Why Do Team Members Fail? A Managers Dilemma

  • I was careful in the interview, still picked the wrong person.
    I think I was careful in the interview process, selecting the right candidate. I was wrong. Wasted several weeks interviewing and several weeks finding out I hired the wrong person. Now, I have to start over at square one.
  • Promoted top performer to manager. Now failing.
    She was with the company for 12 years, top performer, everyone liked her. We promoted her to a game-breaker position and, now, she is failing, like a deer in the headlights. She is demoralized, embarrassed and wants to leave the company.
  • Senior Project Manager blows the deadline, again.
    He had a good plan in the meeting, schedule looked solid, but it’s Friday and I have to call the customer to explain that the project will be late. There is no reason for the delay, just an excuse.
  • At that pay level, shouldn’t have to hold their hand.
    I know the problem is tricky to solve, but if I have to answer one more question, I might as well do it myself.
  • If I told them once, told them a thousand times.
    The work instructions were clear. We reviewed them in the meeting. Everyone said they understood. There were no questions. We had more defects this week than last.
  • Sent him to manager training, same person came back.
    Our high hopes for this young manager are dashed. Showed such promise. Or did he?

Management Myths and Time Span
The Research of Elliott Jaques
presented by Tom Foster

October 6, 2016
Fort Lauderdale, FL

What this program covers – this is not re-packaged Leadership 101. Unless you have seen Tom, you have never seen this before.

  • Most who want to take their company to the next level don’t know what the next level is, nor the team required to get them there. Find out the difference between infancy, go-go, adolescence, prime and stable.
  • Unlock and understand the secret behind the Peter Principle, promoting someone to their level of incompetence, and how to test before the mistake is made.
  • Most companies underestimate what is really required for success in a role. Learn the Four Absolutes that must be in your hiring process.

Every CEO, executive and manager struggles with the hidden key to performance, revealed in this fascinating program.

October 6, 2016
8:00a – 12:00 noon

Program starts at 8:30a sharp
Holy Cross Hospital Auditorium
4725 North Federal Highway
Fort Lauderdale FL 33308

Reserve Now $200
Vistage/TEC Members and their Guests, ONLY $99

Seating is limited
PLUS – each participant receives a complimentary copy of Tom’s latest book –
Outbound Air
Levels of Work in Organizational Structure

Register by credit card or PayPal –
Reserve my seat – Registration link – $200 per person
I am a Vistage/TEC member or Guest- Only $99 per person

About Tom
Tom Foster is the author of two books on this subject –

  • Outbound Air – Levels of Work in Organizational Structure
  • Hiring Talent – Levels of Work in the Behavioral Interview

Tom travels North America working with CEOs on what happens when companies get bigger, from a dozen employees to a hundred, five hundred, to a thousand plus. Since 2004, he has delivered this workshop to more than 450 groups, more than 6,000 executives.

In Broward County, Florida, Tom runs multiple executive peer groups, where, since 1995, he has delivered more than 14,000 hours as an executive coach to CEOs. His client base is diverse, from retail to distribution, manufacturing, construction, education, software, professional and industrial services. Tom is an expert on business models, organizational structure and hiring.

But, My Team Gives Me the Wrong Answer

Our Working Leadership Series kicks off Sep 9, 2016 in Fort Lauderdale. For more information follow this link – Working Leadership.

I use questions to coach my team members, and they provide answers but not always the right answer. As a result, the conversation can appear like an inquisition. It’s challenging, at that time, not to revert to “telling” rather than “asking“.

If you are asking a question and you don’t get the response you want, it’s not because the response is wrong, it’s because you are asking the wrong question. -Tom

Working Leadership Program Kicks Off Sep 9, 2016 in Fort Lauderdale

Sep 9, 2016 kicks off our next Working Leadership Series in Fort Lauderdale Florida. This program contains twelve modules in six classroom sessions. The program instructor will be Tom Foster (that’s me).  

Who Should Attend? – This program is designed for Stratum III and Stratum IV managers who are currently in leadership roles.

If you would like to pre-register for the program, use the Ask Tom link, tell me a little about yourself and we will add you to the pre-registration list.

Schedule – Curriculum details below.
Session 1 – Fri, Sep 8, 2016 – 1-4:30p Orientation – Role of the Manager – Time Management
Session 2 – Fri, Sep 16, 2016 – 1-4:30p Working Styles – Communication
Session 3 – Fri, Sep 23, 2016 – 1-4:30p Positive Reinforcement – Team Problem Solving
Session 4 – Fri, Sep 30, 2016 – 1-4:30p Planning – Delegation
Session 5 – Fri, Oct 7, 2016 – 1-4:30p Decision Making – Accountability
Session 6 – Thu, Oct 13, 2016 – 8:30a-12n Effective Meetings – Coaching

Location – All classes will be held at Banyan Air Services in Fort Lauderdale FL in the Sabal Palm Conference Room.
Banyan Air Services
5360 NW 20th Terrace
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33309

Tuition – $1600 per participant. Vistage member companies receive a $100 discount per participant. This includes all books and participant materials.


Session One
Orientation. During the initial Session, participants will create both a company and a personal framework, setting expectations and direction for this program. Participants, through directed discussion, create the connection between the program course material and their day-to-day management challenges.

Role of the Manager. Introduces the distinction between supervisor and manager roles. Clarifies the specific goals necessary for effectiveness. This module creates the foundation on which rest of the course material builds. Incorporates source material from Requisite Organization – Elliott Jaques.

Communication. The largest challenge, for most managers, centers on issues of communication. This Session will introduce participants to a new level of conversational “reality.” Introduces the text, Fierce Conversations, by Susan Scott, as reference material. (Text included as part of this program.)

Session Two
Working Styles.
 Participants will complete a DISC survey (DISC is an online instrument published by TTI) and report on their own identified strengths and working style.

Time Management. Introduces the textbook Getting Things Done by David Allen. (Text included as part of the program).

Session Three
Positive Reinforcement

This segment reviews the management research of Elliott Jaques and Abraham Maslow regarding “why people work.” Explores the role of positive reinforcement outlined in by Aubrey Daniels – Getting the Best Out of People.

Team Problem Solving. Expands Fierce Conversations to the group setting. Designed to move a group into “real work,” using a team problem solving model. Demonstrates how to build a team through problem solving.

Session Four
 This segment introduces a results-oriented planning model, based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done, which participants can quickly use in any situation where planning would be of benefit.

Delegation. Participants are introduced to a specific model of effective delegation. Most managers hold certain mental blocks to delegation that prevents them from using this powerful developmental tool. This delegation model challenges these mental blocks so the entire team, manager included, can benefit from delegation.

Session Five
Decision Making
. This segment introduces three decision models that participants can use to make decisions in specific circumstances. All models can be used in a team setting or for an individual decision.

Accountability Conversation. Introduces a results-oriented method to hold individuals and teams accountable for desired results. This combines concepts of Time Span, QQT Goals and Management Relationships.

Session Six
Effective Meetings.
 Moves from theory to the practical application of team dynamics. How to run a more effective meeting.

Coaching. This segment takes the communication models we have previously used and integrates them into a conversation specifically designed for coaching subordinates.

If you would like to pre-register for the program, use the Ask Tom link, tell me a little about yourself and we will add you to the pre-registration list.

Tom Foster will be the instructor for this program.

Who Should Be on the Hiring Team?

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

It sounds like you favor hiring teams, but I can’t tell if you recommend team interviews. How many people in the room?

Yes, I recommend hiring teams. Not an ad-hoc team, but a purposeful team, a reason for each person on the team. First is the hiring manager. The quarterback of the team, is the hiring manager’s manager, the manager-once-removed from the open role. That’s two people on the team, so far. I like a technical person, someone who knows the skill part of the job. I like a culture person, someone who understands, models and can explain the company culture. Each person on the hiring team will listen for things that others will miss.

I like hiring teams, but not in the room at the same time. Too many people make the candidate nervous. I don’t need nervous candidates. I need candidates who can calmly describe what they have done in specific situations in the past, related to the critical requirements of the role.

In addition to the candidate, no more than two people in the room. And one of those should not talk, only observe. The purpose of the interview is to collect organized data about the candidate and their past experience. Disconnected questions disrupt the continuity of details we need. And, yes, we need details. -Tom

Trapped by First Impressions

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Our hiring team debriefed a candidate yesterday. Everybody liked her but me. As we went around the table, I was shocked. Every single member of the hiring team said they made their decision in the first three minutes of the interview. They were proud they could make a positive hiring decision that fast. I was the lone dissent. The candidate will never work out. But I got outvoted, she starts on Monday.

Many hiring managers report they make the decision in the first three minutes of the interview. You are correct. It is a problem, but one that is easily fixed.

During the first few minutes of the interview, the interviewer receives a variety of potent non-verbal data about the candidate. We observe the clothes, the polished shoes, the haircut, posture, tone of voice, pace of speech. Our perceptions are unconscious, but very powerful. During the first three minutes, the interviewer is awash in first impressions.

The problem is, those first impressions have little to do with the qualifications of the candidate. The interviewer has to get beyond initial impressions and collect more data. But most hiring managers attend the interview ill prepared. They have no written questions, or only a handful at best. “Tell me a little about yourself” is NOT a diagnostic question. Your hiring team fell into the same trap. They sat in the interview room without preparation.

If the interviewer asks few questions related to the work in the role, the only criteria on which to judge the candidate is those powerful initial impressions. It’s that simple. Your team made their decision three minutes from the start of the interview, because they collected no additional data to counter first impressions.

The fix is simple. It’s all about preparation. Most roles have 5-8 key areas of responsibility. Preparation consists of identifying the work in each key area and crafting ten questions. Simple. Five key areas, ten questions each, fifty total written questions.

I can feel the push-back from here. Fifty questions seems like a lot of work, but you have a hiring team. Five people on the team nets out at ten questions each. Spread the work, but don’t let them into the interview room without a list of 50 questions. First impressions will still occur, but your team will collect all kinds of data to balance out those first impressions. -Tom

Necessity Checklist Before the Hire

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

You talk in your workshop about necessity. You say the manager-once-removed and the hiring manager should discuss the necessity of the role before hiring someone. I find that the answer is too easy to say yes. What should we consider when we think about necessity for the role.

If your company is going to purchase an expensive piece of machinery, would you buy it if it wasn’t necessary? The answer is no. If your company is going to hire a person, would you make the hire if the role wasn’t necessary?

I use a multi-step process to determine necessity.

  • Eliminate
  • Simplify
  • Consolidate
  • Outsource
  • Automate
  • Hire

Eliminate. Is there any way to eliminate the role? Is the work performed in this role necessary? What would happen if the work in this role was never performed again?

Simplify. Is there a way to simplify the work process for this role, that would change the level of work in the role?

Consolidate. Can the work performed by this role be modified, shortened, simplified, so that it becomes part-time and can it be consolidated with another role?

Outsource. Is the work performed by this role something that can be more effectively outsourced, to fix our cost structure associated with this work? Is the work performed by this role subject to seasonal or economic fluctuations which are easier to control if the role is contracted to an outside resource?

Automate. Can the work performed by this role be automated through a software system or automatic device? Is the cost for the automation less expensive and more reliable than a person in this role?

Hire. Does this role require judgment, in decision making and problem solving that is better performed by a person than any other resource? Is this work necessary?

Sounds like a very interesting discussion between the manager-once-removed and the hiring manager. -Tom

How to Interview for Values

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

I get it. Interest and passion come from value for the work. So, just exactly how do you interview for that? Any question I come up with, sounds stupid or leads the candidate.

  • Are you passionate about the work we do here?
  • Tell me about your interest in the work we do here?

These questions just leave me open for the candidate to fabricate something they think I want to hear.

You are correct, those are lousy questions. First, they are hypothetical and without definition for “the work we do here.” The first fix is to ask about the candidate’s real prior experience, not a hypothetical comparison.

Next, it is impossible to interview for values. I can’t do it. You can’t do it. We can only interview for behaviors connected to values. What are some descriptive words connected to value for the work?

  • Significant
  • Important
  • Accomplishment
  • Pride

Embed these words into a series of questions, focused on connected behaviors.

  • Tell me about a time when you worked on a project of significance?
  • What was the project?
  • How long was the project?
  • What was your role on the project?
  • Describe your work on the project?
  • What problems did you have to solve?
  • What decisions did you have to make?
  • What made that project significant?
  • What characteristics about the project made it important?
  • In the eyes of the team, what was accomplished?
  • In that project, what were you most proud of?

In the interview, as you listen to the candidate’s response, do the values described match up with the values necessary for the work in the role?

Before you spring this on a real candidate interview, try this with your existing team. Valuable practice. -Tom

Will I Even Show Up?

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

In your workshop on Time Span, you mention interest and passion as a critical role requirement. That sounds nice, but what does it mean?

Indeed, interest and passion have a kumbaya appearance in the midst of more tangible candidate characteristics. So, what is it, related to work, that we have interest in and passion for? You know me well enough, this is not a casual metaphorical discussion.

We have interest in, and passion for, work on which we place a high value. If we place a high value on the work, it is likely we will have interest and passion for it.

If we place a low value on the work, it is likely we will not be interested. Low value means we will not bring our highest level of capability. We will most likely only do what is minimally necessary.

My wife places a high value on a type of work called “back yard gardening.” You can imagine that my home in Florida is a veritable jungle of exotic plants and butterflies. Why? Because she place a high value on that type of work.

I, on the other hand, place a low value on a type of work called “back yard gardening.” So, if I am ever summoned to the back yard to complete a task assignment, will I even show up? Of course, I will show up, I am married, but I will only do what is minimally necessary and then I disappear.

So, think about the work in the roles you have for your team. Think about the work you have for yourself. What are the problems that have to be solved? What are the decisions that have to be made? Interest and passion come from value for the work.

Why They Don’t Want to Help

“But how can you hold the regional manager accountable for a hiring decision made by the supervisor?” Regina complained. “That’s what my regional managers will say. That’s why they don’t want to help. Helping gets their fingerprints on the hire. If it’s a poor hire, they get dragged into mess.”

S-III – Regional Manager
S-II – Hiring Supervisor
S-I – Technician Role (open)

“Exactly!” I replied. “Except, I don’t want to simply drag the regional manager into the mess. The regional manager is accountable to drive the whole process. Just as the supervisor will be accountable for the output of the technician, I hold the regional manager accountable for the output of the supervisor. If the regional manager is accountable for the quality of the decision made by the hiring supervisor, what changes?”

Hiring As a Matter of Opinion

“I still don’t think this is going to work,” Regina pushed back. “My regional managers don’t see this as a priority for them. They think the supervisor should be able to handle their own recruiting.”

“What do your statistics tell you?” I asked.

“Well, out of a workforce of 500 technicians, this past year, we had 176 leave, 83 percent left on a voluntary basis.”

“And your regional managers think your supervisors are capable of driving their own recruiting effectively?”

“Yes,” Regina politely replied.

“I think they are mistaken. The biggest mistake most companies make is, they underestimate the level of work in the task assignment. Underestimate the level of work in the task, and you will select the wrong person every time. In this case, your supervisor is appropriate to be the hiring supervisor, but the supervisor’s manager (the regional manager) is the manager-once-removed from the open position.

S-III – Regional Manager (Manager Once Removed)
S-II – Supervisor (Hiring Manager)
S-I – Technician Role (open)

“It is the regional manager who is the quarterback. The Regional Manager is accountable for the output of the Supervisor. That includes the quality of the hiring decision. Only when you make it necessary, will you get the attention of the regional manager.” -Tom