Most leaders would say, if asked, that their people are their company’s best asset. And if that is true, then it starts with hiring the best people who will be representing you and the company every day to the community. Your team is the company. That makes personnel hiring your top priority. You cannot mess up this responsibility, for it takes a lot of time, energy, and money to remove someone from the team once they are hired and it becomes apparent they aren’t a fit for your culture.
Some leaders with self-confidence issues are hesitant to hire applicants who appear to have stronger strengths than the leader him/herself. The leader might be an “8” on a scale of 1-10, and because of wanting to be the smartest person in the room all the time, he/she may only hire “7’s”. Then those “7’s” can only produce “6’s” and lower—and you can see how it dilutes company excellence quickly. Hire “10’s” in that stack of resumes!
Once you have determined a position is needed, get with your core team and create an avatar of the ideal employee for each position for which you are hiring. Some characteristics may always be the same, while other skill-sets need to be customized for specific positions (e.g. an inventory specialist needs attention to detail; a security guard needs the courage to confront). You literally can make this avatar on butcher paper with markers on the outline of a person, with labels of preferred traits pointing to body parts that they metaphorically represent (e.g. From the ears, they listen without interrupting; from the mouth, they smile and reflect positive energy). Your hiring team—and I do recommend a team, not just one decision-maker, in order to get different perspectives and gut-reactions—can keep this avatar in their minds as they decide who to hire.
Then you are ready to post for positions. Prepare a simple hiring packet that includes:
- A cover letter about the company and the process
- Your company mission (why you exist), vision (where you are going), and values (what you stand for)—and any team values (how you treat each other)
- The application
- What you require them to provide to you in addition to the returned application (resume? Letters of recommendation?)
Acknowledge that you have received the applications as they come in. Even if it’s a template email that goes out, it at least shows them the courtesy of a reply. This is a lost courtesy in most organizations, and it leaves the applicant wondering if their application made it into the pile for consideration. In this standard response, let them know the date range of decisions for interviewing.
Screening is next. Assemble your hiring team to sort through the resumes and rank them in piles by what you see on paper—which only tells a small portion of the story of that person: definitely-interview, maybe-interview, definitely-not-interview. It’s often good to have the team do it individually first, and then come back together and discuss everyone’s rankings so that no one is swayed right off the bat by someone’s forceful opinion on a candidate. Contact those who will not, for sure, get an interview so that they can move on to other opportunities (again, courtesy!).
The next step is to nail down your interview questions that you will ask each candidate. Only ask questions that mean something to your decision-making sorting of candidates; in other words, don’t waste a question on irrelevant information. Put in several role-playing scenario-based questions in addition to the more-standard questions. Scenarios like “What would you do if an angry customer…?” start getting past the pat-answers to reveal more about their people-skills and critical-thinking abilities.
Then it’s interview time! I found it best to go back-to-back for a day of interviewing so that you can compare apples to apples. Forty-five minutes is probably a minimum amount of time for a good interview to take place. Take a break in between candidates to have a quick discussion of strengths and weaknesses (and any red flags) on that person and write down comments that you would forget if waiting until all interviews are done.
What do you look for during the interview process? Here are some tangible and intangible suggestions from John Maxwell that could be on a “screening sheet” as it moves from resume to interviews:
- Character: who they are
- Relationships: who they know
- Knowledge: what they know
- Passion: how strongly they feel
- Experience: where they’ve been
- Past successes: what they’ve done
- Ability: what they can do
While not every person aspires to be a leader in the company, nor has the innate abilities to take on those positions in the future, lean toward hiring applicants who demonstrate some leadership drive and an achiever propensity. Those kinds of people will jump into action when something needs to be done and they will seek to creatively solve, rather than just live with, problems when they arise.
Once the team makes their recommendation for the candidate of choice, I recommend going the extra mile with a second interview with the person, in a more informal location, so that you can watch them in another setting and so that you can go deeper with any questions you or they have, that might have come up in the original interview. If all doubts are pushed aside, make the offer. Be sure it’s a clear offer so that there are no surprises or fuzzy expectations: hourly rate, hours per week, typical schedule, basic benefits, start date. And, don’t forget to contact those who did get chosen, to let them know that you went with someone else—and if they would be considered for the future for open positions.
With this new team member, effective onboarding starts them out on the right foot. On day one, you must be one of the first people they meet, no matter how big your company gets. You only get one shot at making a first impression on the new hire, and make it count. Share a quick history of what got the company to here, and what values make it special, and how you are counting on that person to live those values every day. Then hand them off to a leader who will help them meet all the others on the leadership team and what their roles are. Someone must own the role of onboarder so that you can guarantee each new hire is getting the key information to start strong. From handbook highlighting to pay and benefits set-up to expectations of every employee to the non-negotiables of compliance—have a checklist that assures all information is covered and understood.
Some companies assign a “mentor” employee to shepherd this person through their first 30-60 days. Most companies have a probation period that gives some time and plenty of feedback as to whether this is a long-term fit or they should part ways amicably because it’s just not working out.
New employees have fresh eyes. Don’t lose the opportunity to pick their brains after a month or two so that they can give their observations on what doesn’t make sense or to ask why things are done they way they are. Many times these questions have led to breakthroughs in procedures that make everyone’s life easier—but that no one could see since they were “store-blind” to it. It’s hard to see the picture when you are in the frame.
I would encourage you to do one of the best retention strategies that I know: “stay-interviews” with all your employees once a year. It’s like an exit interview, but those questions are asked while the person is still employed. It’s too late to do anything about their concerns when they have a foot outside the door. Truly listen and dig for information that can make your company culture better.
Then, let them fly! Max DePree says, “The leader owes the follower productive conversations about the gifts that the follower brings to the organization and about the kinds of contributions the follower wishes to make—so that tasks can be designed that give that person hope.”
A quick word on promotions to more senior positions in your company. From DePree: “Senior leaders are the future. They not only affect strategic thinking and planning, but they also shape an organization’s vision and values and practices. Unconsciously and consciously, senior people leave their marks on an organization’s culture and legacy.” Choose wisely. When in doubt, don’t. Take the time to train them up.
Effective leaders know what the person he/she wants to hire looks like before hiring that person, and then follows a formal process for bringing that person onto the team and setting him/her up for success. Consider joining one of my Mastermind groups if you want to have discussions about leadership of your team or business, in a safe, confidential setting where peers speak into your dilemmas to help you get to solutions. Contact me today for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ready, aim, fire. Leaders need all three of those actions in their portfolio. A lot of Ready is knowing and preparing yourself for action, and a lot of Aiming is in planning and visioning. This blog is about Firing—not people, but firing on actions. Making the call to get something going. Leaders display a bias for taking action; it’s one of the differentiators between leaders and followers.
Many people hem and haw their way through life, never fully committing to a course of action. They can recite the problem they are experiencing over and over again. That leaves them paralyzed and never fully living! However, if you decide or get promoted to leadership, you can’t do that. People are now counting on you to find a solution and make the decision so they can implement it.
It’s easy to see why many leaders put off decision-making. I mean, it could fail, and they’d be responsible! Or the options seem equally good or equally bad, and they don’t want to regret forsaking one of the courses of action. Or they are all about decisions by committee, and, while collaboration is great, no one takes full responsibility–and conversations spiral without making something happen.
To get better at this leadership skill, you have to become a good “noticer.” You have to get close to the action so that you have context for the decision that needs your buy-in. You have to close to the people to whom this decision will affect, to hear the best wisdom on the situation. You have to stay aware of the industry trends and obstacles. And, you have to have confidants who are like mentors to you, helping you process your decisions and asking you the tough questions. All this proximity will develop your intuition for making a good call.
You also need to quiet your brain to think through which decision is best for the company and its constituents. Get away from the problem and the business to somewhere in solitude to weigh your options. Unless you are in emergency management mode, most decisions are not urgent, and you can hit the pause button for a while to think. If someone is in your face pushing you to decide, that pressure will most likely result in an emotionally-based decision that you will regret later.
Once you have done some thinking on the problem, you ask yourself who else needs to be in the room to solve this problem? Solomon said, “In a multitude of counselors, there is safety.” We are only as good as our inner circle—so, choose them well. Under the right circumstances, with sufficient diversity and independence of thought, groups consistently make better decisions than individual leaders.
Once gathered, put all the cards on the table and simplify the problem into one statement so that everyone is clear what needs to be decided. Colin Powell said, “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.”
Then it’s good to have some filter questions for making decisions in your business. Here are some you can modify to be more deliberative:
- What do my wise mentors/personal board of directors say? Who else has faced this decision?
- What does my experience say?
- Does this negatively impact the company vision or will it benefit the company vision?
- Am I excited about this? Or the opposite: pit in my stomach?
- Is this a temporary solution or long-term?
- Is this extravagance or excellence?
- How does this decision fit with our values and vision? Congruence/dissonance?
- How will this impact the schedule of what’s already on our plate?
- Do we have the resources available that will be needed?
To make sure his group didn’t become “Yes, Men” to his leadership, Winston Churchill would appoint a contrarian in every key meeting—someone who would argue against any decision they were about to make. You don’t have to go that far, but do create an atmosphere of candor, where it’s safe for people to share differing points of view and not be condemned for it.
You will never get 100% of information necessary to make the perfect decision. So, even with 80% of the information, just make the call. If you start over-thinking it, you will stall—and that stalls the whole organization. Move through the repercussions of the decision and adjust as necessary.
When in doubt, always make the decision that aligns with your business values. It’s defensible to everyone inside the organization, and it helps you sleep at night. You all have committed to living the values—so, it makes sense to decide based on those values. (If you have not taken the time to establish business values, this should be a top priority this year with your team.)
Once you have developed your leadership team to a place where you implicitly trust their judgment, you can start delegating some decisions, driving them to the lowest level in your company. Only the most difficult ones then trickle up to you for your tough call to make (ah, yes, the joy of leadership). Transformational leaders are participative in decision-making, and empowering leaders trust their team to make good decisions without them.
Effective leaders are decisive because they don’t want to become the bottleneck on progress. Let me help you develop your leadership team. I will customize the experience of leadership development to your needs. And everyone in your organization will benefit when the leaders get even better! Reach out at email@example.com
You have 2 competing arguments in your head: I have made a commitment to this cause/person and I hold loyalty as a core value, yet I feel an increasing urge to back out of this ongoing effort and allocate my limited time elsewhere. How do you determine if the time is now for calling it quits without nagging guilt about this choice? Here are 11 filters through which to run the decision:
- Am I starting to feel the effects of burnout, and a more desperate need to lighten my load?
- Are my other priority commitments suffering as a result of my too-full schedule, including this effort?
- Have I lost the necessary passion/emotional energy to further this cause?
- Do I find myself not making much of a difference/impact, using my strengths, by my ongoing participation?
- Have new opportunities presented themselves that get me more excited with potential greater payoff than this one?
- Have I dropped enough balls on this commitment (e.g. absences, missed deadlines) that I’m tired of letting down the others involved?
- Am I in a season of transition that requires extra emotional energy to deal with it in a healthy way?
- Am I not experiencing true “community”? Have I not made enough vital relationship links that tie me closely to the individuals that I serve alongside?
- Do I no longer receive sufficient benefits for the amount of time dedicated to the effort?
- Is the culture too dysfunctional/toxic/disorganized to remain a part of?
- Is it just time to move on, as I want to leave on good terms, having accomplished what I came here to do?
Answering YES to the majority of these questions is a good indicator that you need to say good-bye.
- Do it honorably.
- Finish the tasks that you have owned and give enough notice as to not leave your cohorts in a lurch.
- Only speak positively on the way out, and if possible, try to find your replacement before you leave.
- Smile at the good memories and what got done on your watch; it served you for a time, and you are better for how you grew through it.
A coach can help you process decisions like these. Want a free 45-minute strategy session? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org It would be an honor to be a part of your growth journey.
Opportunities in life occur when we say YES to them.
However, opportunities can swarm all around us the more we put ourselves out there and the more we make ourselves available to receiving them–and that can lead to:
- Unwise, impulsive choices
- Letting some of our core supporters down
It’s wise to have filters that you can run opportunities through. If it passes the evaluation, you enthusiastically say YES and go for it with all you’ve got. If it doesn’t, declare confidently a NO, knowing it would throw you out of balance or off your priorities to pursue it.
Filter 1: Does it line up with my personal values? Say YES if congruence. Say NO if dissonance.
Filter 2: Do I have the energy to give it 100%? Say YES if you have the bandwidth. Say NO if it would drain your batteries.
Filter 3: Do I have the time to give it 100%–and to not push any other priority into neglect? Say YES if you’ve counted the cost and its impact. Say NO if you’d drop some balls and make a mess.
Filter 4: Does it play to your strengths? Say YES if you’d add lots of value AND be energized. Say NO if you wouldn’t be consistently contributing the best you bring to the table.
Filter 5: Does it move you in the direction of your life vision and goals? Say YES if it’s on that trajectory. Say NO if it’s sideways energy, potentially delaying attainment of your brightest future.
Customize these filters and add your own. Then post them in a place where you do your reflection or weekly reviews. Delay any decisions until you have time to run it through your filter, and enjoy the confidence of decisions that are well-thought-out.
Another filter could be: running your opportunities by your coach! Need one of those? All top performers have a coach! Reach out at email@example.com and we’ll see if it’s a fit. I have a couple client openings right now.
Maybe it’s because I’m in nature, maybe it’s having the mental space to think–but it seems I receive insights on life whenever I go hiking. Here are 4 questions to ask yourself that spring from an experience on the trails:
- Fork in the road. How do I make decisions? Hundreds of times each day, we all make decisions–from whether to eat that extra cookie to whether to register for that upcoming class or event. You have probably done the pro’s and con’s activity for sorting which way to go, and that’s a good start. In addition, we all need a decision filter, a set of crucial questions, through which to make a good call, especially on those decisions that are life-altering.
- Unmarked paths. How do I landmark where I’ve been? Ever felt lost in your life? Not just on the road, but literally in your life, as if you’ve lost your bearings and another month or year has gone by without living your grander purpose? This feeling might indicate a need for a personal retreat as soon as possible, to re-connect to your life mission and vision. And don’t forget to journal what you determine is your core and your trajectory, and post your purpose where you can see it daily.
- Lay of the land. What are the guardrails/markers that orient me in the right direction, so that I don’t end up in the ditch? For most of us, we utilize people that we trust as mirrors to reflect if we are headed on the right course, or headed someplace unwise. Who is that person for you? When is the last time you’ve requested feedback from him/her? And, are you ready to listen? It is vital to have this personal board of directors who have a 360-degree view of your life.
- Walking stick. What tools make me most successful? Habits/rituals are tools for making sure we have a full tank of energy and an organized plan to bring our best to every day. Mornings set the course for the next 12-plus hours; so it would be beneficial to get up a little earlier and plug energy-givers into your before-work time-block: prayer, meditation, professional reading, exercise, prioritizing.
The last quarter of your year is quickly approaching. Take a hike–figuratively–and re-ground yourself into who you want to become, what’s most important to accomplish, how you will choose to spend your limited time, and what boundaries need to be set to protect your priorities. As always, if you need assistance in helping you sort out these major stepping stones for your near future, reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org
You have probably heard the advice: “Whatever you feed, grows.” It refers to whatever you want more of in your life, whatever you want to expand/get bigger, you must give it fuel like time and attention.
Now let’s look at the opposite of that statement: “Whatever you starve, dies.” This can have positive and negative ramifications.
On the positive side, if you are trying to diet in January like so many people, you must not let forbidden foods be anywhere near you. As you have lived out: if it’s there, you eat it. So, it’s great to starve from junk food that gets you farther away from your healthy weight goals. Or maybe there’s another bad habit that you want to break. Don’t let thoughts of that destructive behavior consume you. When you start longing to fall back into that rut, you must assertively fill your brain with a constructive thought instead and pursue an alternative action.
On the negative side, if you starve a relationship, it also will die. Sadly, many do, out of neglect. People run past each other instead of getting into each other’s worlds with question-asking, caring, listening, and scheduling quality time just to connect. Without those actions, people drift apart and “lose that lovin’ feelin’.” If you starve your hobbies or worship of God or time in solitude, those life-giving elements of life will also begin to fade and potentially die. Take time to prioritize what will bring you joy and fulfillment, or you know the days and weeks will pass and never make it onto your calendar.
What needs to starve and die for you, to rid yourself of things dragging you down? And what must not starve and die because it’s just too important to a live well-lived to not feed it plenty of time and nurturing?
Wanna talk about it? I’m offering a free 45-minute life-coaching session to get your life calibrated for 2016. Shoot me an email at email@example.com.