I have a confession.

I’m don’t think of myself as a Headhunter or Executive Search Consultant.  I think of myself as a Staffing Consigliere – like Robert Duvall in the Godfather.  (That’s him … quietly in the background).

For those of you who don’t run organized crime syndicates … or go to the movies:

A consigliere is “a close, trusted friend and confidant, the mob’s version of an elder statesman. He is devoid of ambition and dispenses disinterested advice.”  (From Wikipedia –  the repository of all human knowledge).

How do I know I’m a consigliere? Because senior executives call me every day to get perspective on complex, emotionally charged, high stakes problems. They don’t just call when they need to engage us for a search, they often call me just to talk them down off the ledge.

This is personal, I don’t do this for strangers, but my clients know they can call me without it turning into a “sales call.” The cash register doesn’t need to ring to get my attention. I just solve the problems, and the money takes care of itself in the long run.

Sometimes it’s a hiring manager who is desperately afraid of making another hiring mistake. I just talked to someone who had engaged another search firm to help them fill a very specialized job.  They were coming into the interview sequence and looking for a pre-employment assessment tool or anything that will help lower their risk in this high-stakes hiring decision. In fifteen minutes of conversation we developed a much simpler solution. (Again, this call was not about one of our searches, it was just an executive calling for advice).

Sometimes the call comes from a senior executive who is considering quitting their job (again, not the people we’ve placed, just colleagues). They need perspective because the pressure on them is so intense.

  • “Is this job salvageable or should I pack it all it and work at the local wine store until I get my next VP gig?”
  • “Is it time I tried my hand as a consultant?”
  • “How would my resume look if I quit now?”
  • “How’s the job market looking for someone like me?”
  • “Hey, quick question, I had a headhunter call me and they said …. should I believe them?”

Often I will tell people what they don’t want to hear. “That key executive you are so happy with?  That’s the source of your problems.” Or “If you quit now, you’ll make yourself far less marketable.”

So who is your consigliere?

Who do you trust for informed, unbiased advice about the job market, about your own marketability, and for agenda-free advice on how to handle a complex staffing problem?  Because if your vendor relationships are with people who you don’t really trust, or people who just agree with you, or worst of all – people you trust who are uninformed,  then you are not getting full value from your vendors.

Because while many people think work is “strictly business” we both know, it’s personal.