Please briefly describe your relationship to the candidate, and describe the circumstances under which you have known her or him.
I was Jane’s Team Guide and Mentor at Nola, the largest Non Profit management consulting organization in the country. Nola provides free consulting services to other Non Profits in the social sector.
We pick our consultants very carefully; Only the brightest business students are selected, and Jane made an extremely strong impression from the first moment we met her.
Jane’s first project was for Manas, a sheltered employment institute for the mentally handicapped. Jane was selected to lead a team of 4 in a project aimed to improve Manas’s employees’ welfare.
During the 10 months of the project, I supervised Jane’s work directly. We had a very intense interaction – we talked several times a week, as well as had weekly personal and team meetings. Moreover, we had numerous presentations at Manas, our client.
As Jane’s supervisor on this project, I followed Jane’s performance closely.
How does the candidate’s performance compare to other well-qualified individuals in similar roles?
Throughout the project, Jane demonstrated very strong leadership, analytical and creative skills. Without any consulting background, she led the team with confident and learned how to leverage thorough, clear, consistent and actionable analysis that enabled smart decision making for clients. In a relatively short time, she became one of the best consultants across the 30 student consultants at Nola.
At Manas, we let the team select the team leader. We do that because we believe that helps build the team and develop a trustful and collaborative environment. The team selected Jane to be their team leader, which was no surprise to me at all.
As soon as the project was first presented to the team, Jane took the lead naturally. She was the first one to frame the project, she led the discussion of how to break it into smaller blocks, allocated responsibilities and defined the schedule. She did it in a seamless manner, and the team embraced her leadership immediately.
She is one of the strongest motivators I have ever got the chance to work with. She learned the strengths and weaknesses of her team members, and she utilized that knowledge to get the best out of each one. She was decisive and determined, and knew how to promote the most effective working environment. She remains calm in every situation, even the most stressful ones when everyone around her was tense.
One example for Jane’s extraordinary leadership occurred four months into the project, when the team became aware of additional data that wasn’t available before. The team had already invested a lot of efforts to make progress on their current path, but the new data could potentially change the whole analysis. Everyone was confused, and the atmosphere was tense. Jane was leading the discussion. First, she verified everyone is on the same page on the facts. Then, she facilitated a discussion about the potential implications of that data, and how it might impact existing work. When the team realized the whole analysis was at question, the team expressed its frustration. But Jane stayed confident and calmed. She drew on the big board at the room a scenarios table, and manipulated the team towards an effective discussion of possible responses. She asked them focused questions, and managed a productive group brainstorming. When they covered all possible aspects, she allocated each team member part of the analysis and presented to the team how all parts will help complete the puzzle. Suddenly, when they were all able to realize the clear path she was leading, they became engaged. They ended the meeting focused on their next steps. At their next meeting, they were able to reach a clear conclusion of how the new data fits into their current analysis.
Jane’s extraordinary ability to analyze problems and outline necessary courses of action was invaluable. The project included enormous amount of both qualitative and quantitative data to process. Jane was always confident about how to break it into logical blocks and define a clear analytical path. She demonstrated unique processing skills and her analysis was always thorough, clear, consistent and actionable. When data was not available or ambiguous, she was the one who knew how to make logical assumptions that enabled the group make progress.
Jane is also extremely creative. She consistently offered fresh perspectives and creative approach on how to proceed. It seemed that whenever the team was stuck and nobody knew which direction to go to, Jane was the one that came up with inNolative ideas and facilitated the discussion about how to implement them.
What (if any) legacy has this candidate left on your organization?
Jane had a last longing contribution both to the Manas and to Nola.
Jane’s inNolative ideas were implemented at Manas and helped optimize working environment to employees’ special needs.
Furthermore, Manas adopted Jane’s recommendation to create additional line of product, and revolutionize operations, resulting in a 25% increase in work volumes.
The extra generated profits were distributed directly to sheltered employees, enabling them better integration into regular society.
Moreover, management labor hours were reduced by 20%.
Jane’s model was so impressive that a senior member of the Ministry of National Welfare suggested it would be adopted nationwide by government sponsored sheltered employment institutions.
That initiative contributed greatly to Nola’s reputation and led to further corporation between the organization and governmental bodies.
The methods Jane created are still being implemented in projects we carry on these days.
Describe the most constructive feedback you have given the candidate. Please also detail the circumstances that caused you to give the feedback.
Working with Jane for several months, I noticed she sometimes insisted on doing things on her own, rather than utilizing the experience we gained at Nola.
I remember one example, when Jane was working on developing the new marketing plan for Manas. Jane had no real marketing experience before, but Instead of asking my help before writing the first draft, she decided to do it all herself. She could have saved time and efforts if she would have came to me first and utilize my knowledge and experience in the field.
I explained that to Jane. I told her that as a student with no consulting background, I didn’t expect her to have all the answers. I was more than happy to help and contribute from my experience, that’s what I was there for.
Jane listened carefully, and agreed with me. She then asked me questions that would help her understand that pattern of behavior. During our discussion, she realized she needs to balance her passion to learn and experience, with her ability to execute effectively. Then, she insisted we brainstorm on how to create the right working environment for her to improve. Later, she initiated a set time during our weekly conversation, in which she asked questions and consulted me on unclear topics regarding the project.
Jane’s methodical approach to improve was remarkable. In several weeks, I could see she found excellent balance that enhanced her execution skills.
I have never seen a person taking constructive feedback that seriously, and working so hard to self improve.
Is there anything else (positive or negative) we should know about the candidate?
The project at Manas was the most complex project we had ever done at Nola. The client was demanding, the schedule was aggressive, human and monetary resources were scarce, and team members were not always available. If it wasn’t for Jane’s strong leadership – determination, charisma, dedication, framing and interpersonal skills, I don’t think we would have been able to deliver the expected results.
Jane has outstanding ability to create trustful relationships and maintain comfortable working environment. That was proven critical during the project.
In one of our first presentations at Manas, the Staff Manager counteracted some ideas we presented. But we knew that without her collaboration we won’t be able to implement any change.
When the meeting was over, Jane initiated a personal conversation between us and the manager. Jane listened patiently to the Manager’s claims. Then, she described to the manager the benefits of our ideas not only to the organization, but to her specifically as a Staff Manager. Jane kept professional and confident yet respectful, and she was able to earn the manager’s trust. Later on along the project, the Staff Manager became Jane’s biggest supporter.
In addition, Jane’s calm approach, even in the most stressful situations, helps enforce an effective working environment.
The CEO of Manas was a very demanding client that compromised for nothing, and dictated stressful schedule. That created pressure over the team. I knew Jane’s peaceful conduct would help utilize our communication channels with Manas, reduce conflicts with the CEO to a minimum, and improve team execution. Therefore, I asked Jane to lead the communication with Manas, even though formally I was the one who was supposed to do it. I must admit I couldn’t have done a better job than Jane. She kept a productive dialog with the CEO, as well as reduced pressure over the team to enable comfortable operating environment.
Within her own team, she inspired trust and confidence among the members, and promoted a collaborative working environment. Her team knew she was always willing to help at any given time, no matter how much effort it would require from her side.
For example, I remember one of her team members got sick badly for 8 weeks. Everyone were extremely busy with their own assignments, not to mention they were all full time students. However, Jane immediately volunteered to take responsibility over her sick team member’s assignments. I remember seeing her overworking days and nights to fill the gap, but she did it gladly in order to support her friend.
Very quickly, they all adopted a similar approach. They were like one unit, all for one and one for all, and they worked extremely well together. I think Jane’s had a huge impact creating that environment.
In personal conversations I had with Jane’s team, they all said she was their favorite team member to work with.
A short while after we started working on the project I learned that Jane is opening her own business, a pub-restaurant in Tel Aviv. I followed her progress from the very first stages, and it was no surprise to me that despite her young age, 23, she led her business to great success.
Seeing the incredible work Jane has done at Manas, I’m confident she will develop as a leader and eventually become a successful CEO of a large organization.