judith beck
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Judith Beck: How to separate high-fliers from imposters when hiring talent

About the episode
If you're fed up with hiring disasters, this podcast is for you. Judith Beck shares insider tips on how you can matchmake your business with the right talent. Before founding Financial Executive Women (FEW), Judith ran a thriving recruitment business where she interviewed 40,000 candidates over 25 years, giving her extraordinary insight into the best hiring practices and where companies often go wrong. Offering a candid discussion on a range of hiring topics, from breaking the ice in interviews to common resume lies, this podcast is rich in practical advice on the small changes you can make to boost your chances of recruitment success.
"Always hire people better than you – your team will flourish and you will flourish. Always have someone who can fill your shoe."
— Judith
"A business is made up of its people. That's your biggest asset. So I've always found it quite perplexing that, for such an investment, people don't take the time to make sure they've got the right person in their team."
— Alex
Guest on this episode:
Judith Beck is the founder and CEO of Financial Executive Women (FEW), an initiative to promote the progression of women through advocacy, guidance and support. She is also a keynote speaker and authority on leadership, recruitment practices and high performance workforce. Passionate about helping women advance in their careers, Judith is an inspiration to others with her focus, energy and "can-do" attitude.
TRANSCRIPT
Announcer:
Hi, listeners. You've jumped into the Engage.Coach.Grow. Podcast. This podcast is dedicated to all of you self-improvers who want to become phenomenal leaders. This podcast will fire your passion for all things high performance. On each show, we host the very best leaders in Australia, the one-percenters that do things a little bit differently to the rest of us that gets them remarkable results. Find out what's in their high-performance DNA and how you can tap into yours. With the High-Performance Leadership app, you'll get access to the very habits, practices and frameworks that have made the top leaders the very best in Australia. It's leadership coaching for you from the best. Download it now and get coached from the most inspiring, highly successful leaders at the top of their game. Go to trampolineplatform.com/hpl. That URL is trampolineplatform.com/hpl. Okay, let's jump right into the conversation.

Judith:
Look, at the end of the day, we're all human, and most humans want to succeed. They want to work in a positive environment. They want to work for inspirational leaders, and they want to improve their own skill levels. The attitude and the mindset will make all the difference.

Alex:
That speaking was Judith Beck. For those of you who don't know Judith, she is an incredibly experienced and dynamic lady. Judith is the founder and CEO of Financial Executive Women, otherwise known as FEW, which promotes the positive progression of women through experience, guidance and support. FEW's members include some of Australia's most successful leaders within several major financial institutions. Judith was also the founder and managing director of Financial Recruitment Group, which she established in 1995 and has extensive experience in executive search within the financial services industry. Judith has successfully placed hundreds and hundreds of candidates over the years at Senior to MD level. This is a woman who knows what it takes to be the best, and she knows all the signs.

Alex:
In today's podcast, listen out for this theme, which I personally love, of what Judith talks about around the obvious but not obvious things that set top performers apart from the rest.

Judith:
If I was doing reference checking these days, because you're right, it is almost impossible to let somebody go. If you don't get it right, it's going to cost you a fortune and it's going to take months, if not years. The first question, the first thing as a hiring manager, the hiring manager must, and I say must, be the person who contact the referee directly, not through referee checking companies and those types of things. They need to contact one of the managers that the person has reported to, and the question that they ask them is that would you hire this person back again in this role, in the role that they were in at the time?

Judith:
If that person says something like, "Look, it really would depend on the position," that's a red flag because they're diverting. What you want to hear is, "Oh absolutely, I would hire them back in a minute." You want to hear that excitement. If they go and say something like, "Look, I really can't say. They have really good skills." There's something wrong. You have to ... and, see, a reference checking company won't be able to relay back to you the tone.

Alex:
Here's the ultimate question. When you are reference checking those talented people, you have just spent hours and hours searching for interviewing and background checking on, ask their previous leader whether they would hire them back in the same role again. According to Judith, this is where you can really tell. Is there a hesitation? Is there absolute enthusiasm for rehiring the candidate that you're now looking for? I guess the point is, guys, the talent in your organisation will make or break you. Do not outsource reference checking and these critical parts of the recruitment process to someone else. You need to invest the time and do it yourself.

Announcer:
This is the Engage.Coach.Grow. Podcast.

Alex:
It's so fascinating hearing about the early days of Judith's career and how she started in banking in Dallas and then right through to starting her own executive search firm in her early 30s in Australia. There are so many things I picked up from listening to her. One, she's actually always been very entrepreneurial, and she's always looking for ways to consistently add value and really I guess learn more skills. The other thing that I love about listening to her is this mind-boggling statistic that over her executive search career, she's calculated that she's interviewed something around 40,000 applicants. That to me says, wow, you've got a lot of data on what really sets the top performers apart, as she'll start to tell us.

Judith:
I came to Australia in the '80s, a long time ago. Before that, I worked in banking in Dallas and then I came to Australia in '84 and I worked in banking and financial services in the early '80s. In my early 30s, I started an executive search firm, which went for 25 years, Financial Recruitment Group, very successful. We did a lot of assignments for the major financial institutions. During that time, I calculated actually that during those 25 years that I had interviewed, if I only interviewed eight people week, then I had interviewed over 40,000 people, which is a lot of people.

Judith:
During that time, there are trends. Things form as far as why people stand out and why those are successful and why others aren't. There's a pattern. That came as a result. I did this presentation called Top 10, which highlights why are some people at the top of their game and others aren't. It's because the top 10 percenters do things consistently well over their career.

Judith:
During that time, I also noticed why women weren't getting to the top of the ladder, which actually had less to do with discrimination and more to do with the fact that they didn't have the same support system as the guys did.

Alex:
One of the consistent themes that Judith talks about and really the reason behind why she actually founded FEW in the first place is that she really saw the need for people to have the right people in their corner. She talks about, which I love, back when she was 10, her first really big influencers were her mom and her grandma about make your own money. You'll have choices. Have the right people in your corner that is giving you sage advice. Fast forward to today when Judith talks about financial executive women and what she sees that are professionals, not just women but professionals need is this concept of this personal advisory board in their corner that they can bounce ideas off and get really sage advice from.

Judith:
One of the things that stands out for me is you need to have people in your corner right from the very beginning to be the best at what you want to be in your career. My first influencers were my grandmother and my mother. Right from the beginning, my grandmother said to me, I was about 10 years old and I went to, I think it was a lunch or a tea or something that they had back in those days, and some lady said, "Oh Judith, it's just as easy to marry a rich man as a poor man." My grandmother was so annoyed by that. She pulls me aside and she goes, "You make your own money and you'll have choices."

Alex:
A question for you guys. Who are the six or seven or eight or even five people that you have in your corner that you trust to give you great advice? This is not people who will just tell you what you want to hear. Who is in your corner that you can soundboard with, get objective advice, potentially they can push back on you, you all those things? If you can't make that list right now, that is your homework. Go and find a list of five people that you trust as your personal advisory board who are in your corner.

Judith:
My mother and my grandmother were very strong role models, and my father was very supportive. I'm the youngest of five girls, and all my sisters went off and did things. I think that's very important in anyone's development to have those role models behind them. That's what I'm trying to do today with FEW, is provide women with the advocates, because when I was recruiting, I would see that the guys, when they would get to the shortlist, I could tell they had seven or eight people in their corner who were giving them tips and advice of what to do. That's a big take advantage.

Announcer:
The point of this show is to facilitate a bold new conversation between the top leaders of Australia and you, the listener, wherever you are in your leadership career. It's about learning what those defining moments of change are, overcoming tough challenges and unlocking the 1% differences that make you a truly great leader. Keep listening as we reveal their toughest challenges. If you want to know how to overcome the seemingly impossible and get the truth about what it really takes to succeed, download the High-Performance Leadership app. Download it now and get coached from the most inspiring, highly successful leaders at the top of their game. Go to trampolineplatform.com/hpl. That URL is trampolineplatform.com/hpl.

Judith:
In Dallas, the prime roles to get out of uni were receptionist or the mail boy. The mail boy, Jerry was his name, he had a law degree. We were just so happy to get into the bank because we knew if we had those jobs that those would be front position roles to be able to meet other people in the company. One of the things that my role models, my parents and role models taught me, when I went into the working environment, I didn't go, "Oh, I'm a female." I didn't think of myself as a gender. I thought of myself as a business person, how do I get from A to B? What do I need to do to get from A to B? I did not put that gender issue in front of me as a barrier. I didn't even think that way.

Judith:
My goal was how do I get to the next role? If I'm the receptionist, I'm going to get to meet everybody that comes into the office. I'll develop a relationship with them and hopefully, when a position becomes available, they'll think of me. I'll network, and I did. After probably about three or four months, someone said to me, "Oh, did you know there's a role going in credit? You should apply for that." I did, and I got it, but I started to build that. It wasn't because I was born that way. It's because I had people in my corner telling me and giving me tips. My sisters had all been through it so they were giving me tips. My sister is the one who got me the job as the receptionist because the HR person was her neighbour so she said, "There's a job going in the bank. You should go for it." You need people who are in your corner telling you give it a go. What have you got to lose?

Alex:
From Judith's first role as a receptionist in a bank in Dallas, she is already displaying those traits of someone who is a high performer because instead of looking at the role, it's only a receptionist, or as she says her colleague, only the mail boy who also had a law degree, she saw this as the opportunity because you are front and centre in the company. You got to meet everyone. You've got to make a great first impression. As she says, she just thinks of herself as a business person and how do I get from A to B?

Judith:
You have to practice and develop it over time. I can't think of ... I think there's very few people in this world that would say, "Oh, I'd love to go up to somebody I don't know and introduce myself." It just doesn't happen that way. You have to try it and practice it. It's like going into an elevator and seeing two people in there who are looking down at their phones and saying, "Good morning." That doesn't come easy. If you do that a few times and then all of a sudden someone look up and says good morning back to you, you feel good. You have to practice it.

Judith:
It's like doing a presentation. The first time you get up behind that podium and do a presentation, I guarantee you'll fumble, you'll read your notes, you'll look down the whole time, and you'll feel nervous. After maybe a couple of years ago doing it, all of a sudden, I don't want that podium anymore. I'm getting out in front. I'm going to use a mic. I'm going to use a lapel mic and I'm going to walk around because you built your confidence. It takes time and practice. No one is an expert. Even famous actors and actresses say that they're nervous before every performance, that they have stage fright, and then they get out there and they do it. I don't believe that it comes natural to a big majority of people. You have to practice. Definitely, it's hard to believe, but it doesn't come natural to me.

Alex:
Do you love networking? As Judith says, it's probably the rare few that genuinely love going up to a stranger and introducing themselves. The key to this lesson I think is that you've got to be diligent and practice the skills that you want to develop. Whether it's networking or whether it's something else entirely, what are the top three things that you're going to master? What is it that you want to master that you know you need to for your career and to be a great leader and one of the top 1%? What are you going to master, and how are you going to start practicing it? Remember, networking or anything else, it's baby steps. As Judith says, start with getting into a lift and saying hello to the people in the lift and then go from there.

Judith:
I think that the rule of thumb is that every stakeholder should be seen as a client, whether they're internal or external or a partner in the business. The biggest problem that people have, the biggest mistake I think is they levelise. In other words, that person isn't as important because they're two levels below me. You can't make those assumptions because what I've seen with the top 10 percenters, they treat everyone equal. It's obvious but not obvious. They don't assume someone is more important than the other. It's just about respect, isn't it? It's just about respect.

Judith:
By doing that, it means that your brand is going to be intact. People are going to be saying good things about you at all levels, and they're going to be seeing you as the true leader because the true leader doesn't levelise. They see everyone important in the process. Whether you're the receptionist, who is the front person of the organisation and greets everybody who comes in, or you're the general manager, everybody has a role that should be seen as just as important as the next.

Alex:
There's nothing like a Judithism, and levelise is one of them. What great advice. When you're managing your stakeholders, here are two things to think about. One, who do you consider to be your key stakeholders? Is it your clients, your team, your board, your suppliers? Who are your stakeholders? Because you should be treating everyone as your best client.

Alex:
The second piece of advice here is do you levelise? Do you only make the effort to manage up or with people who you think can do something for you, or as the one percenters do, do you actually look at everyone equally and treat them with the respect of a key stakeholder?

Judith:
I think what's really important is that you need to be able to have someone who is outside your current organisation, who you trust that you can bounce things off of, who's a fresh eye, so that during the time that the peaks and the troughs of business and stressful times that you have someone who you can say, "Look, this has happened, this is the situation, this is what I think I should do. What do you think?" Because a fresh eye can look at that and go, "Yeah, you know what? I probably would do it like this, or you're going down the right track." So you need to have like your own board of directors behind you so that you can access them at any one time, for different things that you're going through. I think also too, you know, I would recommend to leaders that when they're managing change, especially when they have a leadership team, and all those people are also at senior levels, that it's not about hierarchy, it's about we are running a business and it might be running a business within a business.

Judith:
We are running a business and I have these people in my leadership team who are experts in what they do. That's why I hired them. So therefore the discussions that I need to have with them are about business solutions. And it is sort of a meeting of minds of what we need to do to get to the next step. Instead of that, I'm your boss and you're my employee. So I think the issue sometimes that companies have is when they have that mindset, "I'm the boss, you're my employee, you will do what I say.", "No, we are a team. We have a business issue, there's some business problems. What solutions do we need to find to take the business to its next level of success? And let's have a meeting of minds about that." And if you start treating people within your team as business people, and how do we get to our next level, the mindset will start to change within that team.

Judith:
If you treat them like, "You're my employee and I need this done by five," without explaining why you need it done by, well, you'll have a different culture.

Alex:
So how do you think of your team? Do you actually think of them as business people who are partners who can really bring valuable solutions and thinking to the table? Or do you think of them as kind of like your subordinates and just the employees that you have at work? So this is an important distinction and it is totally related to the pressure that some leaders feel about trying to have all the answers and know it all. The top percenters, as Judith says, they know how to tap in to the collective intelligence that surrounds them. They treat their team as business people. They recruited them for a reason and they invite them to help them problem solve.

Alex:
The second thing which I love here is again this reoccurring theme of having the right people in your corner. As Judith says, "Who brings the fresh eye to whatever's happening for you right now? Who has the objective view? Who can you rely on as sound-boarding advice? Do you have the right people around you?" So there are two great nuggets from Judith about how to engage your team to help solve problems and getting that fresh eye.

Judith:
You know, I think I call it the obvious, not obvious situation. That you think it would be obvious, but it's not to a lot of people. The top 10 percenters, they do everything consistently right. So in other words, they start off with one, they have the right attitude. So they leave the negativity behind them. And that is as well something that you have to work at.

Judith:
They don't put barriers up in front of them. They're confident about themselves, but they're not arrogant. I think that's important. They do the little things. The obvious, but not obvious. Like they'll return phone calls, they'll return their emails. Or nowadays it's through text. And you know what? It's the most easiest thing to do today, it's called setting expectations. So if you get a phone call from someone and you're away or you're tied up for the next two days, these days, all you have to do is send a text and say, "I'm tied up for the next two days. Can I call you back Monday?" And then you've set that expectation with that person and they go off and they do whatever they need to do. But if you do not respond at all, you damage your brand.

Judith:
So because I think, "Well, I've left a message, they haven't contacted me back. I sent them an email. I've had no response back. What is wrong with them?" And I'm talking about people who are our stakeholders. And it's common courtesy. It's just common courtesy. And you can respond so much easier. In the old days, you know, we used to get the message is sent to us, and then you'd get a pile of messages that were put on your desk with people that would ring. You couldn't text them. You couldn't send those things, you had to ring them back. But now technology makes it so much easier for us to respond, to be in the moment. Now. I know that when I would get to the final shortlist of candidates with clients, one of the things that would knock candidates out would be the fact that they had damaged their internal brand for those types of things, as an example. And they don't even know. They don't know why they didn't get the role because no one's going to tell them that.

Judith:
So they would get to the end and the manager would go ask the stakeholder, "What do you think of Mary? And the stakeholder would go, "Well, I don't really know Mary. I have tried to connect with her a few times, but she hasn't got back to me.", "Well, what about John?", "Yup, John I do know him. I have a good relationship." At that point of the process, the manager's trying to find a reason to knock someone out because they're all good candidates when they get to the final shortlist. So if Mary hasn't been returning phone calls or answering emails. Then that's going to damage her brand because someone's going to say something that's going to knock her out of the process and it is definitely that little... I've had candidates where they haven't returned phone calls of the PAs who are organising the panel.

Alex:
So here are the key themes that as Judith says, the top 10% do. One they are consistent. So they do the basics consistently well. Remember the obvious not obvious. Guys seriously, it's the basics like returning phone calls, whether or not you think you can get something from that person or not. The other things is they set clear expectations and give a clear message to their team. They practice what they preach. They are confident but not arrogant. And they absolutely walk the talk. So they set the example to role model for the rest of their team.

Judith:
They set clear messages and everybody in the team knows what it is. You know, everyone is up to date. They know exactly what they need to get to the next stage and they practice what they preach. So it's all well and good to say that we're going to do this and we have to be, you know, client service focused. But then if the team sees you're the boss not being client focused to a client, it's going to set a bad example. The leader has to lead and set the example and live what they're preaching, and then set the clear message so that the team knows what to expect.

Judith:
Celebrate the wins. Let people make mistakes and learn from their mistakes. I think over the years what I've always seen is that the leaders are also a team member, so they lead, but they're also a team member. They'll roll their sleeves up when they need to and they'll lead with a positive attitude. If someone makes a mistake, then they'll make sure that person learns from it. They're not intimidated by... they have the attitude of, "I want good people in my team." I remember people where I could tell, they'd go, "Get me somebody good for my team, but not as good as me."

Judith:
I remember one of my bosses years and years ago, in banking said, "Always hire people better than you. And if you hire people better than you, then your team will flourish and you'll flourish because they'll make you look good as well. And always have a successor. Always have someone who can fill your shoes and not all people are confident to do that because they're intimidated by that, and they shouldn't be because you should always be able to... When you go on holidays, you should be able to have someone in your team, who can take over from you and do everything that you... That's a good sign of a leader because they've made sure that the world doesn't cave in just because you've taken four days off, or four weeks off. They know that they can go away on a holiday because their team, they've got it under control.

Alex:
So if you want to be in the top 10% or the top 1% for that matter, have a think about, you know, how you do these things because there's always room for improvement. So first of all, are you creating an environment for success for your team? What are the roadblocks or barriers, those big boulders that you could be removing from your team that's stopping them from collectively performing at their best?

Alex:
The second question for you is, are you intimidated by people who are smarter than you? Because this is one of the fundamental things that the top performers have. They are not intimidated by those smarter than them. They aspire to be the dumbest person in the room, in air quotes, and they're always learning from people who are more experienced or smarter than them because they know that's how they get better.

Judith:
When you're interviewing people, it is really important, especially at these more senior levels. So I'm talking about management level up to MD level. You need to make the person as the interviewer feel comfortable when they come in. So you need to break the ice with them so that they actually open up to you about what it is they're all about and that you don't hear standard answers. And you get to know that person.

Judith:
The same thing also goes with the referee. So when you're the person contacting the referee, "Thank you very much for your time. I would like to ask some questions. Is this convenient?" Make sure you book in the time so that they're also not in a rush. You want them to also feel comfortable about giving this information because referees will open up to you if they feel comfortable, and that's the information that you need to make that decision. It's really important to get that right. And also checking qualifications. I saw stats on that we had Ellie Johnson who was one of our speakers this year at the conference. She's an expert. She was an ex-detective, lie detecting, and she said on average, 33% people lie on their resumes.

Judith:
So imagine that. So with your referees, you need to actually say to the referee, "The candidate has listed these achievements. They said that they achieved 120% of budget this year. Is that true?" Because if they lied on their resume, and then with their qualifications, those have to be checked with the universities themselves.

Judith:
The other things is, I have found over the years too, because we have found people who have lied on resumes and qualifications during that process. When they lie, they lie big. So they'll say they have a masters and honours and they'll have two or three degrees and they'll make it look really, really good. And it does happen. So if we go on Ellie's stats, that's a big percentage, and I would agree with those because I've seen it over the years. So everything has to be checked. People overstate their achievements and they'll overstate that they were with an organisation because in between they may have had a role that didn't work out. So they put the time at one company longer, to fill that gap in. Everything needs to be validated on the resume, everything.

Alex:
So here are some great tips about recruiting talent. Now it always confounds me because if you think about how important having the right people in your team is, think about it. It is possibly the most important decision that you can make. Get it wrong, and to unwind it is an absolute nightmare. Get it right, and wow, how is that leverage that it brings to the team?

Alex:
So the couple of things here, when you're interviewing, think about actually what you're interviewing for. What are the attributes? Who do you want? What are the non-negotiables? The other thing here is remember that top performers at interviewing you, so make them feel comfortable. Make sure you break the ice. Make sure they've got brilliant questions for you, just as you need to have brilliant questions for them. And don't rush this, guys. This is your talent. This is where you should be investing your time, making sure you get the right people in the room.

Judith:
Absolutely. Well, the first thing is like if we looked at the [inaudible 00:32:35] program where they meet once a quarter for an hour with their advocate. If you haven't got time to meet with someone who is willing to give their time, who's got a heck of a lot more experience than you do, and who's going to guide you and provide there experience, once a quarter for an hour. If you haven't got that time, you need this more than anybody. So because that is unbelievable. Like in other words, the person who can't meet with that person, needs it more because there's something wrong.

Judith:
That person, their advocate should be able to then identify what the issues are because they're the fresh eye. If you can't make an hour a quarter to meet with someone who is more experienced than you. You know, I do that exercise whenever I've got a lot of stuff on, I do an exercise where I go through and I look everyday what I'm doing, and I time it. Then after two weeks you find out where your gaps are. So you find out whether or not you're wasting too much time on a particular staff member who's taking up a lot of your time or too much on technology, or looking at your emails. Whatever it is, there's something in that person's day that's preventing them. Everybody should have an hour a quarter to be able to work on themselves. And canceling appointments and rescheduling with someone who's willing to help you, that's not acceptable in my book, it's disrespectful.

Judith:
That should only be an exception and an emergency. Because once it's in your diary, then you know you need to make sure you commit to it, and then not continually cancel. That doesn't mean if the managing director says, "You need to come to this meeting," and you have to go to your advocate and say, "The managing director..." Well, that's acceptable, but you have to then make sure that you organise these meetings in these times that aren't going to conflict with your work. That you could meet with somebody in the morning or at the end of the day. People are very willing to be flexible with their time, and meet when it's convenient for both, but you have to make that time.

Judith:
You have to see yourself as a business within a business and you have to work on yourself, just like an athlete who wants to go to the Olympics one day. They work on themselves by training and discipline and making sure they have, you know, trainers and coaches and people in their corner. They will not get to the Olympics if they don't work on it. And just like in the business world, you will not get to the top of your game if you don't work on yourself, and it doesn't happen by taking a five month course. It only happens by a long journey. And that's what we do at [Few 00:17:44]. We say to members when they come in, "This is not a one year membership. This is a journey, and this is a journey of self development that you need to be prepared to go on." And start adding advocates, not just one. Add an advocate to your network continually, so that you can meet your business goals, and be at the top of your game. But the top of the game could be whatever level you want to be, that you're happy with.

Alex:
So are you prioritising the right things? Now, in this particular scenario, we're talking about making the time to meet with an advocate, a mentor. Someone with more experience than you, who is giving up their time to help you. I can't tell you how many times that I have seen and experienced leaders I'm working with deprioritise their time with a mentor or coach who can really help them. So if you don't have time to invest in the development of your own skills, then you are actually focusing on the wrong things.

Alex:
So a great tip here is to look at everything that's filling your day, and really critically consider what are the things that should be taking priority, to actually reach your vision, your team and business goals, and to actually invest in your own development.

Judith:
Well, I think one of the big lessons that I learned with my recruitment business is that, when I started the business and when I was developing in the early days, I didn't have people in my corner to go to, because executive search and recruitment is such an different type of industry. I didn't connect with other people in that industry, because what I didn't think they were doing a good job. So I didn't want to. And what I would do is when I was running my business and I was interviewing, it's a lot of times though that while I was in my early 30s, and a lot of people that I were interviewing, when I was doing the more senior positions, were in their early 40s and mid 40s. So I would actually learn from them in the interview process, business questions and things like that. And I'd go, "Oh yeah, okay, that's a good option. That sounds good." So they inadvertently became my mentors without even knowing it.

Judith:
But looking back, I would have definitely had reached out. And it was harder back then because we didn't have LinkedIn. We didn't have those kind of networks to be able to reach out to people in the industry, to be advocates or to be mentors or coaches. So I would have definitely done that now. If I was doing that now, I would definitely do that.

Judith:
And also, I think starting the business and running the business by myself and building it over the years, there is a certain... I got to a certain point where I would take the risks, but I wouldn't take it too far. And maybe if I would have had people in my corner, I might have done things a little differently, or I would've gone a different direction or added areas. And I only closed it because I wanted to focus, and that was three years ago. Because I wanted to focus 100% on financial executive women. The company was very successful. We had a great reputation. We never had to replace anybody for non performance over the years. So in other words, they made it through their probationary period. We had our clients really right from the beginning, and a very strong track record. So I'm pretty proud of that.

Judith:
But I think the thing is is that, we had a very detailed process. And the process was basically the interview process was very detailed, plus the reference checking part was very detailed. And I think that where a lot of companies go wrong, in that they don't pay enough attention to the reference checking process. They get very excited about interviewing a candidates that could quiz and oh, this is great, and we really click together. And then they dropped the ball.

Alex:
So looking back out of all her lessons around business and life, the thing that Judith keeps coming back to, is having the right people in your corner. And she has a quick example of, she wonders whether she would have actually taken some more calculated risks with her business, if she'd had a different group of people in her corner. And I think that's a really important point. Having these personal board of advice around you, yes it's people that will counsel you, that will pick you up, that might give you a kick up the butt if you need it. But it's also having those people who've been there and done it before, who might actually said you take a calculated risk. Take the leap that feels uncomfortable. Take the next roles that you don't think you're ready for. This is a valuable gold that you get from having the right people in your corner that can challenge you, pick you up, and help you make sure that you're making good decisions.

Judith:
We are now going into our sixth year. And at virtually it was, I had an aha moment when I was interviewing a female candidate, in Sydney for our Sydney office. And she was referred. A search consultant referred by a friend of mine who it's quite high up in one of the financial organisations, where she had actually placed him in that role. And I said, "Do you know anyone?" And he goes, "Look, I know this person, and you make up your own decisions." Because we were looking for more people in our Sydney office. So I rang her, and met her for coffee. And I wasn't offering her a job. I just said so and so referred, let's have a chat. And so, when I was having coffee with her in the first 10 minutes, she's telling me everything she wouldn't do. Yeah. So I'm sitting there going, "Oh my god, I wish I could tell you what you're doing wrong." But in the capacity of an employer, you really can't do that anymore these days.

Judith:
So I'm sitting there going, "Why isn't she telling me what she would do? Why isn't she setting out to impress, and then knocked me back if I offer her something?" So I virtually tuned out after about 15 minutes. And in my head, formulated Few. So when I left that meeting, I contacted the founders. So most of the women who are currently on the advisory board, I contacted them, and said, "Look, this is what my idea, I'm thinking about starting this organisation." And the premise of it is that the member has an advocate who was more senior than they are, outside of their current organisation. And in addition, they act as an advocate to someone more junior than they are outside of their organisation. So the concept is giving and getting. And the advocates would meet with their sponsored person once a quarter, to talk about where they've been in the last three months, and where they're going in the next three months.

Judith:
But more importantly, to be the fresh eyes for them. And the reason why it's important that the advocate is outside of their current organisation is because they do need someone who is away from it. They're not part of the organisation, and they can tell them what they really think. I would have loved to have been that person for her, to be able to say, why are you doing this? This is not good, right? And as a point, I went back to my friend and said, "Why did you refer her to me? She told me everything I wouldn't. And he said, "Well I wanted you to make up your own decisions, your own mind."

Judith:
But I thought to myself, you know how many people in organisations... There are programs people can go to for coaching. Internal program, all their internal mentor programs. All those things that they have earned internally are fine. But you really need to have people outside of your current organisation to be your go-to people. To be able to access in your career, at any point in time, like your board, when you're having issues. When we did a survey once, it was at the beginning of Few, we surveyed the senior members at that time. So that time it was probably about 200. And we asked, during your career, how many advocates have you had? Less than 1% ever had any. So then we also surveyed guys on the FRG side. And the guys had on average seven to eight in their corner.

Judith:
Now the guys told us that, when they started in their career, they have an uncle, brother, or a father, somebody in their corner that says to them, go in and they start off as a graduate. Go in and ask for more. And then they do. And they get it. And so then when their team leader goes to another area or to another company, they keep in contact with that person. And the girls said that they don't keep in contact with that person, because if it's a male it wouldn't be appropriate. If it's a female, I don't want to... She hasn't got time or I don't want to waste her time. They think that they can't. The guys didn't care if it was a male or female. As a manager, they kept in contact with her, didn't matter. Gender did matter to them.

Judith:
And so then they start getting used to doing that. The guys start getting used to that. So by the time that they're at state manager level, they have seven to eight people in their corner. And so what a difference that makes, when you're going for internal positions, or when you have that support behind you.

Judith:
So Few has over 700 members. And some of those are future leaders. So there's probably 500 senior members and 200 future leaders. And the senior members get paired with advocates. But now because of the numbers, we can pair future leaders with advocate. And then we also introduced few good men last year, so we're coming into our 12 our first full year, a few good men. And what that is is that because there's a shortage of women at senior levels, we went to the men in the industry and said, "We need advocates for the senior women in the industry." And they were more than willing to do it.

Judith:
We have 37 men right now, executive level men, from the industry who are paired with senior women in the industry where they're helping them. And we have another whole, a big group from two of the organisations that are going to be announced shortly. And the thing is, is that the women who are paired with a few good men, they're saying things like, it's been fantastic having different perspectives. He's really challenged me. It's been life changing. The guys that we've surveyed after their 12 months, they're saying things like, as a leader, this is going to make me a better leader because I didn't realise this was happening. And I've gotten as much out of it as what they feel they've gotten out of it. So they feel they've gotten as much out of it as the sponsored person has gotten out of it.

Judith:
Because the reality is, senior executive men that are running organisations, their female leadership team or the women in their organisation, are not telling them what they really think. You're not going to tell your boss what you really think. You're going to tell them something, but you're not going to tell them what you really think.

Alex:
So who is advocating for you? And this is about building longterm relationships where people know you, respect you, and will actually advocate and speak for you. And even though one of the ways that can really benefit your career is when you're going for an internal job, or even an external job, but you've got really experienced and well-respected stakeholders that actually put you forward. That is invaluable.

Alex:
But of course along the way, these are also the people that are helping you grow, helping you learn, and really developing your skills. And I love that Judith is so passionate about... And as she says, guys tend to actually have these deep network of advocates around them more easily or more naturally than women. And I don't know why that is. And of course it's not just women who don't have these. But that certainly the trend that Judith saw that really led to her creating financial executive women. So again, here is such a great thing for you to think about. Who are the people in your corner? Do you have an advocate and mentor? Who is it that is going to actually speak and advocate for you? And if you can't think of those people, you need to start actually creating that list of people now.

Judith:
Yeah, they just need to, I'm happy for anybody to contact me directly, but go to the website, Few-au.com, and all the information is on there, and we'd love to see everyone at our circle events or our conference, and really the message is, take time for yourself.

Interviewer:
So that was Judith Beck. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Remember the key points here guys. Remember the obvious not obvious things that the top performers do. Be consistent. Be diligent. Have the right attitude and the right mindset. Remember, don't level eyes [inaudible 00:14:29]. We're going to trademark that one. So treat all your stakeholders as if they're your best client. Don't just manage up. Make the time to invest in yourself. Make sure you've got the right crew in your corner. And prioritise the right things. This is what the top percenters do.

Alex:
Now if want to know more about Few, you've got the website there. And also the conference is coming up next year on the 2nd of April. And in the meantime, there are heaps of great events, circle events, and lots of really cool stuff that you can do with Judith and the team at Financial Executive Women. Thanks for listening. See you next time.

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