Tag Archives: values

It’s a Question of Values

“I understand that it would be helpful to know about Julio’s value system,” Nelson pushed back. “But what am I supposed to ask him. Are you honest?

“My guess is that he would say, yes. Yes and no questions seldom give us much information that’s really useful. And remember, this would be most helpful if it’s about the work he is doing.”

Nelson was still puzzled. “I am supposed to ask him how he values the work?”

“He won’t understand the question if you ask it that way. Try these questions.

  • Before we ship this product to the customer, what is the most important thing we have to remember?
  • When the customer receives this product, what is the most important thing they look for?
  • When we show up at the customer’s location, what do you think the customer expects from us?
  • Before we leave a customer location, what is the most important thing we have to remember?
  • When you look around at your team mates, thinking about their work, what do you find most helpful to you?
  • What do you look for in a new person joining the team?

“All these questions will give you insight into Julio’s value system related to the work.”

Out of Integrity

“When we hired Lucas, we were clear about our values,” Alex described. “He’s been here for two weeks and we already caught him.”

“Can you be a bit more specific?” I asked.

“One of our values, integrity,” Alex replied. “We found him skipping the product testing step in quality control. Not on every unit, but he was only testing one in five.”

“How did you find that out?” I wanted to know.

“Easy. We have a reject rate of 20 percent. I know, I know, that’s high, but we had some raw materials out of spec lately, so our reject rate is higher than normal. Lucas’ reject rate was only 4 percent.”

“What did Lucas say?”

“He was proud. Said he thought a lower reject rate was good. Something about sampling. Pointed to his bonus on output. On that, he was right, his output was 16 percent higher than anyone else. But now we have to go back and re-test the entire batch.”

“The entire batch?”

“Yes, his lot output was mixed in with the other lots, so we don’t know which is which,” Alex answered.

“I have three questions for you,” I said.

  • How is your bonus system out of integrity with your quality standards?
  • How is your measurement of output out of integrity with the raw materials problem?
  • How does your management system blame an employee attempting to do his best, when this is really a management issue at a higher level?
  • Showing Up on Time?

    “What did you learn?” I asked. Martin had finished a couple of days speaking with his team about their individual values.

    “I gotta tell you,” Martin started, “I have never had this kind of conversation with my team before. I rounded them up the next morning and before we started the shift, I just floated a couple of questions.

    • When we work well together, what is it that we do to make that happen?
    • What could we do more of, to be more effective as a team?

    “All of the things they talked about were heavy with value words. Not only do I have more insight into what makes my team tick, they have a better insight. They have never talked about this stuff before.”

    “And, how is this going to help you, as a manager?” I asked.

    “Easy,” Martin replied. “Something as simple as everyone showing up on time. No one really understood how important it was to show up at 8:00am. Up until now.”

    Values in Other People

    “So, let’s get back to the conversation part,” Martin insisted. “How do you get people to talk about values in a way that is helpful?”

    “It is really very easy,” I said. “You simply ask them.

    “I know you have tried this before and you got the lizard eye stare, but try the question differently, not about them, but about the environment around them. Often people cannot talk about themselves, but they easily see things around them. Here is how the question goes.

    • What do you value in a team member?

    “When they respond to that question, they are really talking about themselves. Here are some more.”

    • What are the positive things your team members do to make this a better place to work?
    • Think about your best manager. What are the characteristics about that person that set him apart from other managers?
    • When you have a really tough problem to solve, what are the things that are really helpful to the process?

    Martin was getting the picture. He excused himself from the room. He had some questions to ask his team members.

    A Rose by Any Other Color

    Martin was waiting in the conference room when I arrived. He had a single sheet of paper in front of him.

    “That was easier than I thought,” he started. “I simply observed the way my team members dress, and it was curious how quickly I noticed the difference between my top performers and the rest of my team.”

    “Observing physical characteristics can give you important clues about a person’s value system. People communicate a great deal about themselves without speaking a single word.” Now it was Martin’s turn to nod his head.

    “Does this have anything to do with habits?” he asked.

    “What are you thinking?” I replied. I could see the wheels turning.

    “Well, the fact that my top performers dress differently, I mean neater, cleaner, more polished, is not because they consciously thought about it. It seems that is just who they are. And it comes out in their work product. A person who takes pride in their personal appearance, also takes pride in their work product.”

    “Why do you think that happens?”

    Martin paused. “I am beginning to see a clearer connection between values and behavior. Even if people don’t think about it, consciously, that’s why they do what they do.”

    “So, how important is it, for a manager, to understand the value system of team members?”

    A Book by Any Other Cover

    “So, how do you find out what they want?” asked Martin. “You know, sometimes I talk to them about stuff like this. Sometimes, I ask them what their goals are. And sometimes, they don’t have a clue.

    “I know it’s important to get some alignment between what I want (or what the company wants) and what they want. But sometimes, I don’t think they know.”

    “You are right,” I agreed. “Often, people don’t know what they want. Think about this, though. People want what they value.

    “How important is it for you, as a manager, to find out what your individual team members value?

    Martin pondered a moment. “I am with you. It is important,” he replied. “But how do you find out about a person’s values when sometimes they don’t even know themselves?”

    “Let’s start with the easy stuff,” I suggested. “What clues can you tell about a person simply from their appearance?”

    “You mean, in terms of values?” Martin asked. He paused. “Well, you can tell some things about a person by the way they dress. Attention to detail, neatness, or sloppiness.”

    “I have an exercise for you, Martin. Remember, a person’s dress is only a clue, not absolute certainty. Nonetheless, I want you to make a list of your top three team members, and simply by the way they dress, write down some words that describe their positive attributes. I will meet you here tomorrow to talk about some other ways to determine values in other people.”

    Culture, Munoz and United

    Because I occasionally fly United Airlines, I received an email from Oscar Munoz, CEO at United Airlines that illustrates an often missed step in the culture cycle. Here is what he said in his email, “Earlier this month, we broke that trust when a passenger was forcibly removed from one of our planes. It happened because our corporate policies were placed ahead of our shared values. Our procedures got in the way of our employees doing what they know is right.”

    So, here is the culture cycle. Pay close attention to step 3.

    1. We hold beliefs and assumptions, about the way we see the world.
    2. We connect behaviors to those beliefs and assumptions.
    3. We test those behaviors against the reality of consequences.
    4. The behaviors that survive the test become our customs and rituals.

    We can say we hold values of integrity, honesty, fairness. We can even define behaviors connected to those beliefs like courtesy, listening, understanding another’s viewpoint. But, somewhere along the line, for the crew on that United Airlines flight, they had learned that NOT following the rules ended in a reprimand. They attempted to displace four passengers for four crew trying to meet a schedule in another city. That was the rule. Had they not followed the rule, they knew there would be hell to pay, a write-up in their employee file, a graveyard shift, a demotion or skipped promotion. They knew that defined behavior of courtesy would never stand up against the reality of consequences.

    So, someone got dragged out the door. Based on the settlement with the passenger, it would have been cheaper to purchase four Tesla automobiles for each of the four flight crew and ask them to drive instead of displacing the four passengers.

    And right about now, every employee at United Airlines is confused about what to do in spite of what Munoz says.

    Defining Culture as Behavior

    From the Ask Tom mailbag –

    When you described culture as a Key Result Area, you said the manager should be an effective model for behaviors that support the company’s culture. I am looking at our company’s mission, vision, values and it’s not really clear what those behaviors are.

    The reason it’s not clear is that most mission, vision, values placards are not user friendly. There is no clarity because the company (the CEO, executive managers, managers and supervisors) have not made it clear. If you want clear behaviors, you have to define them.

    For example, if teamwork is an agreed-upon value. “Our company values teamwork in its approach to problem solving and decision making.” What are the behaviors connected with teamwork? Spell it out.

    Our company values teamwork in its approach to problem solving and decision making. Given a problem to solve, each team member, using their full commitment and capability is required to give their supervisor or manager “best advice.” Given a problem to solve, each manager or supervisor is required to collect facts about the problem by listening to “best advice” from their team. Only after thorough discussion and consideration of the data, contributing factors, circumstances and alternatives, will the manager or supervisor make the decision about the course of action to solve the problem. Our company acknowledges that this may be cumbersome and slow down the problem solving process AND it acknowledges that this process will be a learning tool for each team member in problem solving. In the short term, this process may slow things down AND in the long run, this process will prepare each team member to solve more complicated problems. This is not a suggestion, this is a requirement. -Tom
    You may recognize “best advice” from Nick Forrest in How Dare You Manage?

    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

    Connecting Values to Behavior in the Interview

    “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.