majority of the day together. Casually, I asked him about his goals; a question that I hadn’t asked him for many years. We were in the surf about 250 metres off shore so there was nowhere to hide so to speak. It was just the two of us for about three hours. He actually said that he was glad that I had asked that and he went about sharing his goals with me both personally and professionally. While he is certainly venturing down a different path personally than I ever assumed, his professional goals are still closely aligned with Optimum and the values are still close. It was a massive relief for both of us after this conversation and I realised how I had forgotten to practice what I have preached for so many years. I had forgotten to ask what is important to Jason; a close mate first and foremost but an extremely vital component to Optimum as well. His decisions made a great deal more sense to me after seeing him in this environment and actually taking the time to talk to him about what he is hoping to achieve – I wish I had the conversation four years ago.

I challenge anyone reading this blog to stop and look at your team, customers, friends and family and ask yourself if you actually know what is important to them. If you don’t,  please ask the question as I am sure that the answers will give you the certainty to build long term sustainable and mutually beneficial relationships.

Brad McMahon – Managing Director

One Reply to “The Four Most Important Words I Have Ever Learnt”

Ross Clennett
April 12, 2016

Congratulations, Brad; what an honest and inspiring blog post you have written. You have articulated a very relevant lesson for all leaders in an age when the motivators of many people (especially men) in the workforce have changed. Good on you for having a long hard look at yourself and being prepared to acknowledge what you needed to do, rather than what Jason ‘should’ do (or should have done), in order to meet the goals of both your business and your employees.

PS I still remember those RS training videos. Excellent material, well before its time when videoing was costly and a a lot more difficult.

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