- Posted by Action Catalyst
- On November 14, 2023
- 0 Comments
- AI, author, Business, CEO, COVID-19, entrepreneur, founder, interview, leadership, success, vision
Entrepreneur, author, and Founder / CEO of Vanderbloemen Search Group, William Vanderbloemen, talks about preparing for the Ice Age, why vision is seeing just beyond your feet, what the best of the best have in common, how to respond to the most dreaded interview question ever, why self-awareness is the #1 skill, and who DOES need to fear AI (hint, it’s not that many people).
William Vanderbloemen has been able to combine over 15 years of ministry experience as a Senior Pastor with the best practices of Executive Search to provide churches with a unique offering: a deep understanding of local church work with the very best knowledge and practices of professional executive search.
Prior to his founding the Vanderbloemen Search Group, William studied executive search under a mentor with over 25 years of executive search at the highest level. His learning taught him the very best corporate practices, including the search strategies used by one of the largest and most reputable search firms in the world.
William also has experience as a Manager in Human Resources in a Fortune 200 company, where he focused on the integration of corporate culture and succession planning.
All of these experiences have come together with his pastoral work to form a unique gift for helping churches and ministries connect with the right key people.
Prior to executive search, William led growth and innovation in churches in North Carolina, Alabama, and Houston. During his time in Alabama, William had the chance to help rebuild and relocate an ailing congregation, and lead them to new levels of growth. At 31, he was elected Senior Pastor for the First Presbyterian Church of Houston, a church of about 5,000 adults and 1,500 children strong. It is Houston’s oldest congregation.
William is regularly invited to speak across the country in both church services and as a resource to churches and conferences on leadership. He has released the books Search: The Pastoral Search Committee Handbook, Culture Wins: The Roadmap To An Irresistible Workplace , and Next: Pastoral Succession That Works, as well as an Updated & Expanded version of Next.
Besides helping connect churches with key staff and preaching, William spends a whole lot of time with family and connecting with people.
William, his wife Adrienne, their seven children, and their poodle, Pearl live in Houston. In his free time, William enjoys running, working out, and caddying for his kids, who are now better golfers than he is.
For more, visit Vanderbloemen.com.
The Action Catalyst is presented by the Southwestern Family of Companies. With each episode, the podcast features some of the nation’s top thought leaders and experts, sharing meaningful tips and advice. Learn more at TheActionCatalyst.com, subscribe below or wherever you listen to podcasts, and be sure to leave a rating and review!
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(Transcribed using A.I. / May include errors):
We are joined once again by William Vanderbloemen, CEO and founder of the Vanderbloemen Search Group. William last joined us on the program in 2018. But as you know, it’s been quite a five years since then. So what’s changed for you, William?
You know, I think in 2018, we were releasing a book on culture, we’ve been studying what makes a winning workplace culture, that books actually sold more copies since the pandemic than before. Because now everybody’s wrestling with do we make people come to the office, if we’re going to make them come in and better be pretty cool, like, what do we do? And I can’t claim that I’m passionate enough to know that that was where it was headed. But you know, I tend to believe somebody else is in charge here. So maybe it was for that. So that’s been cool to see we actually revamped our culture tool companies can take to see how they’re doing against I think it’s 5000 companies now that have taken their teams through it. So it’s pretty cool. But then the pandemic hit, you know, what I learned? I got a undergraduate degree in philosophy and religion. You know what most people with philosophy degree spent their career doing? Right? They spend their career saying, Do you want fries with that? And then I’ve got a seminary degree from Princeton, so that none of that had how to read a p&l. Yeah. So lessons learned from the pandemic. We are an executive search firm, we started out helping churches find their pastor. And then we branched out to schools, finding their headmaster, and then nonprofits, and it’s gone a couple of years. But during a pandemic, every one of our clients was closed indefinitely. And this is the business takeaway. If all of your clients close indefinitely, it will change your p&l for the year. Now, some really cool things happening before the pandemic, we decided that we needed to decentralize, we’re gonna open regional offices and start to do more of a franchise model with a central office in Houston. So we spent almost all of 2019 running a beta office in Phoenix. And we had and we’d always use Zoom, but we had to learn like we have to develop a okay, what would a policy look like for remote work? Can we build backdrops so no matter where people are, it’s going to look like it’s the same branded experience, we had no idea what we were preparing for. But when the pandemic hit as far as office operations, we were able to just flip the switch, we already had all the pieces in place, and we’re I’m so thankful that is somebody else in charge. But when the when the thing hit, I read a paper called leading beyond the blizzard, and this is so good for any crisis management, I’m never going to forget this. Entrepreneurs, you guys need to decide is this pandemic? Is it going to be a really bad blizzard? Where we got like, 10 snow days in a row? Or is it a long winter? And we got a few months to shut down? Or is it a mini ice age is last a year and a half like that. And for every business, it’ll be different. But you need to decide need to decide now and commit to one of those paths, and then live according to the path. I said, Let’s treat it like an ice age. Honestly, if I were really a good businessman, I would have just shut the company down, send everybody home and reopened it and start from scratch when the thing was over, that would have been the smarter business decision.
Do you still think that’s true? Is that how you would handle the next crisis?
I used to think having good leadership vision was being able to see like five years down the road like have a 10 year plan and what are we going to do? And I think I’m not trying to go all religious on you. But there’s a there’s a line in the Hebrew Scriptures. It says Your word is a lamp unto my feet. So I used to think that meant like a Xenon headlight that give you eyes to see 10 years stellar. It wasn’t, it was actually a little lantern, they were on their shoes, and it gave them just enough light for the next step. And one of the most important lessons I had learned as a leader was we don’t have to know what’s happening in 10 years, you do have to know slightly sooner than everybody else what you’re going to do so I’m focusing more on my ability to be agile, with whatever comes.
So that brings us to the new book out now called Be The Unicorn: Data Driven Habits That Separate the Best Leaders From the Rest. You drew from over 30,000 interviews for this to identify 12 traits or soft skills that create standouts, how do you define soft skills? And what put the wheels in motion to write the book?
You ever meet somebody? And within like, five minutes, you know they are a winner?
I believe I’m doing it right now actually.
That was good. I didn’t see that. You got me? Oh, yeah, no, but you know what I mean? I mean, maybe you’re at a social function, and there’s just somebody that’s kind of life of the party. Everybody likes talking to everybody who’s around. Or maybe it’s a quiet person you run into at a dinner and they don’t say much, but when they say something, it’s like, oh my gosh, say more. Or you’re in a job interview, and you’re interviewing a candidate. You’re like, this one’s a winner, man, that guy’s got something going on. Right. So my question was how In five, what are they doing in five minutes? That makes me think that, like, what is that? So we said, as a product of the pandemic? You know, we’ve done 30,000 interviews now we can probably we’ve tracked them all. And what do everything else do? Except sir, we were helping people get their PPP money and figure out how to do live stream services and things. So why don’t we sit down and say, Can we figure out out of those. So the 30,000, face to face interviews are the 30,000 interviews that represent the best people we’ve ever interviewed to get that interview, you have to pass through a bunch of hoops, and we were able to distill down, okay, these are the 30,000. We said, okay, of those 30,000, who were the best of the best. And that’s who got the job, who stayed in it, who got promoted, like, who’s really been when we found those people. And then we said, Do they do anything in common, they have anything in common. And they do, I expected it to be things like the best of the best all had IQs of 150 or more, the best of the best all had the privilege of going to Ivy League schools, the best of the best came from money. So they didn’t have to start with nothing, or, or the best of the best are all six feet tall, with amazing hair, and really shiny teeth. None of that none of that. None of that, none of it. And if you’re an entrepreneur, you know, it’s not that it’s different. What we found was its habits as the way they behaved with other humans, which led us to talk about soft skills. That’s what you do at a cocktail party, or at a dinner reception, or in a job interview. It’s how you function with one another, and how you behave. And the super cool thing about our research was that these 12 habits that they all exhibited, are teachable, that are very uncommon among most of us, but incredibly common among the best of the best.
Does everybody have to have all 12?
Are there any particulars out of the 12 that seemed to pop up more often?
That’s such a good question. So we said Alright, so the the 12, once we identified the 12, we hired some psychologists and some data analytics people, and they built a survey for us, we surveyed a quarter million people to see where are normal medians and means for each of these, and what are the combinations like and where are you strong, and what is that like? So that was really cool. And then we hired him again, to actually build a software tool, where an individual can go through an inventory, kind of like the Enneagram, or the disc or Briggs. And it comes down to it shows you like strengths finders shows your three tops, it shows you your three best and your three worst, we took that and built it into a 360 tool. So like, if I’m working for you, I take it then you take it about me. And then some for me takes it about me. And then I can see where my blind spots are. Now what I’m what I’m hopeful for, we’ve sent probably 10,000 people through the inventory. So far, once we get to 100,000 or so, we’re going to be able to say you know what’s really good. In an engineer, you know, what you really don’t want like one of them is the innovative, if you’re hiring a Chief Compliance Officer or an accountant, you don’t want him. I live in Houston, we did innovative accounting, they called it Enron, he didn’t want that. One of the 12 that I think is the most rare is self awareness, self awareness. In fact, of the quarter million people that took the survey, like 86% of them ranked themselves as above average and self awareness. Now, think about that for a second 86% of people are not above average, like that math doesn’t work. The point is we are testing people on whether they’re self aware, and they showed us in their answer that they’re not. And where does that show up? It shows up. If you take an inventory like this, if you learn your Enneagram if you learn your disc, you can start to learn where you’ll flourish in business, like, you know, the terrible question that people ask anybody. So tell me about yourself, you know, no, it’s horrible. How do you answer that you give your life story. If you’re equipped with some self awareness, you can say, well, you know, interviewing for your company is in hockey stick growth. And I know you’re, you know, asking me to join marketing, but I’m guessing nearly every job description at your company right now has other duties as necessary. You know, my top skills. I’m an innovator, I don’t sit still very well look back at my job at this company where we had to change things to 10 times look at this right to build from scratch with no knowledge at all just had to learn it and go. It’s like my career speed and leading up to working with you because the way you’re wired and what you want me to do, is exactly what I’m good at. That is a good answer to that question. You know, 30,000 interviews we also asked a question out of the 30,000 How many people in their interview told us that they got fired from a job really low? On my season came to a close? Well, they did this to me or there were budget cuts or I was made redundant or bubbled up but not I screwed up and I got fired. And honestly, if I were the manager of the old me, I would have fired me to. Here’s what I’ve learned since then, like that is just Not in our ability. So that’s when if you find some of this self aware, like, honestly, we don’t have much that Socrates taught because it was all verbal. He didn’t write anything down. But the one teaching that everybody says, yeah, no, he did say that. He said, know yourself, that is the height of wisdom.
Well, I can’t let you go without touching the super timely topic of AI. In short, William, do we need to be afraid?
Oh, man, you know, that’s human nature. But when in business, have we not seen a cycle of we invent something new, it replaces jobs, we figure out new jobs. I mean, industrial revolution, internet, you name it, there’s something that creates efficiency that removes some old jobs. And then we figure out new jobs. What I do think, will be as interesting, I was in a small panel discussion at a small business owner thing, where people pitching their ideas kind of a shark tank sort of thing. And one of the sessions was on AI, it was funny, this, this session was titled, What should we title this session, like, as a guy, you know, and one of the three panel people was Google’s Chief of Staff, and who’s in charge of their whole AI, it was me and like, 50 coders sitting in there, and they’re all asking all this, like the back end and the furniture to do to you most will be speaking Greek. I didn’t understand a word who said, you know, it was like, Well, you haven’t said anything to me. What what question you that I’m like, I have a high school senior, what should I tell them not to major in? They wouldn’t answer as bluntly as I want to. But this I’ll tell you what to major in liberal arts, the ability for humans to interact with humans is going to be at a premium in the new era. And that’s where I think the soft skills, it’s really, you know, of all the searches we’ve done. So many times, the winner of a job is the one who gets along well with others. And if you do any majority of the 12 of these traits, you’re gonna find that it’s about people being with people, you know, should we be afraid there’s some jobs that you know, I would not want to be a second year accountant right now, where you just pour, like that’s going away. You know, those coders in that room were scared to death, coding will probably go away. But there are other jobs, nursing. Oh, my goodness. I mean, that’s for 9000 Different reasons, a career path that’s going to grow, consulting at a very high end where you can’t it’s not just data, but like, how do I make sense of that? I don’t know if I’m afraid. I guess the people that were living at the front end of the Renaissance were probably afraid to but what a cool that would have been to live, right?
Where can people find the book, as well as the software tool you mentioned?
Go to the unicorn book.com has got everything in one place.
William, thank you for taking the time to rejoin us today. And let’s not make it another five years before the next.
That’s right. And let’s certainly not have another pandemic.