Archive for the ‘Management’ Category

Why Role Playing Can Be An Effective Interview Technique

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

While many companies hire based on candidates’ experience, others find raw talent to be a stronger harbinger of success. But, how do you identify and measure “raw talent” during the hiring process?

Austin Merritt, the COO at Software Advice – a website that presents reviews and ratings of sales and recruiting software – recently shared how he objectively measures raw talent during his team’s hiring process. I think it’s a great approach – something worth sharing with you.

In his post on Software Advice’s New Talent Times blog, Merritt writes about his “coffee scenario,” a role-playing scenario used when hiring for his inside sales team. It closely imitates the process his team goes through when placing sales calls. Except, instead of advising the caller on what software to purchase, the job candidate advises the caller on what coffee shop to visit. Here are a few key tips Merritt has shared about his process:

Develop a set of competencies to look for

What are the top uncoachable competencies required for a person to thrive in a role? For example, when hiring for their sales team, Software Advice grades along the following criteria:

  • Articulation – Do they clearly communicate their thoughts?
  • Energy – Does the candidate appear alert and genuine on calls?
  • Ability to take control – Can the candidate steer the conversation?
  • Ability to think on their feet – Can the candidate respond calmly, but quickly?
  • Coachability – Does the candidate understand the scenario enough to apply?

Your competencies may (and probably should) be different. Identify what empowers current star performers to be successful, and make your list of competencies around these qualities.

Create a project that tests each of them

The “coffee scenario” is effective because coffee is a familiar subject matter. Candidates are familiar with coffee, and it allows interviewers to focus on talent over domain expertise. The topic should be common enough for candidates to complete successfully without much preparation. In Software Advice’s instance, they set up a 10-minute mock sales call, but it doesn’t have be a phone call. Create something you can present to an applicant before meeting them in person.

Use a universal grade scale for performance

To ensure that every candidate gets a fair shot, develop a scoring method that can be kept consistent. If someone scores low in one area, but nails the others, it may be worthwhile to give the candidate another shot at the role-playing scenario. It doesn’t take too long, and by giving people a second chance, you’re leaving no stone unturned.

Before you bring someone to your office, try out a short role-playing scenario for them to showcase their raw talent. It’s a quick and easy way to critically assess strengths and weaknesses during the early stages of an interview process.

Posiholic versus Negaholic

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

Isn’t it funny how we as humans so easily focus on any problem, and yet even easier forget about all the great things that have happened?

Step back from your day-to-day thinking about the company you work for or run, from the team or department you work in, from the people you work around and with. Is everything perfect in these worlds? I doubt it. But is everything wrong with them? I highly doubt that too.

  • How many good decisions have been made by your boss or organization over the past year or so?
  • How many good things have been accomplished over the past year or so?
  • How many good things have you been allowed to do over the past year or so?
  • How many good people do you work with?

Now, compare those answers to all the negatives. Compare that with the things that have not gone perfectly.

I once asked a manager who was having performance issues with an employee (an employee she wanted to fire for doing such a poor job) what percentage of the time he did the wrong things and made mistakes. After a little thought she replied, “About 5 to 10 percent of the time.” Which meant that this “problem employee” did the right things 90 to 95 percent of the time.

Isn’t it funny how we tend to focus on the negative, and forget the positive?

Or maybe it isn’t so funny.

I follow the philosophy that if we focus on doing the right things and on using our strengths, we won’t have time to do the wrong things or use our weaknesses.

Here’s your challenge for the next week (should you decide to accept): Take every negative thing that happens or you hear about and stop and re-think or reframe how you perceive them. Instead of seeing the negative, flip it around and think about the positives. There are always positives – sometimes you just need to look for them. And yes, sometimes there are no positives in one particular situation, so you then have to look outside that situation.

Are you ready to give it a try for a week? Be a posiholic, rather than a negaholic.

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People Management: The Big 3

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Helping your employees perform at their best should be the mission of every manager. Unless you’re prepared to do everything on your own, at some point in time, you’re going to have to rely on others. And if you’re going to rely on your employees, why not elicit the best from them?

When I’ve found myself managing people in my career, I went looking for advice on how to do a better job. According to my un-scientific count, there have been somewhere around 4 billion books written about managing employees! The list of recommendations, advice, tips and downright orders on how to manage people is long. Too long.

So I thought a lot about how I liked to be managed, I observed those managers who consistently brought the best out in others, I talked with good and bad managers, and I read half of those 4 billion books on the subject. And here’s what I found: If you do just three things well, you’ll be an above-average manager of people, and go a long way towards helping your employees perform at their best.

Here are the 3 things every manager should do:

  1. Set clear expectations: Rarely does an employee get up in the morning and think, “Today I’m going to do everything wrong, I’m going to mess things up, and I’m going to cause trouble.” In fact, most people do what they’re expected to do. The problem is that many employees don’t know what’s expected of them; they’re definitely not very good at reading the minds of their managers. So, sit down and write out exactly how you expect each one of your employees to behave and do their job, then meet with them individually and talk about your expectations. And let them tell you what they expect of you as their manager. If you do that, both sides will have clear expectations, and it’s likely that this will help your employees do what you want more often. For more information on setting clear expectations, go to this blog post.
  2. Give lots of feedback, especially confirming feedback: There are two kinds of feedback, and they’re not positive and negative. No, they’re confirming and corrective. If you think about why you give someone feedback (to get them to do more of the right stuff, and to correct the wrong stuff), these terms – confirming and corrective – make a lot more sense than the old “positive and negative.” People will do more of what they’re praised or rewarded for, so every time you give confirming feedback you’ve increased the likelihood of them doing more of it. Corrective feedback should be given in private whenever you need something done differently. I’ve written in more detail about giving feedback here, but a goal should be to give at least four times as much confirming feedback as you do corrective.
  3. Connect with your employees: Without even checking I bet your employees are human beings. And therefore, your employees have the same kinds of problems, challenges, ups and downs, and emotional issues outside of work that you or anyone else has. If you’re not willing to accept this as a fact of life, you should probably hand over the keys to the people management role. I’m not suggesting you have to become close friends with your employees (that can even be a negative thing), but you should understand them, know a little about their personal lives, and be empathetic to what they have going on outside of the workplace – connect with them. I’ve written more about this in another blog here.

By the way, this is not just to get the most out of people so your business/department succeeds. If it’s totally one-sided like that, you’re doomed. No, in my experience and the experience of researchers who really dig into topics like this, most people would rather do a good job than a poor job. They like to do well. It’s less stressful, more fun, and there comes a sense of satisfaction with it. It might take a little more work, but in most cases it doesn’t. So if you focus on helping people do what they want – perform at their best – you’ll be doing both you and them a favor.

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Find A Way To Say Yes

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Hey, I just learned a big lesson about myself.

Recently, a colleague told me that I seem to say yes to everything I’m asked to do. I nodded in agreement (see, there I go!), and said that I do have a problem saying no to things I’m asked to do. But the more I thought about it, and about the things that I have said no to, I realized that it’s not really true that I always say yes.

The truth is that I try to find a way to say yes to things.

When someone brings up a problem, or says that they need help with something, it’s not that I always just say yes. It’s that I look for ways to solve the problem, and make things happen.

I’ve always been about making things happen. That’s just the way I am. I’ve always had a “whatever it takes” kind of attitude, so finding a way to say yes just seems natural.

And I can say so no. In fact, I find myself often saying no to something in a business setting if it doesn’t make good business sense. I love being presented with an opportunity, analyzing it strictly from a “Is this good for the business?” perspective, and then making a decision. If it makes sense, I say yes, even if it’s going to take some work to make it work, to get around some challenges. If it doesn’t make good business sense, then I’m okay saying no.

I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but a part of my business philosophy is “Find a way to say yes, and then do whatever it takes to make it happen.”

Sorry about making this blog about me, but I thought it might trigger some thought about yourself. What do you think? Make sense? How about you?

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What Do You Do With A High-Performer Who Doesn’t Fit?

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Your Number 2, your go-to guy, your second in command… Whatever you call him/her, he’s the guy/gal you know is going to deliver when the going gets tough. But what if he is pissing everyone else off around him? What if he’s the cause of many other people not performing as well as they could?

Would you rather have a team with one superstar and a number of other average performers, or a team full of above-average performers?

I can’t answer that question for you, but that’s what went through my mind as I was talking with a senior executive when he told me about his second-in-command. It seems his Number 2 was a real animal when it came to working with other people, and his management style was very different from what the boss wanted.

What do you do? I see three options:

  1. Replace him with someone that fits your company’s culture and your style – someone who can work well with others.
  2. Live with him, knowing that he’s getting things done and his collateral damage is the price you and your employees pay for that.
  3. Try to change him, molding him, asking him to work with people the way you’d like.

What would you do?

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What Can I Do About A Toxic Culture?

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Have you been a part of group of people where the atmosphere was just fantastic? It could have been a sports team, at work, a group of volunteers or a hobby group, but it was just great the way people worked together, everyone performed well, and it was fun.

Have you been part of a group that was the opposite? You know, one of those situations where the word “toxic” comes to mind?

We’re talking workplace culture here, right? I like to think of a group culture as being what people say about it behind its back – how they would define what it was like to be part of the group if asked by someone not connected to it.

The worst part of being in a toxic culture is the feeling that you can’t do anything about it. But can you do something? What if…

Here’s an idea: Start by getting those around you to open up to the possibility of change, and getting a mental image of what it would be like if the culture changed for the better. Start by asking, “What would it be like if we didn’t work in such a toxic environment? Can you imagine what it would be like if this was a fun and productive workplace? Let’s talk about what that would be like.” Then do that. Talk about a non-toxic workplace culture, getting a clear mental picture of what that would look like, what it would feel like, how people would act. Ensure that it’s not all focused on others, but also on how you and the person you’re talking to would change and behave.

Have that conversation with every one who’s a part of your team until everyone sees what could be. This may take some time, for changing people’s mindsets can take time. But help them get the vision of a better workplace culture.

Begin modeling the behavior that will lead to the desired culture, and encourage others to do the same by giving confirming feedback to anyone who behaves the way you want, reinforcing the desired actions. People will repeat what they’ve been rewarded for, even if that reward is a simple bit of confirming feedback. And the more they repeat that behavior, the more others will follow, until one day you’ll realize that the culture has changed.

It’s easy to be a victim, and resign yourself to a miserable working environment, but you don’t need to. It’s easy to expect that the culture must be driven from the top down, and that you’ll have to wait until your bosses do something about it. But you, no matter what your position within a group, can have an impact on it. And what do you think would happen once people realized that the workplace culture had changed, and you were a major contributor to making that happen?

If you have any questions about how you can change a workplace culture, let me know. I’d love to help.

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Initiate Slowly, React Quickly

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Those are the words of advice I give myself and other race car drivers in tricky and challenging driving conditions, such as when it’s raining: “Initiate slowly, react quickly.”

Driving a race car on a wet and slippery track can be a daunting task, as the traction level of the tires is greatly reduced. Even more challenging, though, is the fact that the car’s tires tend to have grip… and then no grip in a fraction of a second. In other words, one can feel completely in control, and then a fraction of a second later be spinning out of control.

Sound familiar? Sounds a bit like business these days, doesn’t it? Many people claim the economy felt completely in control a few years ago. And then a day later it was spinning out of control and crashing.

When I suggest initiating slowly and reacting quickly with a race car, I’m specifically talking about the use of the steering wheel – the device you set or change the direction of the vehicle with. So, in terms of direction of a business, and handling challenging situations, one should be slow and deliberate in initiating a change in direction. And then, once the steering wheel has been turned, be prepared to make adjustments and corrections to the path you’re on – quickly.

Of course, slow is a relative term. Nothing on a race track happens very slowly. The initial turn of the steering wheel is not something a driver does too slowly. But in comparison to how quickly the driver must make a correction to control a sliding car, it is slow.

Same thing in business. I’m not suggesting that you take forever to initiate a change. In fact, often that is the main problem a business has – taking too long to make a change. But once faced with a change – a corner up ahead – make the initial change in direction relatively slowly. Ease the car into the turn; ease your staff into the change. Be smooth and deliberate. Keep the car (business) as balanced as possible.

But just like being faced with a turn in the roadway ahead, you have to make changes in direction at times. Ignoring the turn is not an option. You have to turn the steering wheel. But do it as gently and deliberately as possible.

And then, once you’ve turned into the corner, making the change in the business’ direction, be prepared to make adjustments and corrections – quickly. Catch the car’s slide before it becomes a big one, something you can’t catch. Too many people and businesses are too slow in reacting to problems. Catch it before you spin out of control.

Of course, whether driving a car or running a business, where you look is where you’re going to go. Focus on the problems and you’ll get them. Focus on the solutions and you’ll get them. Look where you want to go, and you’ll naturally steer that way. To react quickly, you need to change your focus quickly.

Practice this every way you can. Practice initiating your change in direction gently and deliberately, and then reacting and adjusting quickly. Look where you want to go, and not where you don’t want to go. Focus on the solution, not the problem. The more you practice this, the more quickly and naturally you’ll act this way in other situations.

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Make A Decision, Then Make It Right

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Decision-making is one of the biggest challenges managers, leaders and business owners face. At least I think it is. Or maybe not. Possibly. Well, it is or isn’t. But I’m not sure. 🙂

Some say that indecision is a decision: a decision to not make a decision. It can be. But most times indecision is the result of not being able to make a decision, or the fear of making a decision. It’s in times like these where I say go for it – make a decision, and then make it right.

Bob was looking to hire a marketing assistant. Introduced to Sally, he had a good feeling about her ability to fit the role and be successful. But there was a problem. Others did not agree. In fact, some people actually made negative comments about Sally. He interviewed other candidates, but kept coming back to Sally. He knew deep down inside that she was the right person for the job, but the doubting comments from others made him doubt himself.

Eventually, Bob went for it. After a couple of weeks of indecision, he knew he needed to do one of two things: pick Sally or someone else. That’s when he made the decision to choose Sally, and then do everything he could to make it work out.

Was it the right decision? Who knows? There’s no way of knowing whether someone else would have been a better choice. One thing is for certain though: If he didn’t make a decision, things would not have moved forward. Bob made a decision, and then made it work. Sally turned out to be a great marketing assistant. Was it because Bob made the right decision, or because he made a commitment to making the decision the right one? It doesn’t matter. I say the commitment to making the decision work is the most important part of the decision-making process.

The most important step in decision-making is actually after the decision has been made: making it work.

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Confidence is a 2-way Street

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Many people will tell you that one needs confidence to be a successful manager or leader. That’s where the problem starts.

Many confident managers and leaders answer most, if not all questions with a statement. Even when they don’t know the real answer. Instead of admitting they don’t know the answer, they fake it. I would suggest those managers or leaders are either over-confident or not confident enough.

Confidence means having the confidence to admit one doesn’t have all the answers. By the very definition of the title manager or leader, one can’t have all the answers. One can’t know all the details and still have the bigger picture view that a manager or leader requires.

An indication of confidence is the willingness to admit not knowing all the answers, and being okay with asking questions. Asking those questions will lead to more knowledge, leading to more confidence, providing you with the confidence to admit to not knowing all the answers and asking more questions. And on and on…

When was the last time you admitted to not knowing the answer to a question? A funny thing happens when you admit you don’t have all the answers: others trust you more. They trust that you’ll tell the truth, even if it means looking less knowledgeable.

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Extrinsic Vs. Intrinsic Motivation: Which Works Best?

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Not long ago in a blog post I talked about motivation. Now I want to add one more quick thought: There is extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, and what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another.

Extrinsic motivation is what others do in an attempt to motivate you. Intrinsic motivation is what motivates you from the inside – it’s your own inner motivation.

You can’t motivate me with extrinsic factors. You can dangle all sorts of extrinsic rewards in an attempt to motivate me, such as money, awards, gifts, or whatever, but they won’t do much good. What motivates me is me. I’m intrinsically motivated. I drive myself.

I know that I’m not the only person like this, and I also know there are people who are almost the exact opposite of me.

How about you? What motivates you? And if you’re in a position to motivate others (a manager or leader of some sort), do you know how those people are motivated?

To think that you can motivate others the way you’d motivate yourself is foolish thinking. Learn what motivates the people around. You may be surprised.

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