Latest "Front" Posts
How to Minimize Risk
What do you think about risk? Are you someone who secretly enjoys risk? Or do you play it safe?
I don’t think we can ever eliminate risk. But, when it comes to business processes, we certainly can and should take steps to minimize it. For how to minimize risk, read on.
During our recent Leaders Ought to Know webinar we briefly talked about team interviewing. We didn’t have time to explore the concept in depth; perhaps we can do so in a future webinar. But let’s consider why team interviewing can be such a useful technique.
There are three major approaches to interviewing potential candidates:
- The supervisor alone does the interviews.
- A group of people do the interviews individually.
- A team does the interviews.
Only the third approach is truly team-based. Why does this approach result in better hires?
What’s an Interviewing Rubric?
In our recent webinar on employee interviewing and selection I used a fancy word: rubric. Sometimes fancy words just serve to confuse, but that isn’t the case here. Rubrics can be extremely useful in the hiring process. If you’re not familiar with using rubrics, read on.
The word rubric comes from the Latin word for “red ocher,” the color of red pigment used to highlight headings in medieval manuscripts. That sense of the “red heading” evolved into a sense of the categories which those red headings described. In the 1970s, academics further evolved the word rubric to include a way to measure or rate different categories of things that were important. Thus the rubric became a tool for assessing a variety of categories, like the different elements that might be important when interviewing a job applicant.
One of my early career mentors called me this week. I hadn’t heard from George, now retired, in over a year, so I feared something was amiss. George was calling to tell me that a mutual colleague had passed away.
We were both saddened by the loss. Sue was a larger-than-life consultant, a real dynamo who didn’t let a little thing like cancer keep her down. Even though she was given only two months to live, she kept going for three years!
As people will do when receiving news like this, George and I started telling “Sue stories.”
A key aspect of the Leaders Ought To Know® initiative is the interaction that happens between participants. We have lively discussions when we get together for our biannual on-site retreats. But even on a weekly basis, the interaction using the Leaders Ought To Know® Learning System is excellent.
Recently I was doing an analysis of the interaction in the Discussion Forums between participants from one of our clients. I was particularly impressed by the postings of one specific individual. So as not to embarrass him, I’ll call him “Kyle.” Kyle’s comments were always insightful, not necessarily long or wordy, but always adding a helpful insight or perspective. Kyle weighed in on almost every topic open for discussion. He was very generous with his comments. And, on top of that, Kyle frequently responded to postings from his colleagues. He would reinforce what had been said by someone else or offer a different way of looking at things. Again and again, I found Kyle had been on a particular discussion thread, adding his helpful insights. In a six month period, Kyle had posted 182 comments in the Leaders Ought To Know® Learning System discussion forums.
Is Feedback Valuable?
When we were at our mid year retreat with the group that Kyle is a part of, I took him aside and asked him about his participation. His humility was refreshing. He said, “I try to use it every day,” but Kyle was surprised that his interaction was higher than anyone else in his group. He said he likes to use movie analogies to illustrate his points. But then he said something that surprised me. Kyle said he will write something and post it and then say, “Oh, that was stupid.” He admitted he has often wished he could “take it back.” I thought that was interesting because I had found almost every posting from Kyle to contain a gem. I told Kyle he should keep up the good work, and others in the group agreed: Kyle’s input was helpful.
The moral of Kyle’s story is simple: share your thoughts generously and give people the gift of your feedback. If you’re wondering, is my feedback valuable — what you have to say can help or encourage someone. But they won’t know it, unless you give it away. Kyle was lavish with his comments. Let’s all be more like Kyle.
The Merlin Exercise
During a recent Leaders Ought To Know® on-site retreat, one of the participants presented an excellent challenge. “How,” he asked, “Can management give some kind of arbitrary goal, such as increasing sales by 20% next year, without providing a roadmap to get there?”
Our participant is coming face-to-face with a fact of organizational change. Studies by Columbia University asked the question, “Which is more difficult? To articulate the desired future, or to describe the path to get there?” The answer, of course, as our friend instinctively knows, is that the path is much more challenging.
I once had a client who said, “I don’t care about process; I only care about results!” That is a fairly naive statement. As my partner Phil Van Hooser says, “That’s like saying I don’t care about chickens, I only care about eggs.” Specifying a goal without providing a roadmap to get there is based on similar naive thinking.
An automotive manufacturer client announced two years ago its intentions to grow its market share substantially by 2014. We immediately began asking about roadmaps: Would the number of dealerships be increased? Was the expectation that each dealership would be able to sell more cars? What was planned to reach these aggressive goals? Unfortunately there were no real answers and the manufacturer finds itself today in the unenviable position of having to revise its projections down significantly. And in a rather humiliatingly public way.
So how do we go about creating a roadmap? I use what I call the “Merlin Exercise.” Merlin, you’ll recall, was the legendary magician who helped King Arthur. In T. H. White’s book, The Once and Future King, Merlin was portrayed as moving backward through time. Merlin knew when King Arthur’s next attack would come — because he could remember the future — but he didn’t know what he had for breakfast because it hasn’t happened yet for him. The Merlin Exercise involves “remembering the future.”
Think about the goal that has been set. “Remember” when you got there, when you achieved the goal. Now think about what it would be like when you were “half way there.” Whatever the time frame, ask yourself what would be happening, what tasks would be completed, and what would be left to do. Now bring the time frame even closer, say, a quarter of the way there. Think about what people will be doing, what you’ll be seeing, how things will be going. Continue this process, bringing things closer to the present time. Soon you’ll recognize what needs to happen right away, what you need to do to get started.
I’ve found the Merlin Exercise to be a useful way to help with the challenging process of developing a roadmap to a goal. If you’d like to learn more, check out this video.
Practicing Leadership Daily
During our mid-year face-to-face retreat with Leaders Ought To Know® client Helena Chemical, we heard an interesting statement. We were asking the group what they thought about developing leadership skills. A person in sales management said something that was simple, but profound. He said, “The more you think about leadership, the more you find yourself practicing it daily.”
The comment is such a gem of truth that it is worth repeating. The more you think about something, the more you find yourself acting on it. In other words, the mental exercise of contemplating something, whether it is a particular leadership skill or anything else, energizes the actual results that you achieve.
This truth contains two learnings that are important.
In my last blog I told the story of my first mentor when I was a seventh grade kid in rural North Carolina. I didn’t find Barry Wheeler; he found me, and I’m grateful that he did. Since then I’ve come to understand the value of having a mentor, wherever I am in my career, and so I’ve made it my business to make sure there is someone in my life that I see as my mentor. Sometimes that person may know that I view them as a mentor; sometimes they may not. Whether the relationship with your mentor is formal or less so, the important thing is that you have one.
How to Start a Mentor Relationship
How does one go about finding and starting a mentor relationship? Perhaps these suggestions will help.
A recent article on mashable.com reminded me of the value of mentor relationships in our lives.
My first mentor was a fellow named Barry Wheeler. I was a seventh grader in Brasstown, North Carolina where there was no brass and no town. It was an isolated, rural community with a post office and a general store. Barry was a school teacher who taught special education students. From Barry Wheeler I learned why mentor relationships are so valuable.
How we’re perceived as professionals is a product of our choice, or lack there of, to build a reputation. If building a professional reputation is important to you, here are four ways you can do it.