“What habits are required for this role you are designing,” I asked.
“Habits?” Robyn replied. “This is a technical position, lots of things to know. I figured I would spend most of the interview, asking questions about how much the candidate knows about the technical part of the job.”
“I am certain there is technical knowledge that is very important to know, and I assume you will spend a good portion of the interview assessing that. But what about habits? What habits are required for this role?” I repeated.
“What do you mean, habits?”
“It’s nice to understand the technical part of the role, but competence will require specific behaviors in solving problems and making decisions. We all have habits that contribute to our success, we all have habits that detract from our success. Habits are grooved behaviors, repeated time after time. Faced with difficulty or a challenge, we often fall back on our habits, even if our habits were unsuccessful in the past. What questions will you ask about habits? What habits are required for this role?”
Those who attend my workshops know there are four areas connected to work that I interview for –
Interest, Passion (Value for the work)
Yes, there are required behaviors in any role. Some you contract for, like showing up in the morning at an appointed time. There are also required behaviors connected to culture.
And there are habits.
Whenever I look at a role, I examine the critical role requirements and identify the habits that would support those requirements. I am looking for grooved, routine behaviors, repeated behaviors that contribute to success in the role.
There are some people, given a complicated task, who will charge ahead in a flurry of activity. There are others, who, as a matter of habit, stop and plan, before charging ahead. Some roles require charging ahead, some require planning. Which habit supports the work in the role?
We think we choose our future. We don’t. We choose our habits and our habits determine our future.
“Where we drop the ball is follow-up.” Nathan shook his head from side to side. “We are pretty good at setting goals, but as soon as we’re done with that, life goes on and we forget all the hard work and time we spent planning.”
“What habits do you need to create,” I asked.
“What do you mean?” Nathan looked puzzled.
“Follow-up is not just a ball that gets dropped. As a management skill, it is a way of life. I always look for habits. What are you not doing as a routine that stops you from following up?”
It was like a smack in the forehead with a beer can. “I see where you are going with this,” Nathan said, still shaking his head. “We usually have a short huddle meeting every Friday to follow-up on the promises we made to ourselves. Ever since the holidays crept up, we just stopped having the meetings.”
“What’s on your schedule this Friday?” I quizzed.
Nathan was quick to respond, “I think we should have our regular Friday huddle meeting.”
Sometimes effectiveness has nothing to do with being brilliant, but only in continuing to do the things that work.
How do you un-do some internal promotions that probably shouldn’t have happened? The person is just not effective in their new Stratum III role?
Troubleshooting effectiveness in a role can be traced to one of these four factors –
Interest (Value for the work)
I rely on the manager’s judgment to determine which of the factors may be in play. In my Time Span workshop, I describe a team member with the following characteristics –
Worked for the company – 8 years
Always shows up early, stays late
Wears a snappy company uniform (belt around waist, cap on straight)
Knows the company Fight Song
Makes the best potato salad at the company picnic
And yet, is under performing in his role. Put that list against the four factors and I arrive at capability mis-matched for the role. To do a thorough inspection, I would examine each of the Key Result Areas in the role to see where the underperformance occurs. It is likely there are parts of the role that are done well, and parts where we observe underperformance. The mis-match is likely to occur on those longest Time Span task assignments.
In your question, you describe a Stratum III role. I would examine each of the KRAs and task assignments to see which is the culprit and modify that specific task assignment. The modification might be to break the longer task into a series of shorter tasks with more oversight, or to shift an analytic step to another resource.
All of this can be avoided by assigning project work to team members BEFORE they receive promotions. Successful completion, evidence is what I look for, not hopes and promises.