Lessons Learned from Adecco Canada’s CEO for One Month Program

Adecco Canada #CEO1Month Olivia Poulin shares her experience of the CEO for One Month program and what she learned about business, leadership and herself.

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Olivia Poulin and Gilbert Boileau

Jumping into a role at the top of an industry that you’re unfamiliar with means you will experience and learn a lot along the way. I consider myself a very adaptable person who happily adjusts to new environments, tasks and people. So to me, the CEO for One Month program was an exciting adventure — a whole new life for one month! I moved from Niagara Falls to my own apartment in downtown Toronto, took an Uber for the first time and walked to the store to buy groceries. I shadowed Adecco Canada CEO Gilbert Boileau and got to meet CEOs, directors, managers, recruiters and sales reps. I attended client meetings and dinners, visited branches and toured giant warehouses. I flew to Montreal and Ottawa for day trips, spent time shadowing recruiters and had lunch with new colleagues. I had many life chats and vibrant conversations with Gilbert as well as a variety of other managers. I spoke with candidates and associates about their experiences with Adecco and put together an hour and a half presentation for our senior leadership team for my last day. Needless to say, it was a lot to take in. In the rest of this blog, I’ve gathered some of my thoughts on my month at Adecco Canada so that others can learn from my experiences.

What I learned about business & being a CEO

Meetings, meetings and more meetings

During my first week with Adecco Canada, I jumped right into the work of the CEO by joining Gilbert and VP of Finance Doug Hamlyn in calling all Adecco branches in Canada. Each meeting was scheduled for 30 minutes. That’s 20 HOURS on the phone. I watched as both Doug and Gilbert were attentive and interested in what branch managers wanted to share, from the first call down to the last, despite being exhausted.

Throughout the rest of the month, I joined Gilbert for national sales meetings, branch meetings, client lunches/dinners, weekly one-on-ones, meetings with people he reports to at US headquarters and many more. It was exciting to meet in person some of the voices I had spoken to on the phone my first week! Most importantly, these meetings helped me soak up as much as possible about an industry that was brand new to me. And I had a lot to figure out. There was rarely much time in between meetings, so I sorted out many answers to my questions by asking colleagues, doing research and taking advantage of travel time to talk with Gilbert.

These meetings introduced me to a fundamental truth about leadership: being a CEO really does mean being in meetings! But it’s more than that — it’s about managing people and teams so that you can reach shared success as a company.

The value of teamwork

Yes, we all know teamwork is important, but during my time with Adecco I realized just how much each person relies on their team. Being the CEO doesn’t mean you are a lone wolf and can make whatever decision you want. If anything, it means that you’re MORE responsible to the people around you — both above and below. After all, there is no CEO position without dozens or hundreds of positions supporting it. By participating in these meetings and learning more about Gilbert’s role at Adecco Canada, I came away even more committed to service leadership.

Gilbert’s job is to find ways to support the teams of people that make up the company for better business. I learned this because I spent time with the senior leadership team at headquarters in Toronto, attended an all-day branch manager meeting in Quebec and spent time at branches with recruiters, giving me an all-around view of each level of the organization. I saw so many positive work environments where people are happy, engaged and supportive of their teams, I’m not surprised that Adecco is on the Great Place to Work list for the second year in a row!

What I learned about leadership

Knowing your stuff

As a leader and CEO, more often than not, you need to know your stuff. My respect for Gilbert increased every time I heard him speak credibly about the specifics of what is going on in a branch, with a VMS tool or in the recruitment industry. There was so much to know for more than 40 branches across Canada and countless clients, associates and employees, but he was on top of it as much as he possibly could be. People can often tell when you are making up information to sound smart or in-the-know, and as a leader, that would damage your credibility. When you don’t know, it’s equally important to own up to it and ask for the information you need. I saw examples of this form of leadership not just with Gilbert, but with recruiters, branch managers and regional vice-presidents who reached out for help in order to inform their decisions.

What I learned about Adecco

The staffing industry

For a long time, I assumed that everyone with a job works for the company whose name is on their shirt. I never stopped to consider that any (or all) of the recruitment process for some staff could have been outsourced. Adecco does everything from posting job descriptions, accepting applications, conducting interviews, on-boarding new staff, supervising at work sites and more to help their associates find work at other companies. These temporary employees work AT and FOR a specific company, but are considered Adecco employees (on Adecco’s payroll, earning Adecco benefits). This makes life easier for companies who need to hire new staff for a short-term contract or for companies that hire hundreds of new staff at a time for peak seasons. Temporary jobs are an awesome way to get experience in a variety of roles, learn about different companies and earn great pay.

Adecco changes lives

I studied the candidate journey during my CEO for One Month experience. Throughout the process, I got to hear some incredibly heartwarming stories about how Adecco has changed people’s lives. Whether it’s new graduates, adults re-entering the workforce or immigrants who have recently arrived in Canada — Adecco helps anyone and everyone find meaningful work. Many of these stories involved individuals struggling to find a job and provide for themselves or their families and approaching Adecco for help.

People are especially shocked to find out that Adecco’s job search help services are free for their candidates. Adecco has relationships with thousands of employers who are looking for great staff to join their teams; by bridging this gap, Adecco helps thousands of people find work every week. For many, not having a job is just not an option and life is scary without stable income. I was privileged to hear success stories from many associates that brought a smile to my face and put into perspective the amazing work that Adecco does.

Believing in the next generation

I think my participation in the CEO for One Month Program with Adecco says it all: they believe in the next generation. Providing the privilege to join a CEO in their day-to-day business operations is a huge demonstration of trust from Adecco and I am so grateful for their transparency and willingness to guide me as I learned. Not only do they believe in me, they believe in the entire next generation and are eager to tap into their talent and perspectives. It’s up to us to show them that their trust is in the right place by working hard, being responsible and living with passion!

What I learned about myself

Social media

When I sat in on the branch review phone calls my first day, I kept my phone out to Google terms I was unfamiliar with and research clients on the spot, so that I could better understand what we were talking about. When I was not using the Internet to keep up with the conversation, my phone sat on the table face up and was continually lighting up with notifications from social media. Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook… all of it. Though I wasn’t checking these notifications, I was still distracted by them and bothered that they were interrupting my participation in our phone calls. That night I went home and shut off all social media notifications. I immediately noticed that my productivity increased, I was interrupted less throughout the day and I felt more in control of my social media use. Out of sight, out of mind. I have kept these notifications turned off since returning home because I enjoy feeling more connected in the moment and have decided to only check my notifications when I feel like it or when I am alone.

Bedtime

As a self-proclaimed night owl, my best hours of productivity have been between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. for the last four years of university. My schedule never had me spending more than a few hours in one place between classes, running my business, church responsibilities, hobbies, sports, a social life, family time etc. Running on 5 hours of sleep was tough, but not impossible. During my time in Toronto, though, I was focused on just one thing for hours at a time: Adecco. I embarrassingly look back on a few moments when I was so exhausted it was tough for me to keep my eyes open and head from hurting in meetings. I realized my sleep schedule needed some serious adjustment and I vowed to begin going to bed at midnight. In the past, midnight meant I was just getting into my groove and had two productive hours ahead of me. Now? It means bedtime. Since returning home from my Adecco adventures, I haven’t consistently gone to bed at midnight, but I have definitely improved from my once-standard 2 a.m. bedtime. I’ve realized how much more sustainable it is for my health and work. To bring my best self to work, I need a proper sleep the night before.

Juggling priorities & hard work

I’ve always had a “get-it-done” attitude, regardless of the circumstances. I truly believe that there is always a way. During the month of June, not only did I have to balance my CEO schedule and deliverables, but I was also completing reports and projects for Adecco Global, taking a full credit spring class, running my business from afar and tending to regional responsibilities with my church, all while attempting to get sleep, exercise and stay in touch with my friends and family. My “get-it-done” attitude was tested, but deciding what my priorities were, setting expectations for myself and really committing to my work helped me accomplish all that I needed to. Parkinson’s law is the adage that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” and I’ve experienced the negative consequences of this many times in my life as I rushed to meet deadlines that were set days or weeks in advance. My experience with Adecco forced me to dedicate concentrated blocks of time to completing tasks to ensure they didn’t grow to be impossible to handle amid all of my other responsibilities.

Throughout my time at Adecco, I have been challenged, but I also learned, worked hard and had lots of fun. I’m grateful for the trust that I felt and the relationships I developed along the way. Gilbert was a great mentor to me and was an example of how to be a successful CEO and lead change in an organization. I highly recommend the CEO for One Month program to any budding business minds or eager and curious learners.

Thank you to everyone for supporting this program and letting me become part of the Adecco family! Please follow my social accounts if you haven’t already … I am still completing projects to compete for a spot at the Global Bootcamp and would love your support! I can be found on Instagram (@poulin09) and Twitter (@oliviapoulin). Make sure to use #CEO1Month.

Want to learn more about Olivia and #CEO1Month? Read her previous blog Interested in Adecco Canada’s CEO for One Month Program in 2019? Here’s what you need to know!

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