The Problematic Manager

Part 1 of 5 in the People Leave series

You can tell if a manager is effective by observing their team’s performance and cohesion. An effective manager knows their team members’ strengths and challenges relative to their jobs.  They can anticipate when to guide and how much guidance to provide. They understand that a team’s cohesion will depend on allowing people to do what they do best.  They know who is happy, who isn’t (and why). They communicate clearly about a path forward, providing their team members a vision for the future. 

In Gallup’s  2015 State of the American Manager report*, one out of every two professionals surveyed said they had quit a job at some point in their career to “get away” from their boss. But problematic managers aren’t always the villains. Some common situations I see are:

  • A top performer is rewarded with a promotion and finds that their natural talents aren’t a match for key requirements of the new job
  • The new manager is given more responsibility without the resources and support they need to do their job well
  • The new manager wants to make a good impression and won’t admit to being challenged

What you can do:

  • Take the time to evaluate the fit of the manager – if they’re not a good fit, how can you provide support to grow the skills needed for top performance?
  • Is the manager feeling overwhelmed?  What additional support and resources can you offer to help them succeed?
  • Have weekly or bi-weekly one on one meetings with the manager and focus on opening the lines of communication with them to identify areas where you can offer support and coaching.  Are you speaking their language?

*Gallup’s 2015 State of the American Manager Report can be viewed here.

Are your interview questions revealing the talent you seek?

Most organizations large enough to have in house recruiters and an HR department have a hiring process.  That hiring process will include a resume screening, phone screening and a series of interviews.

Once the candidate “passes” the recruiter’s or HR’s screening they will most likely be interviewed by the manager they would report to and maybe the team members they would be working with. Although these individuals may be top performers in their roles they often dread hiring and all that it entails. All they want to do is get the position filled and go back to doing their own jobs. So in an effort to get to know the candidate, they’ll ask a series of hypothetical questions like “where do you see yourself in 5 years?”.

Consider that a candidate’s behavior in a job interview is similar to how they would behave on a first date. They’ll be on their best behavior and adapt to the situation and the interviewer in order to make a good impression. But in order to discover if a candidate is a match to the job, interview questions must reveal if the candidate possesses the talents that are required for top performance in that job. Of course, there are several characteristics which we would all agree are necessary in any job such as being a self-starter, having a sense of personal accountability or being able to work with a team, but there are specific talent traits that will be essential to a specific job.

A thorough job interview will include both generic and job specific questions.  Whether your hiring process includes 1, 2 or more interviews, those interviews should include:

General questions:

  • Why did they leave each job on their resume?  The answers to this question can reveal a trend.   
  • Why do they want to work for your company? This will reveal how much they researched about your company and thought about why this job is attractive to them.

Job specific questions.   Let’s say you’re interviewing someone for a sales role, you might ask:

  • Behavioral questions about their achievements in their previous role(s).  The key is to start the question with: “give me an example of when…” These questions make the candidate think about specific instances of when they accomplished something.  
  • Ask questions about examples of when they failed at something pertinent to the role they’re applying for.
  • What are the candidate’s goals relative to this job.  How can this job get them to where they want to go?

Job specific questions should be crafted in advance. Think about what success in the job looks like and then create questions that will reveal if the candidate has the talent traits required. So let’s say the sales role you’re filling typically has a long sales cycle and success in the role often requires strategic thinking. You might ask:  “Give me an example of when you’ve developed and applied a successful sales strategy in selling a product with a long sales cycle.” “How long was that sales cycle?”  “What did you learn from your success/failure?”

In my experience, using an assessment to help craft these questions brings an elevated level of discussion to the interview and helps the hiring manager get to know the candidate on a deeper level.

If you’d like to learn more about using assessment to help craft these questions that will help you see the true candidate, instead of the first date version, let’s talk!

Magic Happens When Talent and Jobs Align

I’m fascinated by the subtle things that people do in their jobs that make them uniquely talented at what they do.  I’m not talking about education or training. I’m talking about something special, a unique talent that makes an individual shine brighter.   In “First, Break All the Rules” by Markus Buckingham & Curt Coffman, there’s a great example of this.

Gallup was asked by a large entertainment company to help them find more housekeepers like their best. They assembled eight of this company’s best housekeepers. They asked them: “How do you know if a room is clean?” They said that the last thing they did before leaving a room was to lie on the guest’s bed and turn on the ceiling fan.  

Why? “Because,” they explained, “that is the first thing that a guest will do after a long day out. They will walk into the room, flop down on the bed and turn on the fan. If dust comes off the top of the fan, then no matter how sparkling clean the rest of the room is, the guest might think it’s as dirty as the top of the fan.” These housekeepers viewed the hotel room as the guest’s world. When they cleaned the room they imagined how a guest would see it and making the room just right gave them satisfaction.

They considered themselves as front-of-house employees who set the stage for the guest. For example, if children left stuffed animals in the room, the housekeepers – with the guests’ permission – would arrange the animals to tell a story. When the family arrived after an outing they might find Pooh and Piglet sitting on pillows holding the remote control with an arm in the candy jar as if they had spent the day snacking and watching TV.

I love that!

The work I do is about identifying talent and comparing it to a job’s needs. While I can’t measure that unique subtle thing, what I know for sure is that if someone’s talents match the needs of the job, they’ll be happy doing the job and those subtle somethings will come through automatically.  When we work in a job that needs what we have to offer we feel competent and that feeling of competence sets those unique and subtle talents free.

3 Questions you should be asking your candidate (that you probably aren’t)

It’s a candidate’s market. There are currently more open roles in the US than there are candidates to fill them.

As a hiring manager you’re likely only hearing about how quickly and how desperately your team needs the open role filled. Without someone in the position everyone is taking on more responsibilities, has more work to do, and less time to focus on the role they were hired to do. It’s taxing and takes a toll on efficiency, productivity, and morale.

Let’s be honest you just want a person to fill the hole.

It would be nice if they met all the requirements. It would be super if they got along with the rest of the team. It would be superb if they believed in the company’s vision, lived the values and were an engaged part of the culture. But you don’t have the time to find the perfect match.

Sound familiar?

Making a hiring decision too quickly has the potential to do more harm than good in the long run.  I’ve been assessing candidates for clients nationwide for over 20 years and can tell you that the companies that have a hiring process that they stick to are more likely to find the best match for their positions. Whatever your hiring process it should always include the same steps for every position. Each step needs to be taken by the appropriate level within the hiring authority of your organization. This means you don’t delegate the resume review to someone in a junior role when the candidate will be reporting to a manager.   

The first step in most companies’ hiring processes is often a phone screen. The following three questions will often give a lot of insight into the candidate and give the hiring manager enough information to decide whether to move the candidate to a face to face interview.    

  1. What’s the reason you left each job on your resume?  
    • Candidates are often overlooked because they’ve changed jobs too often.  This isn’t always a bad thing and asking that simple question will give the candidate a chance to tell you a lot about themselves.
  2. Why are you available (not employed somewhere else) right now?
    • The answer to this question will tell you a lot about what the candidate is looking for in their next job.
  3. Why do you want to work for us?
    • Has the candidate taken the time to learn about your company?

How the candidate answers those three questions will help you decide if you want to move them to the next phase of your hiring process.  That’s when I usually come in and assess the candidate utilizing powerful tools which identify the next level of questions to ask.

I was recently told by a client that I make them think about questions they would never think to ask. Part of my job is to hold my clients back a bit and make sure they know as much about who they’re hiring as possible.  Having clarity about the talent you bring into your organization is key in hiring the best talent match for the job while also ensuring that you have a happy and productive employee.

If you’d like help with additional questions or throughout the entire process of hiring a new employee, lets chat!