Unleashing the Power of Partners
Achieve New Heights
Successful Transitions
Precise Performance

Martin Plumlee

In this episode of Impact Teams Radio, Tony interviews Martin Plumlee, Nashville Equity Partner at Career Partners International. Martin is also the Founder and Managing Principal at Plumlee & Associates LLC. He has been working in the Human Resources and Search/Talent Management field for over 11 years.

Episode 25 talks about the leadership story of Martin, how he came to be a leader and how he developed as one. Martin first focused on the quote that resonated with him deeply: “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up!” – Coach Jim Valvano, ESPY Awards 1993.  Martin said that as leaders, we need to have the courage to pursue our dreams and goals. He also narrated the significant wins in his career that helped him become the leader that he is today. In one of those wins, Martin said that developing a strategic and actionable plan is vital in achieving long term success. He also stated that your next windfall is just around the corner and that’s why you should treat every customer or potential customer special. Tony also added that the secret source of a leader should not be only about the block and tackle of tactical execution but executing to the standard.

In this episode, Tony and Martin also discussed about how a person will know the standard to follow in a plan they formulate.  Martin says you have to do initial counseling by laying out the duties, responsibilities and performance expectations because at the end of the day, people will want to know their goals, boundaries and what they can do. For Martin, this is how you get people to buy in to the goal or process to get something done. Listen to this week’s episode as Tony and Martin discuss more about executing to standards and becoming a better leader.



As we approach the middle of the 21st century’s second decade, the career development ladder and associated paradigms have been flipped upside down in many ways. The internet and technology tools have helped expand people’s knowledge and awareness of self-development seminars and career enhancing programs. These are available locally, virtually and sometimes globally. So, how does this impact today’s multi-generation workforce?

Over the next 10-15 years, the Baby Boomer Generation will fully exit the workforce. Generation X employees have assumed and will continue to move into the highest levels of leadership, from the Fortune 1000 to family owned businesses. Millennials are entering the workforce rapidly and will be pushing both generations ahead of them in the years and decades to come.

Millennials: this generation is well known for asking questions and possessing a boldness that prior generations may not have exhibited as early in their career (or as frequently). Personally, I am always impressed with a younger professional when they pose challenging questions and/or offer new insights that more experienced staff or leadership simply may not ever considered. Both Generation X-ers and Baby Boomers can learn from their less experienced counterparts in this regard.

Regardless of whether you are a new college graduate, a mid-careerist or approaching retirement, what should you do in the near term (next 24 months) to improve your career trajectory?

Taking Action

For some, the best way to accelerate your career progression is to complete an unfinished degree or begin an advanced degree. Based on your field of expertise, that could mean a new certification (or renewing one that might have lapsed). Finally, this could be a growth assignment with your firm in a foreign country if you work for a large, multi-national conglomerate.

No matter your situation, I would like to provide a few thoughts about a simple, yet profound acronym to provide clear guidance on how to succeed at a higher rate in Corporate America: E^2 = Excellence and Exposure.

Excellence – most of us strive to exceed the standard requirements in our daily jobs. When the spotlight is brightest and the pressure is really on, the majority of us will surprise ourselves and go above and beyond. However, there are times when we may not receive the accolades we were expecting. Remember, your boss and your company’s leadership assessments matter the most. Be sure to clearly understand expectations and check-in regularly, especially on those extended projects and strategic initiatives. If you do not receive that desired promotion, do you react professionally, ask questions on your shortcomings and do you devise a plan to ensure you win next time?

As the legendary UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden remarked in 2009 in his book: “Coach Wooden’s Leadership Game Plan for Success” with regards to time:“I valued it, gave it respect and tried to make each minute a masterpiece.”That is so powerful!With so many distractions to our time (Social Media, Smart Phones, endless obligations), how do we better manage each and every minute of each day?With Coach Wooden’s laser focus on planning and process, you can look back and see how exemplary his results were:10 National Championships in 12 years and winners of 88 straight games.Incredible results without a doubt; but never forget the hard work and sweat equity UCLA’s teams had during those dynasty years.

Exposure – “it’s all in who you know.” True in many ways. The critical piece in my opinion is the inverse of this saying: “it’s all in who knows you.” Building relationships with leaders in your industry and in your respective companies is absolutely vital. Organizations are successful when they provide opportunities for their key talent, (as well as their high potentials) to grow, develop and learn new skills and expand existing abilities. Do not wait for that next training class or trade show offering Continuing Education Credits. Raise your hand and go for it!

I heard this story recently. Someone was attending a large meeting (around 100 people) and the facilitator asked for someone to join him up front as a role player. The crowd hesitated; finally, my friend raised her hand and moved quickly to the front of the crowd. After the meeting adjourned, her future boss pulled her aside and discussed a career opportunity. Just a few weeks later, my friend started her new job with this employer. As the mission of the Star Trek Enterprise stated so eloquently: “To Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before.”

Be bold and courageous in business; you never know what good thing may come your way!


Allow me to offer some guiding principles we share with candidates that work with our firm, whether in Executive Search or Outplacement. “Put yourself in a position to succeed.” In the context of career development, here are four items to keep in mind.

  1. Develop a plan in concert with your own goals and aspirations, along with the input and guidance of your immediate manager and his/her manager. Do not forget to include your spouse in these discussions!
  2. Every quarter, take a look at your plan. Some would argue this is too often. Do what works best for you. Many factors here to consider. As a major proponent of self-awareness and evaluation, I would recommend more frequently as opposed to less often.
  3. Be active in your industry and local community. Network with others that speak your language. Take a leadership role in a non-profit (as a volunteer or a board member). Enhance your skills, both in the workplace and during your off-duty time.
  4. Be deliberate and intentional with mentors (at your company and outside). Be humble and ask others for ideas, guidance and feedback. Again, frequency counts; annual reviews are fantastic but should be a formality because of the regular communication and dialogue you have with your managers.Combining Excellence and Exposure will make a positive impact. Making extraordinary daily effort in all that you do will pay off, either with your current or future employer. Put in the time, network internally and externally, challenge yourself and be ready for a new opportunity. A strategic career development plan, executed with precision, will lead to career acceleration. Good luck to you!

Growing up in Nashville, we only had minor league hockey. Over the last 15 years, many locals, as well as transplants, have fallen in love with the Predators (myself included).Since training camp opened five days ago, the hockey buzz is beginning, especially with a new offensive minded coach and several new players.

I love professional hockey; it is a hard-hitting, fast moving game for 60 minutes. However, nothing beats a tie hockey game with under 5 minutes to play (ok, maybe Sudden Death overtime or a playoff series Game 7). Attending a game in person is the ultimate, whether you are a casual fan or a life-long season ticket holder. So, how do interviews and hockey relate? Keep reading!

Interviews can be fast-paced and exciting as well (minus the fisticuffs). I liken the first few minutes of an interview to the 1st period of a hockey game, where teams are sizing each other up; checking out the ice; evaluating the crowd. For interviews, the action is contained to handshakes, smiles, eye contact and small talk. It is so hard (really impossible) to control the other person’s actions/reactions. All you can do is perform these fundamentals and prepare mentally for the 2nd period: the grilling session (aka – the main body of the interview).

Here of course, you are a goalie of sorts. The company (one or more hiring managers) are firing the puck at you. Sometimes, the game may take place over the phone (or Skype) for one or more initial/remote interviews. This makes it even harder to gauge if you are being successful. It is usually a relief when this portion wraps up; now it is your turn to shoot the puck and score some goals!

Just like hockey, crunch time for an “interviewee” is that final session of time. This is when you are afforded the opportunity to ask interviewer(s) questions. In my 11 years of External Recruiting & Executive Search, I have always been a proponent of closing strong. Let me explain with some context from a recent executive candidate interview.

This week, I had a great interview with a former Chief People Officer of a national restaurant chain. Additionally, this Human Resources Leader spent over 15 years with a multi-billion dollar retail chain. We covered a lot of ground but one point was paramount: “the more people talk, the more they like you.” This is a great transition to my conclusion.

How do you get people talking about their favorite topics? Family, career success, hobbies, etc. A few classic examples: What is the culture of the company? How have you been successful here? Why is this a great place to work? What kind of candidates are attracted to this firm?

Well-crafted, insightful questions validate your intellect, demonstrate your detailed preparation and confirms your interest in the client’s opportunity. This is your last chance to make a lasting/positive impression with a company. I often tell candidates this simple truth: “the maybe’s of today are the no’s of tomorrow.” So here is my recommended recipe for the winning slapshot; it goes something like this: “Mr./Ms. Smith, thanks again for your time today. It has been rewarding and informative to learn more about Acme Company’s culture and structure. I am very interested in this position and want to continue forward in the hiring process. If I have missed anything during our interview, I would appreciate any feedback or the chance to clarify.”

What does this do? Several things:1. Appreciation and gratitude for the chance to interview.2.Confirms your sincere interest in the position. 3. Serves as a check-in (if necessary) to clarify or properly answer a question.It is OK (and recommended) to have all of YOUR questions prepared in advance. Typed or written on a note pad – it matters not.

Interviews are tough (well, not really, when compared to the professional hockey). You need to have strong shots at the end of the game. Practice, practice, practice, both your offense (asking questions) and defense (answering questions). Detailed, written preparation prior to suiting up will pay dividends and result in winning interviews and ultimately job offers. Best of luck and be sure to check out our firm on Twitter: @PlumleeAssoc and our website: www.plumleeassociates.com

Good Evening! Just finished a proposal and emailed the documents off to the client. Corresponded today via email with my firm’s Social Media Coordinator. He gave me a great starting point to begin a series of blogs on Millennials. He mentioned to me that your generation is very focused on an organization’s culture. I think that is fantastic (and from what I have seen, I tend to agree)!

As a business person that recently passed the big 40 (well, not that long ago…), I feel compelled to pass along my experiences, and allow the newest generation in Corporate America to apply as wisdom. What do you think?

Some initial thoughts…

  1. Companies love to hire talented people with energy, ideas and values. Most of the Millennials I have been able work with in the past couple of years all seem to exhibit these traits. Keep it up!
  2. One item I notice in the workplace is the use of earbuds. Personally, very rarely do I use these in the workplace. Believe a number of employers will not object to this; what I have not seen are employees or interns asking if this is OK. There is a hierarchy in business and common courtesy and consideration are timeless practices that will never go out of style!
  3. On a related note, I would encourage the “Millennial Mafia” to always look to impress. If given a task or project, showcase your technical abilities and grasp of the bigger world out there. Hiring managers and business executives love to be blown away. Based on some recent interactions with students still in college, I walked away just not blown away. Give that one some thought.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter (@PlumleeAssoc and/or @jmartinplumlee) or connect on LinkedIn. Good luck and stay tuned for my “Millennial Tips” that will begin later this month.

– Martin

…old school is still preferred


Good Day from Franklin TN!

I joke with friends, family and business associates that I am “a 42 year-old man trapped in an 82 year-old man’s body!”  My life and business mentor growing up was my Granddaddy (my mom’s dad).  He owned an independent insurance agency in a small town east of Nashville for 40 years with two other gentlemen.  To this day, his youngest son is in the business and does quite well.  Perhaps my grandfather’s personality and business acumen contributed to his success; I would propose that his intangibles, faith in God and “operating principles” were key factors as well.

As the oldest of six grand kids, I was very fortunate to spend many weeks/weekends/vacations with my grandparents.  The principles taught to me resonate to this day with me:  integrity, dependability, work ethic and manners.  With this as a premise, would love to explore a bit on the subject of business etiquette.  In this day and age of smartphones, social media and never ending list of tasks and priorities, do you find people less considerate than perhaps 20 years ago?

In my business, at least 2/3 of my work is via phone or over email.  I believe it is important to always ask someone on the other end of the line: “Is this a good time?  Do you have a few moments to speak?”  This is certainly appreciated and generally proceeds into a pleasant and productive phone call.  Just the other day, someone from the Northeast called me and fired away; after 20 seconds, I interjected and let this person know that this was not the best time.  Why is that necessary?  Should we not respect each and every person we come in contact with each day?  My thought is that my next million dollar client is one chance meeting or conversation away.

Ever receive an email at an inconvenient time?  If like me, that can happen multiple times in a single day.  Why are we so addicted to email?  We have become enamored with the idea of being busy.  However, in sales and business development, lots of activity does not always lead to compelling results.

Might we do a better job of thinking about email timing? For instance, with my staff, I encourage them to check email 3 times per day.  Before 9am, just after lunch and again prior to going home.  If you need to share something important with a client or a candidate, then use the telephone.  It is counterproductive when you receive multiple emails from vendors, associates or networking contacts about a matter that simply is not time sensitive and would be better received and reviewed either first thing in the morning or at the end of the day.  Microsoft Outlook as the functionality to delay emails going out, even allowing you to set the time.  As a business owner, I want my clients or client prospects reading my mail either early or late in the day; based on their response/request, that will prompt me to call them.  Their job is their focus each day, not necessarily responding to my note or request.

In closing, business is more competitive than ever.  We are all in a hurry and face stress and challenges each day.  Sometimes a deep breath and taking a moment to think about the person on the other end of that email or phone will give you pause. In the long run, we all will succeed more when we think of others first before ourselves.  May we all apply the Golden Rule to business dealings a little bit more in the coming days.

Thank you for reading!


Greetings! This is my 1st ever BLOG so be nice…Actually, would appreciate any constructive feedback — only way to get better.

Do you enjoy the laborious exercise of researching companies, new/growing industries and trends in recruiting and selection? Well, I would speculate that about 95% of us do not! However, a failure to plan is likely to result in you never securing that next great position. Let’s talk about some practical steps and examples to help you gain traction in your search and get ahead of the competition!

Having spent over half of my adult life in the military (15 years), the following acronym is so critical to those who are proactively (and passively) conducting a career search or to those individuals who have unfortunately been down/right/out-sized by their most recent employer.

“Plan the Work and Work the Plan” or in Army Acronym Speak: PTW & WTP

What does this look like? Style simply does not matter. This is all about substance. Most people are comfortable with building a contact matrix in Excel as the baseline document for this process. Of course, you are going to compile most of your contact names from your smart phone, LinkedIn and other sites. In my 10 years of recruiting, it has been the best practice for transitioning candidates to have at least 100 potential referring sources. Realistically speaking, only 1 in 5 candidates have put in the appropriate amount of sweat equity to prepare a proper plan to career redemption.

As we discussed today in a local transition group, a key to success would be having 3 to 5 specific hiring managers at each of your top companies (25 is a great starting point, stretch goal might be 50 or so). So, this will give you 75 to 125 contacts to aid you in your job search. Let me share with you a practical example.

I recall a few years ago of a local executive named Bill. He was given a pink slip and asked to move on from a major subsidiary of a local Fortune 1000 company. Quite simply, I will never forget his story: a prime example of planning, persistence, dedication and follow-thru. Over a 9 month period, he contacted about 150 people, interviewed with 22 companies, received 9 second or final-round interviews. In the end, he secured 3 offers and landed a great position with an employer of choice!

Bottom line: this is hard work and a numbers game. As you meet with “centers of influence” or hiring managers at local firms, always offer to provide help in some capacity. Today, you may be reaching out to others for help. Tomorrow, be sure to pick up the phone or return an email for someone in need. Good luck and let me know how I can assist you in 2014!

The Industrial Revolution changed the US forever in the late 19th and early part of the 20th century.  In terms of moving resources around the nation, the railroad was instrumental.  I like to paint this picture as I coach candidates on how to accelerate while also streamlining their individual transition plan.

In the 21st century, technology has become such a part of our lives that if you are away from your “computing platform”  for more than four hours, you feel as if you have lost a full day of productivity.  This lends itself to unrealistic expectations around connectivity.  We could spend hours discussing how to better plan, prioritize and focus one’s time (perhaps a future blog topic).  In fact, today’s world is more connected than ever and will continue to rise in this regard for years to come.  It is my opinion, this can make it even more challenging to access those individuals that can be of the most benefit in a job search.

Statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shown below verify that about 4 out of jobs that are filled in the United States via networking or thru recruiters.  About 30% of jobs are filled via job boards and company web sites.  The remainder of positions are filled thru advertising, internal promotions, etc.  So, how do you network more effectively, while also selecting a finite number of recruiters that can truly benefit your search?


Statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics


Let’s start with networking.  It is so important that I encourage candidates to spend at least 4 hours a day networking.  Meeting at a coffee house is a great way to meet with someone, while also keeping your costs down.  Additionally, in the Nashville area, there are a number of coffee shops that are well known as business meet up locations.  Sometimes, you create your own luck.  Best days to conduct these sessions are typically Tuesdays thru Fridays.

Ever heard of the 4 P’s?  Prior planning prevents poor performance.  Well, that was a very popular reminder in the military.  This certainly applies in the job search & transition process.  It is mind-blowing to me that only 15 to 20% of the candidates I meet with come prepared.  If you have a plan, I will work 10x harder to help place you.  However, if you can only name a handful of companies that interest you, then as I coach my team to say: “We may not be your best resource.”  Simply stated, no one cares about you more than you!  Take the time, whether at 5:30am or at 10pm at night to research companies and industries, data-mine LinkedIn and review the aggregator alerts (Indeed and Simply Hired).

Finally, a few tips on recruiters.  If you ask around your local market, conferring with HR Executives, Business Owners and other Corporate citizens, you will quickly find some good ones, and perhaps a few that might not be ideal for you during your current search.  Within your inner circle of advisors, ask your close friends and colleagues which recruiting firms their companies utilize most frequently.

I am very selective on recruiters that I will recommend to candidates.  Currently, there are less than 10 names that I keep on my short list.  Following a decade in the business, that is a little surprising.  However, I only will recommend recruiters that will treat my referrals like gold and make themselves available within 48-hours of a referral.  Look for that recruiter that is both high quality and quick to respond to you and your specific needs.

Who knows what the future holds?  The world of recruiting looks much different today than it did around the late 1990s and early 2000s.  As I like to share with people, think “Semper Gumbi” – Always Flexible.  At the end, we must always strive to be better each and every day.

As my hometown of Nashville continues to grow, mass transit is a hot topic.  Light rail might be part of the answer.  Looking regionally and nationally, perhaps in the next 20-30 years, high speed trains will connect the largest cities in our great nation.

Today, you can build your own locomotive and truly accelerate your career search.  Leverage your referral base, as well as that of some of the most connected people in business: recruiters.

As always, good luck in your search!  Remember: there is always a solution!

-Martin Plumlee

Founder and CEO
Plumlee & Associates
“Excellence in Executive Search and Outplacement Services”