Reggie looked at me sideways. “Do you mean that this whole complicated issue regarding incentive compensation, that we hired expensive consultants to help us with, may be a guided misadventure?”
“You tell me,” I replied. “What type of environment do you create when you tell people that you are holding back part of their compensation because you don’t trust them to do their best?”
“You just said it, it creates an environment of distrust,” Reggie declared.
“And what kind of behavior does this distrust create?”
“Whooo! It’s all over the board. Some people work really hard, appear very dedicated and some people try to figure out how to manipulate the system to their advantage. I don’t know. Come to think of it, the people who seem committed, who perform the best, are the kind of people who would work very diligently even without the bonus.”
“And would you describe those people as stupid for working so hard without having a bonus as a carrot?”
Reggie shook his head. “No. I would have to say that is just who those people are. The words are -dependable-integrity-earnest.”
“So, what do you think this incentive plan is accomplishing?”
“How else are you supposed to motivate people?” Reggie asked. “I look around at what other companies do and bonus systems are used almost everywhere.”
“Why do you think bonuses are used in most companies as a motivation tool?” I asked.
“Well, I just don’t know of any other way to get people to go the extra mile, to give their best effort,” Reggie defended.
“I think you have your answer.”
Reggie looked puzzled.
“That’s your answer,” I continued. “Most companies use bonus systems, because they don’t know any other ways to properly motivate their teams.”
“We just had our annual planning meeting,” Kelly explained. “We talked about our core values as a company, and wanted to find a way to integrate that intention into our interview process when we recruit new people into our company. But how do you interview for values? You can’t just ask someone, if they have integrity.”
“You can interview for anything that you can connect to behavior,” I replied. “That goes for any critical role requirement. Connect it to behavior and the questions will follow.”
“Okay, integrity,” Kelly challenged.
“Here’s the magic question. How does a person, who has integrity behave? Then ask about a circumstance where you might see that behavior?
- Tell me about a time when (my favorite lead in) you were working on a project, where something happened, that wasn’t supposed to happen, and you were the only one who knew about it.?
- Tell me about a time when, you found out that someone took a shortcut on a project that had an impact on quality, but you were the only one who knew about it?
- Tell me about a time when, you were working on a project, and someone confided in you about a quality standard or safety standard that everyone else had overlooked, and now, the two of you were the only ones who knew about it?
- Tell me about a time when, you were in charge of quality control on a project, and in the final audit, you discovered something wrong, and it took significant re-work and expense to fix.
“Once the candidate has identified a possible circumstance, then ask about the behaviors connected with integrity.
- What was the project?
- How long was the project?
- Who was on the project team?
- What was your role on the project?
- What went wrong on the project?
- How did you discover it?
- How were you the only one who knew about it?
- What impact did the hidden problem have on the project?
- What did you do? Who did you talk to? What did you say?
- How was the problem resolved?
- What was the impact of the re-work required in costs, materials and time?
- Tell me about another time when you discovered something wrong and you were the only one who knew about it?
“Would it be okay to ask about personal dilemmas, secrets and betrayals?” Kelly asked.
“Everybody has personal drama. I prefer to stick with work examples. It’s all about the work.”
More examples in my book, Hiring Talent. Hiring guru, Barry Shamis also discusses in his book Hiring 3.0.
“Why was it so important that you moved Ralph to a conversation about purpose?” I asked. As a new manager getting pushback from a veteran crew, Julia was working quickly.
“As their manager, I have goals and objectives that I have to reach. I have purpose in my role just like they do. The sooner I can engage the team leaders in a discussion about purpose, the sooner we can find an intersection and get started to someplace new.”
Julia stopped. She knew she had made her point, but there was something else even more important.
“You know, I told you that Ralph seemed proud that the team ran off their last manager in three months? Here’s the thing. I don’t have three months to fail. I have three days to get this turned around and three weeks to show positive results.
“I can’t afford to wait and see. That is why these conversations are so important. And conversations about purpose are the quickest way I know to get there.”