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Are You Painting Red Circles?

I was just recently reminded of a great anecdote that I first read in either a Stephen Covey or Tim Ferris book. The story goes like this:

There were some workers painting new lines on the tarmac of an airport. At one point during the job one of the workers knocked over a can of red paint. To try and cover up his mistake he painted the blob of red paint into a nice smooth circle. Nobody was the wiser. Year after year when the crews came to refresh the paint at the airport they would include painting this red circle. Finally, years later someone simply asked the question: “What is this red circle and why are we painting it?” Nobody had a good answer because there was no logical reason for the red circle.

Are there any red circles in your business (or in your life for that matter)? Activities that you do out of habit that may not have a meaningful purpose?

Red Circles are activities, habits or processes that don’t have a meaningful purpose.

I know I’ve certainly had my share of red circles crop up over the years. When I first got into recruiting my boss pointed to a file cabinet with paper candidate files and said to go through them all. This man was a legend who had a very successful career so I did what I was told and got to it…for a while. Then I finally asked a question that changed everything. WHY? The answer was simply because this is the way it has always been done and it has worked. Emphasis on the past tense of HAS. This led me to develop a new methodology that was more in tune with the current landscape of the business world and helped me to deliver a better service to my clients and candidates. Now at CFO Systems Search & Staffing there are NO file cabinets and NO paper!

With the client companies that we work with I spot red circles often. All too often hiring managers and HR leaders have been passed down a manual on how to do things, these manuals are often filled with outdated practices that are killing efficiency. It’s no one’s fault really, but sometimes an internal audit of your daily activities and processes can be the most valuable exercise one can do. Here are a few of the red circles I witness on a daily basis (just to name a few):

  • Screening resumes based simply on keywords
  • Using archaic job descriptions that the actual hiring manager had no part in creating
  • Posting jobs online and expecting to capture truly top tier talent
  • Not having a process in place to communicate with candidates that DON’T get the job (employer brand is on the line!)
  • Interview processes that are too long and drawn out with far too many steps
  • Not building a talent pipeline BEFORE the actual hiring need arises (reactive instead of proactive)
  • The list goes on…

Sometimes it may not be easy to spot red circles yourself. Often times an outsider can more effectively diagnose issues and bring them to the forefront. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends, your family, your network to take a look for you. An “audit” of your business is crucial from time to time. It may be scary to confront the truth, but I promise the outcome will be worth it. It may seem dangerous to question the status quo. It may throw your ship upside down, but it’s necessary for growth and progress.

One more red circle that I know I found in my life that has made a big difference has been social media and the cell phone in general. Sure I get a slight modicum of enjoyment from social media and I get to see what my friends and family are up to, but more often than not I found myself looking at my phone for no reason other than out of habit. This affected both my personal as well as business productivity. Think of all that extra time for positive and productive activities. It’s also very easy to check now too. I know my iPhone actually tracks my “screen time” and which apps I’m on and for how long.

Look for red circles in your life, ask others to help, and then fix them. If you find red circles and are not sure what the fix is or what other activity it should be replaced with, ask! Brene Brown once so eloquently stated: “Vulnerability is not weakness, it’s our greatest measure of courage.”

“Vulnerability is not weakness, it’s our greatest measure of courage.” – Brene Brown

I tend to agree. Be courageous in confronting the red circles in your life and in your business.