Tag Archives: value for the work

The Internal Change in a Manager

“I used to have passion for the output of the project,” Miriam repeated. “Now, it’s a matter of placing value on the development of other people.”

“We often focus on managerial tools,” I replied. “Give me a template, give me a technique, but being an effective manager has more to do with you than a managerial tool. Transitioning from an individual technical contributor to a managerial role requires self-reflection. It’s more than a change in role, it requires internal change.”

“I can feel it,” Miriam said. “It’s a bit scary. I look at a problem in a project and I want to fix it. But, I have to stop and move the team to fix the problem.”

“It is a change in you. You have to ask yourself reflective questions.

  • What is the value of my new managerial role?
  • How does my new role fit in with the output of the team?
  • What do I care about? What is important to me?
  • Is there connection between what I care about and the value of my new role?
  • What new behaviors and habits do I have to develop to be effective in my new role?

“It will take some time,” Miriam replied. “I still feel an allegiance to solve the problem, I just have to do it in a different way.”

How to Interview for Interest and Passion

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I was in your Time Span workshop where you spoke about the 4 Absolutes required for success.

  1. Capability (time span)
  2. Skill (technical knowledge, practiced behavior)
  3. Interest, passion (value for the work)
  4. Required behaviors (contracted, habits, culture)

I think I have always known about #3, interest, passion (value) for the work. It speaks to a candidates attitude about the work. In some cases, that is more important than skill (which, over time, I can teach anyway). But, here is my struggle. How do you interview for interest or passion for the work.

Response:
This is a dilemma faced by most hiring managers. Intuitively, you know how important this is, but you struggle on how to collect data related to interest and passion. The reason is – you can’t.

Interest and passion lives inside a person’s head and you know my warning – Don’t play amateur psychologist. Stay out of people’s heads.

But, as a manager, you are an expert at observing behavior. Translate the attitude into behavior with this magic question – How does a person with interest or passion for this work behave? Then interview for those behaviors. I also look for related attitudes like pride, importance and challenge?

  • Tell me about a project you are most proud of?
  • What was the project?
  • How long was the project?
  • What was the purpose of the project?
  • Who was on your project team?
  • What was your role on the project team?
  • What were the characteristics of the project that made you proud of your accomplishment?
  • Tell me about a project that was important to your professional growth?
  • What was the project?
  • How long was the project?
  • What was the purpose of the project?
  • Who was on your project team?
  • What was your role on the project team?
  • What were the characteristics of the project that made this important to your professional growth?
  • Tell me about a project that you found professionally challenging?
  • What was the project?
  • How long was the project?
  • What was the purpose of the project?
  • Who was on your project team?
  • What was your role on the project team?
  • What were the characteristics of the project that made it professionally challenging?

All of these responses will give you behavioral clues to interest and passion for the work. -Tom

The magic question is courtesy of Barry Shamis, my hero in the behavioral interview.

How to Interview for Interest and Passion (for the work) at S-I

From the Ask Tom mailbag-

Question:
You say in your book that there are four absolutes for success in a role, and that it doesn’t matter what discipline.

  • Capability for the level of work
  • Skill, both technical knowledge and practice
  • Interest, passion for the work
  • Required behaviors

How do you interview for interest and passion?

Response:
Interest, or passion (for the work) depends on the value we place on that work. If we place a high value on a type of work, we will likely be interested in or passionate about that work. If we place a low value on the work, it is likely we will NOT be interested or passionate about the work.

So, stratum by stratum level of work, let’s start with Stratum I (S-I).

Most S-I roles are production related, using real tools or machinery. The role could be clerical, mechanical or technical. Goals and objectives would be short term, one day, one week, one month, up to three months. Learning would mostly be learning-by-doing (kinesthetic). Problem solving would mostly be trial and error (and high S-I would be highly skilled at trial and error problem solving, rapid trial and error). Value-add to the organization is quality (product quality, service delivery).

I was talking to a finish carpenter. I asked him the difference between quality workmanship and shoddy workmanship?

“Do you see that piece of trim?” he asked. “Show me the nails that attach it to the wall.”

“I don’t see any nails,” I replied. “You’re the finish guy, where are they?”

“Exactly, you can’t see the nails because I made them invisible. We use a tiny nail with a tiny head. We tap in the nail almost flush, careful not to put hammer marks in the wood. Then we tap the nail head below the surface of the wood with this tap-it device. Smear a fingernail of plastic wood to cover the indention, brush a little stain or paint and you will never find the nail. I dare you to find a single nail in this entire room.”
This was just a casual conversation, but my carpenter friend was dead serious about the quality of his finish work. In an interview, this understanding would guide my questions.

  • I want to ask you about three projects. And, they have to be real projects. First project, you had a lot of time, there was plenty of budget and schedule to go slow and pay attention to detail. Second project, you had to keep up a reasonable pace with a firm deadline. Third project, you were under the gun to knock the project out and could take any reasonable shortcut you could muster.
  • First project, plenty of budget and schedule to go slow, take your time, pay attention to detail. What was the project?
  • What was your role on the project?
  • How long was the project?
  • How was the budget and schedule communicated to you for the project? How did you understand the schedule and detail required?
  • What details were most important on this project?
  • What additional preparation was required?
  • What special tools or techniques were involved?
  • How much extra time did it take?
  • What were the visible results, different from other projects?
  • How was this work inspected by your manager, or the customer?
  • On this project, what were you most proud of?

Note, these same questions could be asked about many different kinds of roles working on many different kinds of projects.

  • Second project, standard production pace, nothing special. What was the project?
  • What was your role on the project?
  • How long was the project?
  • How was the budget and schedule communicated to you for this project? How did you understand the schedule and detail required, different from the first project?
  • What details were required, what details were less important on this project?
  • What preparation was required, different from the preparation on the first project?
  • What special tools or techniques were involved, different from the first project?
  • How much time was saved by foregoing some of the detail?
  • What were the visible results, different from the first project?
  • How was this work inspected (reviewed) by your manager?
  • On this project, what decisions did you personally have to make related to pace and quality?

Decision making as S-I level of work typically revolves around pace and quality. As you ask about these decisions, you will see the candidate’s attitude about the work, the value the candidate places on the work.

  • Third project, one where time was of the essence. You still had to meet the quality spec, but you had to really hustle to meet the deadline. What was the project?
  • What was your role on the project?
  • How long was the project?
  • How was the budget and schedule communicated to you for this project? How did you understand the schedule and detail required, different from the first two projects?
  • What details were required to meet the minimum quality standard, what details were less important on this project?
  • What preparation was required, different from the preparation on the first two projects?
  • What special tools or techniques were involved, different from the first two projects?
  • How much time was saved by foregoing some of the detail?
  • What were the visible results of the allowed shortcuts, different from the first two projects?
  • How was this work inspected (reviewed) by your manager?
  • On this project, what decisions did you personally have to make related to pace and quality?

Each of these questions asks for a specific piece of data about the candidate. And though we are trying to find out about an attitude or feeling, the questions are still laser focused on the work.

Next time, we will take a look at interest and passion (value for the work) at S-II. -Tom

Will I Even Show Up?

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

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

Response:
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.

The Measure of Performance

From the Ask Tom mailbag:

Question:
I attended one of your workshops last week. How do you evaluate the Potential Capability of prospective or current employees, using Time Span as the metric?

Response:
While this sounds like a simple question, there are many elements to it. Your question is all about Capability.

  • Does this person have the Capability to fill the role, now?
  • Does this person have the Potential Capability to fill this role in one or two years?
  • Is the underperformance, that I observe, related to a lack of Capability, OR another factor?

These are all absolutely legitimate questions for a manager to ask when making a decision related to task assignment, internal promotion and external recruiting from a candidate pool.

It is critical to understand that successful performance in ANY role can be traced to these four factors –

  • Capability (your question above)
  • Skill (Technical knowledge and practiced performance)
  • Interest or Passion (Value for the work)
  • Reasonable Behavior (Habits and the absence of extreme negative temperament)

And I depend on the judgment of the manager to determine which factor(s) are most directly related to the performance I observe. And if the primary factor turns out to be Capability, the most descriptive term is Applied Capability. Indeed, the person may have greater Potential Capability, but as a manager, I am only able to see Applied Capability. I can see Applied Capability because there is a work product, direct output.

But your question was about Potential Capability. As a manager, I may make an intuitive judgment that a team member has greater Potential. This typically means, that, as a manager, I observe underperformance that I deem “could be better.” The question is “why?” What factors could be changed to create higher levels of effectiveness in the role (or task)?

Changing the degree of Applied Capability has little to do with Capability. It has more to do with the other three factors. The limits to Applied Capability have to do with Skill, Interest and Reasonable Behavior. Change any one of those factors and you will see a change in Applied Capability.

But your question was about Potential Capability. The only method, as a manager, to gain insight into a person’s Potential Capability is to test for it. Project work is the single best way to test for Potential Capability. Lee Thayer says it best, “The only measure of performance, is performance.”
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