Posts by jcuene

Digital marketing & innovation leader. Founder of Fahren. Previously at GoKart Labs, General Mills, Ameriprise. MPLS. Husband to Andrea, father to 2. Lover of bikes, food, beer and rock'n'roll.

Interim Talent: “Test and Learn” Comes to Your Talent Mix

We’re building Fahren to be a leadership solutions company. We want to become a key partner for organizations that are differentiating themselves by investing in  and – yes – innovating in the ways they deploy their leadership talent.

One of the planks of our business plan is to focus on Interim roles in key leadership positions: Director/VP of Marketing, Product Leadership, Analytics, and User Experience.

We think “Interim Leader of X” is a tool that most organizations haven’t fully embraced yet. We’re advocates for the idea of using interim roles as a way to test & learn with your talent. You’re already using a test & learn approach in your marketing, your technology, and your product development efforts, why not approach your leadership team with the same model?

It Can’t Be Business as Usual

When most organizations are faced with an opening, they move quickly to refill the same seat with a standard leadership profile. It’s the “business as usual” approach, because everyone is busy and there are plans to deliver, right? So, they default to standard roles, generic job descriptions, templated profiles.

But, we believe most organizations are missing an opportunity to evolve either the “seat” (i.e. the role that’s being played in the organization) or the player profile (i.e. the mix of skills/experience/potential that the person brings to the seat). Most organizations would benefit a lot from taking the time to ask themselves: Is this still the right “seat”? And, do we still want to fill it with the same kind of player?

Why the rethink? Without a doubt, the business context will have changed in the months or years since the seat was designed. We believe organizations need to be as responsive, fluid and adaptive as their products these days, so it’s wise to rethink aspects of the role:

  • Responsibilities: What objectives are we pursuing with this role? Are we pointing the role at the right business problems? Are we being aggressive enough?
  • Level: Is it still a Director level role? Should it be a VP role? Could it be a manager?
  • Commitment: Is it really full-time?
  • Span of Control: Do we have the right teams reporting to this role? Could we expand the span of control?

And, at the same time, it’s wise to rethink the player profile:

  • Skill mix – What leadership competencies are they bringing to the role?
  • Developmental Experiences – What kinds of experiences should the player have? Startup experience? Big company? Turnaround? “Good to Great”?
  • Culture Impact – How will you use the role to add to the culture (vs merely being a “fit”)

The Interim Opportunity: Test and Learn for Talent

As the pace of business accelerates, we’re seeing a lot of organizations embrace an agile (and Agile), iterative, test/learn approach to driving better results. We’re seeing it marketing, in product development, in technology teams, etc. But, we’re not yet seeing it on the talent side.

We see “interim” roles as being the way organizations can take a test & learn approach to their organizational efforts. An interim role that last 6-12 months gives organizations a chance to explore how key roles can evolve and how teams can work differently. The cycle looks similar to a market-test:

  • Develop a hypothesis – How either the seat can evolve or the different leadership mix you need from the player
  • Define a test – Redefine the seat or the player and create the test period (usually 6-12 months)
  • Run the test – Put the new player into the role for 6-12 months
  • Analyze the results – Review in-market results and team performance. Talk with the team, the leader, the rest of the leadership team, customers, vendors, partners, etc.
  • Apply – Use the learnings to finalize the new role or the new leadership profile and then fill the role permanently

At Fahren, we expect to see more and more organizations using Interim roles as a way to test and learn their way to a more effective leadership mix. We’re setting up our business to help our partners get there via:

  • Strategy & Advisory services – We’ll help you map out a new strategy and define the roles you need to get there
  • Interim Talent – We’ll help you find and onboard the Interim leadership you need to keep driving results while learning about the talent mix that can take you to the next level
  • Executive Search – When you know what you need and you want to fill the role permanently, we can help you conduct an efficient, effective search

The Power of Framing It

I had a beer with Jason Scherschligt the other night and we were talking about the leadership profiles of successful product managers. It was a great talk, and he shared a verbal framework for describing the attitude and aptitudes he’s seeing: Pioneer, Settlers, and Town Managers.

I had never heard that framework before, but it created instant understanding – at a general level – of the differences he was talking about. And, while it’s probably well understood in the product leadership community, it was new to me and I was excited about how the way that model created questions, and understanding.

Moreover, I could see how it would be a versatile teaching/coaching tool to use with leaders to help them understand when and how to work differently. It’s an abstraction that could be used to provide pretty actionable feedback (i.e. “You’re acting like a ‘town manager’ right now, but the team needs a little more ‘pioneer’; here are a couple methods for …”).

A couple other takes on this model:

Is this terminology a metaphor? Is it a mental model? I don’t really know or care, but i love these constructions and admire the creativity and imagination that sparked them. A couple other similiar constructions that have been really useful to me:

Inside the Weird, and Booming, Industry of Online Influence | WIRED

Popular vendors like Cloud Socials and BoostUp Social charge fledgling influencers $35 to $799 a month for a steady stream of interactions from prominent Instagrammers. Or aspiring influencers can go full automatic: For $10 to $100 a month and your login, automation apps will send your social media profile into a frenzy of liking, commenting, and following other accounts en masse, in an attempt to snag you a follow back.

Inside the Weird, and Booming, Industry of Online Influence | WIRED

Brand As Publisher Isn’t Dead; Content Drives the Experience

A nice write up on Digiday covering fitness brands’ efforts to expand their media efforts, though in this case media is a little broad. It makes total sense, since brands like Equinox, LifeTime Fitness and SoulCycle are selling lifestyles, essentially. So,  to create a sense of belonging and being part of that lifestyle, content – the magazines, podcasts, exclusive events, the books, speakers, retreats – drives the experience and creates a differentiation. More importantly, the content is a reinforcer for the brand’s positioning: Every interaction reinforces the reason the member joined in the first place.

Side note: Really interesting move by Equinox to get into the talent and “packaging” business:

Equinox (which owns SoulCyle) and SoulCycle in July also launched a talent management agency, supported and advised by WME, that will turn its employees — instructors who happen to be social stars with cult followings in their own right. The idea of the agency is to open up the brands to more sponsorship deals.

Market Concentration Is Threatening the US Economy by Joseph E. Stiglitz – Project Syndicate

this is yet another influencer on the rise of populism…

As corporate behemoths’ market power has increased, so, too, has their ability to influence America’s money-driven politics. And as the system has become more rigged in business’s favor, it has become much harder for ordinary citizens to seek redress for mistreatment or abuse.

Market Concentration Is Threatening the US Economy by Joseph E. Stiglitz – Project Syndicate

Making Real Things

I’ve been talking to friends about this for  the last couple years. A lot of people i know would jump at the chance to get off the grind and take a shot at a craft-business.

Yet in little pockets of cities in the richest parts of the world, clever, prosperous people like Wood and Laufer are creating firms that look more like workshops from the pre-industrial world than modern companies. From the local sourcing of materials, to the espousal of community, to the strong relationships with suppliers and customers, to the appearance of their products, the ethos of firms like One Eight harks back to a time before the Industrial Revolution transformed society. Their emergence has much to say about our needs and wants, and may hold clues to how we can better satisfy them in the future.

https://www.1843magazine.com/features/crafting-a-life