Author Archives: Tom Foster

About Tom Foster

Tom Foster spends most of his time talking with managers and business owners. The conversations are about business lives and personal lives, goals, objectives and measuring performance. In short, transforming groups of people into teams working together. Sometimes we make great strides understanding this management stuff, other times it’s measured in very short inches. But in all of this conversation, there are things that we learn. This blog is that part of the conversation I can share. Often, the names are changed to protect the guilty, but this is real life inside of real companies.

Who Is the Quarterback of the Hiring Team?

“I am Derrick’s manager, but Derrick is the one with the opening on his team, a position that has been open since April,” Roy protested. “How can you hold me accountable?”

“You are Derrick’s manager, I hold you accountable for his output,” I insisted.

“But he is the one who hasn’t done his job. He hasn’t hired anyone, not my fault,” Roy placed a line in the sand.

“He is on your team. One of your responsibilities is to decide who is on your team. Derrick is on your team. I hold you accountable. More than that, for this open role, you are the manager-once-removed. As the manager-once-removed, it is your responsibility to quarterback this hiring process.”

“Well. I have been telling him he needs to hire someone. What else am I supposed to do?” Roy grimaced.

“Derrick is the hiring manager, but you are the manager-once-removed. As the manager-once-removed, as the quarterback of this process, what steps could you have taken to make the situation better?”
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Mark your calendars. Hiring Talent Summer Camp is coming. Orientation starts July 6, pre-registration open now. Vistage/TEC members get a $100 credit.

His Team, His Problem

“Why should I get involved?” Roy protested. “My team is full. Derrick is the one who needs to hire someone.”

“Is Derrick on your team?” I asked.

“Yes, but he is the hiring manager, it is his team, his problem.”

“And you are Derrick’s manager?” I pressed.

“Yes, I am Derrick’s manager.”

“And Derrick is underperforming?” I continued.

“Yes, he needs to hire someone, and it’s been three months,” Roy explained.

“So, who do I hold accountable for Derrick’s underperformance?”

Roy thought for a moment, sat up in his chair, “You have to hold Derrick accountable, he is the one who needs to hire someone for his team.”

“What if I told you that I thought Derrick was doing his best and it was his manager I hold accountable?”

“Well, I am his manager, but it’s not my hire. How can you hold me accountable?”
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Mark your calendars. Hiring Talent Summer Camp is coming. Orientation starts July 6, pre-registration open now.

Whipping Session

“Armand, I am glad you could make the time to meet with Sam and me,” I started. “I was talking with Sam yesterday about the role description he was writing for the Project Manager position.”

“Yes,” Armand quickly jumped in. “I told Sam that I was tired of some of his projects coming in over budget. I think his last two hires were way off base.”

“Why do you think they were off base?” I prompted.

“I don’t think Sam knows enough about what he expects out of that position. Project Management for our complex projects is a tough job. I don’t think Sam has a clear idea of the critical role requirements. The new PM he hired barely knows how to use our project management software.”

“Armand, do you hold Sam accountable for the output of his project management team?”

“Yes. Yes, I do,” he replied.

“And, which manager should I hold accountable for Sam’s output?”

Armand thought we were going to have a whipping session with Sam as the recipient. Armand was suddenly in the hot seat.

“I guess, that would be me,” he slowly replied.
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Mark your calendars. Hiring Talent Summer Camp is coming. Orientation starts July 6, pre-registration open now.

Hiring Talent Summer Camp

Orientation opens next Monday (July 6, 2015) for our Hiring Talent Summer Camp. Participants in this online program work through the hiring process under the direction of Tom Foster.

This is the only program that combines an understanding of Levels of Work with Behavioral Interviewing. The research on Levels of Work is powerful science. The discipline of behavioral interviewing is the methodology for its application. This is the only program that puts these two ideas together in a practical framework for managers faced with Hiring Talent.

Pre-register now. No payment due at this time.

Purpose of this online program – to train managers and HR specialists in the discipline of conducting more effective interviews in the context of a managed recruiting process.

How long is the program? We have streamlined the program so that it can be completed in 3-6 weeks. The self-paced feature allows participants to work through the program as quickly or slowly as they wish.

How do people participate in the program? This is an online program conducted by Tom Foster. Participants will be responsible for online assignments and participate in online facilitated discussion groups with other participants. This online platform is highly interactive. Participants will interact with Tom Foster and other participants as they work through the program.

Who should participate? This program is designed for Stratum III and Stratum IV managers and HR managers who play active roles in the recruiting process for their organizations.

What is the tuition? The program investment is $499 per participant. Vistage members receive a $100 discount.

When is the program scheduled? Pre-registration is now open. Orientation for the program is scheduled to kick-off Mon, July 6, 2015.

How much time is required to participate in this program? Participants should reserve approximately 2 hours per week. Participants with available time can work through the program even faster.

Pre-register now. No payment due at this time. Please indicate if you are a Vistage member to receive $100 credit.

July 6, 2015 – Orientation Opens
Week One – Role Descriptions – It’s All About the Work

  • What we are up against
  • Specific challenges in the process
  • Problems in the process
  • Defining the overall process
  • Introduction to the Role Description
  • Organizing the Role Description
  • Defining Tasks
  • Defining Goals
  • Identifying the Level of Work

Week Two – Publish and discuss Role Descriptions

Week Three – Interviewing for Future Behavior

  • Creating effective interview questions
  • General characteristics of effective questions
  • How to develop effective questions
  • How to interview for attitudes and non-behavioral elements
  • How to interview for Time Span
  • Assignment – Create a bank of interview questions for the specific role description

Week Four – Publish and discuss bank of interview questions

Week Five – Conducting the Interview

  • Organizing the interview process
  • Taking Notes during the process
  • Telephone Screening
  • Conducting the telephone interview
  • Conducting the face-to-face interview
  • Working with an interview team
  • Compiling the interview data into a Decision Matrix
  • Background Checks, Reference Checks
  • Behavioral Assessments
  • Drug Testing
  • Assignment – Conduct a face-to-face interview

Week Six – Publish and discuss results of interview process

Pre-registration is now open for this program. No payment is due at this time. Please indicate if you are a Vistage member to receive a $100 credit toward the program.

A Bad Hire in the First Place

I let the silence do the heavy lifting. Sam’s rush down the hallway had been intentional, to demonstrate that he was really busy and that I shouldn’t pay attention to the quality of the role description he was about to submit to HR.

“I know, I know. I should spend more time working on this, but I have considerable heat coming from a couple of clients on some field projects,” Sam explained.

“Your project managers aren’t able to handle things in the field?” I wanted to know.

“Well, and we have talked about this before, one PM has only been here for six months and his project is a little over his head. And the other PM is the one I am trying to replace. He was a bad hire in the first place.” Sam’s explanation was turning to protest.

“Just because we have talked about it, doesn’t make it okay,” I nodded. “This is a high level project manager, what is our salary for this position?”

“Seventy-five K,” Sam replied.

“So, you are planning to spend $75,000 and it is not a high enough priority to specifically describe what we expect out of the person that fills that role?”

Sam’s face turned stoic. He didn’t know what to say.

“Tell, you what, Sam. Armand is your manager. I am going to schedule a time with him tomorrow to find out how we can improve on this process. You have one PM who needs to be replaced and one PM who is a little green. Let’s make sure the next PM is someone with the capability to really handle the projects we have. Will you be available tomorrow after 3p?”

Sam’s head nodded up and down, wondering how he was going to get the time to make the meeting.
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Mark your calendars. Hiring Talent Summer Camp is coming. Orientation starts July 6, pre-registration open now.

What’s the Rush?

Sam was in a hurry.

“What’s the rush?” I asked.

“I gotta get this job description to HR. We agreed to get the job posted by this afternoon. Short and sweet,” Sam replied.

“Short and sweet?” My eyebrows lit up.

“Yeah, I have been really busy on a couple of field projects. So, I wrote a couple of things down, then added a sentence about – any other duties that may be assigned. It’s not great, but all I have time to get done today. I can explain the rest of the job during the interview. Not enough time today.” Sam stood there, waiting for my response. A wink, or a shrug. Anything that would get him off the hook.

“Not enough time today, or it just wasn’t a high enough priority?” I pressed.

“No, no, no. It’s a high priority, just not enough time today,” Sam hoped I would smile, or nod. Any acknowledgement on my part would be taken as acceptance that the crappy job he did, writing the role description, was okay.
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Mark your calendars. Hiring Talent Summer Camp is coming. Orientation starts July 6, pre-registration open now.

Every Manager’s Dilemma

“So, how do I get my team of supervisors to spend more time, or at least do a better job of qualifying candidates for those open production roles?” Wendy asked.

“You’re not,” I dropped my chin, coupled with a knowing glare. I waited.

“What do you mean? There must be a way. They have to take this recruiting stuff more seriously,” she protested.

“They won’t. Your team of supervisors is focused on production, they are not focused on building a team. Sure they know they are down a person on their crew, but their primary focus is on production.” I let Wendy squirm a bit.

_________ Manager
______ Supervisor
___ Technician

“But you said that my most important function, as a new manager, is to focus on the team, to focus on who is on the team. How can I do that if my team of supervisors is focused on production and they don’t take recruiting seriously?”

“Indeed. That is your dilemma. That is every manager’s dilemma. The reason your team of supervisors don’t focus on building their team has to do with time span. It is their role to field a team for today’s production, this week’s production, or for the night shift, but the time span of that task, for them, is short.”

“Why do I get the feeling that this is going to end up in my lap?” Wendy looked, then smiled.

“Because, if you have open roles in production, your team of supervisors are the hiring managers, and YOU are the manager-once-removed. As the manager-once-removed, you have specific accountabilities in the recruiting process, and those issues are longer term. While your team of supervisors is responsible for today’s production, you, as the manager-once-removed are accountable for overall production capacity, efficiency in training programs, employee retention. As the manager-once-removed, I expect you to quarterback this recruiting effort. As the quarterback, you don’t have to run the ball, but you have to call the plays. You have to make sure that role descriptions are written, and clearly understood. You have to make sure that written questions are generated specifically related to the production work that we do here. You have to make sure that we have identified the critical role requirements and that our questions to candidates collect real data about the work. If one of the supervisors on your team makes a poor hiring decision, I hold you accountable for the quality of that decision. It’s all a matter of time span.”
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Mark your calendars. Hiring Talent Summer Camp is coming. Orientation starts July 6, pre-registration open now.

Why the Turnover?

“So, think about who?” I prompted. Wendy was a new manager, grappling with her first days on the job.

“Well, right now, I am the manager of a team of four supervisors. They each have more than two years with the company, a total of twelve years between them. I worked alongside them as a supervisor. I have respect for each of their talents. I think I am all set,” Wendy replied.

“You are all set with your immediate team of supervisors. What about each of their production teams? Are there any holes in those teams?”

“Oh, yes, there is always some turnover, and I know there are some openings that need to be filled right now. Hopefully, they will spend some time each day trying to fill those positions,” she explained.

“I promise you, they won’t. In fact, it’s not even on their radar.”

“What do you mean? If they have an opening, I am sure they will try to fill it,” Wendy pushed.

“Fill it with whom?” I pushed back. “In the role of supervisor, the primary responsibility is production, make sure production gets done. They have a hole on their production team. Find somebody to fill it, please, and fast, because they have production to get out the door. Their focus is production, not hiring.”

“But, it’s their team, they are the hiring manager. As a supervisor, they get to pick their team members.”

“But, their focus is production. When you watch your supervisors, in the hiring process, what do you see?”

Wendy stopped pushing back. Her eyes went to the ceiling for a nanosecond. “You are right. They talk to a couple of candidates for about ten minutes and then pick somebody. They don’t really spend a lot of time. Maybe that’s why those production roles turn over more than we would like.”
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Mark your calendars. Hiring Talent Summer Camp is coming. Orientation starts July 6, pre-registration open now.

The Question is Not a “What?”

Mark your calendars. Hiring Talent Summer Camp is coming. Orientation starts July 6, pre-registration open now.
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“Poof, I am a new manager,” Wendy explained.  “I was a supervisor for three years, now I am a manager.”

“And?” I asked.

“For three years, I have been concerned with making sure production got done.  Now, I am the manager for a team of four supervisors.  From now on, they make sure production gets done.  They are in charge of scheduling, buying materials, staging.”

“And, where does that leave you?” I continued.

“That’s the dilemma.  They promoted me to manager, but without a lot of direction.  One of the vice-presidents, my new manager, told me he would give me a couple of weeks to figure it out.  He could have been more helpful.”

“In your new role, what is the one most important area of focus?” I pressed.

Wendy stopped to think.  “I am accountable for the output of my team.  My most important area of focus is the team.”

“Specifically, what? about your team?”

There was another pause.  “It’s not a what,” she realized.  “It’s a who.  The most important thing to focus on, is who is on the team.  If I do that well, my life, as a manager will be wonderful.  If I do that poorly, my life will be miserable, and for a very long time.”

Hot Spots

“So, I am the one to fix this problem with my silos,” Regina slowly realized. “And I can’t just leave my managers in the room to figure it out. Where do I start?”

“Putting your managers in the room is not a bad idea, but they will not be able to figure it out without you. Your role is the integrator,” I said.

“So, I get them in the room, then what?”

“Your managers are competent at work flow charting. Get them to step back and draw, not a system flow chart, but a functional flow chart.”

“Not sure I understand,” Regina quizzed.

“Your managers can flow chart the steps in a system. This exercise would be to flow chart all the systems in your business model sequence. Take this list, put a box around each element and flow them sideways on the white board.

  • Marketing
  • Business Development
  • Sales
  • Contracting
  • Engineering
  • Project Management
  • Operations
  • QA/QC
  • Warranty

In this exercise, we are not looking for the problems inside each function, we are looking for the problems that exist as one function hands off work to the next. We are looking for transition issues, capacity issues, clarity, timing, dead space, delay, undiscovered defects, inspection points.”

“How will we find those?” Regina asked.

“This is a hot spot exercise, just look for the pain. Your managers may not be able to fix the issues, but they know exactly where they are.”