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Max Armbruster
Max Armbruster
CEO Talkpush

Building a Legacy, Executive Development and Talent Management - Mary Meston from Concentrix

Episode 22 full coverIn this episode of the Recruitment Hackers Podcast, Mary Meston, VP of talent management at Concentrix, talks about how to manage executive leaders and help them create a legacy — a vision or innovation that will ripple through the industry. Her job is all about creating the space for them to do so.


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Welcome to the Recruitment Hackers podcast, a show about innovation, technology and leaders in the recruitment industry brought to you by Talkpush the leading recruitment automation platform.

 

Max: Hello, and welcome back to  the recruitment hackers podcast. I'm your host Max. And today I'm honored and pleased to welcome on the show Miss Mary Meston from Concentrix. Mary, welcome to the show. 

 

Mary: Thank you, Max. Thanks for inviting me. I'm happy to be here. 

 

Max: Great to have you. So Mary is the VP for talent management at Concentrix. Concentrix is currently part of the Synnex group, but they're separating at the moment. I hope I'm not divulging any confidential information. 

 

Mary: No, you're not. It is public knowledge and we've reported out, and the board recently approved that. So we're still projecting we're about a month out from spinning out and being on our own and being our own entity. And we are gonna miss Synnex. We're still very, very close, but we're all very excited. 

 

Max: And you were together for a couple of years only?

 

Mary: No, Synnex actually, if you look at where Concentrix came from, it's been out for 16 years. It was a small little group. Concentrix has grown by acquisition. Substantially. And now we are substantially a large player in the industry, quite a large player, and absolutely would like to be on our own. And it just makes business sense. You know?

 

Max: Well, It is indeed a huge company. I am today working with some of your entities, but I understand Concentrix globally is, well, over 200,000 headcount, maybe 300,000, maybe more. 

 

Mary: We're North of 250,000 right now. And with you helping us there in, certain divisions could be 260 for all I know right now. 

 

Max: Yeah. It changes every day. And then certainly around this time of year there is always a big ramp up before the Christmas holiday, lots of hiring going on. But you're not in those trenches anymore Mary, I think that our audience will get something a little bit different today. Mary is working more on the executive development and talent management at the executive level at the moment. Well, tell us a little bit more about your role in Concentrix. 

 

Mary: I'd love to thank you. Yes. I've been in the recruitment trenches. It was called recruitment then, and now it's talent acquisition. So that ages me quite a bit. 

 

Max: You were saying head hunting before. 

 

Mary: I know head hunting. I think about that now it's like, so politically not correct. Right?

 

Max:  It used to be fun. We used to take our rifles and go out and hunt for heads. 

 

Mary: That's a really aggressive talent acquisition strategy, right? Yeah, I progressed through all of the focuses in HR. I mean, I started as a benefits clerk, a payroll clerk, actually moved into recruiting and helped establish a number of firms many moons ago. Some of the first, software development firms and actually H1B hiring and really focusing on that. I worked in California, and progressed through all the phases and all the functions in HR and I really love the fact that I've been able to bring all that together and really we're focused now with our executive set. Really working on optimizing our talent because as we all know how difficult it is to find that right person, let's talk about time, process, costs, all of that. Once you have them, you don't want to lose them. Right? And it's really important to continue to develop them. Not only helps employee engagement, but that helps move a company forward. Right? If you can grow all those quote unquote human assets, it helps the company move forward. And that's one of the levers in our innovation. Is grow your talent!

 

Max: It can be so heartbreaking as a business owner when you lose a top talent. And I'm sure it's heartbreaking even if you're not the business owner, the heads-up, you've got somebody who you've invested so much time that leaves, you know, I'm now in my forties, but 20 years ago, I remember thinking my allegiance is to my career and I need to keep moving. Every two, three years, go get another job, expose myself to something new and keep growing. 

 

And I think studies have been made that that's one way to optimize for salary growth, especially at the early stages of your career. But now I have a bit of a different perspective where I think, you know, life is too short to be sending out resumes every two years. What do you think about sort of job mobility for people as they get to maybe the middle of their career or their golden years? 

 

Mary: Hopefully the middle isn't the golden years now, because come on the new 40 is 60, so let's move the scale up. Yeah, I think about it very much. You have spoken about the time in one's career and what the best strategy is, and it is very true. I did this one in my younger days, to jump every two to three years. Some of it, I lived in the Silicon Valley and worked in the Silicon Valley during the  dot com days. And if your company wasn't purchased or purchasing someone every two years, you know, that provided that career growth, that career jump. And that was really a strategy. 

 

I too am a believer. Mid-career when you kind of top out and we have a really solid set of expertise, then it's great to find a place where you can grow and grow with the company and grow that expertise with the company. And not necessarily just look for the next, you know, 5% increase. There's much more of a different strategy. And then when I talk with people early in their careers, they're in a learning stage. So you're learning, growing, get what I can, let's move on. If I'm not getting the growth, I'm going to jump! 

 

Then there is the kind of mid career people. I call it the listening stage. As where you start listening to yourself, as well as listening to those you work with. So it's the listening leader approach. It's key to being a really successful leader. Being able to hear others be collaborative and to be very self-aware. 

 

And then there's the capstone of your career. I call it the legacy and that's what I work with really senior executives, not necessarily just in age, but in career. Where they're like, I want to leave something behind. What does that look like? And in working with senior executives that are at that stage, and it's not necessarily an age issue, but it is more about what they feel they've accomplished. That's where it's really a great time to work with senior executives to that's where they're, I want to leave an innovation. I want to change something up. I want to make a difference, you know, and that's, it's a great place to, at least for me to spend with these senior leaders, because there's, that's where some of the most influential, even simple decisions are made. 

 

Max: That legacy translates. I often imagine an ideology, like a vision that they want to materialize.

 

Mary: Absolutely. You're in a longer time to learn your skill set and you've performed and you know what you do. What do I want to leave that's beyond me? Being an ideology, an impact, and innovation. I know particularly, In the space we're working with now and with the BPO industry. I mean, because we are such large groups, what we do impact so many more, it's kind of that ripple effect. So it's very important to be very aware of the choices. And we have a number of senior leaders that are very into that legacy space about, you know, we are a community, as we treat our employees, they impact the world.

 

So it's a very significant place to play. And you're very conscious of your choices, particularly, here in the States, you know, with the diversity, equity and inclusion, or I guess globally as well. And the unrest that's been going on, there's a huge, renewed focus on the importance of the inclusions of all. And it's a matter of community. And that's a very interesting space to be particularly with our leadership that is very focused on that. 

 

Max: Yeah. I've heard that. I had somebody on the show recently that was telling me about PepsiCo and how do you connect the people at PepsiCo with a sense of mission and purpose? And I made one of my nasty comments about, you know, how do you get excited about selling sugary drinks? And I was, I was told that for them, the mission was more about the people, about the people at PepsiCo and growing the business and that, you know, it has nothing to do with the amount of sugar inside of the drinks, that it gets them excited.

 

And so you've got to find that environment where you're going to carry that ideology or ideology maybe is a two way radio term, or just a set of principles and beliefs that you can put into the world. And I imagine that sometimes you've got people who will get promoted because they're super performers. And maybe they're not at that stage yet. Right? They don't, they're not thinking legacy. They're just thinking about performance and you know, where am I going to get my next raise? Perhaps you, can you suss them out immediately? 

 

Mary: Well, you can find them. I mean, in some of that it's, where they're at in their career? What they're seeking?  I find that in people when they're just trying to get into the listening stage. I call it the learning stage when you're learning your function and you're becoming known and branded. It's the me stage, and the listening stage shifts to the we stage. And that's often, typically middle management-ish, depending on the job titles, but that's where you have to become responsible for the we, not the me. And some make that shift better than others. Some never tear the peer principle of topping out. When someone just can't get that next rung on the ladder. And what do you want to be? There's the me and we, there's something in there. 

 

Max: Yeah. It's sad when I hear you. I hear you talking about children development stages, almost. 

 

Mary: Well, you know, we are all children at heart aren't we, it's just our bodies don't look at as we age. And, you know, development is in stages. It's developmental stages, right? And we can talk about people we know, or public figures that get trapped in adolescence. Let's talk about political climate, right? 

 

Max: I watch a lot of comedy online. So I love watching those people who never grow up. And, I think they're very entertaining. So I think, yeah, it's precious to preserve that child inside. But, I'm here wearing a suit and a jacket and trying to look the part for my job. 

 

Mary: You're doing a good job.

 

Max: Thank you, Mary. I know I need a haircut, but don't tell me about dressing for success. Is that some part of your job in talent management or is that something that people come to with questions?

 

Mary: Well, that's a really softer side of the corporate world, but we did have a chat about how important it is and how different and how much it's changing now with this world of work at home, or the zoom land, or COVID land, or Corona land, or whatever we want to call it. The next normal, you know, the having to dress to look the part is less and less important.

 

And I've seen it. I've been around for several decades now where you look the part to be assumed you could do it. And now I really work with folks about being who you are, be authentic. I mean, within the appropriate, you know, aspects and parameters, but just dressing the part rarely at senior, mid- senior and senior levels that doesn't.

 

Max:  It doesn't matter anymore! 

 

Mary: It doesn't. Think of some of the names out there and, you know, Steve Jobs was known for his look. We've got the Elon Musk look, I mean, think of these people and they're not necessarily the suit and ties, are they? 

 

Max: Well, I mean, they have a brand and we can talk about the authenticity and the brands. The way Steve Jobs dressed was part of his brand. It was, you know, I'm so passionate about finding the right design that I'm not going to take off my turtleneck. I don't know what message that actually sends. It's like, it doesn't matter how I dress as long as I've built nice pones, I guess. 

 

Mary: Well, I understood while reading some of his stuff that he wanted to reduce the cognitive load about having to think about what he's going to wear. So he can put all that energy into the design. 

 

Max: That sounds like such bullshit. Really the cognitive load of how much... I mean, if you're a guy put on a shirt and a suit you're done! 

 

Mary: Maybe I'm speaking from a female perspective or more of you, my generation, where you had to worry about if everything matched, right? And you can't have the same top within two, every two weeks.

 

Max: My wife at home, you know, before she goes to the office, she asks me, even though I have no clue, what's  to tell her. But you know, I figured it's better to have an opinion than no opinion. So I do, I do comments. 

 

Mary: And you're still standing. So you didn't say you have a good opinion. 

 

Max: You're saying it looks wonderful every time, then it doesn't sound correct. You have to mix in a little bit of criticism. I'm sure in your practice as well, the most exemplary leaders also expect you to push back a little bit and criticize.

 

Mary: Absolutely. I mean, when I engage with executives, one of our initial conversations it's about, you know, we set the parameters of our relationship. And as I'm not your best friend, I'm not your yes man or woman. I am here to help you achieve what you want to achieve. And I'll be your sounding board. I'll be your mirror. I'll be your coach. And some days I might actually be the person that's pushing you. So I expect some resistance or it's not working. And just to prep them ahead. And, you know, you can tell those that really engage and want to, and those that are just kind of glad-handing, and just going along for the long cause they don't want to step in something. 

 

Max: I mean, and there's, I suppose, an awkwardness with the fact that you are an employee of Concentrix and therefore, you know, it's not like you're a psychologist, right? There's no obligation to keep everything secret from you.

 

Mary: Interesting. You bring up a really important point in the role that I'm doing. And there have been some discussions about, you know, keep someone external to the firm or bring them in. And it can go either way. In particular, I'm very fortunate. I get to report directly to the CEO and our parameters are that I share nothing that is of confidence. If someone needs to share something with you or you with them, I will coach the two of you to speak. So we have some really clear boundaries, which is essential for this to work. 

 

Max: Yeah, absolutely. But nobody's going to come and tell you, I want to kill the CEO. 

 

Mary: Well, I would hope not because, one, that's illegal! It's really scary. That's a reportable event. My HR is going to come all out. 

 

Max: No, I mean, you're dealing with people who are a little bit more mature, than to express things this way. I'm sure they'd find a better way to. But some advice from our listeners, some of which are not, at the executive level, you know, who want to bring the vision of who they want to become to live. At which point in your career is a good suit to bring in a coach? Let's say, you know, you're starting out. You're a talent acquisition professional, and you want to, I don't know, end up VP of HR, should you get a coach? What kind of coach? Where do you start? 

 

Mary: That is a really timely question. Thank you. Because recently there's a gentleman within our larger company. He is starting on the path, he's in talent acquisition, and his goal is to be VP of HR. One of our values is to be bold. And he just reached out to me. He says, you don't know me, but I would love to have a mentor. I would want to be you someday. Will you talk to me? 

 

Max: Nice. 

 

Mary: So when do you start? Whenever you have that question, when something's telling you to do it, you need to answer that whatever the answer is. And many people go, well, I don't need a coach, or what is a coach? Coaching is different from therapy, you know, I'm not licensed to do that. And in therapies dealing generally with the past, I like to frame coaching as dealing in the present and moving you to the right action, whatever that is, depending on what path you choose. And so when to get a coach? Whenever you feel that in the key things you are feeling stuck. I feel there's more, I know I'm not doing something quite right. Something's unsettled. And fourth is, and hopefully it doesn't happen to you, but if some, you get feedback that certain XYZ performance manners behavior isn't working for you, I mean  that's kind of a key when you can reach out to them.

 

Max: Okay, sweet. I had a different idea because you're describing someone who is ambitious, but has problems they want to solve and they want to address. I thought that you have to be, you know, a super positive, optimistic person. Everything is going right. And then you've got all this space and now like, you know what, I want to go even higher and I'm going to go hire a coach because my life is in order, but I want to reach one more.

 

Mary: You know, it can be both of those. It's and again, it's about goal-driven. So if people look at my credentials, I'm certified to do some curriculums called high-performance coaching. And in that space, if that's how we frame that engagement, it is about just having more consistency, higher performance at a consistent level.

 

Yeah, my life's awesome, but I want it to be better. Most often, even those that think they have everything dialed in. There's something amiss. I mean, life is real. We're real people. Not every day is perfect. Not every conversation's perfect. Not every choice is perfect. So how do you manage that? So you can do coaching at that stage too.

 

Max: Certainly. 

 

Mary: Coaching is not necessarily remediation. 

 

Max: Talent acquisition is one area where it's impossible to reach perfection. You're talking about, yeah, areas for improvement and it is  impossible to have a perfect track record of work movements. I think I can say that without… I mean if somebody can prove me wrong, I'd love to meet them.

 

You know, I've never made a bad hire. I've never heard anybody say that. Although that would be, you know, if that person exists, I would love to interview them for the show.

 

Mary: Yes. I would like to meet them as well. Either way, we're saying in talent acquisition, there's no perfection. And I was going to ask you, what do you scope is perfection? And you're saying a bad hire. So we could talk about what's a bad hire. There's different ways of saying that, you know, they didn't work out. They didn't fit in. They didn't succeed. They didn't bring in the numbers, whatever that is. But, I don't think there is perfection in anything. Other than a hole in one in golf. Is that perfect? 

 

Max: Yeah. And you know, even if you do make a good hire, you're going to always find there is probably a better hire out there. I mean, it's hard to measure those things, but I think, retention is a good metric and the beacon side to the performance of the hire. Of course, that's great as well. When you're doing more high volume, the cost per hire is a good metric. 

 

But having, you know, with your long experience in TA and and HR, I'm sure you've been exposed to regrets and regretful hires. I'd like to ask you if there's a hire that comes back to mind, and of course I don't want the name, job title or even a company name, but if she could go back to that moment where you hired this person and didn't work out. What can our audience learn from your mistake?

 

Mary: Okay. One definitely comes to mind for me and I will work my best to cloak the identity. If you notice me already kind of shifting here, but I'm going to kind of share the blame in a weird way. So, VP of HR in a startup, we were hiring a key sales person and through my process, I was like, this is a no go. And it wasn't what they could do. It was going to be about their fit, much more cultural fit. Right? 

 

And I was a solid no, senior team members were a solid yes, because they were looking at what he could do and has done for others. And I'm like, this is going to destroy the firm. Anyway, he was brought on and our numbers popped for a short while. And then, unfortunately he kind of crossed some boundaries with people, as well as markets. And he left the firm in a worse state than when he started with us. Yeah. So it was a long, hard lesson in one trusting your gut to look at not just what they can do but also fit. And taking a longer view of what is success and what your mission is. 

 

Max: I have a lot of names that come to mind where I know the same description and speech would have been easily applicable to this situation. Do not hire based on resume, do not hire based on track record because somebody who's done it before somewhere else does not mean they're going to be able to replicate it or that they even want to do it in the new place, you know, maybe they're a different person.

 

They're not interested in doing the same type of work. And, it's just not going to relate. So a track record is not enough. You have to have something else. 

 

Mary: Yeah, that that is very insightfully put because it's very true. I mean, while we do need some, I know you can do this or you have the history of this, it's really about, you have to meet that person in the here and now. And it's pretty safe to say that in very rare cases, one's performance really fits in with all else that's going on in the context of the company. Right? Place, time, people. So just because they did it once doesn't mean you're going to replicate it. Because that would be almost kind of scientific and cloning, right?

 

Max: Yeah. We're not robots just yet. 

 

Mary: Not yet but I hear they're working on it. 

 

Max: Yeah. So we are. And to wrap up our discussion, Mary, and to put it in the 2020 context. This year has been testing for a lot of people and for organizations, I believe Concentrix has done huge progress in transitioning to work from home, and work from anywhere perhaps. Can you share with us, some success stories from your executive team on how that transition was handled? And, you know, what hidden talents this challenging year may have, you know, put before and revealed in your team?

 

Mary:  Yeah. Awesome. That is a great way to kind of wrap this because I think this year, and I think everyone can attest to this. This year has been one of the most difficult for any business you're in. I mean, global pandemic and then in certain businesses it's been a bigger issue. We are global, obviously, we have 250,000 people, so that's a big footprint to manage.

 

Max: A quarter million!

 

Mary: Yeah, quarter million is kind of scary. Right? So when you think about it, we went from an industry where it was primarily cubicle work in an office, to work from home almost overnight. Our senior team, I have to say, they worked incredibly well together to get very clear. We knew what the mission was, get everybody working from home as quickly as you can for our clients and for our people, while staying safe. Because of such a strong culture built we have and buy into the culture, the team worked incredibly well, and I can't share data, but quote - unquote, almost overnight, made that happen. Right? 

 

Just imagine what that takes. Here we are, eight months after COVID really kind of started. Having the vast majority of the group still working from home where possible. Actually, and I think this industry I'm speaking up for, I don't know for a fact, seeing this I think this industry may take a look at work from home. It's going to become more popular. Or more the manner. I don't know if it'll ever be the only way, but I think that just shows we could remain in business and we didn't have to have everyone contained in a cubicle or in an office. And I wanna, you know, think and even express, you know, gratitude from so many, you know, 250,000 of us, to the senior executives who are pulling together so quickly.

 

And really being clear on that purpose. it's amazing when you're someone who is clear on a purpose, and you have a group also clear on that purpose, you can move mountains, right? Or you can actually move a hundred thousands of computers like that. 

 

Max: Yeah. It was beautiful to see what happened to the industry this year. It was difficult of course, for some people, we've seen divorce rates go up, suicides rates, alcohol consumption and other indicators that show that those stressors on the market have been felt. with the commuting time being reduced to zero, however, we can look at it as, perhaps the day is less and less crowded with waste. Maybe it's a little bit more purposeful. Is that how your executive team is experiencing it? Because I know at the management level, managing people remotely takes probably even more time than doing it in the office where you can have everybody in a room. So are they feeling, are they feeling the weights of those extra hours or they're enjoying the freedom from commute? Where's the balance? 

 

Mary: Where's the balance? Well it's an interesting balance. The vast majority, because we are global, a lot of what we did was, you know, via telecommunications. It wasn't necessarily as in person. But for those that have the in-person experiences initially was very difficult, a lot of us miss and who doesn't miss that contact, that said, people are finding and it's going on two different camps here.

 

They're actually working more because they're in their home. You know, you don't have to get up, commute, change. All that logistical stuff has gone. So you just fill your work into that space. So whereas we talk about setting boundaries, right? Others have actually found, instead of working in that space, that they're getting really good about boundaries and really finding that they're more of themselves, both in work and home. 

 

So I've had others go the other way. It wasn't necessarily divorce and suicide, but more family time, more presence. I'm not on the road. So I wouldn't say it's one or the other. It really just depends on individual cases. I think we can speak to this around any firm or anyone. I mean, this year has been loaded with work, add COVID as a stressor, and then add business as a stressor, add personal schooling. And if you look at all those stressors, it's a stressful time for anyone wherever you're at. And so that is going to impact the greater population. 

 

Max: Well, I'm, I'm taking a lot of positives from your answer, where people have been spending more time at home. And being able to put in more hours and, you know, and so important work as well. And so obviously top executives will respond to challenges with a good level of resiliency. And, it sounds like they have, and they've done a good job of transitioning the company at a scale that nobody could have imagined.

 

Thank you for sharing those stories, Mary. I wish you and your team much success in 2021. And, thank you for coming to the show. 

 

Mary: Well, thank you, Max. Awesome. Here's to everyone's good 2021.

 

That was Mary Meston VP of talent management at Concentrix reminding us to create space. That's what she does for the executives at Concentrix and what she reminds us to do for ourselves. I enjoyed it as I hope you did as well. If you did, please follow us, please follow the recruitment hackers podcast.

 

And if you'd like to be on the show or know somebody who I should interview. Remember to reach out on talkpush.com I'm always looking for more interesting people to talk to. Thank you.

 

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