Leadership; Loyalty’s Soulmate

It dawned me this morning after seeing a poignant quote posted on LinkedIn by a friend and colleague; that the quality of leadership within an organization has a direct correlation with the attachment to loyalty. I spend my days in conversation with very talented individuals, doing my very best to help them obtain a more suitable position and to align them and their skill set to organizations that are a match. The leadership of the organization is always part of the dialog, and I’m convinced that it causes people to stay or leave in many cases. I believe that true leadership is the glue that keeps it all together; especially in the fast paced arena of mortgage banking. We have all worked for people that have been great bosses, and many of us have worked for others that were not. Think back for a second and attempt to attach your historic job satisfaction to the quality of the leadership you experienced in your career. If you are anything like me; the memories are clear and stark; it’s a critical component to enjoyment in the workplace; and I’ll bet, there is a similar attachment to the success you achieved under that quality leadership.

You see, quality leadership has an adhesive that helps employees feel better about themselves and the company that they work for. In my view, this is the most important aspect of management; being able to connect with your team members in a manner that keeps the company pride flowing though their veins. I have first-hand knowledge of this from both sides. I spent many years in a management role, and always took a tremendous amount of time building relationships and making sure that the people who were under my leadership knew that I was in the fight with them. I call it the “field general” approach. Some call it the “player coach” approach. The bottom line for a leader is that they are willing to get off their horse and join the field of battle. Nothing else they do can be as powerful as this simple notion; and believe me, it gets noticed by all who witness these acts. In contrast, those who are not willing to battle side by side usually foster resentment as a result.

Now, I’m in a different role, recruiting talent for many of these leaders. One of the main factors why people leave an organization is because they do not feel supported by their boss. Loyalty flows in direct concert to the quality of leadership and the relationship one has with their company and most importantly, their direct supervisor.

For all of you leaders out there, I know that the workload can get heavy. Budgets, goals, forecasting, recruiting, operations, and many other factors that weigh you down through the course of your day. However, I can guarantee that if you take your eyes off the people on your downline and if you are not willing to get down off the horse and fight; you will find your sales numbers and your sales force diminishing.   My very best…..Tony

Has Technology Eliminated the Need for Relocation?

Five years ago, when we received a search for a C-level Executive, it was a given that the role would be based from the lender’s corporate office…. the only question surrounding relocation was how much the company would pony up towards the Relocation Package.  (And while we’re on that subject, boy have those packages changed over the years!)  There was never any discussion surrounding the candidate stepping in to the position from (gasp!) his or her current location.

Thanks to technology, we are now seeing a shift in this protocol.  To be sure, there are some roles that must be based from Corporate and it’s my feeling that not only is this sometimes better for the company but it’s in the Candidate’s best interest as well. An office down the hall from the CEO has its advantages, both professionally and personally.  You are perceived as being more “plugged in” and accessible when you actually have a seat at the table vs just having that seat on paper, even if you are only a few clicks away from “virtually” being present.

Having said that, more lenders are extending flexibility to its Executive Team when it comes to location, thanks to technology such as Video Conferencing tools like Skype, GoToMeeting and WebEx.  Social networks such as Yammer and Social Cast, designed to foster workplace sharing and encouraging internal communication are becoming more popular as well.

There are virtual solutions for just about every type of business situation out there, including presentations that can be conducted from the company website, providing a deeper branding experience for your clients or new team members.

Lenders employing remote Operations teams are now the norm, this practice is now seeping into the C-suite, making those candidates unable to relocate a viable option, instead of automatically delegating those resumes to the “no” pile.




“Should I Stay or Should I Go!!!”

For many people, at least in my generation, the music of the eighties was second to none.  So many great bands and artists, varieties of music; dance, ballads, rock, and my favorite…. new wave (or alternative, punk rock, etc..).  The title of this piece is from one of my all-time favorites, The Clash.

I know, this isn’t Facebook so I won’t go down that rabbit hole; certainly that is not what this post will be about.  What it is about is the pontification and the arduous thought process many people have over the very difficult decision pursuant to leaving a job and starting anew.  Being an executive recruiter and someone who has an affinity for helping people get into better career slots; I have this discussion with candidates quite often.  And although each situation is unique in its own right; there are several key components that should be pondered as one treads into the deep end of the pool.

  • Culture – This can be a difficult one to assess regarding the potential new company, but should be fairly easy to ascertain where you are currently. This is really important; you must understand the type of culture and where you fit in the best.  For example, in many of the sales type positions I recruit for, the type of management structure can be the difference maker.  What type of accountability standards are in place?  What will be expected of me?  Will my boss be micromanaging my day to day activities or will I be freed up to work at my own pace?  It’s also important to determine the values of an organization and if they fit in with your own personal values.  A comfortable work environment is critical to success; so do your homework on your new potential organization.  You know how things are in your current role, so compare and contrast the culture aspects of each.  This piece gets overlooked quite often, complete your due diligence here and your decision will be much easier.


  • Skill set alignment – Many times I see people in jobs that are not aligned with their individual skill set. You would be surprised at the number of individuals that are not completely in tune with their skills, and quite often find themselves in jobs that are just not connected with what they do best.  The first step here is to identified clearly with your skill set.  I’ve seen many ways to determine this over my career, but my favorite has always been Tom Rath’s; Strenthfinder 2.0.  Through a series of detailed questions, a response is elicited that clearly explains what your strengths are and how they can manifest in your life and in your career.  When I did mine I was amazed on how “spot on” it was.  I’ve used it to pursue my career goals ever since.  This intense understanding of your skills will not only help you assess whether or not you are in the right job, it will help you greatly throughout the interview process if in fact you decide to venture out to find something better.


  • Compensation – Unfortunately, this one is usually on the top of the list for most; but really shouldn’t be. Clearly, the reality is that will all want to earn at a higher level and this component is very important.  However, it should be weighed with the other factors to determine the best fit.  When it comes to compensation, do your homework.  Find out what similar jobs to yours are paying in your industry.  I work in the mortgage banking space and quite often on sales jobs. There is always dialog regarding the split between salary, bonus, and commissions and how much should be at risk. Many times, the most lucrative sales opportunities are heavily weighed on the commission side; which is where most top-flight salespeople want it to be.  Be careful not to get caught up in a situation where you jump from job to job for the promise of higher pay.  Not only is that a risk, but your reputation may take a hit if you become a “job hopper”. Many top companies will not hire you if you leave jobs every few years.


  • Support – Like I mentioned, I do most of my work in the mortgage space and one of the most critical items centers on the actual support received, the process which loans move through the system, and the satisfaction level of the consumer. Again, this should be easy to determine in your current role, and many people will leave jobs due to lack of support or poor handling of the customers.  This is very important if you leave one job for another.  Again, ask the right questions.  Ask to speak to others in the organization regarding the processing items that will directly affect you and the position you are considering.  If the company is what they say they are, they will provide you all of the detail you need to make an informed decision.  If you feel they are hiding something, they usually are.  Compare and contrast with where you are now on all of these items.


  • Purpose – This one can be a bit esoteric for some folks, but in my view it’s the absolute most important. It kind if goes along with the skill set component above, but on a deeper level.  Without getting into deep spiritual matters, it is my belief that each of us is made for a purpose with special and unique gifts.  Similar to the skill set, many individuals do not spend much time identifying their purpose and unfortunately this lends itself to landing in the wrong job.  When you are early in your career this is even more difficult to determine; your views on life are just being shaped.  However, attempting to understand your purpose and searching for that true meaning in your life will help you tie to a suitable profession, job, and career.  I wrote a book several years ago entitled My Back Nine.  In the career chapter of the book I penned the following quote:

“There can be a unique and unbreakable bond between what you do for a living and who you are as a person.  In my view, it’s really the latter that matters.  However, one who endeavors to build this bond in reverse order opens the door to limitless possibilities”

If you always attempt to tie what you do with who you are; you set yourself up for more success and certainly a more satisfactory work environment.

I hope some of this information is helpful as you set out to determine if you should stay or go. Also, if you are not working with an executive recruiter, I strongly suggest you do so (shameless plug).  Seriously, a recruiter can help navigate these deep waters and the really good ones will take a genuine care and really get to know you, your strengths, and can help guide you through this process.

In the end, working through each of these very important components can help you avoid the outcome described in these very memorable Clash song lyrics:

“If I stay there will be trouble; if I go there will be double”

Tony Caico

The Ugly Truth Disguised as a Compliment

When I sold software, we had basically one competitor.  It was great because that competitor was more expensive and had terrible customer service, so needless to say, it wasn’t difficult to get people to switch.  After they switched there was a conversation I had with each customer about the other company’s counter offer.  It never failed, after they called to cancel their service with them, they, out of panic, offered them the software at a cheaper price than they had been paying for years.  “Isn’t that a little insulting?” I would ask, most of them agreed.  Why had they been paying so much when they can clearly charge less for that same software only after they said they were leaving?  This is the same premise behind companies giving a counteroffer when employees give notice.

There is a reason those customers wanted to switch software companies, just as there is a reason employees give notice to their employers.  Counteroffers are often made out of panic, I believe the same is true for the acceptance of them.  Again, you wanted to leave that company for a reason, don’t forget that over the glossy sound of more money or a new title.  Those reasons will likely come up again after the glow of a raise or promotion wears off.  Think about it…why do you have to threaten to leave your job just to get paid what you’re worth?

Here is the ugly truth behind counters.  They are disguised as compliments, a warm and fuzzy, feel good in the moment promise of better things to come.  The ugly side of it is that the overwhelming majority of counter offers simply don’t work in the long run.   You will always be the guy\gal who wanted to leave, which subconsciously breeds resentment among the troops.  You run the risk that you will stay on and be pushed out anyway.  According to U.S. News, 70-80% of people who accept counteroffers end up leaving anyway or being let go within a year.

So, if you do get a solid offer with a new company that you feel good about accepting, make the commitment without looking back.  You’ll thank yourself in the long run.

Have a job interview coming up?  Make sure to visit MSA’s website to check out our tips on how to best answer the toughest interview question:

The One Question Most People Lie About in Interviews

There are many questions you can expect when going in for an interview, for pretty much any job:

“Why do you want this job?”

“What makes you qualified for this position?”

“What are your strengths?”

But there is one question that is a point of anxiety for everyone…” What are your weaknesses?”  It’s hard and a little scary to admit that you are sometimes a procrastinator or that you are sometimes late to work.  The old standards “my weaknesses are also my strengths, I’m too organized, I’m too hard working, I’m too focused”, etc just don’t fly anymore.

Multiple studies have shown that being honest and accurate about what your actual weaknesses are impresses companies more than answering with an outdated cliché.

According to author and Wharton professor Adam Grant, in one study, interviewers gave the highest ratings to business school applicants who were more concerned with being seen accurately than positively. In another study, Harvard researchers asked undergraduates to answer a job interview question about their weaknesses. Only 23 percent gave actual negative qualities: I procrastinate. I overreact to situations. The other 77 percent hid their weaknesses inside a humblebrag: I’m too nice. I’m too demanding when it comes to fairness. When collaborators reviewed the answers, they were 30 percent more interested in hiring the candidates who acknowledged a legitimate weakness.

So next time you go on a job interview, how would you answer that question?

A Fancy Word for Listening…

Why is feedback important?  Because it’s everywhere.  Every time we have a conversation with someone, no matter how we show it, we communicate feedback.  It’s another form of listening effectively.  Did we hear what this person said to us?  Did we value what they were saying?  Did we understand what they were trying to convey?  When we respond to someone, it’s essentially giving feedback.

Most everyone has been in a position where they have interviewed for a job and think they nailed it.  Then days go by and they hear nothing back from the company.  What happened?  Why didn’t they get the job or why did the organization not want to continue the conversation?  This is when feedback comes in.

As recruiters, we strive to give our candidates feedback, tell they did great in an interview, what they can improve on, or what the organization really liked about them.  Getting that feedback for the candidate is very important, but it is also very important for us as recruiters.  Feedback is a tool for continued learning.  It helps recruiters learn what the company is looking for on a specific level by telling us what they did or didn’t like about a candidate.  It also helps the candidates learn whether they are doing something that attracts or distracts an organization from continuing the conversation.

So, the next time you interview a candidate, whether it’s from a recruiter or not, provide feedback on the interview.  Not only is it basic professional courtesy, but it communicates the message that you appreciate the interest the individual has in your firm and keeps them engaged, in the event you want to continue the dialogue.

MSA is the premiere Executive Search firm for the Financial Services industry.  Check out our website at


Your Mother was Right All Along

Turns out Mom was spot on.  You only get one chance to make a first impression and that carries over to LinkedIn as well.  How important is responding to someone when you’re talking about communication, even if that person isn’t in the market for what you’re selling?  Well, ask yourself… how important is communication, really?  Important.  Responses are a form of communication and when you respond to someone (vs simply ignoring communication that isn’t going to help you that moment) it shows that you value their time as much as you value your own.

I recently sent someone an InMail on LinkedIn.  He responded that while he appreciated me reaching out to him, he wasn’t interested.  I responded back saying “Thanks for getting back with me, have a great weekend and let’s stay in touch”.  That’s it  – it took me less than 30 seconds.  I got a response back from him saying that he really appreciated my response back, going on to say that he typically gets the warm & fuzzy emails from recruiters, but that after taking the time to respond to them with “thanks but no thanks” they typically ignore it with no reply.

I think that the misconception about LinkedIn when it comes to Recruiters is that we send out tons of bulk InMails with no individual time or thought going into each one.  That’s simply not the case.  I take the time to write an InMail to each person I send it to.  I get a lot of people that never respond and others that are interested in speaking.  But every now and then I get people that aren’t interested but still take the time to respond.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that.  Thank you for taking the time to get back to me, even if it is a “thanks but no thanks”.  Those are the people that stay in my database for future reference and the first ones I reach out to when new opportunities arise.

Networking is key in the business world.  Do it effectively and you will always have connections to turn to.  What’s that old saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know?”  Make a bad impression and you may never have the opportunity to get it right.

The Most Affordable States to Live in the U.S., Did Your State Make the List?

Do you pay almost $5000 in rent every month?  There are some great cities around the country where you can nab a 2-bedroom apartment for $550, practically unheard of these days!  With housing prices reasonably low and costs of things like eggs and gas below $2, these states are the most affordable in the U.S. to live in right now.  Did your state make the list?

  1. OHIO. With cities like Dayton, Youngstown, Akron, & Ashland, Ohio boasts some of the most affordable cities in the U.S.  With the average housing cost as well as rents well below the national average, this state seems like a great option if you are trying to get your cost of living down.
  1. MISSOURI.  St. Louis & Kansas City have some great things to do & see.  The Arch, the St. Louis Zoo and the Kansas City Royals, just to name a few!  As well as fun things, they offer some of the best housing costs as well as a very low costs of living overall.  Check out the Gateway to the West!
  1. TEXAS.  Even though Texas does have some locations that are rising in the housing market, cities like Temple, Harlingen, & Wichita Falls make Texas a great place to live with very affordable prices for things like rent, gas, & grocery store runs.  Now, the heat? Well, that’s another story for another time!
  1. ARKANSAS.  Conway, Fayetteville, & Little Rock are all great markets, with some of the best housing prices in the country, as well as low cost of living.  This along with the average household income being right at $60,000 combine to make Arkansas one of the Top 5 most affordable places to hang your hat and call home.
  1. TENNESSEE.  From reasonable mortgages to a low cost of living index, cities like Memphis, Murfreesboro, & Smyrna all have a small town feel with lots of things to do that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.  With median rent coming in at around $600/month, it’s very affordable to be in Tennessee these days!

Surprised by any of these?