Motivation is a Weasel Word

“I know hiring the right person takes work,” Marianna said. “But sometimes I just don’t feel motivated to spend the time.”

“Motivated? Motivation is a weasel word. You either do the work or you do not do the work. Motivation to do the work sounds like you would rather talk about the work than actually do the work. And, yes, it is hard work, but you can either do the hard work up front or you can do the hard managing after you have selected the wrong person. You decide,” I replied.

Marianna attempted to speak, but must have swallowed her words.

I pressed on. “Look, the person who actually does the work, just does it. If you want to talk about it, you are just delaying the task, perhaps hoping that someone else will do the work for you, or that at the end of the day, you are relieved of your responsibility to make the important selection. There are no management tricks in the hiring process, just deciding what you need in the role and finding out if the person is capable of doing that work.”
Homage to Lee Thayer, Leadership, Thinking, Being, Doing. “Motivation is a weasel word.”

Competence in Hiring

I could see Marianna was still kicking this around in her head. “But, I have so much to do. Sitting down to spend uninterrupted time working on this role description, well, it’s just time I don’t have.”

“Time is not something you have or don’t have. You have the same time that everyone else has. The only difference is how you choose to spend that time,” I replied.

“Most of the time I don’t have a choice about the things that I do,” Marianna complained.

“So, you made a choice to allow circumstances around you dictate the actions you take. The fix is in on how you spend your time.”

“But, I don’t hire often enough to get good at. That is why sometimes I end up relying on hope. I hope the candidate can do what they say.”

“That’s why it is important to practice, to spend time, to get more competent in the hiring process. The less competent you are, the more likely you will lean on an unsuitable crutch. The less competent you are, the more likely you will be open to predators feeding on your weakness.”

Marianna was uncomfortable. “So, how do I act stronger in the interview?”

“It is not a matter of acting, it is not a matter of being strong. It is a matter of being more competent. There is no trick, no trap, just hard work on your part. Choose to spend your time, to practice, to become more competent at hiring and your life, as a manager, will be wonderful. Choose poorly and your life will be miserable.”
Registration for our online program Hiring Talent closes today. Last chance to get in. Follow this link to register – Hiring Talent.

What to Look For, In the Interview

Marianna was visibly confused. “There must be some trick to hiring the right person,” she protested. “I have a friend at another company who uses this test with a circle graph. It tells them who they should hire.”

“And, how is that working for them?” I asked.

She chuckled. “Truth be told, they don’t do any better than we do here.”

“So, are you going to use the circle graph test?” I wanted to know.

Marianna smiled and shook her head. “You keep saying that hiring the right people is just plain hard work, that there is no trick.”

“Lot’s of people want to get better at hiring. There are tons of books about the subject. You can go to seminars, hire consultants. Why do you think so few are successful at selecting the right people?” I asked.

“I sit across the interview table, candidate on the other side. It’s like there is a vast unknown about this person. And, as the hiring manager, I have a lot at risk. If the candidate doesn’t work out, I have damage control and then I have to start over, interviewing again.”

“Marianna, there are no tricks to beating the odds. You just have to know what the odds are, and the odds are against you. You cannot casually approach the hiring process. It requires preparation. Solid thought has to go into designing the role. Most hiring managers don’t know what they need in the role, so it’s no wonder they don’t know what to look for in the candidate.”

Marianna’s eyes closed for a moment. She was thinking. Her eyes opened, “First, I have to design the role?”

“Only, then, will you know what to look for. And it’s not on the circle graph.”
Orientation for our online program Hiring Talent opened Monday. You can still get in on the fun. Register here – Hiring Talent.

How to Fill the Hole on the Team

From the Ask Tom mailbag – This discussion of the manager once removed in the hiring process has sparked a bit of controversy.

The complete problem/false belief here, as I have seen and continue to read the the supposed solution is:
If the hiring manager or others in many of the situations are making poor decisions, all this comes down to poor training from the higher ups in the first place. So if you were to form a logical assertion that the higher ups are just as poorly trained (if only because they cannot or do not OR fail to train their subordinates) then why would you even assume that the MOR will fix the problem?

Your question acknowledges the failure of most organizations to even consider the value of the MOR in the hiring process. Most organizations, indeed, leave the hiring manager to twist in the wind. The hiring manager is down a player on the team and has a short term focus to replace the player. Any player who fogs a mirror is better than the open role covered by overtime, hole-plugging or work that is simply not being done.

You are also correct that most MORs are also not trained in their role as the quarterback in the recruiting process. Most MORs sit idly by, along with everyone else and watch the struggle on the part of the hiring manager.

So, why is my focus on the MOR as the solution to this dilemma?

You assume that the failure of the hiring manager to make a good selection decision is a lack of training and that if hiring managers were effectively trained, then the MOR could go back to reading a book or drinking coffee. Here’s the rub. It is NOT a matter of training, it is a matter of capability and focus.

A stratum II supervisor is playing a role to “make sure production gets done,” using schedules, checklists and conducting short huddle meetings. The longest time span tasks in this role calibrate out to twelve months and include seasonal fluctuations of production throughout the course of a year. Managing seasonal fluctuations, building to order, building for stock, increasing raw material inventory, decreasing raw material inventory according to the ebb and flow of production are within the capability of the stratum II supervisor. Identifying personnel requirements in this ebb and flow are within the visibility of the stratum II supervisor, but beyond the capability to effectively select. The stratum II hiring manager will struggle and needs the active coaching and perspective of the stratum III manager-once-removed (MOR).

It is not a matter of training, it is a matter of capability and focus. The MOR is playing a role to “create the production system,” using flowcharts, schematics, efficiency studies and longer term planning. The longest time span tasks in this role calibrate out to 24 months. The stratum III MOR is concerned, not only that production gets done, but that it gets done efficiently, predictably and profitably, all the time. The MOR knows that fogging a mirror may plug a hole in the team, but its temporary relief may only bring more problems later. The MOR knows that the creation of an effective recruiting system is more important than filling the one open position.

The hiring manager has no patience for this because their role is focused on shorter term issues, like filling today’s orders. The MOR is focused on longer term issues like making sure there is a consistent and predictable system for filling orders, forever.

Sending the hiring manager to training will not change the focus of the role, nor the time span capability of the stratum II supervisor. In some cases, training may actually frustrate the stratum II supervisor, fidgeting in class, knowing that today’s orders are not being filled.
Orientation for our online program Hiring Talent will be released late today. There is still time to sign up at this link – Hiring Talent.

Manager Once Removed Has More Important Adult Things to Do

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

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.

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.
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 –

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.

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.
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 –

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?

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.
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 –

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?

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.
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 –

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.

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.