Leaders: Are You a Pretender or a Contender?

There's really only 6 inches of difference.

If your desire is to be a better manager at work, at home, or in the community, you may want to develop some actual leadership skills. However, if you are already following certain leadership principles, there is always room for lifting the lid to expand your reach and influence.

After many years working with clients of all kinds, I see one recurring theme, time and again. The biggest difference between managers and leaders who are pretenders versus contenders is a small six-inch piece of real estate; the distance between your ears.

Yes, I am talking about the space inside your head. The things you allow to happen in your thought life will drive the rate of success. You can be a pretender or you can be a contender. The difference is isolated in this really small space.

In the following diagram, you can see the natural progression of thought, action, reaction and behavior that is derived from our beliefs, expectations, and experiences. It’s all centered in the mind.

BELIEFS

Beliefs are your values, judgments, interpretations, assumptions, and attitudes. When you wake up each day, you have a whole set of these beliefs waiting ready in your head. The sum total of all these makes up your outlook for the day, often before you even begin. The collection of these beliefs set the stage for the way each day might unfold.

If a string of circumstance has tainted your set of beliefs, you will look at new opportunity through a jaded lens. On the other hand, if you have achieved a certain success, you may be more inclined to view new opportunity with a more optimistic mindset.

BEHAVIORS

Your beliefs drive your behaviors. Your “style” openness (or not), your habits, skills, practices, and actions stem from the beliefs you carry.

If you prefer mustard over mayonnaise, you are expressing an eating behavior based on some belief you established a long time ago. And so it goes with many of your daily choices, clothes, cars, hobbies, reading, entertainment, music, etc.

RELATIONSHIPS

Even the people you may choose to call friends will be governed by your beliefs turned into behavior. The kind of tribe you may join at work or in the community will be influenced by your behaviors.

If you align with a certain religious belief system, that will dictate the house of worship you choose to attend. Political affiliations, other social settings, and even workplace choices will be heavily swayed by the relationships you think you want to make; all having root in your mind’s eye.

RESULTS

Finally, the results will reflect the collection of beliefs, behaviors, and relationships. The direct circles of activity you choose will have a specific set of outcomes. These results (outcomes, impact, improvements, and “performance”) will all serve to reinforce your belief system.

When the results align with your original beliefs you say “see, I told you so.” You feel you knew it all along.

On the other hand, if an outcome somehow runs counter to what you expected (as many things will do), you may be inclined to fall deeper into your beliefs saying things like “I will never do THAT again”, or “I wish I had followed my gut.”

The Remedy

The successful leader will learn how to control that delicate real estate between the ears. Negative thoughts will be replaced by ones that provide a more meaningful value. The cycle of belief, behavior, relationship, and result will become a momentum-generating machine for positive action and success.

Whenever limiting thoughts creep in or pop up, the prudent, experienced leader will properly address the thought and prevent it from taking root to undermine the rest of the experience. Whenever in doubt, the seasoned, learning leader will seek advice from trusted counselors and coaches or mentors and friends, to better evaluate the thought. If the thought has merit, then it can be addressed with a balanced, healthy view, never interrupting forward progress.

When you handle the root belief system, you set the stage for a more positive outcome. More importantly, you set the process by which you can grow, profit, and prosper in all areas of your life.

6 Great Questions to Lead Your Team

Being a leader requires the ability to build rapport with your team. Those following you must have good reason to do so. Every time you have a one-on-one, you have a big opportunity to add to and build that individual rapport.

Here are six great questions to structure those one-on-ones with your team. Use this in some form or another every time you get that golden opportunity to sit with each individual on your team.

The 6 questions are:

Where are WE going?

Ask this intentionally so that the employee or follower is able to express in their own words their understanding of the current state. Let them tell you what they understand to be the mission and direction. If the answer catches you off guard, then maybe you have a big disconnect that needs to be handled immediately.

The “we” here is about the team. Be sure to gauge whether the individual’s understanding is in step with the team direction you hope for.

Where are YOU going?

This is a logical follow-up to #1. If the person expresses a correct team direction but shares a personal variance in what they think is happening, then you have another opportunity to connect and correct.

The where are you going question also measures engagement. When an individual has begun to disengage with the team, they must be offered the opportunity to reconnect.

What do you think you are doing well?

This is a great opportunity to let the individual team member express their pride foro what might be working for them. Let them share their focus. Again though, if there is a bit of misalignment, this is the perfect opportunity to realign, recalibrate the role and the duties to set the path for better performance.

By allowing the person to share, you open the communication letting them state in their own words the accomplishments they view as significant.

What are some suggestions for improvement?

Open the door for individual dialogue about ways to improve things. The people who are on the frontlines see things differently than you. Be open to listening to these observations. You just might get the next great idea.

How can I help?

This may be the most powerful of all questions a manager/leader can ask a follower. Letting them know you are there to help is the biggest proof of your commitment to seeing them succeed. Don’t say it if you don’t mean it, but use it sincerely and you will see team commitment rise significantly.

If something is suggested, you must follow through to get it resolved or delivered. Don’t let this golden opportunity fall flat on its face from your inability to deliver. If the ask is too big, then say so. Explain what the limitations are, but be real. Let the person know they were heard and that you understand.

What suggestions do you have for me to be a better manager?

This is last but by no means the least of these 6 questions. Again, your hope should be to receive sincere feedback. Your response should be an open acceptance of what you get told. If all you do is ask the question but recoil, then you’ve missed the opportunity.

However, if you take the suggestion and do something with the feedback, you build great rapport and trust.

Speaking of Trust

Trust is at the root of the best performing teams. Building an atmosphere of high trust keeps the whole team engaged with you as the boss. Having the rapport through regular, recurring one-on-ones with your team, using these six questions, will keep the trust growing.

Team Trust

Team Trust

When trust is present, people can accept bad news. They won’t necessarily like it but they can better accept it when they know you have their backs. They get to that end by seeing you make the effort to build the rapport at each chance you get. As rapport improves, so will the trust they have.

Call to Action

If you are a manager or executive who needs a little help with any of these ideas, perhaps a coach can help. To learn more about the coaching I do, schedule a call to speak with someone about the programs and ways we can help.

Also, let me introduce you to the Big 5 Performance Management process. This system revolutionizes the old, inefficient annual performance review systems. It has been implemented in dozens of companies, plus it has already won awards for innovation in HR circles. Big 5 sets the framework for fast, simple, and efficient employee feedback, guaranteeing your get the opportunity to ask these 6 questions monthly with each and every employee. Big 5 is a big winner, highly regarded by employers and employees everywhere who have started using Big 5.

To Learn More 

Leadership Powered by Common Sense

This is a tagline I like to use. However, it seems that common sense is truly an uncommon commodity. Common sense is a bit like beauty, as “in the eye of the beholder”. What seems like common sense decision making to some may be totally foreign to others.

common sense

Have you ever met someone who is so incredibly smart, but has little if any common sense? They could quote you facts and stats, explain very complex interworkings of molecular structure or other things, yet they cannot decide what they want for lunch.

It can be frustrating living with or knowing someone who operates this way. When you get a manager or boss like this, watch out!

A good friend once shared the thought that good leadership is equal parts of art and science. The science is the technical knowledge and understanding of details, subject matter, and process/procedure. The art is where the so-called people skills come in; being able to flex your leadership style based upon the person or group with whom you may be dealing.

I have to agree. The best leaders balance the art and science in their approach. The bridge between the two spheres is common sense. It is a proven idea when you think about the common sense being the switch that toggles between the art and science of leadership in a delicately orchestrated flow as circumstances dictate.

A good leader can gracefully shift when they sense the need to do so. The person lacking common sense tends to get stuck in one gear. If the question at hand is a technical one, they leader lacking common sense will tend to press hard on the merits of the technical debate, completely ignoring the people side of the matter.

The Conundrum

Common sense is not an absolute. That is why it can be so hard to realize. What might be common sense to some is a bad idea to others. Therefore, what I believe works best is to keep things simple. When the matter at hand is starting to get increasingly complex whether, by technical merit or deep subject matter expertise, it is valuable as the leader to take a step back.

Stop the detailed discussion and ask more objective questions like how does this feel? Is my gut sense right? What has my experience told me?

If you’ve ever had the privilege of working for a good storyteller leader, they have a gift of taking the deep science of a situation and boiling it down into an easy to understand story. The story often has nothing to do with the terms or vocabulary being batted about. Rather it has to do with the principles that are driving the choices under consideration.

That is an art. That is common sense.

The Uncommon Commodity

When I sat down to pen my first book, I was focused on what I thought I could share with new, first time managers to help them be more and do more in their new leadership roles. As the manuscript came together, it was time to decide on a title. I really felt drawn to this notion of common sense being such an uncommon commodity. I was sharing this whole idea with my wife. She said well, why don’t you just call it that. BOOM!

“The Uncommon Commodity: The Common Sense Guide for New Managers” was born. As it turns out, my more seasoned business leaders have found the book helpful to them too. The content addresses major areas of leadership and management using short, to the point stories and principles that get presented in a common sense way.

In my coaching business, I still see clients who struggle with being able to apply common sense thinking to problem-solving. On one hand, it seems they feel it is too easy to just make a common sense decision. They feel obligated to over-engineer the solution. It’s as if they were afraid of being found out for their simplicity.

On the other hand, over-thinking because of some sense of intellectual superiority never works very well either. The best scenario is one of balance. Let the facts come together and make a decision, whether by simple common sense or some other more elaborate thought process.

It takes a leader who has a capacity to do both; someone who can nimbly swap between the two as the situation dictates. But hey, that seems like common sense!

Leaders: So Much for Good Intentions

There’s an old saying in management and leadership training. Good intentions make sense, right? However, there’s a problem with that. People don’t know your intentions, only your actions.

action-speaks

For someone in a leadership role, your day to day action speaks far louder than the words you say or the emails you write. If you are responsible for a team of fellow workers, the way you conduct yourself is the first, and sometimes only measure the crew will use to judge you.

Remember, being a leader involves being able to influence others. Influence comes from a complex blend of many things, but the first item on the list is the respect you can earn from those around you. When you are placed in a management role (or take one on as in opening a business) you have a position of authority that only lasts for a flash. As soon as the team around you sees how you are going to operate, choices get made. If the team decides they cannot respect what you do, you will forever suffer the inability to influence them.

You can have the best of intentions to be a good boss, but you can miss the mark daily. All you need to do is step out of your office and do something that runs contrary to everything you say you stand for.

I’ve known some wise people and otherwise good managers who tripped along the way. One bad action lost them almost everything they had gained in terms of human capital; the respect of their team. One bad goof wipes out everything else. Here are some of the areas where these fatal flaws can emerge:

Character

It’s a bit old-fashioned, but people still look for solid character. If your actions set off everyone else’s BS meter, you are in trouble. Character is about your word. Can people trust exactly what you say you’ll do? Say one thing but do something different, your character suffers.

Integrity

When I look at the definition of integrity, it’s defined as a “concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one’s actions.”

Consistency is about being the same regardless of the situation. For example, do you know of leaders whose mood changes by the day and make rash decisions on certain days, yet calm and engaging on other days? This would be an example of the inconsistency of actions and outcomes.

Integrity stems from the Latin word ‘integer’ which means whole and complete. So integrity requires an inner sense of ‘wholeness’ and consistency of character. When you operate with integrity, people should be able to visibly see it through your actions, words, decisions, methods, and outcomes.

When you are ‘whole’ and consistent, there is only one you. You bring that same you wherever you are, regardless of the circumstance. You don’t leave parts of yourself behind. You don’t have a ‘work you,’ a ‘family you,’ and a ‘social you.’ You are YOU all the time.

Honesty

Honesty or accuracy of one’s actions requires intentionality and thought. How honest or accurate are your behaviors, actions, and words with other people that you lead? I was at a meeting recently with a CEO who cares deeply about values yet is out of integrity because there is a lack of honesty and authenticity in how he behaves.

While he says that he cares about teamwork, he doesn’t listen to others and gets defensive when challenged with different views. He believes in creating a culture of love but publicly berates and belittles junior employees.

Wrap Up

In today’s world, all the social unrest about workplace conduct is warranted. Too many people in positions of influence have abused their power by making inappropriate advances. It seems years of pent-up violations are coming to light almost daily. The headlines are filled with named celebrities or community leaders being accused of something.

While physical or sexual aggression is clearly the worst of all possible behaviors in the workplace, there are plenty of other failings that undermine a leader’s ability to lead. Fooling yourself into thinking your intentions are good enough pales in comparison to the actions you take each and every day.

Your action becomes the standard by which you will be measured. It begs the question, what was the intention anyway?

Question: What actions have you taken that might undermine your otherwise good intentions? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Living a Legacy

What does the word legacy mean to you? For some, it means following in the footsteps of your forefathers as in being a “legacy” at a college. If your parent went there, and you decide to go, then you become a “legacy”.

family legacy

For others, as the aging process sets in, it means “was this all worth it?” What am I leaving behind? More importantly, did my life matter to anyone?

I am not convinced people think legacy as much as they once did. It seems living in the fast-paced modern world has pushed us to do more, be more and somehow miss the journey. There is no denying I am part of the Boomer generation. By some accounts, that places me at odds with the anyone younger than 50. I respectfully disagree.

My wife and I are blessed to be the proud parents of 5; four boys and a girl. They are grown now and have families of their own, treating us to 7 grandchildren. When we gather as a family it is easy to see the legacy unfolding. I think about that a lot. What can I say and do today that will have an impact on those generations after me?

Throughout my life, I have chosen to be a perpetual learner. I love studying management and leadership theory. The more I read and learn about my chosen topics, the more convinced I am that there are timeless principles of leadership. To be timeless, something must not be subject to the changes in mindset with each new generation. Being a voice for a timeless subject helps create a legacy.

Leadership is just such a topic. Yes, we might change the terminologies we use, but the principles remain unchanged. I want to share with you my shortlist.

Key Principles – My Elite 8

Whether you are leading a team at work, at home with your family, or an organization in your community, I like these 8 leadership principles. I call them my “Elite 8”. They have proven time and again to be rock solid.

Always Be Honest –  In a world plagued with situational morality and dog-eat-dog competition, it is rare to find the totally honest business person or neighbor. Honesty, or lack thereof, is soon found out. There is nothing so valuable as a leader who has a reputation for honesty.

Leaders who are honest earn far greater respect; they are sought out, and they create loyalty in their spheres of influence.

Forgive and Forget –  People make mistakes, decide on poor choices, and sometimes just goof. As a leader, how do you handle those situations? Do you condemn and ridicule or can you forgive and forget? I’ve written about grace becoming one instrument in a leader’s toolbox. The ability to forgive and forget is the totality achieved with the ability to give grace.

Be Kind Hearted –  When you are dealing with people one-on-one and face-to-face, do you exhibit a personal warmth? Is there a kind heart that sparks that warmth that is palpable? This is a trait you can neither mask nor fake. Do you have the heart to be a leader?

In his book “The Heart of Leadership”, Mark Miller tells a story of a young businessman named Blake. Blake is struggling at work with his duties as a team leader. He seeks some counsel from a close family friend. I won’t tell all of the stories, but the core value comes down to this simple acrostic.

H.E.A.R.T.

The initials stand for:

  • Hunger for wisdom –  keep learning new and different things to improve yourself
  • Expect the best –  set a high standard and maintain your expectations for it
  • Accept responsibility – stop the blame game, take your ownership seriously
  • Respond with courage –  be bold with your decisions
  • Think others first –  be willing to be more of a servant rather than a boss

Keep Your Promises –  Expectations can make or break relationships. The promises we fulfill serve to grow trust, respect, and reliability. However, broken promises do the most harm. When you promise someone something then fail to deliver, there is a damaging break in the relationship. The next time a situation arises and you must make a promise, the person with whom you broke the last promise will be very skeptical.

Work Hard –  Every “overnight success” I have ever met or read about worked tirelessly to achieve their status. The equation is really that simple; work hard and achieve or don’t work and flounder.

Lessons from ants have been taught since time memorial. From the proverb instructing us:

“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:
which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,
provideth her meat in the summer,
and gathereth her food in the harvest”

Then again in Aesop’s fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper, ants have appeared throughout our life stories (and on our dining tables!). (1)

Be Thankful – Giving thanks can do so much to lighten anyone’s load. To your work team, give them thanks and praise for the efforts they show. Give recognition when it is in your power to do so. Also, being thankful helps sustain the kind heart in #3. After all, how can you have a kind heart if you never recognize the good things that might be going on around you?

Research has linked gratitude with an increase in self-esteem, resiliency and overall life satisfaction. It can also help you build new friendships and strengthen the relationships you already have. “There are two processes at play here,” Acacia Parks, Ph.D, chief scientist at Happify, a website and mobile app that provides games and activities geared towards improving mental wellbeing, told CBS News. “The person expressing the gratitude is thinking about their gratitude more, so they themselves feel better and their gratitude is stronger. And it’s also good for the person receiving the gratitude because they feel appreciated and it makes them want to express the gratitude back.” (2)

Never Give Up –  Persistence usually wins the day. Similar to working hard, being willing and able to forge ahead when all things are not going your way signifies a leader. Turning back or giving up when the first sign of resistance occurs will never get you through. You must stay strong; persevere.

As Sir Winston Churchill said in 1941 (before he was “Sir”) –   “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” (3)

Love One Another – I find this principle to be the hardest. In our daily routines, it is easy to cross paths with people we find we just don’t like very much.

As a leader, you must seek to find ways to build love with those closest to you; the team, your tribe, your family, or your community.  The power of love can overcome the worst of conditions. Great achievements come from the love and passion for being together, working a cause, and knowing you are loved.

Summary

Remember, having principle-based leadership is like setting a deep and strong foundation. The principles you choose to guide you will shape the character and substance of what you decide to do. In addition, operating from a solid core set of guiding principles will create for you a reputation of integrity and trust.

Principle based leadership

CALL TO ACTION

If you are wondering about your current career situation, I am offering a free career satisfaction survey. This quick and easy tool can show you if it’s time to make a change.

 

Leaders: What is the Right Answer?

It has been said there is one big difference between management and leadership. Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things.

getting it right

Have you ever asked yourself this question? What IS the right answer anyway? For people in leadership roles, you are looked upon for the right answer. You better be able to deliver.

However, there are times when the right answer seems so hard to find. Here are some things to consider so that you, as a leader, can do more to find the “right” answer.

Situational Approach

Situational problem solving seems to be popular. In one case, the right answer might be green, but in a different situation, the answer is red. Both pose what seems like the same sets of facts and circumstances which should lead to the same answer, but you will see decision makers opting to let the outcome be different because of the audience that is involved. If the stakeholders are different, the answer gets shifted despite the facts and details bearing on the matter.

The idea of situational problem solving is often referred to in morality debates. There are those who get very excited about certain social issues, making claims for absolute answers involving right from wrong (think gun control, abortion, legalized marihuana, etc.). Yet when it is their family in jeopardy, they choose to go another route.

I contend the truly right answer needs to fit all situations. Circumstance shouldn’t change what was decided as to right or wrong.

The Leaders Curse

Anyone who is deemed a leader, whether at work, at home, or in the community, is expected to come up with answers. Those who are following the leader expect the answers to be “right”.

For the person who sits in the leadership chair, the pressure can be intense. If you are genuinely committed to quality leadership, the power of the position will not be enough. Power alone can literally dictate decisions. However, leaders who embrace the higher calling of duty and seek to make right decisions will suffer the burden of the process to get there.

Perhaps your style is to seek counsel from those around you. I am a big fan of hiring smart people, then getting out of their way. Yet when the final decision is needed, it rests on the leader’s shoulders to make the call.

Once all the input has been reviewed and processed, the right answer is yours to make. What you decide is right is the way things will go.

Oh my, but what is RIGHT?

I never thought about being right in this exact context before. I participate in an organization of highly regarded business leaders. They each have their own resume of incredible accomplishments. Internal meetings with this group are lively and interesting, to say the least.

When I see discussions in the group unfold, there is, on one hand, amazing thought that goes into the answers. So many different angles get presented and explored.

On the other hand, there is the occasional hard stand that insists their individual answer is best (and the only answer). When this happens, the group often tables discussion for a further review. One could argue that lack of consensus is a natural outcome when a group of A++ personalities joust it out, debating the right answer for a question.

The bottom line is this; right is totally a function of the view from the first chair. The type A++ who has been accustomed to making final decisions may not be able to play nicely in a group of similar personalities when the authority is spread across the group and not centered in one seat.

My point is simply this…. the “right” answer may surprise you.

Leaders: How Do You Find Right?

When the responsibility of leadership falls on you, likely you will seek to pull together all your experience, knowledge, wisdom, and technical ability to make good decisions; the right ones. The process is different for everyone.

Think about your own decision-making process. Do you make lists of pros and cons? Do you draw a grid? Do you immediately turn to advisors? Or friends? Where and how do you decide “right?”

How often do you rely on your gut? I hear that a lot. Truthfully, it works. The greater your experience in leadership roles, the greater may be the accuracy of your gut. I see this being true more often than not in the leaders who fully appreciate the role of leader. The key factor though is whether your gut is objective, not subjective. Unfair biases can misguide the gut reaction to finding right.

Managers who are first starting out lack the benefit of seasoned experience. Their gut reaction may be founded on emotion not reality. The experience becomes a teacher, but not by itself.

Experience is not a good teacher. Evaluated experience is. ~John Maxwell

As you gain experience by exercising your leadership decisions making, your sense of right and wrong decisions will get fine-tuned. If you are just now starting out in leadership, keep notes for yourself. You will revisit facts and circumstances from time to time. You will be able to gain strength of conviction through repeated use of your choices.

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Are You Thankful?

Tomorrow in the U.S. we will celebrate our annual Thanksgiving. It will be a time for families to gather to share a lot of food. The special recipes that have been handed down will be prepared, stories will be told (often getting embellished along the way), children will tear through rooms playing all sorts of games, a little football may get watched or at least will be droning on the screen somewhere, and there will be all around good times.

Giving thanks

The spirit of the season, at least the way I was taught, was to stop for a moment and reflect on the people, things, and blessings that have been richly bestowed upon us. A time for genuine thanksgiving. regardless of how good or how hard the past year had been. There is always something for which we can give thanks.

Being thankful

That’s a mindset you may not see very often. Yet, some of the most successful people I know have made it a discipline in their lives to never forget about being thankful.

There is something about keeping a spirit of gratitude and thankfulness that keeps you grounded; keeps you centered. Leaders, real leaders, who rise to the “top” of their given field always have people around them for whom they should be thankful. As soon as you stop being thankful for the ones who help you accomplish things, well, I argue you have started to lose the title “leader”.

When someone on your team makes a contribution, there should be recognition and gratitude. You don’t have to overdo it. There doesn’t have to be a certificate or a plaque inscribed. But a simple ‘thank you’ can go a long way.

The same is true at home with your family. Are you thankful for those around you at home? Have you found the enjoyment in loving them, knowing them, and recognizing their contributions to your life? Be thankful.

To my readers

Having said the above, I want to be clear and say THANK YOU to all of you who spend a valuable moment of your day to read this blog. I am keenly aware of the competition for your attention.

I don’t always try to stay edgy or controversial. My intent is to be helpful and to serve. If my articles can cause you to ponder a thought for just a moment, perhaps to inspire a small change in your leadership style or life, then I am blessed.

This blog is not for my glory or fame. It is for YOU, the reader. My hope is that you find something in here somewhere that can give you a lift for the day. Maybe it will give you a shift for looking at things a different way. And maybe the topics we share here can help grow as a leader so that you can make a difference right where you are.

Have a great Thanksgiving. Please know that I am thankful for you.

 

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Leadership: Finding a Good Fit

Companies spend a lot of time and money trying to identify “good fit” during their hiring process. Candidate selection is driven by the magical, mystical notion of making a good fit decision.

Clearly, the first step usually involves matching job description requirements with the candidate’s stated background experience. Right away, the matching process starts to break down because so much screening is now contingent on keyword matching, and not much else.

Even if resume screening works well, the next step takes the candidate through an interview process. Here’s where it really gets fun.

First, well-coached candidates can ace interviews while really not bringing much value to the company. Poorly trained hiring managers, who only occasionally may conduct interviews, (i.e. it’s not their full-time job) do not possess the right skills for getting maximum value from the interview process. So the “good fit” effort takes yet another hit.

With these two key areas suffering, the station of last resort is the look and feel test. Does the candidate look and feel like the right person for the job? Sadly, this often takes us back to the untrained interviewer who merely decides to hire someone who looks like or thinks like they do, assuming that alignment of core values and ideals will work.

Struck any nerves yet?

Have I touched any nerves yet? How’s your good fit guy doing so far?

Yes, good fit selection is a far more complex challenge for companies and their job seeker candidates. Even more important is the unit manager who gets involved in the selection process.

Finding true good fit requires the ability to properly identify what that means to the company and the team. Jim Collins in his “Good to Great” talks about this challenge as ‘getting the right people on the bus’. Once your company defines its core value and vision, there will be key individuals with unique talent who can make things happen. Hiring anyone short of that impacts the final outcome, not to mention the headache and liability of releasing a “bad fit” employee.

The popular Entrepreneurs Operating System or “EOS” describes doing a kind of per seat analysis throughout the organization. First, you tie the roles and responsibilities off each workstation to the overall company mission/vision. You set a value for each position; value contributed to the company or worth of each slot. Then and only then, do you take a look at the person filling that seat or being recruited for the seat. Does the person have the skills and abilities to deliver on the expectations you previously defined for that position? Now that is fit.

Solutions

There are several emerging ways companies are trying to do more for good fit hiring. Here are a few of the main ideas.

Basic Skills Testing

Many of my client companies have developed basic skills testing to determine a candidates ability to meet baseline requirements. Sadly, there are companies that need good solid workers with basic skills, but too few job seekers can demonstrate core skills like reading, math, and simple logic.

One president of a local manufacturer told me he’s adopted both a skills test and one VERY basic math question for every interview. He takes a piece of paper and writes a five digit number like 52,698. He hands that to the candidate and asks “what is 10% of that number?” This executive swears that after conducting maybe 800 interviews in his career, less than 100 candidates could answer that question. [The answer is 5,269.8]

At one of the companies I owned, we developed a test for job seekers. We had a sample file folder that had numerous documents pertaining to the work we did. The seeker was given a checklist and told to find the applicable document from the folder, stack the file according to the checklist, and tell us if something was missing. A person with reasonable skills could finish the file in 20 minutes. Anyone who didn’t really know the work had no way to fake it.

Personality Traits

Ever since Karl Jung first developed his 4 part personality classification system, there have been spin-off theories that are widely adopted by major corporations. These include DISC, Myers Briggs MBTI (R), and Birkman testing. While the Jung-based psychology gives interesting personality indicators, the complexities of human thinking and its far-reaching impact in the workplace can only be counted as a starting point. Whether someone scores an INTJ or ENFT will only go so far in helping a manager make a good fit decision.

The whole notion of personality assessment having a scale for introvert versus extrovert is under heavy scrutiny now. There is a body of work being studied that suggests “ambiverts” (people who demonstrate either both tendency depending on the situation) represent a bigger segment of the workforce, plus they have been proven to be better performers.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence testing or “EI” has become a popular topic for defining and exploring better fit conditions. We probably know people who are masters at managing their emotions. They don’t get angry in stressful situations. Instead, they have the ability to look at a problem and calmly find a solution. They’re excellent decision makers, and they know when to trust their intuition. Regardless of their strengths, however, they’re usually willing to look at themselves honestly. They take criticism well, and they know when to use it to improve their performance.

People like this have a high degree of emotional intelligence or EI. They know themselves very well, and they’re also able to sense the emotional needs of others.

Leadership in Placement

For example, one large cosmetics company recently revised their hiring process for salespeople to choose candidates based on their EI. The result? People hired with the new system have sold, on average, $91,000 more than salespeople selected under the old system. There has also been significantly lower staff turnover among the group chosen for their EI.

Cultural Fit

Companies seeking to define their own culture must identify candidates who fit that culture. Whether the elements are work ethic, training, expertise, or attitude, the company’s culture helps define fit.

From Entrepreneur Magazine :

There’s no denying that cultural fit is important but make sure you actually know what it is before judging candidates. It’s easy to mistake cultural fit for personal biases — just because you wouldn’t mind being stuck in an airport with a candidate doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a great fit for your company.

A candidate’s approach shouldn’t be so divisive that it creates rifts among employees, but you shouldn’t be afraid to hire somebody whose personality clashes with your own. If you perceive that a candidate would make a meaningful contribution to your company while maintaining decorum, that candidate might be a cultural match.

If you have doubts about making a career change, take my free assessment. Find out exactly where you stand.

The Bigger Question

Good fit ultimately comes down to being able to harness the power of your mind’s attention and your heart’s affection. Managers tapping into the hearts and minds of their team will yield the greatest results. Having employees who are not open to contributing at that level will never be a good fit.

Using the tools mentioned above can give insight into ways people might fit well with your team. However, your own ability as the leader to direct, inspire and instill fit within your team is your biggest task.

Question: How do you and your company manage to find the right fit?  You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

Calling All Remote Workers

Since 2000 there has been a growing trend to let workers do their duties remotely; telecommuting it was once called. With the availability of so much good technology, it seemed extra generous of employers to allow workers to avoid the hassles of doing a daily commute. The company saved on facilities expense. While the trend grew steadily for a number of years, there is now a reversal happening.

Work at Home

Between 2012 and 2016, the share of employees who spend 80% or more of their time working remotely grew from 24% to 31%, according to a survey from Gallup. Some 59% of business executives said that more than half of their companies’ full-time workforce would be remote by 2020, per the results of a 2014 survey at London Business School’s Global Leadership Summit.

But not all business leaders are in favor of this trend. In May, IBM told thousands of its remote employees that they needed to return to a regional office or leave the company, Fox Business reported. Last year, insurance giant Aetna began to cut back on its work-from-home program due to concerns regarding collaboration. And in 2013, Yahoo ended its telecommuting program shortly after the beginning of former CEO Marissa Mayer’s tenure with the company.

Smaller businesses who jumped on the bandwagon are now getting off. I received a question from one of my readers who said:

…  love to see something on how to move people “ back to the office”. Many companies are doing that now since [much of their] collaborative energy has been lost as more and more people work remote from home. Is their a best practice on how to [make this recall] to limit impact on morale? 

I didn’t want to jump on this grenade by myself, so I consulted a few of my colleagues who also have successful executive coaching practices. Here are some of the issues to consider (in no particular order).

Mastering the Commute

The original reason many employers ventured down this rabbit hole was to assist workers by lessening commute times. In large metropolitan areas, daily commutes can consume 2 to 5 hours for workers. That doesn’t leave room for any family life. By eliminating the grind of a daunting commute, workers can spend time with family in a.m., get a good breakfast and be “at work” by whatever start time you declare.

The Commute

On the flip side, shutting down in the p.m. involves a simple flip of a switch and a short walk to the kitchen to say hello to kids and spouses.

By reversing the policy and asking workers to return to central facilities, you invoke the dreaded commute. As an employer, even though it’s not your fault where your people choose to live, if they’ve gotten used to no commute, the shift back may be more egregious than you think.

It Gets More Complicated

There are numerous pros and cons of telecommuting. Ultimately the primary factors that determine whether an employees experience with working remotely is successful or not involves that person’s natural personality and needs for feedback.

We have plenty of workers who want the camaraderie of working inside a team. They feed off the energy and vibe of the team around them. Team chemistry can become a perk for many employees.

If a good esprit de corps is established within the workgroup when everyone is together, you get a bonus incentive for the workers who want and need such feedback.

On the other side of that coin is the worker who likes going solo. A personality that is a little more introverted may appreciate the solitude of being able to do their work without disruptive chatter and buzz around them.

It’s not easy to accurately determine which camp all employees fall into. It has been reported that even some workers who seemed like they would be OK working alone are reporting a problem with the solitude after an extended absence from the team setting. This can be explained by the new thinking about ambivert personalities. An ambivert is someone who, depending on the situation, switches between being an extrovert and introvert.

Management’s Trust Factor

All too often I hear managers expressing concerns about whether their people are “really” working. For a boss who is prone to go there first, you may have some trust issues, my friend. If you and your company do not have accountability and productivity measures figured out, then yes, I get it. Remote workers would be a problem for you. However, if you are missing those indicators, you likely don’t know any more information about the people sitting outside your door either.

Any owner or executive who agrees to let workers stay at home must decide on what they will do to create and maintain visibility for consistent delivery of company mission/vision and value propositions.

The person in charge needs to check their motives for wanting everyone back in the office after remote commuting has been the policy. Unwinding that arrangement must be done for the best of reasons. A manager, partner, owner or principal should never ask people to give up the freedom of the remote work for bad ideas like ego, and their own control issues. Hiding behind thinly veiled ideas won’t work. Here are the excuses I know about:

  • We work better together
  • We need the chemistry
  • We need the energy of being able to collaborate

Perhaps remote delegation should have never been allowed in the first place.

What About the Office Culture?

Even if you get everyone to come back together, you as the boss may not be creating the optimum operating environment. I’ve seen too many smaller businesses with a so-called entrepreneurial spirit that are just nut houses (pardon me). The principals lead the pack with a wired and frenzied climate where meetings run too long too often, minds get changed too much, and direction is scattered at best.

Good employees will never suffer that environment for long. If a good and talented worker likes the mission and the work but hates the way the boss treats everyone, working from home is a sanctuary. It will be next to impossible to unwind that scenario.

After all, it’s been said

In the End

It’s all about setting clear expectations. Not all managers know enough about leadership to be able to do this. The leader must be able to articulate clear, concise expectations about work demands. Then you need to stick with them.

If you do end up deciding that you generally want people limiting their working from home to one day a week, I’d say this:

I want to talk to you about our work from home policy. In general, I prefer people to work from home no more than _____ days a week, because of (give your reasons). On rare occasions, I’m willing to approve more than that, but I’d like the default to be no more than ____ a week. I realize I didn’t clarify this earlier, and you haven’t done anything wrong by doing it more often, but going forward, please stick to this guideline.

Also, say this now rather than just rejecting their next work from home request and explaining it then. This is a big-picture conversation to have since they’re now used to doing it a different way, not something to spring on them the next time it comes up.