Episode 21

Uncover, Discover, Remember

Published on: 11th July, 2024

Stephanie welcomes Kay Linder, Partner with ThinkingAhead's Nonprofit Leadership Search, covering ground including the many hats a true recruiter must wear, the importance of planting the seeds of confidence, trust, transparency, and collaboration, using your head, heart, and gut together, and what being "fearless" really means.

Discover what sets ThinkingAhead apart, hear stories from recruiters, and browse opportunities by clicking here.

Transcript
Stephanie Maas:

Welcome to the Talent Trade.

Stephanie Maas:

I am your host, Stephanie Maas, partner with Thinking Ahead Executive Search.

Stephanie Maas:

Today, I am super excited to have one of the absolute best and brightest that Thinking Ahead has certainly ever had, and probably the industry as a whole.

Stephanie Maas:

Please give a very warm welcome to Kay Linder.

Kay Linder:

Oh, it's my pleasure, Stephanie.

Stephanie Maas:

So tell us a little bit of your background with thinking ahead and then love to launch into talking about what's on your mind.

Kay Linder:

Fantastic.

Kay Linder:

So I've actually been with the organization 26 plus years, which Is shocking to some, but not to me because thinking ahead is such a special place to work the collegiality, the collaboration, the ability to have a lot of autonomy in your own business and just to work, you know, with the best and brightest people that are part of our industry is just been a very compelling reason for me saying I'm a partner in our nonprofit practice.

Kay Linder:

And so I work nationally and sometimes internationally.

Kay Linder:

with nonprofit organizations and most of the work I do is with environmental climate and also with zoos, aquariums, and science museums.

Kay Linder:

So a lot of ground to cover, but lots of fun.

Stephanie Maas:

Okay.

Stephanie Maas:

So Kay, obviously you have had a long and dedicated career as an executive recruiter.

Stephanie Maas:

Tell me a little bit more about why the recruitment profession?

Kay Linder:

Great questions.

Kay Linder:

So I am self admittedly a very ADD personality.

Kay Linder:

I'm one of those people that in college could have had like 15 majors.

Kay Linder:

I was lucky to have one just to settle in and figure out what I wanted to do because I was always curious and everything seemed interesting to me.

Kay Linder:

And that's been a lifelong part of my personality.

Kay Linder:

So working with thinking ahead, I've been given the opportunity to Transition the work that I do and my emphasis throughout my career as market trends emerge as my interests move in new directions.

Kay Linder:

I've been able to follow that dream with, you know, the guidance of our wonderful president.

Kay Linder:

And as I mentioned earlier, we have such a high level of.

Kay Linder:

Wonderful people at our organization from smarts to senses of humor to high, high, high ethics again.

Kay Linder:

Also lots of passion for the work we do.

Kay Linder:

And 1 of the things that I think sets us apart is none of us are transactional in our approaches.

Kay Linder:

We seek long term relationships internally and externally.

Kay Linder:

And I think are, I think, 35 years now of thinking it has history is a true testimony to that.

Kay Linder:

So, in the recruitment profession, as I mentioned, you know, I'm curious about everything and I also love to play.

Kay Linder:

Different roles, and that can be from being the heavy listener, really figuring out what makes people tick doing, you know, strategic planning on how to approach a search, really listening carefully to our clients as they're trying to figure out exactly how they need our help or what help they need.

Kay Linder:

All of that blends well with.

Kay Linder:

My interest in not having the same humdrum role, if I were somebody that was selling widgets, or quite frankly, if I was just placing identical people all the time in the same country or city, it would be difficult for me to still be in this profession, but I get to work with.

Kay Linder:

People from all over the country.

Kay Linder:

I work with a lot of different levels of positions from kind of mid level profession to the C suite and each and every one of them are critical to the success of the organizations they work with.

Stephanie Maas:

So out of my curiosity, when you are either working with a client for the first time or candidates for the first time, how do you evaluate what you need to focus on to be helpful, helping them figure out what they really need?

Stephanie Maas:

So from where you sit, I think that's a very different approach than a lot of recruiters take.

Stephanie Maas:

A lot of recruiters are order takers.

Stephanie Maas:

Hey, go find me this and then we jump to work.

Stephanie Maas:

Sounds like your approach is very different.

Kay Linder:

So, I like to build relationships with individuals oftentimes before we work together.

Kay Linder:

That starts out at meeting each other at the cross section of our professions.

Kay Linder:

We both are dedicated to the nonprofit space.

Kay Linder:

A lot of people I work with are interested in fundraising and that's the work that I do.

Kay Linder:

So we have a lot in common.

Kay Linder:

So we're building those bridges of who we are before we start talking about.

Kay Linder:

How we can support that person.

Kay Linder:

When I am in conversations with potential clients, it usually bubbles up through our conversations that they are either facing challenges or anticipating growth in their organizations.

Kay Linder:

And through careful dialogue, I can figure out if the work that I do and the expertise our organization provides as a whole is a good fit.

Kay Linder:

For them, so lots of questions, lots of leaning in and asking deeper, more thoughtful questions.

Kay Linder:

I'll give you an example.

Kay Linder:

I may talk to somebody in it right at that point.

Kay Linder:

They may not think that they have.

Kay Linder:

An active need, but as we look at their strategy, moving their organization forward and growth into the new year, they start thinking about who they need to have in their organization to accomplish those goals.

Kay Linder:

We also talk about unexpected departures.

Kay Linder:

And how to anticipate that so again, it's building a rapport and understanding and they see from our conversation that I am not all about a quick placement or what do you got?

Kay Linder:

What do you got for me to work on?

Kay Linder:

It's all about respecting 1 another.

Kay Linder:

And if, and when they need my help, they recognize the conversations, both the art and the skills that I can help them with.

Stephanie Maas:

Wow.

Stephanie Maas:

Sounds like right out of the gate.

Stephanie Maas:

It's a very consultative approach.

Kay Linder:

Absolutely.

Kay Linder:

And, you know, from the candidate perspective, we typically are calling candidates that don't even perceive themselves as candidates.

Kay Linder:

These are professionals that have their heads down doing amazing work, generally happy with their situation and not really typically having a lot of time to ponder what's next for them.

Kay Linder:

And so.

Kay Linder:

Again, what I work to help them explore is the, what ifs does it make sense for their longer term planning to be at their current organization or what do they need to do to expand their skills?

Kay Linder:

So, if their goal is to.

Kay Linder:

Move into a higher role within the institution.

Kay Linder:

What can they start doing right now without changing jobs necessarily, or changing the organizations they're with to further that anticipation.

Kay Linder:

So they look at me as well.

Kay Linder:

They should as an ally and somebody that really appreciates the fact that they are dedicating themselves to very worthwhile missions that really, you know, in the background of everything important in our country, they're doing work.

Kay Linder:

And usually at not the top wages, um, that they could get in the for profit arena.

Kay Linder:

And as a result, I do everything I can to not only help them fulfill their own passion, but keep them in the business.

Kay Linder:

Sounds like it's almost the role of a professional coach.

Kay Linder:

Absolutely of all the different roles that we play in our work.

Kay Linder:

The 1 that I cherish the most is being a coach and I think a principle that you really need to remember is as a coach.

Kay Linder:

You're unlocking a person's potential to maximize their performance.

Kay Linder:

You're helping them to learn rather than teaching them.

Kay Linder:

They are the experts and they have the answers.

Kay Linder:

We're just helping them understand what those are and bringing out the best.

Kay Linder:

You know, in order to do that, we have to create that safe environment.

Kay Linder:

Where they can share whatever they're thinking without fear of judgment.

Kay Linder:

I love the fact that you have to listen attentively and empathetically.

Kay Linder:

And really lean in and listen, listen, listen and hear, hear, hear and digest, digest, digest.

Kay Linder:

And then help them with figuring out a very clear objective and goals.

Kay Linder:

Helping them by providing some feedback of our knowledge in the industry and again, letting them create a path where they can fail forward sometimes where they're not afraid to try new things in order to advance what will really make them great.

Kay Linder:

And what will bring them, you know, the largest satisfaction in their work and, of course, asking questions.

Kay Linder:

So being a coach is not teaching.

Kay Linder:

It's not necessarily mentoring.

Kay Linder:

It's helping the person learn more about themselves and their own desires and their own skills and their own talents and talents yet to be discovered, uncovered or learned.

Kay Linder:

That will set them on the course.

Stephanie Maas:

So how do you balance that approach with the for profit side of our business?

Kay Linder:

Great question.

Kay Linder:

First of all, I do my best to uncover people that either have realized talent or potential talent.

Kay Linder:

And those are the people on the candidate side that I'm building deep relationships with, and I'm.

Kay Linder:

Giving, you know, of myself in a way that will make sense and pay major rewards in the long term.

Kay Linder:

And that can be either as they themselves becoming a candidate.

Kay Linder:

If, and when the timing is right, or for them uncovering and sharing their professional network of the a players that they know who won't normally take a call from a recruiter, but will, if this person opens the door and makes that introduction and then interestingly, sometimes if you perceive somebody as a candidate.

Kay Linder:

They, uh, instead become a client and because of the approach that you used with them, the thoughtfulness and the leaning in and being helpful, they remember that.

Kay Linder:

And when they have a chance to hire someone, then I'm the person that they contact.

Kay Linder:

And so, even though it is truly empathetic and learning, I'm taking copious notes at the same time, I'm uncovering.

Kay Linder:

Thank you.

Kay Linder:

Discovering and remembering what makes that person tick.

Kay Linder:

And so the next time we have a conversation, we can take that conversation further and further.

Kay Linder:

And because of that, because I surround myself with a feeling of plenitude and generosity, again, with A players, then those things circle around and provide me with You know, great searches, great candidates, great inside tracks of what's happening at organizations before sometimes even a leadership may know what's happening.

Kay Linder:

And I think that that's key to the success.

Kay Linder:

It's kind of sounds corny, but it's, if you build it, they will come.

Kay Linder:

If you build that sincere student to the business, but generous listener and provider of information and thoughtful, caring and sharing.

Kay Linder:

Then people remember that and they want to work with you.

Stephanie Maas:

And then I have to imagine because of this meaningful level of rapport, it gives you insight into candidates that really change your conversations with clients.

Kay Linder:

Absolutely.

Kay Linder:

I have a high benchmark of who I introduce.

Kay Linder:

To my clients, I not only am looking at providing quality candidates that have the skill sets, but I really want to understand what motivates them in general, what excites them truly about making a change and being able to share that carefully with a lot of consideration with my client organization, because.

Kay Linder:

It's one thing to find somebody that has all the skills and experience on paper, but it takes a different approach to get that gut check of, are they going to be a great fit for the organization?

Kay Linder:

Not only in the early stages, but are they going to evolve and stay so they have successful tenures?

Kay Linder:

And potential promotions again, as I mentioned, sometimes I'm placing people at the senior executive level, but a lot of times I'm placing those mid level managers and directors who could be 1 day, the CEO of the organization themselves.

Kay Linder:

And so being able to communicate to my clients really what the hopes and the dreams are of the candidate and how they.

Kay Linder:

React what's helped them be successful up to now, what are the scenarios and culture of the organizations that they've worked at before where they have prospered the most allows my client to a decide if their organization is a good fit, but also if they do bring the candidate in how to keep them kind of cloaked in this supportive culture where they will continue to thrive.

Kay Linder:

I know that sounds a little touchy feely, but it's really at the base level, what makes searches work, what makes candidates work out long term, and that's key to the work that we do at Thinking Ahead.

Kay Linder:

I have a lot of clients that use me repeatedly for searches, and in fact, sometimes for searches where I may have not done a lot of recruiting before, but because they trust our approach, They become very confident that not only will we find the skills, we'll find the person that we know will fit in their organization.

Stephanie Maas:

Let's talk about that just for a second in regards to your process.

Stephanie Maas:

And I'm thinking specifically for recruiters that might be listening in going, wow, that sounds as complex as heart surgery.

Stephanie Maas:

Break it down.

Stephanie Maas:

What does this look like in terms of a process?

Kay Linder:

Sure.

Kay Linder:

So if we're talking about running a search, first of all, With the client, before we take on a search, we do a pretty short, but intensive discovery process with the client where we have an opportunity to have conversations and or survey all the important people.

Kay Linder:

That will lend to the success of that, that person being hired, but also who will be impacted by whether the higher is correct or not.

Kay Linder:

And that in itself allows us not only to know the skill sets, but also understand what personalities.

Kay Linder:

Are going to work also understand what the challenges are within the organization and what success will look like after the 1st year.

Kay Linder:

And so I'm beginning to build my own image of not only what this person will need to be like, but I can share with the candidates.

Kay Linder:

The realness of the opportunity and really hope that when I'm meeting with them that I can evoke a whole lot more information for them where they can really truly begin to picture what the role is like and what life there will be like so that they can decide if they want to step forward or not.

Kay Linder:

On the candidate side of the equation, when I'm 1st introduced to a candidate, or if I'm going back to somebody I've worked with before, instead of immediately talking to them about the position, et cetera, I want to revisit what makes sense for them at their stage and career.

Kay Linder:

What are the ideas of.

Kay Linder:

Where they would like to go the kind of opportunities that would really reverberate with them and what would make it worthwhile to suffer the pain of change and we get into that.

Kay Linder:

I, you know, I really take copious notes on that.

Kay Linder:

And quite honestly, if my client is not going to align well with what is important to them, I'll let them know that.

Kay Linder:

And the why and then ask for referrals.

Kay Linder:

But the reason I emphasize those 1st, initial interactions is how important that is to set the stage of confidence, trust, transparency and collaboration.

Kay Linder:

Because if you start there, you can maintain it and grow it and deepen it.

Kay Linder:

If you don't start there, you can't grow it on the back end.

Stephanie Maas:

I think if listeners get nothing else out of this podcast, what you just said is the grand slam.

Stephanie Maas:

The conversations in the beginning set the stage.

Stephanie Maas:

You can't do that on the backend, the trust, the collaboration.

Stephanie Maas:

That's the difference maker because people really feel, and I love that word that you used earlier, ally.

Stephanie Maas:

It's, it's a word that doesn't get used often in business.

Stephanie Maas:

I think, you know, people talk about colleagues or friends, but an ally is something very different.

Stephanie Maas:

An ally to me is someone you go in the trenches with.

Stephanie Maas:

You don't care if you like them or not.

Stephanie Maas:

You don't care.

Stephanie Maas:

It's not about, Hey, are you going to be friends when it's all said and done or whatever, but it's, Hey, we're on the same team for the greater good, whatever that greater good is.

Stephanie Maas:

Going in the trenches with people and they know they can trust you, they can count on you, and it just sets up for a different process than I would imagine they've ever experienced in working with a search firm.

Stephanie Maas:

And I'd say with clients too.

Stephanie Maas:

Do you mind if I shift gears a little bit?

Kay Linder:

Not at all.

Stephanie Maas:

I would love to hear in your 30 years, not quite, but almost years of search, what do you consider to be your superpower?

Stephanie Maas:

Boy, um, I think I see connections where other people don't.

Stephanie Maas:

I will talk to somebody and then a year later I'll be talking to someone else.

Stephanie Maas:

And I remember, I may not remember exactly who I talked to until I look it up, but I'll remember, Oh, my gosh, this person that I talked to would really align well with what I'm hearing here.

Stephanie Maas:

And that can be in so many ways that can be in new client generation because I could go back and.

Stephanie Maas:

Connect people 1 of the things I love doing is if somebody's new to a particular niche in the nonprofit area.

Stephanie Maas:

Let's say they've never worked at a children's museum before I can introduce them to a lot of their peers at other institutions because I remember those and I've built those relationships.

Stephanie Maas:

So again, they don't feel.

Stephanie Maas:

Alone and learning the industry, but they immediately have a ready set group of peer group to talk to.

Stephanie Maas:

So, I think that instinct of listening and pairing and matching is something that's been very helpful to me.

Stephanie Maas:

I also feel like I use my head, heart and gut.

Stephanie Maas:

Together in a meaningful way head is the analysis of the work.

Stephanie Maas:

The heart is, do I have a real passion for the work that they're doing for taking on this search for what it means?

Stephanie Maas:

And then the gut is the gut check, right?

Stephanie Maas:

Everything else can be alignment.

Stephanie Maas:

Like, with a candidate, they.

Stephanie Maas:

Have a passion for my client.

Stephanie Maas:

They have all the skill sets, but there's something off or not.

Stephanie Maas:

That's the gut check.

Stephanie Maas:

So I don't allow myself to get carried away with candidates because they look so good.

Stephanie Maas:

I'm always listening to my gut because I'm keeping those careful conversations I have with the client.

Stephanie Maas:

Top of mind.

Stephanie Maas:

And I know that the client strengths and weaknesses and what kind of person they need to have and what kind of person they can't have.

Stephanie Maas:

And that constantly directs my conversations with the client too.

Stephanie Maas:

Super meaningful right there.

Stephanie Maas:

Like those of y'all that are younger in the business, if you're listening in, learning how to work with your head, heart, and gut, that is the recruiter secret sauce.

Stephanie Maas:

And it's not a secret.

Stephanie Maas:

We just told it to you.

Stephanie Maas:

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do different?

Kay Linder:

You know, that's a funny question because.

Kay Linder:

1 of the things I think from the start I did right was fearlessly calling people not worrying about their title.

Kay Linder:

I remember when I 1st started with thinking ahead, I was at that time, not in our nonprofit division.

Kay Linder:

And I was calling partners on wall street.

Kay Linder:

They were all making over a 1Million dollars.

Kay Linder:

And at that time, I was not, nor am I now, but, um, just picking up the phone and calling them and just not worrying about what I know or not know.

Kay Linder:

And realizing my role is to listen and develop a rapport and a relationship.

Kay Linder:

That's just served me well throughout.

Kay Linder:

My practice that doesn't mean I only gravitate towards the senior level people in the organization, but frankly, they're the ones that make decisions on who the organization is going to work with, et cetera.

Kay Linder:

So, I think that's a good thing.

Kay Linder:

I think.

Kay Linder:

Maybe throughout my career, there have been times when one of my Achilles heels is not being willing to give up on something and see it through.

Kay Linder:

And frankly, there's sometimes that relationships and clients, you know, it's just not meant to be, or it outgrows its purpose and recognizing that living with it and being okay with it.

Kay Linder:

I think a lot of times, uh, over 26 years, there have been some critical times when I haven't given up quickly enough and gracefully moved on to something else.

Stephanie Maas:

And I just want to comment on that term fearless.

Stephanie Maas:

I don't love that word fearless because I think it implies that you don't have fear.

Stephanie Maas:

But I think when you call somebody fearless is what it really means is they don't let fear stop them.

Stephanie Maas:

That's a quality I would absolutely share about you is.

Stephanie Maas:

It's not that I don't think you have fear.

Stephanie Maas:

You just don't let it stop you.

Kay Linder:

Thank you.

Kay Linder:

Thank you.

Kay Linder:

There's 1 point I would like to make because when I'm talking to people, considering a career in recruitment, I think if you're good hearted, which most of us are, there's this perception that a lot of the work that we do is finding people jobs and we don't and the reason I mentioned that is that of all the roles that we play.

Kay Linder:

The 1 that I try not to play is serving as a therapist, right?

Kay Linder:

Because a therapist is really working with somebody.

Kay Linder:

That's got a lot of emotional and mental pain and we can't fix that.

Kay Linder:

We can encourage them of things that they can do on their own or with loved ones to do that.

Kay Linder:

So, if you have somebody who's very traumatized and they're clinging to you because they think you're going to find them a job, you're not doing them any help or service by taking a lot of their time and a lot of your time to take care of them because you won't be able to in the long run.

Kay Linder:

I don't want to leave on a negative note, but I think that's really important.

Kay Linder:

And I've had those conversations with people over the years where I've told them I can't help you.

Kay Linder:

But here's what you can do, and it's amazing.

Kay Linder:

A lot of these people have come back to me and thanked me for being candid and giving them some other paths to, to explore and how that's really helped them out.

Stephanie Maas:

What a reflection on professional maturity.

Stephanie Maas:

Again, I would imagine for a lot of folks younger, In their career.

Stephanie Maas:

That's been a hard line to find, but you're right.

Stephanie Maas:

I'm on this kick right now with a quote by Rene Brown, which is clear as kind.

Stephanie Maas:

If I can help, I'll do everything I can.

Stephanie Maas:

If I can't, I will lovingly let you know and do everything I can to get you in the right direction.

Kay Linder:

Absolutely.

Stephanie Maas:

Thank you very much for being here.

Stephanie Maas:

Thanks everybody for listening.

Stephanie Maas:

Kay Linder, you did awesome.

Kay Linder:

Excellent.

Stephanie Maas:

Thanks Kay.

Stephanie Maas:

Have a great day.

Kay Linder:

Thank you guys.

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About the Podcast

The Talent Trade
Presented by ThinkingAhead Executive Search
The Talent Trade is all about finding the right person, for the right opportunity, at the right time. But how exactly do you do that the "right" way? Executive Search Partner and Top Biller Stephanie Maas shares more than 25 years of experience about what it takes to be a top recruiter in today's "talent trade" market, using ThinkingAhead’s four-prong system focused on recruiting, business development, planning, and managing your mindset. It’s real, honest information about how to build your desk, perfect your niche, and stand out among the crowd in your search career.



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