But…will it make the boat go faster?

I was in an interesting Client meeting last week, getting feedback on a candidate who had been through 2 interviews and had 3 reference checks taken.

‘Craig,’ the client began, ‘We’re not going to proceed with John….. We just don’t believe he makes the boat go faster…’

Did he just say what I thought he’d said? Make the boat go faster?? Last time I looked John was neither a Mercury 150hp outboard, nor an America’s Cup sailing want-to-be….

My obvious confusion must have been pretty… well… obvious. He continued.

‘It’s sort of become a motto around here to make sure we are moving towards continual improvement. Every time we look to make a strategic decision we ask ourselves – Will it make the boat go faster?…’

OK – I’m no Einstein, and certainly no Captain Jack Sparrow… My experience with water is limited to the occasional bath and the ‘slip ‘n’ slide’ I had in the back yard as a kid…. Remember those? ‘slip ‘n’ slides’?? And sprinklers for that matter??? Life pre-water restrictions was pretty sweet! Anyway, I digress…

The client went on to relate the following story to me… Sir Matthew Pinsent is an elite rower from England who competed in four consecutive Olympics, from 1992-2004, winning four gold medals. In the 2003 World Championships Pinsett finished a disappointing 4th. Pinsent and his crew questioned whether they wanted to continue and aim for a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics. They were aware of the extraordinary commitment they would need to make and all agreed that they wanted to go for it.

They needed to come up with a way of focusing their efforts towards achieving the single goal of winning a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics. All decisions and efforts had to be channeled to meet this challenge. They came up with a simple, but powerful, question that had to be answered every time a decision or action needed to be taken – ‘Will it make the boat go faster?’ If it didn’t make the boat go faster, it was quickly discarded; if it did, it was implemented.

The beauty of this approach was in its simplicity. The team was basically saying if we can make the boat go faster we can win a gold medal. They defined and refined everything that they believed would make the boat faster. They changed their collective mindsets, their approach and training and took absolute responsibility for their actions and behaviours. They also changed the result from 2003 – they won the Olympic gold medal in 2004.

OK, Recruitment Businesses – it’s pretty safe to say – aren’t boats, but the premise makes sense. My job is to find the best talent in the recruitment industry and present that talent to my clients.

Every one of my clients will have a business plan in place with goals, objectives and milestones laid out for their next financial year – including headcount.

So, for the sake of the metaphor, let’s assume that Recruitment Agencies are boats. Their primary goal is to win the race (increase market share, improved profit and productivity etc.).

As a candidate what skills can you offer them? How can you help them to achieve their goals, objectives and milestones. And…. Most importantly – will YOU make their boat go faster?







As always, I invite comment and contribution.

Craig Watson


Leave a Reply