How To Be a Successful HR Leader

HR Leadership

Being an HR leader in today’s business environment takes courage, conviction and fortitude.

~ Courage to stand up for initiatives that organizations need to survive in these tough economic times
~ Conviction to
follow through with developing and implementing programs that will ensure organizational growth
~ Fortitude to
make the tough decisions that are not popular but necessary for success of our organizations.

This all sounds well and good, but how do we actually “pull it off?” How do we, as HR leaders, earn the trust of the rest of the organization that allows us to sell and implement our ideas to sustain and grow our organizations?

Walking & Talking

From my three decades as an HR professional, I have learned one can’t make it happen by sitting behind a desk.

It starts with MBWA (management by walking around.)

You need to meet your customers on their turf . . . whether it is the customer service rep that works second shift or the CFO that thinks in terms of dollars and cents. You need to talk to them, speak their language, and develop their trust by showing them you do add value to the organization and you are not just overhead.

If you don’t do these things, you will be considered a foreigner in a foreign land.

Steps To Take

Try taking these steps to increase your influence:

  • Develop your organizational skills and build a strong team allowing you to spend less time in your office and more time with your customers.
  • Surround yourself with people smarter than you.
  • Train them, empower them, and then let them run the day-to-day operations.
  • Consider outsourcing some of the more mundane tasks that add no value.
  • Build a strong business case for doing it. Remember, it is all about the bottom line.
  • Enlist the help of an external mentor, someone you can meet and bounce ideas off to get constructive feedback.
  • Make it a part of your routine to network with other HR folks to get ideas and discuss current initiatives.
  • Have regular contact with your leadership team.

What can you do to make them more successful?

First remember this: “It‘s all about them, not you…”

  • Develop a rapport with them; go to lunch; ask them what their people challenges are.
  • Learn their language; productivity, customer service, quality; profitability, etc.

How can you impact these areas to help them?

Question them on things on which others may not comment.

Our role is not necessarily to agree with everything, but to question and say “what if you did this a different way?” or “have you thought about this?

  • Do they have turnover or attendance issues or problems filling key positions?
  • Do they have associates that are not in the right role or maybe need to “move on?”
  • Do they have managers that lack leadership skills?
  • Are these issues common across the organization?

Conduct an analysis, then develop and implement initiatives that address these issues.

It takes courage to develop the leadership relationships necessary to build trust of your HR organization. It takes conviction to follow through with implementing HR initiatives to improve the bottom line. And it takes fortitude to make the tough decisions that may not be popular but necessary to ensure sustainability of your organization.

Are your leaders trained and rewarded for exhibiting positive leadership skills? Are your peers the executive staff? When there is a leadership issue, are you the first person the CEO calls? Can you speak the business language of your organization? Do you have the courage, conviction, and fortitude to be a successful HR leader?

——————–
Mark Fryer is owner of Mark Fryer and Associates
Helps clients with Succession Planning, Exec Coaching, & Org Development
EmailLinkedInTwitterWebBlog | 706.718.2349

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A Leader’s Reflection On Reality

Reality Bites

What is Reality? Who determines it? How can one get in tune with what others perceive as reality?

These are questions that should be looked at when one takes on the role of a leader. These questions are also important when a leader takes on a new role with a new team. If a leader is unaware of their environment, or of their personal disposition and tendencies, or of how others perceive them, then trouble could be right around the corner…

Reality Bites

A friend of mine accepted a new position requiring a major relocation and considerable cultural differences. After she had been working with her new team for a short time, she requested was a New Manager Assimilation with her and her staff to make sure that she was on the right track.

This fast-paced technique cuts down on relationship-building time from months to days.

The feedback obtained from the new manager assimilation taught her that perception is reality. Her cultural differences, lack of patience, and incorrect assumptions had shown through loud and clear.

The perceptions of her new followers were:

  • She didn’t listen
  • She didn’t communicate well
  • She is a micro-manager
  • Along with many other issues

The new manager assimilation process opened her eyes, giving insight to enable her to change her style and eliminate the potential for loss of productivity, employee turnover, and morale issues – all things which can affect a company’s bottom line.

Formula For Success

Main objectives and benefits of process:

  • Accelerates relationship building between manager and staff; shortens time to build effective staff. Both staff and manager learn each others’ personalities and quickly brings manager up to speed with his team.
  • Manager learns staff perceptions; staff makes candid observations and questions the perceptions of the new manager, feedback is generally brutally honest with “no holds barred” while maintaining complete confidentiality of input and remarks. Allows manager to quickly adjust leadership style or engages staff on rationale needed for change, while demonstrating manager’s willingness to listen to the concerns of her organization.
  • Information is gained in non-threatening manner; facilitator uses brainstorming technique to solicit input and questions on possibly delicate topics, without manager present, while providing input for manager on key issues needing to be addressed.
  • Provides forum for manager to discuss philosophies, expectations, and leadership style; new manager is able to seek input and give rationale relative to his philosophies, expectations, and leadership style.
  • Team provides input into developing 100-day action plan; manager assesses input from team and utilizes recommendations to help develop team’s short-term goals and objectives.

“It’s the best way to iron out rumors, to confront the issues that arise with a new manager, and to create a climate of openness,” Bill Hunt, program manager, organization and staffing, GE Power Systems

How the process works. . .

  • New manager and trained facilitator meet to review process, objectives, and benefits while seeking buy-in for the process by the new manager.
  • Manager kicks off session reviewing his/her commitment to the process, the confidentiality of the staff’s candid feedback, and manager’s desire for straight forward feedback.
  • Manager leaves and facilitator seeks input on what staff knows and would like to know about their new manager, what they would like the manager to know about them, what issues/concerns/problems are facing the group and what should new manager accomplish in the first 100-days?
  • While staff takes a break, manager and facilitator review responses and feedback.
  • Staff is invited back and manager responds to feedback, questions, and concerns.
  • Flip chart feedback is keyed and given to manager to continue process with staff to develop formal 100-day plan

Fresh Eyes and Ears

Fresh EyesManagers may use responses on flip-charts as planning tools displaying them in their offices to reaffirm their commitment to the process and the team.

My friend had her eyes opened after receiving the feed-back from her new staff.  She learned culture can play a major factor in developing a team. Once she started listening and communicating more thoroughly, her team became more cohesive and much more productive.

She was thankful for the new manager assimilation process.

Do you currently have a new manager assimilation process in your organization? Have you seen a new manager fail in the first 100-days of being on the job? Are staff members afraid to “bare their soles” to a new manager in fear of retribution? Do your new managers “hit the ground running” when assuming a new leadership role?

——————–
Mark Fryer is owner of Mark Fryer and Associates
Helps clients with Succession Planning, Exec Coaching, & Org Development
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web | Blog | 706.718.2349

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Maximizing Leader Potential

Imagine this leadership scenario: Over the last two months, you completed the analysis of your staff creating this year’s succession plan. You have selected potential replacements for your key positions, along with identifying your high potential employees.

Ahhhhh, finally done! Another project checked off the list; and something else you don’t need to think about for the next 10 months.

But wait a minute, Buster! Not so fast! Your succession plan should not be a once-a-year project that gets put on the shelf or back into a filing cabinet when you complete it. Rather, it should be utilized regularly throughout the year as a valuable guide that will help you plan, prioritize, and implement leadership development programs throughout the year.

Next Level Leadership

Ask yourself these questions to see if your organization is really ready with your talent plan:

  • Do your “up and coming” associates have the skills and talent needed to move to the next level?
  • Their technical skills may be outstanding, but do they need grooming relative to leadership skills, behavioral quirks, understanding of how the entire organization operates, cross-functional assignments, or do they need something as basic as improving their organizational skills?
  • What are you doing to maximize leader potential of your high potentials and those on your replacement chart?
  • Will they be ready when you decide to retire or when Joe the VP of customer service decides to leave the organization or Maria the CIO becomes permanently disabled?
  • Will you have replacements trained to immediately step into their new roles?

Maximizing leader potential is not merely putting their names on a replacement chart and assuming they can step into a new assignment.

It is a comprehensive strategic plan that keeps your business green and growing while adding more predictability to short and long-term stability.

Reality Check

Maximizing leader potential requires conducting assessments to identify their strengths and developmental needs and to determine if their soft skills are in line with your organization’s leader competencies. Assessments give your high potentials and key position replacements feedback from their bosses, peers, direct reports, and customers identifying their strengths and developmental needs.

And here’s where a leadership coach can provide valuable assistance – using that feedback to develop formal training programs that will to take advantage of the individual’s strengths and improve one or two of the the areas where they have major developmental needs.

Practice Makes Perfect

A coach can help develop roadmaps to improve your up-and-comers’ deficiencies. The roadmaps will include assignments with mile markers and timelines. It should include “deliberate practice” as identified by Geoff Colvin in his book Talent is Overrated.

Think of it this way with an example from practicing golf:

Hitting golf balls on the range is practice.  It may help improve the golfer’s score, but it won’t enable them to reach the pinnacle of golf.  But, having a swing coach that identifies needed changes to one’s grip, backswing, club placement, stance, etc., giving regular feedback, ensuring repetition, and measuring improvement is “deliberate practice” that will enable a golfer to move to the next level

A leadership coach helps design, monitor, and measure training programs to specifically improve an individual’s leadership performance.  Even high potentials and key replacements can’t develop their own improvement programs without assistance.

They don’t know what they don’t know.

Coaches generally have years of practical experience and are able to identify the skills and talents that will enable your superstars to move to the next level.  Coaches generally interject “real-life” experiences into the training programs that are not part of typical college curriculums.

Conducting assessments, developing SMART goals, monitoring performance and giving feedback helps “up and comers” identified in the replacement charts to be ready for their next assignments.

Is your succession plan collecting dust? Are you challenging your high potential employees? Are you regularly meeting with your direct reports and giving them honest and constructive feedback? Do your “up and comers” have roadmaps and coaches to help them get to the next level? Are you “Maximizing Leader Potential” in your organization?

Bookmark Maximizing Leader Potential

——————–
Mark Fryer is owner of Mark Fryer and Associates
Helps clients with Succession Planning, Exec Coaching, & Org Development
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web | Blog | 706.718.2349

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Roll Up Your Sleeves Leadership

Being a leader can be fun. And it should be fun.

Celebrating with your team an 18-month implementation of a new $7 million machine tool that improves productivity by 7 points is exciting for a leader! Presenting a gold watch to an employee for 25-years with the company is fulfilling for them as well. Recognizing the team responsible for the successful completion of a $50 million capital expenditure project that doubles the company’s campus makes everyone feel good. Even recognizing an employee’s performance for the way she resolved a distraught customer’s problem can be rewarding, too!

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Taking the Good with the Bad

Having fun and bestowing compliments and awards on deserving associates is the right thing to do. And for most of us, it gives us much enjoyment. However, being a successful leader also means dealing with the not-so-pleasant responsibilities of having to make tough decisions from time to time. These could be things such as turning down a request for a software upgrade due to lack of capital; or deciding you need to cut 15% out of the budget due to an economic down turn; or having to terminate an employee due to poor performance.

Successful leaders take the bad with the good.

Being a successful leader in today’s business environment requires fortitude and conviction. It takes fortitude to stand up to difficult situations in these tough economic times by making the tough decisions that are not popular to the masses, but necessary for an organization’s health and success. It takes conviction by following through with issues until they are resolved. It means rolling up your sleeves, taking the bull by the horns and making the tough decisions when the time arrives to do so.

Leadership is Not a Popularity Contest

How does your organization react when you have to make a tough decision? Do they moan and groan they are losing something or someone? Have you been honest with them in the past by communicating the good with the bad during the journey? Have you developed a level of trust with your team members so while they may not like your decision, they trust you are doing the right thing for the success of your organization?

A good leader is not only involved with the “fun” things, but takes responsibility and accountability for the unpopular decisions that come with the job. Good leaders do not abdicate to their “lieutenants” the responsibility for unpopular decisions.

That’s why they pay leaders the “big bucks.”

How do we build the trust that is necessary in an organization so when we do have to make tough decisions, we don’t lose productivity, absenteeism doesn’t increase, or even worse, we don’t lose key employees?

Walking Around Leadership

From my three decades as an HR professional, I have learned it is hard to build relationships and trust sitting behind a desk. It starts with MBWA (management by wandering around) and utilizing active listening skills. You need to meet your associates on their turf Whether it is the engineering department, the skilled nursing center, or the manufacturing floor. Successful leaders talk and listen to their associates on their turf, speak their language. This will resulting in growing trusting relationships by showing associates they care by listening and empathizing with them while walking the talk.

In addition, leaders need to develop their organizational skills and build a strong team allowing them to spend less time in their offices and more time with those that make the day-to-day operations flawless. Leaders surround themselves with people smarter than themselves. They train them, delegate to them, empower them, hold them accountable, and then get out of their way and let them run the show.  It is good for leaders and good for organizations.

Leaders enlist the help of a coach, someone they can meet, work on developmental areas and bounce ideas off to get constructive non-threatening feedback. Leaders make it a part of their routine to network with other leaders to get ideas and discuss current initiatives.

Leaders develop a rapport with peers by going to lunch and asking about their challenges.

They learn their language whether it be productivity, service, quality; compliance, etc. How can you impact these areas to help them? Question them on things others may not comment on. Leaders’ roles are not necessarily to agree with everything, but to question and say “what if you did this a different way?” or “have you thought about this other direction?”

Have you “rolled up your sleeves” to make the tough decisions necessary to ensure the success of your organization? Are you sweeping unpopular decisions under the carpet and not addressing them? Have you developed a level of trust that allows you to make the tough decisions without causing a major hiccup in the organization? Are your leaders trained and rewarded for exhibiting positive leadership skills? Are you building strong teams while delegating and empowering them so you can work on strategic issues? Do you have the fortitude and conviction to be a successful leader in today’s business environment? I’d love to hear your thoughts and reactions!

Bookmark Roll Up Your Sleeves Leadership

——————–
Mark Fryer is owner of Mark Fryer and Associates
Helps clients with Succession Planning, Exec Coaching, & Org Development
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web | Blog | 706.718.2349

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Leadership Warts

Sometimes we can go through life thinking that we are a handsome prince or princess, charming the world by simply being alive and around. We mistakenly think that we positively impact people because of our experienceability, positionaccomplishments, or blah, blah, blah

Because we fail to take that all-important introspective journey of self and see our own faults as others might, we can tend to look at ourselves more favorably than we should. Now hear me, authentic self-esteem based on real accomplished is a very good thing! In fact, it is a treasure! But sometimes that gift of self-esteem can come with a pair of Prince Goggles that we put on right when we take a look in the mirror at our own self-image. We can be fooled to think that others see the same Prince Charming that we see. Unfortunately, often times they can see something more akin to… well… a frog.

Prince of Frog?

After a few years of working in the operations function of an insurance company in the mid ‘70s, I was “knighted” a manager with four direct reports. I had no formal managerial training, just the word ‘manager’ after my name.  I had never taken any management classes, but since I had ‘manager’ after my name, I must be one.

After a few years, I took it upon myself to take some management courses. I thought it might help me become a better leader. In addition, I enlisted the services of Bob, our training manager, to help coach me as I completed the many exercises.

Six months later, I learned that my assistant, Debbie, had contemplated leaving the organization due to my demanding demeanor and poor treatment of associates.  (This was prior to my taking the classes and being coached.) That is not the perception I had of myself. I had no clue! I had been wearing my Prince Goggles!

After the classes and coaching from Bob, I changed my behaviors by showing more respect toward others, thinking of others and not myself, and being more caring. The funny thing is that my poor behaviors as a manager happened because I stepped into something with many misconception that never occurred to me. Debbie and I worked together for almost 16 years before I moved on in my career. When I made the move to become a manager, I changed for the worse. And I didn’t even realize it. But Debbie certainly did. Debbie perceived me as a… well let’s just say “frog.”

I learned the hard way that perception is reality.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

Taking Off the Prince Goggles

Do you know any leaders with behavior issues that affect their relationships with bosses, peers, direct reports, and/or customers?

I call these behavioral issues leadership “warts.”

I have some. And so do most leaders. No, they can’t see them in the mirror, but the people around them can describe them. They may not let people finish their sentences or are distracted by the phone or their BlackBerrys when having a discussion with an associate.  Maybe they don’t take personal issues into consideration when making a decision. Maybe they yell or demean people in front of others or they are just not polite.

Leaders may have one or more of these behavioral issues or “warts” that need to be removed to help them to continue to grow in their careers. Unfortunately, there are many executives that do not give honest feedback to their leaders describing why they are not promoted to the next level. This is where an executive coach can help the leader understand his inappropriate behaviors and then develop goals and timelines to address the inappropriate behaviors.

Change Can Be Good

Ask any toddler, they can tell you. Change can be a good thing. When something is not good, like a dirty diapers or a tragic behavior, change it. Everybody around wins.

When it came to my leadership behaviors, I changed. That’s what leadership is all about. It’s about changing to meet the needs of the organization and its employees. Making your company an “employer of choice,” a place where people want to get up in the morning and come to work because they know they are appreciated. A place that employees have a say in how things are done.  An environment where their opinions are taken seriously and some ideas are even used.

This may all sound like “pie in the sky,” but it works. Both fresh diapers and fresh behaviors always makes everyone around happier!

But unlike changing a diaper, changing one’s behavior doesn’t happen overnight . . . it is a gradual transformation. First a leader has to know what needs to change. This can be accomplished by utilizing a 360-degree feedback assessment tool, getting comments from peers, bosses, direct reports and customers. It is then followed up by a feedback session.

First and foremost, the leader needs to be willing to change.

Through the help of an executive coach, a leader’s strengths and developmental needs are identified. These strengths can be used by the leader to mentor others in the organization. The executive coach helps the leader find a couple of developmental or behavioral areas (warts) she needs to change based on feedback from those around her. Eliminating these “warts” is necessary to be successful in a leadership role. The executive coach challenges the leader to continue eliminating her “warts” while tracking her progress towards improving her identified behavioral issues.

Tools of The Trade

One of the biggest challenges an executive coach may encounter with communicating the 360-degree feedback is resistance from leaders in accepting the identified behavioral deficiencies. Their perception of themselves and the reality of how their peers, direct reports, boss and customers see them often conflict.

I worked with a very sharp engineering manager. His technical skills, analytical skills, and attention to detail were impeccable. However, his people skills just reallysucked.” When the 360-degree feedback review was completed on him, his “customers” let him have it. He couldn’t grasp that. He didn’t accept the feedback. Even though he was being coached, he could not accept that the perception’s of others about him is their reality. And it is real.

It is not how the leader feels; it is how he comes across to his peers, boss, direct reports and customers. In effect, these people are his customers. A great finance leader that turns his “customers” off due to unacceptable behaviors risks the potential of losing some of his key players, in turn affecting the organization and its customers.

Unfortunately, it’s generally the good associates who leave, not the mediocre ones. Investing time and resources into leaders to identify their “warts” and coaching leaders to eliminate their negative behavioral issues can lead them to more challenging roles. In addition, it helps the organization be more productive, have more motivated associates, and move the company to be an employer of choice.

Do you value the time and effort it takes to groom a good leader? Do you “knight” your new managers instead of train them? Do you give leaders the tools, training and coaching necessary to be successful? Are you honest with your leaders, advising them of their leadership “warts?” How much is it costing your organization in turnover, law suits, low productivity and customer retention because of leaders who have not been properly prepared to lead? Is your organization an employer of choice? Can you identify some of your own “warts?”

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——————–
Mark Fryer
is owner of Mark Fryer and Associates
Helps clients with Succession Planning, Exec Coaching, & Org Development
EmailLinkedInTwitterWebBlog | 706.718.2349

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Leaders Falling Off the Radar Screen

While walking to work on a cold and sunny December morning in Southeast Wisconsin, I was hit by a car. It had snowed 10 inches and rather than jaywalking as I normally might do, I decided to be obedient and cross the street at the crosswalk.

Have you ever heard the saying that “No good deed goes unpunished? Hmmm…sometimes that rings true…

The driver of the auto was making a right on red but failed to first come to a stop. He was looking left when he entered the intersection and proceeded to knock me down with his two ton car. I ended up with a broken tibial plateau and a torn rotator cuff, each requiring surgery. I was on crutches for 10 weeks. Fortunately I was not permanently disabled or worse, killed.

So what if I hadn’t been able to return to work? My company had a Succession Plan in place for not only me but other key associates. But what if we didn’t have one that identified and prepared replacements for key employees in the event any of them became permanently incapacitated, passed away or left the organization?

Radar Love

The best HR coach I ever had was a grey haired woman named Mildred with a mouth like a sailor but the intelligence of a seasoned business leader. Mildred coached me to be prepared in the event a key associate left our organization. She would talk about what would happen if John or Mary un-expectantly “fell off the radar screen,” meaning, what would happen if a person became permanently injured, died, retired or just un-expectantly left the organization? This was before most progressive companies had formal Succession Plans.

Today, successful companies generally have Succession Plans that are not static. They are created, reviewed, updated, and recalibrated on a regular basis. It’s not just a bunch of charts that indentifies the leadership team’s replacements in the event any of them “drop off the radar screen.”

Benefits

A formal Succession Plan accelerates preparing employees ready for advancement to assume leadership roles, counters the difficulty of recruiting employees externally, focuses on leadership continuity, provides effective monitoring and tracking of employee proficiency levels and skill gaps, creates a leadership model, smoothes business continuity and improves staff morale.

Planning

Prior to developing the Plan, organizations need to understand their long-term objectives along with determining workforce trends and potential turnover. They also must commit to the process. Pitfalls of ensuring success include a lack of written skills and competencies for key positions, long wait for movement/promotion of key personnel and lack of regular follow-through with development plans for key associates.

Components

Succession Plans not only include an emergency back-up list, but more importantly identify high potential employees by utilizing a 9-Square Chart ranking employees based on their performance and potential, a bench strength chart identifying associates that have the potential to move up two or more levels in the organization, and a replacement planning chart listing potential replacements for key positions indicating their current readiness status. In addition, training programs are develop for high potentials and those identified on the replacement chart which may include new work assignments, 360-degree assessments and feedback sessions identifying strengths and development areas, and specific training needed to continually “Sharpen the Saw.” Training plans are customized to each individual.

As Ken Blanchard, developer of the Situational Leadership II model states, “Different strokes for different folks, different strokes for the same folks, depending on the task.”

In addition to identifying high potentials, the 9-Square Chart highlights those individuals that may be in the wrong job or as one of my former CEOs said, “. . . they need to traded.” So the process may also include pruning the tree of those employees that are not a good fit in the organization.

Eyes on the Horizon

Symptoms of companies needing a formal Succession Plan include not being able to quickly respond to sudden losses of key talent, are experiencing high levels of key employee turnover and lengthy searches to fill key positions, workers’ perception that promotional decisions are made unfairly or capriciously, or diverse employees are underrepresented in key positions.

A well thought out Succession Plan process, implementation and follow-through allows for:

  • An ongoing supply of high potential employees capable to step into key positions;
  • A pool of desirable candidates who are integrated into the organization;
  • A flow of capable people through various departments;
  • Alignment of the future needs of the company with the availability of appropriate resources within the company;
  • Positive goals for key personnel encouraging them to stay with the organization; and
  • A continued supply of capable successors for key positions.

Getting Your Ducks in a Row

Strong agreement from the CEO & executive staff is needed when designing the planning process. For instance, the plan needs to meet the organization’s specific requirements; cross functional leaders need to be involved in developing and implementing the process; necessary key competencies need to be quantified; the identification of skill-set competency assessment tools; and all the while ensuring coaching, mentoring, training, and recruiting methods are incorporated to match personnel requirements and future needs.

Succession Planning ROI includes lower attrition of key personnel, identification of high potentials and key replacements, reduced hiring costs, more time to fill key positions, and the ability to increase diversity in key leadership roles.

You don’t want leaders falling off your radar screen with no qualified backups ready to take over. That’s like stepping in front of an oncoming car!

Does your organization have a strategic Succession Plan? What would happen if one of your key leaders left the organization today? Are you experiencing above average turnover of high potential employees? Are diverse employees fairly represented in your leadership? Does it take several months to fill key positions? What percentage of leadership roles are filled internally? Do you know the cost of having a key position empty for any length of time?

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——————–
Mark Fryer
is owner of Mark Fryer and Associates
Helps clients with Succession Planning, Exec Coaching, & Org Development
EmailLinkedInTwitterWebBlog | 706.718.2349

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