Posted tagged ‘firing’

Establishing the Foundation for the Leadership Interview

June 22, 2010

A leadership interview is a little more delicate. In fact, I would categorize this discussion as more of a conversation than an interview. There are several reasons why this is so.

The candidate being interviewed is typically more mature. Usually, this person has managed departments or divisions, if not other companies. Therefore, this applicant is more comfortable with the proceedings.  For this level candidate, it truly is an opportunity to shine and demonstrate the depth and breadth of the knowledge and experience that has been acquired over an entire professional career.

These factors by themselves make this interview different.

It is as much about making sure that there is a stylistic and cultural match as it is about the skills that the candidate possesses. And the candidate also usually understands on some level that a poor match will not work for him or her.

To make this conversation more effective and easier, I typically explain that I am assisting n this process. My intention and goals is to find a fit so that the candidate can be happy and fulfilled for years to come and so can the company.

This allows for a conversational shift toward getting to know the person. The context and the most fundamental rule to apply is that we are here to “screen out” inappropriate candidates rather than “screening in” people.

The purpose of the questions that we outlined in the previous post is now clear. The se questions have been designed to facilitate the discussion and they are clearly in the best interests of the applicant as well as the company.

Determining the Candidate’s Leadership Profile

June 17, 2010

One of the challenges in the interview process was the need to capture information in a meaningful way.  The plan was to interview five candidates in one day and the risk of blurring responses, characteristics and attributes was fairly high. Effective data capture was therefore important.

The tool that was built had a section for evaluating each of the core attributes highlighted in the prior post. It was to be completed after the interview and it simply asked if the candidate had the particular attribute and allowed for any additional comments or insights.

The rest of the document – and clearly the most important section – was devoted to a series of questions designed to create a conversation that would enable the candidate to share his or her views on leadership.

Here are some examples of these questions:

A. Getting to know you questions:

(1) I’m about to buy a brand named <candidate>. Describe what I just bought.

(2) What was the best job you ever had? Why?

B. Execution:

(1) How do you assure / implement accountability among your staff?

(2) What do you reward and how do you reward it?

(3) How do you convince people to change behaviors?

(4) How do you evaluate staff?

(5) Why should someone be fired?

C. Ability:

(1) What characteristics of your present job do you like?

(2) What are some of the things you don’t like?

(3) How would you change your job if you had the power to do so?

(4) Describe your perfect job?

(5) Describe your perfect boss?

(6) Give me 5 adjectives that generally describe the people who work for you.

D. Leadership:

(1) What are 3 core tenets of your management philosophy that you would never compromise?

(2) Fast forward a year –  how is our company, the one that just hired you, different?

(3) How do you hire people (i.e. what is the hiring process / what do you look for)?

(4) Talk to me about a great hiring success (what were the factors that made it successful)?

(5) Talk to me about a great hiring disaster. Why did it happen? What did you do about it? (this is a great question to learn about blindspots)

(6) How do you make important decisions?

(7) How do you go about learning new things?

(8) Describe the perfect company culture? How would you create this culture?

E. Ability to Grow and Learn:

(1) Most people have at east one tough integrity challenge in their professional lives – what was yours and how did you handle it?

(2) What is the greatest lesson that you learned in the past five years?

(3) What is the greatest professional challenge you’ve ever faced and why?

F. Vision:

(1) Tell me about three competitive trends for which we should be concerned.

(2) What is the single most important idea that you contributed to your present job?

The purpose of these questions is to learn what is important to the candidate and the thinking process that is utilized. What can be learned from these questions is the values of the candidate, how they are reinforced and the type of people with whom these leaders will surround themselves.

Getting these answers will your company know the type of leader it is engaging.

Staffing Appropriately During a Recession

March 2, 2009

With each passing day, we learn of more layoffs and furloughed employees. Today, more than ever, service and professional organizations need to determine the resources needed to complete projects so that they are staffed appropriately. Not surprisingly, there is a method by which one can accomplish this goal.

To do so, one begins by looking outward and assessing the projects that one wishes to address over a discrete period of time. Evaluate what is a priority or even an emergency project. These are the projects that absolutely must be accomplished for the well-being or growth of the business. Consider how long each project will take to complete.

Then segment the remaining projects into ones that would be nice to complete as they would add some value and then ones that are critical to the growth of the company. Your focus should be to address the priority projects, then the long term growth ones and then the “nice to haves.” By organizing the projects in this manner, the ability to address some of the longer term projects will present themselves as well.

From there, one should assess the type of staff required to complete the project. Do not think of terms of names of individuals within your company; rather, think in terms of roles. This is important because when one thinks of individuals, there is a tendency to not recognize that a particular person lacks a necessary skill or to minimize the importance of that person missing the skill. Make certain that you understand the skills required within each role.

Out of this exercise, a pattern will emerge. You will begin to discover that certain skills are required over the long term and certain skills are needed temporarily. You will also learn, based on the lengths of the projects, whether you need more than one individual with certain skills.

Once the roles have been identified, it is time to inventory the skills of your team. Do you have the right people and the right mix of professionals to complete the tasks at hand? Are their skills mature or do the lack the appropriate experience?

After completing this analysis, you will be in a better position to determine if you wish to recruit or buy additional talent, rent or have a consultant supplement your team to address a short term need, or provide additional training so that members of your team can acquire the skills.

Each of these alternatives has their place within the solution set. A short-term need or the immediate requirement for expertise and depth may necessitate that the most appropriate and economical alternative is using a consultant (the “rent” approach). A longer term or less pressing need may allow for an investment in training and augmenting the skills of your staff.  A need that you believe will be required for years to come may result in your organization pursing the recruitment or buying talent option.

In our next post, we’ll contemplate whether to recruit talent that has less experience and may be less costly or talent that has more experience and a higher price tag.

Building Your Team

February 8, 2009

Much appropriate discussion has taken place regarding President Obama’s vetting process in selecting his team. It remains unclear whether his appointees witheld information or that the process was flawed. For the most part, though, the people that he has chosen have been hailed as competent choices.

In implementing every strategy, finding the right people is essential. It is equally essential to know who should be part of the team and who should go. People need to be moved into the right position without doing too much damage to short-term performance. Beyond that, there must be goals, incentives, and performance measures that propel people in the right direction.

Here are some common traps that you should avoid.

  • Keeping the existing team too long. By the end of the 90 day period, the leader should have a clear understanding of his team and their individual capabilities. By the end of six months, it is appropriate to communicate your proposed personnel changes to HR and your boss. In certain STaRS situations such as a turnaround, these decisions may be required sooner.
  • Fixing the airplane in mid-flight. It is very dangerous to repair an airplane in mid-flight. Develop options such as hiring additional people and allowing them time to learn the ropes, and/or explore whether people down the command chain can take over.
  • Losing good people. When you shake the tree, good people can fall out too. Always look for ways to signal to top performers that you recognize their capabilities and want them to remain.
  • Undertaking team building before the core team is in place. Premature team building exercises may strengthen bonds between staff that will ultimately be displaced. This does not mean that you should not meet as a group, however.
  • Making implementation-dependent decisions too early. Weigh the benefits of moving quickly on major initiatives against the lost opportunity of gaining buy-in from people who will be brought on board later.
  • Trying to do it all yourself. Remember, that restructuring a team involves emotional, legal, and company policy complications. Do not take this on by yourself. A solid HR person is indispensable.

To assess your existing team, establish criteria. These criteria may include competence, planning ahead and risk mitigation capabilities, judgment, professionalism, energy, focus, relationships, and trust. Match these criteria against the circumstances and requirements of the job and evaluate them accordingly.

Regardless of all of the analysis or perhaps, even as a result of it, we will discover that there are certain performers who are not in the right job or simply do not belong in the organization. These are people who are not achieving their performance goals or are failing to exercise leadership effectively. An effective leader must address this situation as well.

Failure to do so exhibits false kindness. While it may be easier to leave these professionals in their roles, doing so harms the leader, other staff, and the whole company. Additionally, it sends a message that non-performance is acceptable in the company.

An employee may not be effective in the job because of any of six reasons. The person lacks the ability, was improperly trained or oriented, has the wrong attitude, demonstrates the wrong behaviors, lacks the required skills, or lacks experience.

To remedy these situations, there are four options. You can train the employee, coach him or her, shift the person to another position, or let the person go. There is a way to determine what the appropriate remedy for each situation is.

  • If it is a matter of skills, training is the appropriate remedy.
  • Attitude related issues may be remedied by discovering what is causing the difficulty, and then addressing the issue while coaching and motivating the employee.
  • Correcting behavioral issues requires coaching and patience. Behaviors shift over time. In order for the supervisor to determine whether that amount of effort should be expended, s/he must determine whether the employee adds significant value in other areas.
  • If the person lacks sufficient experience, it may be possible to shift the employee to a position where her/his experience level is appropriate.
  • If the person lacks the ability, that individual should be let go. No amount of training, coaching, or shifting will allow him or her to make a meaningful contribution. If there is a need to let the person go, do so respectfully and in accordance with the management philosophy that you wish to inculcate. Direct reports will form a lasting impression based on how this part of the job is managed.

Strategy is most effectively implemented when there is a compensation and reward system designed to focus people. Typically, strategic goals will be distributed among functional departments and then further distributed among each department’s employees as employee goals. Performance is encouraged through effective incentives and clear criteria for measuring performance.

A blend of push and pull tools may be employed to reach strategic goals. Push tools, such as compensation plans, performance measurement systems, annual budgets, and the like motivate people through authority, loyalty, fear, and the expectation of rewards for productive work. Pull Tools, such as a compelling vision, motivate people by inspiring them and enrolling them in a new future. Methodical and risk aversive employees are more likely motivated by push tools while high energy performers respond better to pull tools. It is important that an effective mix be developed that rewards collective (where interdependent work is most important) and individual (where independent work is most important) performance.

And after all that, my new hire is not doing well…what should I do?

November 23, 2008

Regardless of all of the analysis or perhaps, even as a result of it, we all discover that there are certain employees or new hires who are not in the right job or simply do not belong in the organization. These are people who are not achieving their performance goals or are failing to exercise leadership effectively. An effective leader must address this situation as well.

Failure to do so exhibits false kindness. While it may be easier to leave these professionals in their roles, doing so harms the leader, other staff, and the whole company. Additionally, it sends a message that non-performance is acceptable in the company.

An employee may not be effective in the job because of any of six reasons. The person lacks the ability, was improperly trained or oriented, has the wrong attitude, demonstrates the wrong behaviors, lacks the required skills, or lacks experience.

To remedy these situations, there are four options. . You can train the employee, coach him or her, shift the person to another position, or let the person go. There is a way to determine what the appropriate remedy for each situation is.

If it is a matter of skills, training is the appropriate remedy.

Attitude related issues may be remedied by discovering what is causing the difficulty, and then addressing the issue while coaching and motivating the employee.

Correcting behavioral issues requires coaching and patience. Behaviors shift over time. In order for the supervisor to determine whether that amount of effort should be expended, he or she must determine whether the employee adds significant value in other areas.

If the person lacks sufficient experience, it may be possible to shift the employee to a position where her/his experience level is appropriate.

If the person lacks the ability, that individual should be let go. No amount of training, coaching, or shifting will allow him or her to make a meaningful contribution.

In the course of my career as a CEO and COO, I have had to let people go. In each case, I attempted to make sure that they left with their dignity intact, with appropriate severance, and frequently with another job in hand. In several cases, I created an exit strategy that allowed them to stay in their job until they found another and could then announce to their colleagues that they had accepted another position. In other words, if you release people in the same way that you hire and manage them, with integrity, honesty, and communication, the difficult process of letting people go is much easier.


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