Archive for August 2010

Create An Empowering Environment To Keep And Motivate Your All-Stars

August 30, 2010

In a Wall Street Journal article on May 25, 2010, Joe Light wrote, “In February, the number of employees voluntarily quitting surpassed the number being fired or discharged for the first time since October 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Before February, the BLS had recorded more layoffs than resignations for 15 straight months, the first such streak since the bureau started tracking the data a decade ago.”

Leaders who have treated, or continue to treat, direct reports as though “they should be lucky they have jobs” are more likely to experience hearing “I quit” as the economy and the options improve.

Of course, the employees who are most likely to leave are the superstars, because they are most desired by other employers who promise to treat them like gold.

What’s important to understand is this isn’t all about money.  Have you been providing positive feedback and course corrections that allow your best direct reports to hone their skills and reach exceptional levels of performance?  Are you encouraging personal development plans and succession plans?  Are your goals aligned?  Even if there hasn’t been money to spend at review time, have you been providing candid, timely performance reviews?  And do you meet regularly with your superstars one-on-one to know what’s important to them, their success, and build a strong foundation for an on-going relationship?

Empower your direct reports for success to benefit them and your organization, as well.

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Hire For Hard Skills, Fire For Soft Skills

August 23, 2010

All too often leaders make hiring decisions based on a candidate’s hard skill set.  Hiring managers fall in love with the fact that a candidate possesses a hard to find technical skill and overlook other aspects of the candidate they may soon regret.

The fact of the matter is, most hires are made based on a candidate’s technical skills or experience and most terminations are for an employee’s lack of personal skills.  Your selection process should include an in depth evaluation of a candidate’s personal skills, at least including:

  • how they get along with others
  • personal accountability
  • results orientation
  • critical thinking
  • self management

Think about the hard skills that impressed you about a hire you made two years ago.  How important are those skills today?  Are the hard skills from two years ago more important today than personal accountability or critical thinking today?  When most leaders are asked if they would hire someone again given what they know today, the answer depends on the employee’s soft skills.

Empower your hiring managers to select for soft skills, and you’ll have fewer terminations.

Reference Checks Should Be More Than a Casual Activity

August 15, 2010

“Would you hire this person again?” is probably the most common and most useless question asked in reference checks.  Almost every time the question is answered in the affirmative and provides little insight into the candidate’s work history.  Most hiring managers have made their decision to hire a candidate before reference checks and, if they do references at all, do them casually.

In fact, references are an important step in the selection process and should be conducted with as much concern as interviews.  We recommend allotting 20 to 30 minutes for the reference check call and at least that much time preparing.  The questions asked of the reference should be behavior based and tied to some concern you might have about the candidate.

No candidate is perfect; your job as the hiring manager is to find the candidate’s weaknesses and determine whether or not you can accept them.  What better way to understand this than by asking someone close to the candidate about their observations?  For example, if you are concerned about a candidate’s ability to handle conflict, one of the questions we would ask would be:

“We want to make sure we position Joe for success and like all of us I’m sure Joe does some things better than others.  We’d like to get your observation of some situations in which you observed Joe at work.  Can you describe a situation in which Joe had conflicting opinions with a co-worker?  How did he react?  How did the situation turn out?”

Don’t be afraid to push for specifics and ask for other situations.  References want their associate to succeed and often freely recount situations that will help you position the candidate for success.  These same recollections often help you decide whether you want to hire the candidate or not.

Empower The Steering Of Your Ship

August 8, 2010
A recent article in Wired magazine shows pictures of cockpits of various high speed, high performance vehicles. It’s fascinating to see all the knobs and dials. What’s most interesting, was the the captain’s station of the Oasis of the Seas – the world’s longest cruise ship. The picture shows lots of displays and controls. In the article, the captain indicates the port and starboard command chairs have built-in joysticks for controlling the ship and are typically operated by other officers.

It turns out the captain’s job is not to steer the ship at all. How many times are leaders compared to ‘captains steering the ship’? How many times are CEOs of companies in trouble described as needing to “turn the ship around”? How many times are articles written about staff “going overboard after their captain”?. And now it turns out, that captains don’t steer ships at all. So what are they doing?

The captain’s job, according to the captain of the Oasis of the Seas is “mentoring and teaching”. He’s empowering the steering of the ship and coaches his staff to do it well. He manages the ship – he doesn’t actually do the work himself. That’s how to steer the longest cruise ship in the world – not by doing it yourself, but by empowerment.


Empower your direct reports to successfully steer your ship.
(Source: manager-tools.com)

Are Employees Really Our Greatest Asset?

August 2, 2010

Many, if not most organizations, promote their employees as being their “greatest asset.”  Unfortunately, most employees indicate they hardly feel like an asset, much less among the greatest assets of the company

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average employee stays at a company for 3.5 years and makes about $40,000 per year.  Therefore the average “employee asset” costs organizations just in wages $140,000.  How much effort do you invest in your employee assets as compared to your investments in other $140,000 assets?  Think about how much time you spend buying and maintaining your computer systems – how does that compare to the time you spend hiring and accelerating the performance of your direct reports?  Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you give your “greatest assets” daily, customized feedback?
  • Do you invest 30 minutes of uninterrupted one-on-one time weekly with your “greatest assets” talking about their issues?
  • Do you review your “greatest assets'” accomplishments, personal development, core value adherence, and future objectives at least quarterly?
  • Do your “greatest assets” have clear job accountabilities specifying key activities, time percentages, priorities, and success factors?
  • Do your “greatest assets” know what the organization’s goals are and do they have goals that are aligned to the organization’s?
  • Do your “greatest assets” continually work at developing to be a better person – physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually?
  • Do you have a succession plan for your “greatest assets” so they don’t feel trapped in their role?

Remember, unlike most assets on your balance sheet, these assets should appreciate over time so the investment you make in them should continue to net you great returns.  Invest in your greatest assets regularly and empower them so you’ll all be successful.