Inside the mind of a recruiter

9 May 2019

Leslie Loveless. Image: Slone Partners

This week on Leaders’ Insights, Leslie Loveless of Slone Partners talks to us about her role in recruitment and what keeps her up at night.

Leslie Loveless is CEO and head of recruitment at Slone Partners, where she divides her time between developing new client relationships, supporting long-term clients, working on marketing strategies for the firm and aligning the company’s overall business strategy.

Prior to joining Slone Partners, Loveless had a successful career in healthcare sales, serving as national sales trainer with Quest Diagnostics and later as director of training and development for AmeriPath. Earlier in her career, she spent more than five years as an educator where she honed effective communication skills and a passion for helping others realise their full potential.

Describe your role and what you do.

At Slone Partners, I serve as leader of the organisation and as head of the executive search team. My involvement with clients and candidates enables me to fully understand the key motivations of both.

In my role as chief executive officer, my focus extends to cultivating new business partnerships and expanding relationships with existing clients. I assist our clients in establishing clear objectives and developing customised hiring strategies to meet their unique recruitment needs.

I also serve as a coach and mentor to the executive recruitment team to ensure positive outcomes on each individual engagement, and I work collaboratively with the marketing and public relations team at Slone, with a focus on brand awareness and maintaining current knowledge of industry trends and changes.

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

I consider myself to be a highly structured person, which allows me to maximise my productivity. The most productive time of my day is between 5am and 7am each morning when I’m at my desk working without interruption, allowing me the quiet time necessary to think through the priorities for that day and how I plan to tackle them.

My work life is organised such that I can focus on the things that contribute most to the success of the company, and so that I don’t have to worry about all of the incidentals, which can often serve as distractions by consuming my time and mental energy. Over the years I have learned to create the self-discipline necessary to concentrate my energies on those issues and relationships that matter most to the future of our company.

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

The biggest challenges we are facing right now are the things we cannot control. Specifically, I worry about whether the economy will remain strong enough to allow for continued investment in life sciences and healthcare companies. Fortunately, the national economy has been quite healthy in recent years, but we all know these things are cyclical, so I am extremely sensitive to market trends and capital flows. That is critically important for the success of our company. Will companies have the capital necessary to invest in projects and hire the people to lead them? This is what keeps me up at night.

‘We can only succeed in our business if we are all rowing the boat in the same direction’

What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?

Drug discovery has been and continues to be the sector that gets the most attention from investors. We have developed a strategy for expanding relationships in this market segment to the point that it has become our fastest-growing client base in just a couple of years. The fact that we serve a cross-section of life sciences, diagnostics, testing services, and data and analytics industries serves us well in understanding the overlap of these market segments, and keeping us current in all of them.

What set you on the road to where you are now?

I first met Adam Slone, the founder of our company, when he recruited me for the national sales training manager position at Quest Diagnostics in 2003, and we had an immediate connection. He later reached out and asked me to consider working with him at Slone Partners when I was at a point in my career at which I was ready to make a change. That time came a few years later after I adopted my daughter and realised that I couldn’t constantly travel any longer.

Adam hired me even though I had no experience in executive recruiting, and I am so thankful that he believed in me and gave me the opportunity to succeed. I am proud to say that I quickly became the company’s top recruiter, producing more than a million dollars in revenues every year for 10 years. During this period, I assumed additional responsibilities as vice-president and then COO, and when Adam decided to reduce his day-to-day role at the company he promoted me to CEO. Again, he believed in me, supported me and has helped push me along in my professional life to the place where I am today.

What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?

I’ve made many mistakes in my life, most often in my personal life. But, over the years I have learned that it is critically important to separate your work life from your private life, and I have honed the ability to compartmentalise the two. So, instead of getting rattled and distracted by the many curveballs life can throw, I can generally leave those matters aside while I am concentrating on the important issues at the office. My formula for managing difficult challenges now is to allow myself to feel, then think about it and then respond, in that order. I apply that formula to my work life as well as my personal life.

How do you get the best out of your team?

We are very fortunate to have built a really amazing team at Slone Partners, and I’ve come to realise that we are strengthened by the different skills, experiences and perspectives that each individual brings to the company. In that same vein, I have also learned that each person responds differently to incentives, direction and feedback, so we have developed one of our tenured team members into vice-president of executive search to work closely with me on managing our recruiters.

I’m a very intense person, but that intensity doesn’t always translate well with some members of the team. Having another voice at the executive leadership level helps to regulate and customise my messaging based on the individual and how he or she will respond. I think it’s very important to treat people with the respect and dignity that they deserve, while also being honest and candid yet sensitive to what makes them tick. After all, we can only succeed in our business if we are all rowing the boat in the same direction.

STEM sectors receive a lot of criticism for a lack of diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity and other demographics. Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector? What are your thoughts on this and what’s needed to be more inclusive?

Most definitely there is a lack of diversity across executive leadership positions in many industries, including the life sciences. It is a serious problem that needs to be addressed, but that will only happen when people want change. And then, they must make it a priority.

In my opinion, if you are faced with two nearly equally qualified candidates, you should give every consideration to the diverse candidate, so as to help to begin to balance the scales. We must be willing to create opportunities for those who have been historically underrepresented at the executive leadership level. Only through smart and thoughtful recruiting, hiring, and promotion will we be able to build a truly fair and egalitarian ecosystem where everybody has an equal shot.

Who is your role model and why?

I have admired many people whom I have met and worked with throughout my career, so I can’t name just one individual. However, I can tell you that I admire certain characteristics in people that I try daily to emulate. I respect people who are smart, responsible, thoughtful, and fair in the way they approach the world and work with other people, and those who are not overly judgemental and can appreciate the differences in people. Most of all, I want people to be kind to one another. Being humble and considerate can go a long way toward making our world a better place.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

I recommend two books that I think are particularly relevant to my line of work:

  • The Experience: The 5 Principles of Disney Service and Relationship Excellence. This book allows the reader a deeper understanding of what it takes to allow a client to truly have an exceptional experience, and the greater impact of that experience on the overall business
  • Reinventing Organizations. This book helps leaders understand that the best organisations are those that are alive with ideas flowing at every level. Everyone is involved in developing the organisation, the culture and processes etc. The leader sets the vision but everyone has ownership in achieving
What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

There are many tools and resources that I depend on to do my job. Most definitely I rely on the key people around me to help me maximise my time and mental energy. I appreciate frequent conversations with my business partners and other members of the leadership team, during which we support one another and share ideas.

But I also rely on my physical routine to keep me sharp and focused. I’m not a great athlete, but over time I have developed the endurance and discipline to run three to five miles per day. I do this more than anything because it clears my head and makes me feel physically strong. There is no doubt that I am much more productive and energetic on the days when I run.

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