Manager Once Removed Has More Important Adult Things to Do

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
The MOR is a tough idea to implement, since the MOR is so busy and would like to delegate all of this important and time consuming role. Plus, in our company, those in MOR positions would say they want to completely empower the hiring manager to choose his/her own people. I mean, I agree that the MOR is responsible for this hire. But, they are awfully busy. What is the specific role in the hiring process for the MOR.

Response:
Of course the Manager-Once-Removed is going to push back. “It’s not my hire. I have more important adult things to do. I have management issues. I have motivation issues. Besides, I need to empower the hiring manager. I am an effective delegator and I choose to delegate the hiring process to the hiring manager. Good luck.”

And, what we end up with is a short-cut process, with a selection decision made in desperation, by someone who is barely qualified to recognize what is really required in the role.

My response to the MOR is, what more important thing do you have to do than to build the infrastructure of your team? In fact, the reason you are so busy with your management issues and motivation issues is because you did a poor job of this in the first place.

Delegating the process to the hiring manager may sound noble, but delegated tasks must pass the time-span test. Only those tasks within the time-span capability of the team member may be delegated. There are some tasks that must be self-performed because they are more appropriately within the time-span capability of the MOR.

Specifically, what is the MOR accountable for, what is the contracted output? The MOR is accountable for creating a quality system, with carefully constructed elements that yield a sound selection from the candidate pool by the hiring manager. The MOR is accountable for the output (the selection decision) made by the hiring manager.

  • Determine if the open role is a necessary role.
  • Identify the core work (decisions to be made, problems to be solved) in the open role.
  • Ensure that a role description is properly written, with tasks organized into Key Result Areas (KRAs).
  • Assemble an interview team and create team assignments for each member in the interview process.
  • Review with the team, the critical role requirements.
  • Ensure that a bank of written interview questions are created, approximately ten questions per KRA.
  • Ensure the hiring team practices asking questions and listening for responses related to the critical role requirements. This involves role play and practice. Most hiring teams don’t practice enough to get good at the interview.
  • Coach the hiring manager through the selection process. The hiring manager must understand the role requirements, create and ask effective questions.
  • Coach the hiring manager in the final decision, using a decision matrix to effectively compare candidates.

The MOR is the quarterback of this process. The MOR does not have to personally do all the leg work, all the writing or all the analysis, but the MOR is accountable to make sure that all that happens, no shortcuts.

Do this job well and life, as a manager, is wonderful. Do this job poorly and life, as a manager, is miserable and for a very long time.
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Pre-registration for our online program Hiring Talent continues through Friday. Orientation kicks off on Monday, April 18, 2016. Here is the link for pre-registration – Hiring Talent.

Most MORs Sit on the Sideline

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I was in your workshop and I was intrigued with the concept of the Manager-Once-Removed in the hiring process. Indeed, we have been disappointed in the last several hires from our Hiring Managers. Now I understand why.

Response:
You were leaving your Hiring Managers to twist in the wind without so much as a word of encouragement. The single biggest change I recommend in the hiring process is to design and implement the role of the Manager-Once-Removed.

The Manager-Once-Removed is the Hiring Manager’s manager. All managers are accountable for the work output of their team, so the Manager-Once-Removed is accountable for the work output of the Hiring Manager. This means, I hold the MOR accountable for the quality of the decision made by the Hiring Manager. This accountability changes everything.

Most MORs sit on the sideline and watch the Hiring Manager make mistake after mistake. What is the sense of urgency on the part of the Hiring Manager to select someone from the candidate pool? When does the Hiring Manager want to hire someone? Try yesterday. The Hiring Manager is missing someone on the team and needs that role filled ASAP, even at the expense of shortcuts in the process.

The MOR, however, is not missing a team member and has better perspective on what is required for success two layers below. AND, most importantly, the MOR is accountable for the quality of the selection decision. The MOR is less likely to take shortcuts, is more likely to insist on a carefully crafted role description, in short, makes a much better quarterback for the process.
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Orientation for our online program, Hiring Talent, opens next Monday. Register at this link – Hiring Talent.

How to Interview for a Sense of Urgency

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
We find it difficult to interview for some of the soft skills. Our operation moves very fast. One of the things we need to know before hiring a candidate, is, can they keep up. What is their sense of urgency?

Response:
You can effectively interview for anything you can connect to a behavior. Soft skill, hard skill, attitude, character trait. Translate it into a behavior, then interview for the behavior. It sounds difficult, but not with Barry Shamis’ magic question, “How does a person with (this character trait) behave?” Then interview for this behavior.

You asked about sense of urgency. How does a person with a sense of urgency behave? Then interview for that behavior.

  • Show up early.
  • Plan the project ahead of time.
  • Inspect progress frequently.
  • Always works on high priority elements.

Now interview for those behaviors.

  • Tell me about a past project where time was of the essence?
  • Tell about the specific need for speed on the project?
  • What were the expectations on your personnel?
  • What factors slowed the progress of the project?
  • What did you do to expedite progress?
  • How often did you meet with your personnel?
  • Step me through your agenda in that meeting?
  • What were the project priorities?
  • How did those priorities change during the project?
  • How did you communicate the change in priorities to the rest of the team?

The responses you get to these questions, though strictly about observable behavior, will give the interviewer a clear insight into the sense of urgency in the candidate.
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Registration continues this week for our next online program Hiring Talent. For more information, follow this link – Hiring Talent.

Hypothetical Questions Make Room for Lies

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
You say to stay away from hypothetical questions. We have been giving all candidates the same case study question. “What would you do if…?” First we think it’s fair to give all candidates the same question and we want to see how the candidate thinks on their feet. But, you say to stay away from hypothetical questions?

Response:
This is a great question and one I get all the time in my online program Hiring Talent.

There are several ways to look at your issue. The biggest problem with hypothetical questions is that they aren’t real. The response cannot be fact-checked. Because the hypothetical question leaves out all the nuances with reality, it leaves a lot to interpretation by the candidate. It’s like taking a multiple choice test where none of the alternatives fit. The candidate ends up guessing at what the interviewer wants to hear. That may have nothing to do with the candidates experience.

Hypothetical questions also leave a lot of room for the candidate to make up stuff or outright lie. Candidates spend time with headhunters role-playing answers to questions. Candidates read up on industry trade journals to get the jargon down. They may be able to create a plausible response to the hypothetical question, without ever having real experience.

You say, you want to be fair to all the candidates in the pool. My focus has little to do with being fair. My focus is to find out as much about the candidate’s past that has direct relationship with the work in the open role. I have a lot of data to collect. The only pivot point of fairness is the critical role requirements in the position.

Your intention in your hypothetical is noble. There are things you want to find out about each candidate. Maybe “thinking on your feet” is a critical role requirement. I would still look at the candidates past behavior.

Instead of “What would you do if…?” Try this.

  • Tell me about a time when you had only a short time to prepare for a project, where you had to think on your feet?
  • What was the project?
  • Who was on the project team?
  • What was your role on the project team?
  • What factors created the urgency to mobilize quickly without time for planning?
  • What did you do? Step me through how you responded?
  • What was the result?
  • What did you learn from the project? How did that impact your next project?

Hypothetical questions can be improved by simply moving the response to a real event in the past.
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Registration is now open for our next online course at Hiring Talent. For more information or pre-registration, follow this link – Hiring Talent

Next Class – Hiring Talent – April 18, 2016

We are gathering the next group for our online program Hiring Talent which kicks off April 18, 2016. As the economy recovers, your next hires are critical. This is not a time to be casual about the hiring process. Mistakes are too expensive and margins are too thin.

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

Candidate Interview

How long is the program? We streamlined the program so that it can be completed in six weeks. We have also added a self-paced feature so participants can work through the program even faster.

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 cost? The program investment is $499 per participant. Vistage members receive a $100 credit, so $399.

When is the program scheduled? Pre-registration is now open. The program is scheduled to kick-off April 18, 2016 with Orientation.

How much time is required to participate in this program? Participants should reserve approximately 2 hours per week. This program is designed so participants can complete their assignments on their own schedule anytime during each week’s assignment period.

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

April 18, 2016

  • Orientation

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. See you online. -Tom

Not a Personality Conflict

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I am trying to sort out an argument between one of my foremen and our safety officer. They have two different personalities. My foreman is driven, goal oriented with a knack for getting things done, even if he has to bend a rule or two. My safety officer is conservative, a stickler for policy without much admiration for getting things done. On the face of it, their personalities are suited to the roles we have them in. Until they get in the same room, or in the same meeting, or worse case, on the same job-site. It’s like oil and water. We have done personality testing to confirm what I have described, but they fight like cats.

Response:
You don’t have a personality conflict, you have an accountability and authority issue. Both roles have goals and objectives. Neither role is the manager of the other, yet they both have to work together. You could stand in and referee every interaction (if you have that kind of time on your hands) or you can get clear about the accountability and authority of each.

The foreman, no doubt, has production goals to meet each week and month for the duration of the project. The foreman has the authority, as the manager of his crew, to assign tasks, monitor those tasks and adjust work assignments as time goes by.

The safety officer has goals and objectives related to the absence of workplace accidents, the adherence to safety policies and long term, a reduction in work-comp modification factors. The safety officer is in a classic auditor role, accountable for safety, and, also with special authority to delay or stop work in the face of an unsafe work practice.

The conflict you witness between your foreman and your safety officer has nothing to do with personality, everything to do with the lack of clarity on your part, as their manager, related to their accountability and authority. The safety officer has the authority because you define it. If you don’t define it, you will get behavior that looks like a personality conflict.

Who Needs to Be Fired Today?

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I am a manager, and I understand that I am accountable for the output of my team. My team is accountable for showing up every day with full commitment to do their best. But, I feel stymied by my colleagues, my manager and his colleagues. I know I am accountable, but my authority is constantly under pressure to keep members on my team who should have been terminated long ago. The trouble is, it’s so difficult to get rid of anybody around here. Yet, I am accountable for substandard output. My manager points to HR, HR points to policy, policy points back to me and my hands are tied.

Response:
It is not unusual for an organization to be fuzzy about hiring and firing practices. Upper management does not trust lower management to make sound decisions, and this lack of clarity creates a malaise of inaction that is allows underperformance to continue, simultaneously debilitating the morale of the rest of the team.

Elliott Jaques was quite clear that managerial accountability also requires managerial authority. Organizations underperform because this issue remains unresolved with managers, at all levels, passing the buck.

For a manager to be held accountable for the output of the team requires the manager to be given, minimum, veto authority in team member selection. Likewise, that same manager must have authority to de-select an individual from the team.

There are two implications. No manager can unilaterally make hiring and firing decisions in a vacuum. There are considerations of budget, work flow, work schedule, capacity. These circumstances create the context of the hiring and firing decisions. The second implication is the role of the manager-once-removed. The concern of upper management about the decision-making of lower management is not without merit, but, for Pete’s sake, get clear about the authority that goes with the accountability.

Manager-once-removed
——————–
Hiring manager
——————–
Team member

In hiring practice, the manager-once-removed is required to create a slate of qualified candidates for the hiring manager to select from. The manager-once-removed should be well aware of the context of the hire, including budget, work flow, work schedule and capacity planning. In this way, the manager-once-removed can be assured the hire is proper in context and that the hiring manager has a qualified slate to select from.

In firing practice, the manager-once-removed is required to be an active coach to the hiring (firing) manager. The hiring (firing) manager may de-select an individual from the team, but terminations from the company require the agreement from the manager-once-removed. Again, the manager-once-removed should be well aware of the context of the de-selection and/or termination related to budget, work flow, work schedule and capacity planning.

Most organizations leave this authority fuzzy and suffer the consequences. For a manager to be accountable for the output of the team, that manager must have the minimum veto authority on team selection and authority to de-select after due process.

So, why would the manager-once-removed want to get tangled up in this mess? Because the manager-once-removed is accountable for the output of the hiring manager. The manager-once-removed is accountable for the quality of the decision made by the hiring manager. This accountability changes everything, overnight.

Don’t Be the Critical Parent

From the Ask Tom mailbag:

Question:
I’m a new manager for a staff of about 65 people. It seems that my predecessor was not a good manager. I was left with people misinformed about company and regulatory policies. Anytime I point out something being done incorrectly, I end up being the bad guy. I’ve tried to be nice, explain my reasoning and show proof, but it doesn’t work. They just keep saying the previous manager didn’t tell them. One staff member even called another department to complain. How can I get them to listen and comply with rules and regulatory policies we have to follow? Should I start writing people up or just keep explaining myself?

Response:
One thing I learned a long time ago, no one listens to me. It doesn’t matter how brilliant I am. It doesn’t matter how I nail the solution to the problem, I get no respect. It’s the Rodney effect.

Why should they listen to you? Whatever you have to say, means a change for them. And it doesn’t matter if you are right.

There is one person, however, they will listen to. If you can figure out who that person is, and get that person to dispense the helpful advice, you will make some headway.

I have found the only person from whom people will take negative criticism is themselves. The advice has to come from them.

Here is how I would start. Observe the kinds of things that people are doing outside of guidelines and policies, take some notes and build a list. Then call a meeting to discuss how we could make improvements in various areas. Describe one difficulty or problem or one process in which we would like a different result. Divide the team into smaller groups of 2-3 to brainstorm ideas to get the best ideas, then invite team members to take the new actions and try them out.

I would conduct these five minute meetings 2-3 times per week, looking at all kinds of ways to make improvements. Pretty soon, they will see new ideas you never thought of. And you don’t have to be the critical parent.

Keep Them or Transition Them Out

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
In an attempt to retain their highest producers, a call center instituted an incentive plan that highly favored a group of seven. These “Magnificent Seven,” as the partners called them, did produce a high percentage of the revenues. But they were also highly dysfunctional as a group as each one was high maintenance with lots of personal baggage in his/her own right. While the reward system worked to retain these seven, the churn rate for the remaining 23 seats was over 400%. In effect, the incentives to retain seven people came at the expense of morale, work environment, job satisfaction and even the bottom line. The cost of continuously replacing the 23 employees far exceeded the benefit of retaining the seven. Your thoughts?

Response:
So, if I was a direct manager and needed high volume sales for only the next three months, I would go the M-7 every time. But, that is not the way most organizations work. Most organizations need sustained revenue over years and decades. Most organizations need a sustainable system of sales which contemplates sales methodology, recruiting, orientation, portfolio growth, levels of work, promotion and retirement. This goes back to time span.

Three months time span – Magnificent Seven
Ten year time span – Not the Magnificent Seven

What to Delegate, What to Self-Perform?

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
Here is what I have noticed about levels of work. When a leader works at a lower (incorrect) level, he/she actually destroys value in the people on the team. The team becomes frustrated and honestly sometimes, lazy, because the boss will come in and do the work anyway.

Response:
Most managers have difficulty delegating because they don’t understand the level of work in the task. Identifying level of work tells the manager specifically what tasks can effectively be delegated and what tasks must be self-performed. In the delegation, level of work tells the manager what decisions, authority and accountability can reasonably be expected. This understanding allows managers to engage in higher levels of system design, planning and problem prevention.