Jake Stiles on Lean Executives, the Recruiting Landscape, and a Coming “Compensation Correction”


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Jake Stiles

Joining me for Episode #456 of the Lean Blog Interviews Podcast is Jake Stiles, CEO of Stiles Associates.

For nearly three decades, Jake has played an instrumental role in growing Stiles Associates from a niche recruiting agency to the premier Lean executive search firm in the country. 

He's helped transform client organizations by placing top talent across a wide spectrum of industrial segments including manufacturing, consulting, healthcare and professional services. 

As Lean and continuous improvement have spread from factory floors to hospitals, financial institutions and beyond, Jake has continued to build ties to thought leaders and increase Lean's scope at the most innovative institutions. 

As a result, he's served as a member of numerous industry associations and boards – including the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) and the Greater Boston Manufacturing Partnership (GBMP).

Disclosure: Stiles Associates has been a sponsor of the podcast since the start of 2021.

Today, we discuss topics and questions including:

  • How did you first get introduced to Lean?
  • Brought Art Byrne into Wiremold as CEO
  • Looking for 80% personality / 20% technical??
  • “Not settling… always pushing, but bringing the team along” — emotional intelligence 
  • Tips for being successful in a new environment?
  • Transformational executives? Does their experience translate? 
  • Operating vs. transforming – how to evaluate beyond a willingness to lead it??
  • Search process similar to the transformation process — understanding the current state and the issues… what problem are you trying to solve? Iteration with the client
  • Jumping across industries — in particular Manufacturing to Healthcare? Key success factors?
  • How are you counseling hiring companies in a very competitive market?? Candidate-driven market?
  • Advice for how to work with a recruiter (as a candidate) vs. applying directly for a job?
  • Compensation “correction” is coming??
  • Is accepting a counteroffer always a bad idea? 
  • Differences in working for a public company vs a PE company?

The podcast is sponsored by Stiles Associates, now in their 30th year of business. They are the go-to Lean recruiting firm serving the manufacturing, private equity, and healthcare industries. Learn more.

This podcast is part of the #LeanCommunicators network

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Automated Transcript (Not Guaranteed to be Defect Free)

Announcer (1s):
Welcome to the Lean Blog Podcast. Visit our website www.leanblog.org. Now here's your host, Mark Graban.

Mark Graban (13s):
Hi, it's Mark Graban. Welcome to episode 456 of the podcast. It's September 14th, 2022. My guest today is Jake Stiles. He's the CEO of Stiles Associates. You'll learn more about him in a minute, but if you'd like to learn more about Jake and his firm, you can find all that more in the show notes or go to leanblog.org/456 as always. Thanks for listening. Well, hi everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. Again, my guest today is Jake Stiles. He is the CEO of Stiles Associates. So we're gonna learn more about Jake and the work he does and his own lean journey.

Mark Graban (54s):
But for nearly three decades, Jake has played a key role in growing Stiles Associates from being a niche recruiting agency, to being the premier lean executive search firm in the country. I would agree with, with that assessment. So he's helped transform client organizations. He's placed top talent across a wide range of industries and segments, including manufacturing, consulting, healthcare and beyond. So Jake has continued to build ties with thought leaders and, and to help spread lean throughout different industries. He's served on a number of boards, including AME the Association for Manufacturing Excellence, and GBMP the Greater Boston Manufacturing Partnership.

Mark Graban (1m 38s):
Their website. You can learn more at leanexecs.com and I just wanna disclose you probably heard the ad up front before the episode that Stiles Associates has been a sponsor of the podcast since the beginning of 2021. So Jake, thank you for joining us here on the podcast. How are you?

Jake Stiles (1m 57s):
Good, good Mark. Thanks for having me.

Mark Graban (1m 59s):
So I think we have a lot to talk about today. I think a lot, that'll be helpful for listeners, whether they're perhaps looking for a new lean role, whether they're looking to hire people in leadership roles in, in their organization. But before I talk about that, you know, Jake, I always like to ask guests, you know, tell us a little bit about your own lean origin story. You know, you kind of how, and when you were introduced to lean and you know why this is important to you.

Jake Stiles (2m 29s):
Yeah, sure, sure. So my father Lin Stiles started this firm back in 1991, after several years as a partner in, in other retained search firms, global firms. And he wanted to start something on his own. That was gonna be more personal, you know, not, not the, not the big players that were focused on, you know, number of searches and, and he, he, he wanted to have a more personal touch with his, with his clients. So I joined him in, in 1995 and it was just he and I for a couple years.

Jake Stiles (3m 9s):
And, and one of the first assignments I worked on was building a building a lean manufacturing consulting division for an existing company that had two other divisions, but the lean manufacturing division was gonna be new. And it was it, there were three people involved in it at that point. And they were all ex general managers, managers from Toyota in Georgetown that my father had known. And so the, the task was to, and, and this firm was supporting the big three automotive at that time. So the task was to really understand what this firm was trying to accomplish and then help them staff up.

Jake Stiles (3m 56s):
And so my job very quickly became basically living out of a suitcase in Lexington, Kentucky, and recruiting people out of Toyota JCI and other tier one automotive companies that were gonna join this firm and go support the big three. And so my early journey was really focused around trying to attract top talent. And then once I got 'em on the hook meeting with them and, and mark, at this point, it was, you know, some of these interviews with, with these guys. And at that point, they, they could have been 20 years. My senior, these were three- to four-hour interviews over dinner, and I was a sponge.

Jake Stiles (4m 40s):
I just, these guys would help me understand what good looked like, what good results looked like and, and just kind of, kind of the ins and outs. They, they, they would bring me into the Toyota plant, show me around. And generally that's how I learned, you know, I started, I just soaked it up. I, I had some, some great people that I met very early in my career that were very, very gracious with their time and, and very open. And I, it just continued from there. And so we took that firm, that division from three to about 110 people over the course of three, three and a half years with offices in Michigan, Kentucky.

Jake Stiles (5m 27s):
And then we built out an office in London as well for them. And, you know, so from that point on, I was hooked, you know, there were kind of two pieces to the story, right? You, you've got a client that comes to, and, and they share with you their story, basically their current state and where they're trying to get to, and they're, they're sharing their pain points and they, they look at you and they say, we think you can help. We need your help in finding the right talent. And, you know, I was hooked. Yeah. Right. And, and I said, I'll jump, jump in. And so that's really how it started for me. And, and it's just continued to evolve. Yeah. And I still have a lot of passion around helping companies. I, I still have a lot of passion around going out and finding top talent and, and generally helping companies find the right fit, you know, 80% of its personality based 20% is technical.

Jake Stiles (6m 20s):
Right. And, and just helping companies identify, identify the right transformational leadership to help them to get where they want to go. Yeah.

Mark Graban (6m 30s):
Was, was it your father's intent at the beginning to have a firm that was really focused on lean and TPS? Or did that just sort of fall into place?

Jake Stiles (6m 40s):
No, it was his intent. So even when he was working in New York city for a large global firm, his focus had been working with small to midsize manufacturing companies. At that point, he was doing a lot of C-level work for them. And the, the, you know, one of the initial searches that really helped to position us was he was hired by the family that owned wire mold, which is a great transformation story and, and helped to bring the CEO Art Byrne into Wiremold. And, you know, just, you go back and look at the results of that transformation and it still holds up today. I mean, it's, it's phenomenal.

Jake Stiles (7m 21s):
So that, that, and some of the early work with consulting firms is really what positioned us. And, and it was more about, it was more about, you know, us digging in and understanding what are the right questions to ask, where are the right places to look, what's the right type of training and starting to build a profile, if you will, of what does good look like from a candidate standpoint? And, you know, and on the other side, what's not the right profile. Right. And, and yeah, so early on he, he, he, he saw that and, and, and prior to recruiting, he had been in manufacturing himself.

Jake Stiles (8m 3s):
So he had, it was, I think it was a bit of a second nature reaction for him.

Mark Graban (8m 9s):
Sure. And when you talk about what good looks like, arguably Art Byrne is a CEO hire was a good, a great example that that's, that's one to hang your hat on. And art has been a guest on the podcast here, and the lean community really looks up to art for what he did at Wiremold and what, what he's taught people and how he's influenced people afterwards. You know, Jake, I was wondering if you could elaborate, you know, I think it's interesting, you point out when looking for talent evaluating leaders, you, you mentioned a variation of the 80 20 rule, I guess you're looking for 80% related to personality, 20% related to technical skills.

Mark Graban (8m 51s):
Could, could you elaborate on that? Like what, what, what are some of the personality traits that maybe that you are looking for? Are there any personality traits that give you pause? Yeah.

Jake Stiles (9m 3s):
Yeah. It's interesting. So in all the work that we've done and, and whether it be hiring senior consultants for a firm, or whether it be hiring a, a CEO or a VP of operations across, you know, eight plants there, there's a lot of similarities, right. There's, there's kind of a, an obsessive persistence if you will, to, to get better. Right. It's, it's that, it's just that deep down drive to, to not settle. And, and, and I don't mean that in the way that it's someone that's gonna come in and steamroll people. I mean, it's, it's a way that it's, it's that nag that nagging it's that itch, right.

Jake Stiles (9m 47s):
That, you know, let's get here, but I think we can do better and let's bring the people along as we do it. Right. And, and so there's, so there's a, there's a traits or a personality makeup of, you know, not settling, always, always pushing, but bringing the team along with you. And so there's, there's just a significant amount of leadership, emotional intelligence that's required to, to lead these transformations. And, and if you think about it, you know, a lot of the girls calls that we got early on, that we still get is you may have, you know, again, an eight plant division or an eight plant company and, and five or five or underwater.

Jake Stiles (10m 32s):
Right. And, and, you know, there's a threat of shutting 'em down and moving production elsewhere. And, you know, the, the, when you go to search on something like that, you quickly realize there's a category candidate that, that shy away from that. But yet there's another category that just raises our hand and says, wow, you know, that sounds like fun. You know, that there's, there's, you know, safety, quality delivery cost issues, but there's also cultural issues, right? This, this team's been battered or they, they, they, they're not aligned or, or, you know, they're, they, they're kind of off in the distance and they don't feel connected, you know? So somebody that raises their hand for that and says, I can, I, that sounds great.

Jake Stiles (11m 12s):
Right. That's, that's a different type of person. And so when I talk about, when we think about as a firm, you know, transformational executives, it's those, it's those type of people. They, they raise their hand for those challenges because they know if, if they approach it right, the results are gonna be phenomenal.

Mark Graban (11m 30s):
Yeah. Yeah. So, and I, I love how you emphasize, you know, this idea of, of pushing, but bringing people along. Yeah. Having that balance of, of, of drive without pushing too hard, too fast can, I'm sure lead to, you know, could lead to failure in, in a role. And, and so maybe there's a broader question to ask you Jake guidance that you might give somebody who is new to an organization. Like they, they've got great experience, technical skills related to lean or TPS. They have the personality, they have a track record of success.

Mark Graban (12m 10s):
What, what are some of the key points or somebody who's new to an organization that, that, that you would give guidance to make sure that they're more likely to be successful in that new environment?

Jake Stiles (12m 21s):
Yeah. I think it's taking the time to get to know the team. Right. That's, that's the first one really, really understand what's going on culturally. And from a, from a, a performance standpoint, don't, don't draw any immediate conclusions, go see for yourself. And, and if, if the metrics aren't there, well, grab the data and develop 'em right. And let's, let's, let's create the foundation or the current state and make sure everybody's clear on it. Yeah. Right. And, and then clearly set the objectives and, and, and do it in a way that's, you don't set 'em and walk away, you set 'em and say, I'm here to help you.

Jake Stiles (13m 1s):
Right. And, and so it's a training opportunity every day, but I, I think, you know, kind of the, the, the shotgun approach coming in and, and kind of running over people, probably not a great idea when you're trying to build sustained improvement and really kind of grab the cultures and, and the employees' hearts and minds. So I just, and it doesn't mean that you've gotta take a tremendous amount of time, you know, upfront, but I think it, it, you know, you, these, these candidates will know these people will know when they're starting to connect with the employees and, and understand where the hot buttons are.

Jake Stiles (13m 47s):
But I, I think that's the biggest thing is really kind of understand the, the current state and help the help the employee base understand where you are and, and, and why, and why that's an issue, you know, whether it be, you know, whether it be a quality issue, whether it be a lead time issue, whether, you know, whether it be, you know, we're missing, we're missing, you know, 80% of our delivery times and, and really digging in. And, and, and the other piece I think is trying not to assess blame, right? It's, it's, it's, this is, you know, it's a group effort we're in this together. Let's, let's figure it out. And, and, you know, we, we may ask you to kind of put aside your, your traditional experiences and, and think a little bit differently out of the box, but we'll, we'll help you along the way.

Mark Graban (14m 37s):
Yeah. So when you talk about this need for transformational leaders, I, I'd be curious to hear some of your thought process in evaluating, let's say, bringing a candidate from one company into a new company, how to evaluate, or, or to, to, to understand, let's say if somebody is coming from company that has a relatively long history with lean, you might describe them. Nobody's perfect. But as a quote, unquote lean culture where they know how to operate and improve within that culture, how, how can we evaluate, if somebody can come into a place that's a turnaround situation, if it's their first true transformation opportunity, does it come back to that?

Mark Graban (15m 21s):
Just that willingness of, yeah. I wanna take that on. Or how, how do you help make sure somebody's really up for that challenge?

Jake Stiles (15m 28s):
Yeah, no good question. I, you know, the willingness of the, the raising of the hand is the first signal, right? Sure. That cuz you may find somebody that's done pieces of that, that transformation that's sitting in front of 'em, but, but not all at the same time. Right. Or they've done chunks at, at different companies. And, and so you, the raising of the hand, first of all, you know, that's that that's critical, you know, but it's, it's a lot of this, I mean the technical piece, mark, the technical proficiency and the experience, those are things that are not easy to find, but we, we find 'em pretty readily, right. We we've got a, we've got a large network and, and we know how to utilize that network, but it always, always comes down to personality.

Jake Stiles (16m 18s):
Right. If you find someone that is 10 out of 10 technically. Right. And they, and, but they can't, they can't engage the workforce. It's it's, it's, it's the transformations gonna be limited, right, right. From a performance or from an improvement standpoint. So you know, what, what we're focused on. So when we do a, when we pick up a new assignment, whether it be an existing client or, or new client that was referred to us, we spent a lot of upfront time really understanding current state and future state. Right. What, what, what are, you know, what are the issues let's, let's talk about that.

Jake Stiles (17m 0s):
Let's talk about that for, and, and really get into the details and dig down as to why do you think that's happening? Is it, is it a leadership issue? Is, is it a, is, is it a product development issue, right. And really dig down and understand what it is that the problem that they're trying to solve. And, and there are certainly plenty of occasions where they, you know, a client will come to us with, with one spec or one idea of what they think they need. And at the end of that conversation, or after talking to a few candidates, we all come to the conclusion that, Hey, I think we were probably 60% right on this, but here's the 40%. I think we're missing based on some of these conversations and the dialogue that we've had with candidates and the dialogue you've had with some of the folks that we've put in front of you.

Jake Stiles (17m 46s):
And so it's just, it's, it's always a work in process. And so we, we really focus on early and often alignment. You know, we, we are, we have to have access to the hiring manager and their team. Right. And, and we, we, we're not, we are very open in terms of how we communicate, we're feeding back data from the Canada pool that might affect the search. Right. And, and at the same time, we're, we're throwing ideas out there as a team, as, as we partner with our clients and, and, and that group, we're throwing ideas back and forth, just playing catch ball.

Jake Stiles (18m 30s):
What if we had someone like this, you know, you mentioned this was a concern, do you think this type of experience would be, would be helpful? So it's really getting aligned around what they, what the client actually needs in conjunction with what's available on the market. And then, you know, through those conversations, you start to get a really, really good sense of what's, what's a style within the organization that is successful. Right. And, and part of that for us is we use we'll use personality assessments. And we, again, my, my father started this back in 1991, but when we were building out consulting firms, these were, these were jobs.

Jake Stiles (19m 22s):
These, these folks were traveling five days a week, you know, 48 weeks a year. Yeah. Right. And so you had to love the work. Right. And so we started using personality assessments to understand, you know, who's really reacting positively and who's doing who who's really working phenomenally well in, in this, in, in these roles. And we were able to start to build a profile what that looked like from personality standpoint. And so again, you know, and then what we would do is we, we would, we would test two or three people within the client company that emulate or have the right style for the organization, either that works now, or, or that they feel is gonna work in the future.

Jake Stiles (20m 8s):
And then we can, it never makes or breaks someone's candidacy. It just gives you another layer of information to look at. But it, it it's just really ha helpful in providing that roadmap. So again, we we've been saying it for years, it's 80% personality. Yeah. Right. And so our job really becomes not only understanding the technical piece of it, but, you know, what's, what's the right style for the organization. Yeah. You know, what, what, what's, what's the type of personality that's gonna engage this workforce?

Mark Graban (20m 36s):
Well, it's interesting, Jake, what, what you're describing elements of your search process sounds, you know, there, there are clear parallels to what you were describing in terms of a transformation process for a new leader coming in. Right. Understanding the current state, understanding the issues. And then I think as you touched on a willingness to iterate

Jake Stiles (20m 56s):

Mark Graban (20m 56s):
Instead of saying, well, we have experience, we know the answers, we know exactly what's right. Like testing and evaluating is very much a lean thought process. It seems.

Jake Stiles (21m 5s):
Right. Right. Yeah. I mean, you think about the market today. And so we're a boutique firm. We're, we're, we're 12 people. Right. And, and we are, you know, we're very specialized around lean, but we work across a broad range of industries. Right. But that, that need to have flexibility and really understand on the way into that client conversation, that there, there there's a group of issues that they're trying to solve. And let's, let's really dig in as a team to understand what those are, but understand that they may, they may also shift right. And, and be willing to make that shift and, and ultimately help them find the right person.

Jake Stiles (21m 47s):
That's, you know, for us, those relationships are critical for us, both a client and candidate relationships. And if we do our job right. You know, it, it, it, those relationships just continue to grow. I mean, it, the, the vast majority of our business is, is repeat and referral. Right. And, and so we very rarely find ourselves walking into a shootout with another firm. Right. Because one, because we're so specialized, but also two we've probably already been given an introduction. Sure.

Mark Graban (22m 23s):
So, Jake, one other question about sort of, you know, a candidate, a person making a leap, you know, kind of talk about from company a, to company B within an industry, you know, as you've done a lot of placements in healthcare and service sector, I ask in particular about healthcare, just general thoughts or reflections on people successfully making that leap from manufacturing experience into a healthcare organization. Yeah. What are you, what are you looking for? What are key success factors?

Jake Stiles (22m 54s):
Yeah. Yeah. It's a lot of it comes down to, again, personality, emotional intelligence, reading your audience. Right. So, so when we did, when we did all the work that, that, that Ted Stiles and I accomplished with the Cleveland Clinic and, and then the, the work that Ted's done beyond it, that was really, again, trying to understand what they were trying to accomplish. And then at that point, coming, helping them come to the realization that look there just, isn't a pool candidates like this, that exists in healthcare.

Jake Stiles (23m 41s):
There, there wasn't at the time. Right. And so we're gonna have to think creatively about where we're gonna find these people. And so instinctively, we, we knew that we would find these people in manufacturing, maybe a handful had, had moved on to manufacturing, moved into service, but the, the, the critical training and technical experience and, and knowledge of lean and experience with, with implementation was gonna, was gonna predominantly come from folks that had spent time in manufacturing and, and learned it through years and years of experience in the right environment. And, and, and so once, once we were able to make them comfortable with that, then it came down to really identifying who are the candidates that can make it in this, in this environment, right.

Jake Stiles (24m 33s):
Because you're gonna run into environments where they don't, they don't want you to come in and use all the Japanese jargon and, and really kind of try to create something that is meaningful to that, to that team in, in, in, in, and help create that process. Right. You, you, you're, you're using all the same tools and, and it's, it's always back to the basics right. With, with the transformation. So you're using all those tools. You just may call 'em something different. And, and you may do that to engage a team on a higher level, or you, you know, did you create some ownership? So that, that, that was the tricky part, was finding people that were comfortable kind of walking in the new environments that, that had showed success.

Jake Stiles (25m 21s):
So we looked at people that had worked in manufacturing, maybe they worked across a wide range of manufacturing companies, different, you know, totally different transformations, different challenges, but somehow they always were able to kind of were able to drive the right results right. As sustained results. And so those were the people that we're looking for, the people that, that were gonna sort of look at the opportunity when the healthcare understand and really appreciate the value proposition, cuz it's hard not to. Right. And understand that, Hey, I've, I'm gonna move from the shop floor. I'm gonna be wearing a suit and tie every day. The work is the same.

Jake Stiles (26m 1s):
How I engage the team is a little different is, is a bit different, but that's okay. Yeah. Right. Because at the end of the day, it's all about it's it's relationships. It's, it's again, understanding the current state and the future state helping identify the gaps, helping the, you know, helping the team, see where the gaps were and, and really pulling that team together and, and helping them get to the right answer or answers. So that, that, that's how we did it, you know, there was, and that's how we continue to do it. You know, now there's a, there there's a, a larger pool of candidates within healthcare, obviously.

Jake Stiles (26m 42s):
So you can find people that have transformation experience in healthcare, but I, I wouldn't let that, but don't limit, don't limit your candidate pool just to healthcare. Cuz there are a lot of very good transformational executives that have proven themselves in a variety of industries that, that can, that can bridge that gap. Yeah.

Mark Graban (27m 7s):
And you know, it seems like, I mean the, here's my observation about healthcare. I want to hear your reaction. Of course, Jake seems for a number of reasons, healthcare is more likely to bring people in from the outside, into, let's say an internal lean facilitator role, or maybe bring them in as a VP of whatever they call it. VP of operational excellence or VP of continuous improvement. It seems far less common for healthcare to bring somebody in as, you know, a line executive sort of role. I'm curious if, if, if that's your observation as well, have you seen people make leap from kinda, you know, internal lean specialist role into a role more directly leading part of a health system?

Jake Stiles (27m 59s):
Yeah, I think that's, I, I, we, we have the same observation. Okay. Right. I I, and I think it's unfortunate that it doesn't happen. I'd agree because I think you, you and I both know in the transformation stories in healthcare that, that we've seen, you know, the ones that really stick up out, there are ones that had a, may have brought somebody from the outside that didn't have that experience. You had a bit of an enlightened leader, a CEO that was willing to take some risks. And so, so I, I, I agree. I agree with that statement. And I, and you know, again, I think it's unfortunate because I, I do think that at times it can, it can hamstring the transformation process a little bit, you know, but, but on, on, on the other hand, if you have a, if you have an executive leader that you know, is willing to raise his or her hand and say, look, I just don't understand this.

Jake Stiles (29m 4s):
I know we need to do something different. I just don't understand how to get there because we're not getting there on our, with our current process. Can you come and partner with me and help me understand? And they're willing to, to make some of those, those, you know, make the changes required. That's, that's a, that's a strong partnership as well. Yeah. Right. And, and so there's a benefit to that because the, the executive leader already knows the found, you know, knows the landscape, knows the players, right. And he, or she can provide some, some ground support, but, you know, in general and, and the right transformational executive should be able to walk into just about any environment.

Jake Stiles (29m 54s):
And, and with a little, a little bit of work, really understand where the pain points are. And most importantly, engage the workforce around how do we start to close those gaps?

Mark Graban (30m 6s):
Right. And, you know, there's, maybe this is a hypothesis, but it would be interesting to see what would happen. Let's say if there's a, a large health system, that's very committed to their lean journey. Just thinking out loud here, if let's say they had a system chief operating officer role, would they bring in somebody from, let's say another industry who had done that same role in a different environment, or if they were looking for a hospital CEO, would they bring in somebody who had previously been, let's say a business unit CEO with P&L responsibility, couple thousand employees. It seems like there would be leadership experience and business savvy that would be transferable, but healthcare, again, this just, you know, observation.

Mark Graban (30m 54s):
And I think it's unfortunate. It seems very rarely recruits from the outside when it sounds like you and I are suggesting, gosh, there are transferable leadership skills and experiences that could potentially be

Jake Stiles (31m 7s):
Brought. Yeah, yeah, yeah, no, I, I, I agree with that. And again, if, if that's the case, but you've gotta, you've got a, an enlightened CEO, right. That, that, you know, has a little bit of that obsessive or, or per persistence to not wanna settle Again. You, you, you link them up with the right personality and experience transformational executive. I, I think they can make a win. I, I don't know that I, you know, to your point, mark, I don't know if that, if I see that changing in healthcare, that's, that's not like other industries, right.

Jake Stiles (31m 49s):
We, we, in, in, in manufacturing, or even in service, we can take a, a CEO out of a, a, a new environment based on their experience or an environment based on their experience and put 'em into a new environment. And they, they can be at, you know, they can be tremendously successful. Yeah. But it's, I, I, it just feels like a, it feels like a stretch that healthcare's not really willing or interested in taking.

Mark Graban (32m 17s):
Yeah. So, so Jake, maybe let's, you know, we've got an opportunity here to, you know, pick your brain about sure. Some broader trends when it comes to, you know, talent and recruiting and hiring and retention, you know, as you're working with companies that are doing a search, you know, how, how do you counsel them when it seems like a very competitive market for talent the most in the last couple of years, are there differences in the approach when it comes to retaining a firm for a search or just hiring in general?

Jake Stiles (32m 52s):
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. The market, the landscape of the market certainly changed. And, and it is, it remains a very, very competitive can candidate-driven market. And we remain very, very busy and we are, we are working very closely with our clients to, to help alleviate their pain and, and, and counsel them on, on exactly what you just described. So the, you know, first of all, it's, it's the early and often alignment, right. And the willingness to flex to changing conditions.

Jake Stiles (33m 32s):
Right. And so we, we try to create that partnership, you know, right off the bat with that, you know, with that client, I think in this type of market, it's, it's important to be very much in lockstep with your client on sort of what are the boundaries of what they're willing to accept in terms of experience level, you know, is it someone that, you know, is ready for that next step? Or, or is it somebody that's been around the block a few times that, you know, and so what are the, and, and so we, we have those conversations and, and, and, you know, based on our experience, we we'll we'll counsel them in one direction or the other, or we'll say, look, let's, let's look at both and, and see what happens, right.

Jake Stiles (34m 13s):
We'll show your range of candidates. I think the critical thing, though, that we're finding is, you know, it's a conversation around, look, you, you hired us, we're gonna align with you. We're gonna go to market and we're gonna find you the best candidates. We're not gonna show you 15 candidates. We're gonna show you five, but if we're doing our job, right, if that first candidate is the right one, you need to be ready to make a move. So you need to have a, you need to have a buttoned up process, buttoned up vetting process on the client side. And we talk about this, all this during our intake calls, and really have a good understanding of, you know, what are the gaps you're, you're, you're trying to really fill what's that experience look like, and we help them through all these conversations.

Jake Stiles (35m 5s):
And just know that if, if we, if we put candidates on the back burner that are really good, we're likely to, to lose them. So what's happening now. And what has been happening for the last two and a half years is, you know, our, our job is really to go out and find passive candidates, candidates that weren't necessarily looking when we called them. So when we do that, what is happening is usually because we, we, we got them to think about something different and they've expressed interest usually within, within a couple weeks, they've accepted a few other calls, right? And, and so there may be two other companies that they're, they're in conversations with.

Jake Stiles (35m 49s):
And so the need for kind of accuracy, alignment, speed, but, and I don't say speed over thoroughness in terms of betting. Sure. I think it's a combination and really being in lockstep around, look, this is what we think the right candidate looks like when we see it, we're we may push you to make, to, to make an offer. Right. And, and we can give you all the background data and have all those discussions around other people in the, the pipeline and sort of, and, and help you in that conversation. But if you need to move, it's a second candidate, let's, let's move and be because you've never, I don't think there's ever been a case where a candidate was interviewing with a company for six months, where at the end of that process, they get an offer.

Jake Stiles (36m 41s):
Yeah. And, and they accept, or they don't accept. But the reaction is never, wow. That was a great process. Right. You always hear about the stories where, Hey, I, I had a conversation with the CEO or the, or the, the board on, on Thursday. They flew me in Monday. And by Wednesday, they, they said I was a person and they had an offer to me. Right. And so it's, so I think it's just to be really clear and consistent on what you're looking for, you know, and I, again, we go back to personality being 80% of the game.

Jake Stiles (37m 21s):
I mean, you may find a candidate, we may uncover a candidate and say, look, technically this, person's got 60% of what you're looking for, but personality wise, they've got 110. You need to talk to this person. And if you can, let's get 'em in Friday, or let's get 'em in over the weekend. Let's, let's have these conversations and that, that personality match trumps, right, trumps everything else. Right. Right. Because again, if you're looking for transformational leadership, it's around, how do you engage the workforce, you know, and you need, you need the right personality, the right leadership experience and, and, and the right playbook.

Jake Stiles (38m 1s):
Yeah. So does that answer your question?

Mark Graban (38m 3s):
Yeah. It, it does. And you bring up a lot of in, you know, there's some key points there. One, I think the general lean thinking about flow, right? Yeah. Whether it's flow of a patient through an emergency room or the flow of a product through a manufacturing facility, you know, you raise a key point, Jake is that, you know, speed can't, you know, we, we, we don't want tradeoffs between speed and quality. So when we have an, an intentional process, right. When we're taking out delays, we can improve flow and make higher quality decisions that are also faster decisions. And, you know, it seems like there's an opportunity, you know, for, for organizations to look at their hiring process and, you know, not just doing the work faster, but eliminating the delays when it comes to communication or discussions, it seems like that's the key to being able to move more quickly and not lose a candidate to another offer.

Jake Stiles (38m 57s):
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And, and, and just high communication, you know, our, our phones are always on, right. That, you know, we, we it's, it's absolutely not uncommon for us to be on the phone, on the weekends or at night with clients or candidates or references, or, you know, just in an effort to continue the momentum.

Mark Graban (39m 20s):
Yeah. And, you know, it seems like what, what, what I hear you saying, I think is, you know, part of this iteration is looking at maybe a profile of an ideal candidate, but then thinking through, well, if we can't find the ideal candidate, what dimensions are most important? Yeah. What are we willing to, to, to bend or take a bit of a risk on, right.

Jake Stiles (39m 43s):
Right. What are we willing to flex on

Mark Graban (39m 45s):
Flex? Yeah.

Jake Stiles (39m 46s):
Right. You know, and, and that all goes back to that, that, that initial intake call, but the ongoing conversations you're having with clients around what's going on, you know, what's going on in the business, what, you know, what's, what's changed and, you know, have you thought about this, have you thought about this, or I understand why you're asking for this, but have you thought about this? Right. And, and a lot of that comes from, look, we've got a good team, we've got a good season team that is very good at picking up cues and, and just listening to clients and listening to candidates as they explain their, their journey. Yeah. Right. And, and, and things will just pop out and you'll say, huh, that's, you know, that really makes a lot of sense.

Jake Stiles (40m 31s):
And I'm not sure the client's thought about this and, and you'll dig deeper in there. And then you come back with that information and, and you're, you know, you're excited about it, right? You, you you're, you're in the process, you're part of the team. And, and, but it's, it's, it's critical. I mean, that, that speed, flexibility, thoroughness, and alignment. Those are all tremendously important in, in, in this market. For sure. Yeah.

Mark Graban (40m 56s):
So, Jake, what advice would you have for a listener? Who's thinking about changing jobs, advice in particular about working with a recruiter, working with a retained search firm, like Stiles, associates.

Jake Stiles (41m 13s):
Yeah. I, this is mark as, as we've kind of touched on. And as I, as we've talked about in the past, this has been a crazy market, a totally candidate driven market, and the candidates candidates that are making a move solely on compensation increase. It probably isn't the right thing to do. Right. It's, it's, it's gotta be a fit. There's gonna be a correction at some point. I can't tell you when, but there's gonna be a correction at some point in terms of compensation. And so you need to continue to make job moves for the right reasons, you know, and it should be a combination of transformation.

Jake Stiles (42m 7s):
Sounds incredible. You know, maybe I'm, maybe I've gotta hit the level I've gone as far as I can in my current organization and I'm ready for a new challenge and they don't have it right now. And that's why I'm looking and, and my family and I are up removed. Right. So it's gotta, it's, it's gotta, it's just gotta fit and it can't be solely on compensation. Yeah. Right. And the other advice I'd have for, for candidates is, you know, behavior wise, make sure you're not burning bridges.

Jake Stiles (42m 47s):
Right. Right. You, you can't do it burning bridges with your current employer, your fir your future employer, or, or, or a trusted recruiter that you've been working with. Yeah. And because it's just gonna come back around at you some point. Right, right. Right. So, you know, just, just make the move for the right reasons. That's it, you know, that's, that's, that's what I tell you. And, and, and the rest should fall into place. Yeah.

Mark Graban (43m 19s):
But when it comes to looking for that opportunity, if someone is shifting from passive to active candidate, you know, there there's job postings out on different employer websites. Yeah. Versus for example, going to your website and, you know, submitting a resume and trying to start that relationship with, with somebody at Stiles or, or retain search firm is a path. Maybe, you know, that that's a path people might not think about if they're thinking, well just looks on the company websites,

Jake Stiles (43m 56s):

Mark Graban (43m 57s):
Different path.

Jake Stiles (43m 58s):
Yeah. A different path. I think it, it, but, but the same reason they, they, they move from passive to, or the reason that they're moving from passive to active, there should be consistency in that thought right around. Why am I doing this? What is it about my current situation? I'm not enjoying, is it location? Is it, is it, is it the culture isn't right. Is it, is it that I feel like I'm being underutilized and it could be, I feel like I'm being underpaid right. For, for the job I'm asking where they're asking me to continue to do, to do more and more yet my compensation isn't increasing.

Jake Stiles (44m 41s):
Right. And just be, you know, as you're thinking about, if you're gonna move from passive act and be thinking about those things, why, why am I really looking, what am I really looking for? Those are the conversations you should be having with a, with a trusted recruiter or a firm and say, Hey, just keep me in mind. This is ideal. But if you find something like this, I'm willing to flex. And because as soon as, as soon as you get serious about a potential new role, a good recruiter's gonna dig into all those motivations. Because, you know, if a, if a client company and a recruiter come to the conclusion that you're just doing it for compensation, they they're likely to walk away because it's not good for the client company.

Jake Stiles (45m 26s):
It's not good for the recruiter. And it's at the end, in the end, it's not good for the candidate either. Sure. So you just, just be thoughtful about why, you know, why you're making those moves and play it out and talk to people about it.

Mark Graban (45m 37s):
Yeah. And then, you know, I wanna get your reaction, Jake too. You know, it seems like, you know, advice that I would give people, if they're not looking for a change and a recruiter reaches out to you, email or LinkedIn message, and you're not looking, you know, it seems like it's good form to not just delete or blow off the message that you can either make suggestions about other people in your network, or even just, is, is it good advice to, to at least reply and reach out and say, well, I'm not looking right now, but like what, what, what, what should somebody do to try to build a relationship with a recruiter that might be helpful in the future?

Jake Stiles (46m 20s):
Yeah. Hey, that's that, that's it, you know, Hey, I, I've only got about a minute to talk here, but, and I'm not looking, maybe tell me what you're looking for and I'll keep it in mind. And I think, think of anybody I'll certainly send 'em your way, you know? And, and in the future, I'd like to stay in touch. It's pretty easy, right. Pretty easy stuff. And, and you know, a lot of the work we're doing mark as executive level. So those, you know, and, and for us, it's typically I, if it's a new candidate that we haven't talked to, we probably have connections to 'em already that they figured out and, and we figured out, and, and it's, you know, those are great conversations.

Jake Stiles (47m 2s):
It can be, Hey, you know, that's, I understand you're not looking, but is there anybody in your network you think might kind of, for whom this might appeal and they're, they're typically very, very gracious with their time. Right. And, and, and same for us. They may call us with questions around the market, or they may, you know, and, and we'll, we'll take the time to chat with them as well,

Mark Graban (47m 26s):
Talked about compensation and the fact that a correction might be coming, it would be a correction to like, what have been the trends you're seeing a trend of, you know, increasing compensation that goes in line with increased demand for talent then.

Jake Stiles (47m 45s):
Yeah. Yeah. You know, so I think there's obviously been, been pretty significant increases in compensation and in situations where we've had candidates have been actively looking and they've, they've received offers, which have been good, you know, maybe above typical increases, which is the norm in this market. But then they receive a counter offer the exorbitant, a counter offer from their current employer and they take it. Those are some of the corrections that I, that I think you're gonna see.

Jake Stiles (48m 25s):
Right. I, I think those, and I couldn't tell you when I just instinctively, I think we, we feel that that's gonna happen at some point. And if you're leaving yourself out there as the highest paid person on the team, by a long, by a long way, you know, it, it, it, and you, you know, and, and we have a theory about counter offers too. Right. I was gonna ask if you, if you accept a counter offer, right. Your, you know, your company knew that obviously knew that you were looking and something wasn't going on. And if they don't take the time to really understand what the issue was, and then yet they just give you the counter offer.

Jake Stiles (49m 9s):
You may, you may be short. It, it may not be a long, long career. Right. But yeah. So I, again, just instinctively, as we talk about it as a team, there will be a correction for that type of stuff. I mean, it's, it's just bound to happen. Yeah.

Mark Graban (49m 27s):
So when, when it comes to counter offers, I mean, there's a school of thought there's advice that floats around that says it's a bad idea to accept the counter offer. If you've told your current employer that you're leaving that accepting a counter offer can, can lead to issues down the road. What, what are your, is, is that general advice or is it very, is it more situational than saying never accept a counter offer?

Jake Stiles (49m 53s):
Look, I, I think it's situational, right? I think it's, I think it's very situational, but again, if, if you've moved from, pass it to active and you're, you're really consistent on why you're making the move, then a counter offer probably doesn't make sense, You know, unless the company says, well, I didn't, you know, I didn't realize that we'd love to hang on. And, and you weren't looking because, you know, the candidate wasn't looking because they didn't like the culture. Right. And the, the company says, well, why don't we do this? Right. And, and it, and it kind of hits eight out of the 10, you know, then, then maybe it makes sense, but, you know, again, just be consistent on your thinking and why you're, you know, why you're making the move.

Jake Stiles (50m 35s):
And I, I think if you accept a counter offer and it goes against all that prior consistent thinking, then it's probably not the right move.

Mark Graban (50m 44s):
Yeah. So, so Jake, as, as we wrap up here, you know, tell us a little bit more about the types of companies that Stiles Associates work with. I know it's across different industries, but talking about like, you know, smaller, medium, large size companies, the profile of the ownership, how many of them are, are public, private, private equity companies?

Jake Stiles (51m 8s):
It's, market's a pretty wide variety, right? So we work with companies of, of just about all sizes. So we certainly work with large, publicly traded companies domestically and abroad in, but we're also easily 50 plus percent of our work is for private equity portfolio companies that can range from again, 25 million to, to, to multi-billion international organizations. Right. So it's a really wide range of companies that we support. And then industry wise quite a bit of work still in manufacturing in 70%, probably still in manufacturing, but that's every type of manufacturing you can think of, whether it be food or chemicals, or it'd be discrete, you know, large commercial vehicles to, to bicycles to, again, food it's, it's all over the BA it's all over the map.

Jake Stiles (52m 12s):
Sure. And then obviously we, we do quite a bit of work in healthcare and, and have for a number of years. And then we're also doing work just in, in straight service industry, whether it be financial services, insurance, it's, it's it, you know, more transactional environments. So we're very capable and had a lot of experience in those areas. And so we, it, it, the, the calls really come as a result of our, our ability to identify trans you know, transformational executives that can, that can walk into a number of different environments and, and drive the right results and, and engagement levels.

Jake Stiles (53m 0s):
Right. So we're not, that's just how it works for us. So we're, we're fairly spread out.

Mark Graban (53m 8s):
Yeah. And is you work with candidates? It seems like there we've already touched on some of the leaps somebody might make in their career from one company to another, from one type of manufacturing to another, there might also be that leap of, let's say working for a private equity owned company for the first time. Are, are there any different considerations that you see for somebody who is possibly taking that step in their career?

Jake Stiles (53m 35s):
Yeah. Yeah. I, I think, again, it's just, it's understanding how you like to work and, and what your expectations are and what you're trying to accomplish in, in your own career. You know, it, the, the pace typically in, in, in private equity can be quite a bit faster than in a publicly traded organization. So you, you need to recognize that. And, and if that's something it's, if you've been working in publicly traded organizations for a long time, and, you know, if it's, if it's an organization that has red tape and a lot of bureaucracy, you know, it, and you wanna move at a faster pace, then, you know, that might be a good, good reason to look, you know?

Jake Stiles (54m 18s):
So, but again, the, a lot of the people that we've a lot of the executives that we've worked with, let's say specifically on the private executive private equity side, they spent their, the earlier portions of their career in publicly traded companies getting, you know, very, very solid training and, and the foundation needed to be successful moving forward. Right. So there's, it just depends on where you're going, but I think that's the biggest difference is, is, is typically, can be the pace.

Mark Graban (54m 53s):
Yeah. Well, well, Jake, thank you for being here on the podcast today. Again, our guest has been Jake Stiles, CEO of Stiles Associates. If you are looking to hire, if you are a candidate looking for a, a change, you can reach out to them. Their website is lean execs.com. If, if you wanna learn more, at least start that conversation.

Jake Stiles (55m 18s):
This has been a, a great first introduction to this is our first time doing this. So it was enjoyable.

Mark Graban (55m 23s):
Okay. Well, good. Well, Jake, thanks again. Thanks again for being a guest. You're welcome. Well, Again, to learn more about Jake and Stiles Associates, look for links in the show notes, you can go to leanexecs.com or you can go to leanblog.org/456.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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