Level of Work and Promotions

“So, Phillip can handle tasks with a one month time span, but falls short on tasks with a longer time span,” Joyce confirmed.

“So, what does that tell you about his role? You told me that you promoted him to Warehouse Manager. Based on the level of work in the role, is that appropriate for Phillip?” I asked.

Joyce knew the answer, so her hesitation was from reluctance. “No. Now it begins to make sense. What we expect from a Manager, even the Warehouse Manager requires a Time Span of twelve months. Phillip is not even close.”

“So, if you had determined the level of work before the promotion, you might have done something differently?” I prompted.

“Absolutely. When I look at Time Span, it becomes so obvious that his promotion was a bone-headed decision.”

“And who was responsible for that bone-headed decision?”

“That would be me,” Joyce replied.
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Hiring Talent Summer Camp (online) starts June 20, 2016. Follow this link – Hiring Talent – for course description and logistics. Pre-register today. See you online. -Tom

The Look-Ahead

“Then, how are we going to measure the size of the role?” I repeated. Joyce and I were discussing Phillip. Though he had been made manager, he was having difficulty with some of his new responsibilities.

“So, you are suggesting that we look at all the tasks on Phillip’s plate and assign a Time Span to them?” Joyce asked.

I nodded.

She began to brainstorm out loud, “If I look at his Key Result Areas, as Warehouse Manager, Phillip is responsible for:

  • Personnel
  • Receiving
  • Picking
  • Shipping
  • Warehouse Layout and Work Flow
  • Security
  • Equipment
  • Safety

“And which of those KRAs has the longest Time Span tasks?” I asked.

Joyce pulled out a sheet of paper to make some notes. “Receiving, picking and shipping are fairly short term things. The look-ahead is probably no more than a couple of weeks.

“But, both Personnel and Warehouse Layout and Work Flow, contain much longer Time Span tasks. We have a lot of seasonality to our product lines and we have to make decisions about inventory bin placement four or five months in advance. We really depend on a twelve month bin cycle that rotates stock both forward and backward depending on seasonality. Some tasks create a feedback loop to sales and purchasing about inventory turns, raw materials in stock, finished goods in stock. There is a lot to control, but it’s easy if you think out far enough into the future and plan.

“And that’s where Phillip messes up,” Joyce concluded. “He just doesn’t plan out far enough, so it’s always chaos.”

“So, if we were to measure Phillip’s capability in Personnel and Layout and Work Flow, he underperforms?” I confirmed.

It was Joyce’s turn to nod.

“So, let’s look at his other tasks, determine the level of work and see if we come up with a pattern of his effectiveness.”
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Hiring Talent Summer Camp (online) starts June 20, 2016. Follow this link – Hiring Talent – for course description and logistics. Pre-register today. See you online. -Tom

Procrastination and Time Span

Joyce had her thinking cap on. Her dissatisfaction with Phillip was elusive. Not just a lack of performance, but from a lack of capability.

“I want you to begin to think about capability in terms of Time Span,” I prompted.

“You’re right,” she replied. “Phillip seems to stay away from, or procrastinate on all the projects that take time to plan out and work on. And then, it’s like he jams on the accelerator. He even told me that he works better under pressure, that last minute deadlines focus him better. I am beginning to think that he waits until the last minute because that is the only time frame he thinks about.”

“Give me an example,” I asked.

“Remember, I found him hidden away in the warehouse, rearranging all the shelves himself. It’s really a bigger project than that. We are trying to move the high turning items to bins up front and slower moving items to bins in the back. But it’s going to take some time to review, which items need to be moved, how to re-tag them, how to planagram the whole thing. We started talking about this three months ago with a deadline coming due next week. So, only now, Phillip focuses in the warehouse doing things himself. And the result is likely to be more of a mess than a help.”

“Is it a matter of skill, planning skills?” I ventured.

“No, I don’t think so. The whole project is just beyond him,” Joyce said with some certainty.

“Then how are we going to measure the size of the project, the size of the role? And how will we state Phillip’s effectiveness in that role?”
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Hiring Talent Summer Camp (online) starts June 20, 2016. Follow this link – Hiring Talent – for course description and logistics. You can pre-register starting today. See you online. -Tom

Assessing Effectiveness

“So, let’s look at your description of Phillip,” I prompted. “You said he is probably in over his head. What exactly does that mean?”

Joyce’s brow furrowed. “You know. He is having trouble cutting it. Can’t deliver. Doesn’t know whether to scream or eat a banana.”

I smiled. “I know exactly what you mean. But how do we characterize this behavior so we can improve the situation?”

Joyce looked a little sheepish. “I don’t mean to poke fun. But I really don’t know how else to put it.”

“So, let’s say you fire Phillip and your boss wants to know the reason. Are you going to say that Phillip was terminated because he didn’t know whether to scream or eat a banana?”

“Of course not. I would have to think of something more tactful,” Joyce replied.

“Instead of something more tactful, think of something closer to the truth, something you can be objective about and measure.”

“I don’t know,” said Joyce, backpedaling. She shifted with the uncomfortable question. “I think I would have to go back to his job description and start there,” she replied.

“And if you went back to the job description, what would you find?”

Joyce got up from her chair and paced to the side of the room. “First of all, I would have to find the job description, but I already know it’s just a bunch of gobbledygook. It was written by a consultant several years ago and it’s out of date.”

“So, if I really put you to the test, as a manager, you are holding Phillip to a performance standard that you describe as gobbledygook?”

“Yes, but, I can still tell that he is not doing his job. He doesn’t have the capability to do his job. I know that, even without the job description.”

“So, how are we going to capture what you already know in measurable terms to help us know what to do with Phillip?”
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Hiring Talent Summer Camp (online) starts June 20, 2016. Follow this link – Hiring Talent – for course description and logistics. You can pre-register starting today. See you online. -Tom

How to Spot Micro-Management

Joyce was thinking about her team. Things were not a disaster, but not running too smoothly. There was a friction in the team that was beginning to take a life of its own.

“I have been watching Phillip,” she started. “It seems he is struggling with his job as a supervisor, but it’s hard to tell. He has his good days, but not too often.”

“How would you rate his performance?” I asked.

“Well, that’s pretty easy to see. He is always late with stuff and it’s never completely done the way it should be. And then, when I go to talk to him about it, I can’t find him.”

“Is he in the building?”

“Oh, yeah, he will turn up, but it’s like, he was two hours down in receiving, he said he was organizing the place. Now, I know the place needs to be organized, but he was doing it all alone. He was not out here, supervising on the floor, where he really needed to be. The receiving guy should be doing the organizing in receiving.”

“What do you think the problem is?”

“Well, even though he is a supervisor, it seems he would rather be doing lower level-of-work stuff. Some of his team members even accuse him of micro-managing.”

“So, what do you think the problem is?” I repeated.

“It’s like he is in a role that he doesn’t even like, and probably in over his head,” Joyce concluded.

“And who put him in that spot?”

Joyce turned her head, looked at me sideways. A bit of a smile, a bit of a grimace.

Routine Grooved Behaviors

“I understand,” Marietta replied. “I got it. The way you explained it, now I know what to do.”

“You understand, in one part of your brain, but in the heat of the day, another part of your brain will want to do what it has always done,” I observed.

“But, now, I know what to do differently,” she protested.

“And, when you walk into the situation, that other part of your brain will take over and you will fall back on your habits, your grooved behaviors, even if they were not successful.”

“I hope that won’t happen,” Marietta flatly said.

“The only way to act in your new understanding, is to practice, practice and practice, until your new understanding becomes a habit. Only then will you be able to execute in a new way. We think we choose our success, but we don’t. We only choose our habits and our habits will determine our success.”

Will the Candidate Follow Work Instructions?

“So, how can I find out if a candidate will follow our standard operating procedures or if they will experiment using their own methods, wasting our time and resources to find out we were right in the first place?” Melinda asked. “What questions do you ask?”

“What are my two favorite questions?” I asked.

Melinda didn’t have to think on that one. “Tell me about a time when? And, step me through?”

“Okay, so using those two questions, create a series that helps me understand how the candidate will respond when they disagree with work instructions,” I prompted.

Melinda took a deep breath, slowly exhaled, thinking.

  • Tell me about a time when you disagreed with the way you were supposed to complete a task assignment?
  • What was the project, or what was the task?
  • Step me through the specific method you were told to follow?
  • In that method, what did you disagree with?
  • What did you do?
  • Step me through your alternate method?
  • Why did you think it was better?
  • Who did you talk to about it?
  • What questions did you have?
  • What was the outcome?

“Good questions,” I nodded. “And in their responses, what would you be listening for?”

“First, I would want to find out if they had a real awareness of their work instructions,” Melinda started. “Did the candidate listen to the work instructions they were given? Next, I want to find out the line of thinking about the work instructions. I want to see how respectful they were of their manager or if they simply flew off the handle and did things their way. I want to see how they responded, if it was helpful or if it was counterproductive.”

Some Behavior, You Contract For

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I am a manager in a very busy engineering firm. I have a team of 6 engineers who review and stamp reports and 8 technicians doing field work. Of four new technician recruits, I have three who fit in well. But one, who is experienced and double my age, has become a problem. Everything I say or do, is wrong in his eyes.

In the morning, in our huddle, I will assign work orders along with specific instructions. My new technician will just stand there and say, “that is not how you mean to do it.”

I have had three meetings with him about different issues.

  • Being disrespectful, talking my staff down to the ground
  • Writing nasty comments in our weekly best practices recap
  • Not following work instructions, which has impacted our quality standards (he defends that his method is better)

And now I have a conference scheduled with my boss to explain a drop in our audited standards.

My new team member is in our 90 day probation period, been with us for 4 weeks now, and is basically undoing all the hard work to get the department from a half-star to a four star shop.

Response:
Welcome to the real world of management. This is a hiring problem. Understand that you, as the hiring manager made the mistake, and that is why it is difficult to let go. But, you have to let go. You can now, either move for termination, or live a miserable life as a manager dealing with the drama.

There are four requirements for success in any role.

  1. Capability – ability to effectively process the complexity of decisions and problems in the role
  2. Skill – technical knowledge and practiced performance
  3. Interest, passion – value for the work
  4. Required behaviors – ability to effectively execute the required behaviors in the role

I believe, based on your description that you are dealing with two issues. One is required behaviors. How do you get required behaviors?

You contract for them. And for a team member to willfully engage otherwise, violates the contract.

If I worked in a restaurant, known for a specific recipe of hot sauce, and, as a cook, I decided the sauce tasted better with more ketchup, my term with the restaurant would be short-lived.

The other issue is capability. Based on your description, your team member may have a higher level of capability than is required for the role. Whenever there is a capability mis-match, up or down, you will observe counter-productive behavior. This counter-productive behavior may act out as arrogance, condescension, rebellion or other forms of drama.

But who made the mistake in the first place? You, as the hiring manager. Admit your mistake and fix it. Or be miserable for a very long time.

Results Can Deceive

“Look at this resume,” Karla announced. “This candidate joined his company as a sales rep two years ago and took it through 85 percent increase in growth. That’s an impressive result. That is almost a double in revenues over two years.”

“You are impressed by a result?” I asked.

“Of course. You know what we say, we are all about results. Results driven performance,” she replied.

“I know you are enamored with the result, but aren’t you curious about how those results were achieved?”

“Well, yes, I will ask interview questions about how, but results don’t lie,” Karla proclaimed.

“Results may not lie, but they can deceive,” I said. “Do you think this person single-handed created those results? Is it possible that the company had a great reputation built on a history of customer service? Is it possible this industry was in an up-tick and all the competitors shared the same success? Is it possible that your candidate was just lucky enough to be sitting in the room when all this happened?”

“Okay, okay. I was just thinking if I picked this candidate and it didn’t work out, I could always point to what he did at his last company,” she admitted.

“You have to go back to the role. What are our critical role requirements? Besides, if this candidate was so responsible for those results, why is he looking for a job with us?”

Habits That Contribute, Habits That Don’t

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
You said in your workshop that we should interview for habits. I agree that is important, but exactly, how do you interview for habits?

Response:
Do you know someone who always shows up late for everything? You get annoyed and suggest strategies to change that habit. “Set your watch 5 minutes ahead. Get out of bed a half hour earlier.” Yet this person is still late, every time.

There are habits that we have that contribute to our success and habits we have that detract from our success. Habits are those grooved and practiced behaviors that a person uses to solve problems and make decisions. Habits are a shortcut to problem solving and decision making. Habits create repeated conditions that contribute or detract from success.

But how do you interview for habits. When I examine the critical role requirements, I identify what habits would be valuable, specifically the repeated behaviors that would be valuable. Then interview for those behaviors. Let’s take showing up early as a habit.

  • Tell me about a project where it was important that the team start together each day?
  • What time did the team arrive?
  • What time did you arrive?
  • Why was it important that the team start together?
  • Tell me about a routine meeting that you were a part of?
  • How often was the meeting?
  • What was the purpose of the meeting?
  • What time did the meeting start?
  • What time did the team arrive?
  • What time did you arrive?
  • What happened when team members were late?
  • What happened when you were late?
  • What did you do to make sure that you were on time?

It is important to listen to how the candidate describes the behaviors of others as well as their own behavior. Their attitudes toward being late will be revealed.

I would rather be a half hour early than one minute late.