Archive for August 2012

Take Time To Sharpen The Saw

August 31, 2012

Habit #7 in Steve Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is called “Sharpen the Saw.” Covey describes a woodcutter who is sawing for several days straight and is becoming less and less productive. Cutting dulls the blade and the solution is to sharpen the saw; however, the woodcutter is too busy cutting to take time out to sharpen his saw and is stuck in an unproductive cycle.

Many leaders believe taking time off or going on vacations sharpens the saw; this is putting the saw down not necessarily improving yourself.  Sharpening the saw requires an activity that is targeted at self improvement.  Here are some saw sharpening activities we’ve seen:

  • Embark on an extensive exercise program
  • Take a class (cooking, economics, leadership, etc)
  • Eat at least one healthy meal each day
  • Volunteer at church, Rotary, Lions or other industry committees
  • Meditate for ten minutes each day
  • Organize your work area
  • Read a literary classic

Let us know what have you done to sharpen your saw lately.  Empower yourself to take time for self improvement and you’ll be more successful cutting down your trees.

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Weigh The Steps In Your Selection Process

August 27, 2012

The U.S. Department of Labor stipulates that if hiring managers administer assessments to candidates, the results of the assessments cannot represent more than 33% of the decision to hire or not hire.  That means at least 67% of a hiring manager’s decision to hire or not hire must consist of other screening activities.  What are the activities in your screening process and how are they weighted?

Below are the steps and percentages we suggest our clients follow in their selection process:

  1. Phone screen (salary and basic skills fit) – 5%
  2. Core values email (values and writing skills fit) – 10%
  3. First interview (skills, experience, culture fit) – 20%
  4. Assessment results (personal skills, behaviors, culture, critical thinking fit) – 20%
  5. Reference checks (screening concerns addressed) – 10%
  6. Follow-up interviews (screening and reference concerns addressed) – 20%
  7. Handle selection process (project management skills demonstrated) – 15%

While being in legal compliance is important, the reality is there is a strong business case to have multiple steps in a selection process.  No assessment is 100% accurate because humans are more complex than any one, two, or three assessments; however they are a great basis from which to create exploratory conversations — with the candidate AND references.  It’s equally important to see how a candidate does moving through a process and not just in each specific step in the process.

Empower your hiring managers to consider many aspects when hiring and you’ll make more successful hires.

The Real Answer Comes From The Third Or Fourth Answer To The Question

August 17, 2012

We’ve all seen the heroic detective in the movies interrogate the lying criminal with deep questioning eventually getting them to admit the truth.  Psychologists have long recognized most “normal” people cannot effectively and consistently make-up details about past events on the fly and eventually tell the truth (psychotics are capable of imagining and recounting untrue facts while believing them).

You should use a similar approach to your interview questioning.  When preparing to interview your candidates (yes, you do need to do some pre-work if you expect a productive interview), plan three or four follow up questions to the initial question.

For example, while probing a candidate’s personal accountability you might plan to ask, “Tell me about a time when it was necessary to admit to others that you had made a mistake.”  Next follow up with questions like:

  • “Who was involved in the situation?”
  • “What did your boss do afterwards?”
  • “How long was it before you admitted the mistake?”
  • “What subsequent mistakes have you made and how have you handled them?”

Answering a series of questions becomes harder with each question and you’ll likely gain greater insights into the candidate with the follow-up questions.

Empower your hiring managers to dig deeper in their questioning and you’ll make more successful hires.

It’s Not Too Late To Introduce Success Factors To Your Direct Reports

August 11, 2012

When you’re finished changing, you’re finished. – Benjamin Franklin

Patrick Lencioni in Three Signs Of A Miserable Job says, “A job is bound to be miserable if it doesn’t involve measurement.”  Yet most jobs do not have defined success factors.

Just because your direct reports have been doing their jobs without defined measures and successes, doesn’t mean you can’t start now.  Change is good, and improving the way you hold your direct reports accountable, is good.

To get started, let your direct reports know you are going to introduce a tool to assist you in helping them gain clarity on their job.  Work with your direct report and others connected to the job to determine the important job accountabilities and measures.  Finalize the document and meet with your direct reports to let them know this is going to be their “scorecard” and you’ll be reviewing each success factor with them at least monthly.  The first couple of meetings might seem a little awkward but as you both understand the expectations, you’ll quickly become comfortable with the process.

Empower your direct reports with defined success measurements and you’ll both be more successful.

Are Employees Really Your Greatest Asset?

August 3, 2012

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.