Archive for June 2015

Critical Thinking Involves Many Different Thinking Skills

June 26, 2015

Critical thinking is more than using logic or problem solving.  The critical thinking tests many hiring managers use for selection and development measure how well an individual recognizes assumptions, evaluates arguments, and draws conclusions.

Recognizing assumptions includes reading between the lines, defining/redefining issues and exploring different points of view.  Evaluate arguments is the ability to evaluate arguments based on the strength of the evidence supporting them, as well as the ability to analyze them without allowing personal bias or emotions to influence the analysis.  Drawing conclusions is gathering, weighing, and assimilating information to form a sound conclusion.

Logic tells us an individual’s ability to draw the right conclusions may well depend on their ability to recognize assumptions and evaluate arguments well.  Both of those components rely on the ability for an individual to step away from their own train of thought or to develop the ability to look at things from other perspectives.

Improving their critical thinking skills allows direct reports to perform individually or as a team better.  Leaders should empower the success of their direct reports by encouraging development of critical thinking skills.

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

June 21, 2015

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).

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

For example, while probing a candidate’s personal accountability 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 the interviewer will likely gain greater insights into the candidate with the follow-up questions.

Empowered hiring managers dig deeper in their questioning and make more successful hires.

Beware Of The Impact Of Workplace Motivators On Teams

June 12, 2015

Most leaders are aware of the different behavioral styles people have at work and have taken measures to leverage those styles among their team.  Some conflict may arise when the deliberate, contemplative analyst works with the freewheeling, aggressive sales person; or when the rigid, critical quality manager works with the scattered, impatient marketing associate.  But most of these conflicts are manageable because the behaviors are observable and the co-workers can easily identify the cause of the discord.

It’s the conflicting workplace motivators or values causing deep disputes that can damage a team’s performance.  What happens when the caring, selfless HR Manager and the no-nonsense, bottom-line oriented Operations Manager disagree over a termination?  Or when the dogmatic, judgmental Buyer and the over-achieving, controlling Branch Manager oppose a new product line?  These disagreements often end in stalemates, irreconcilable impasses, and sometimes unjust or irreparable personal attacks.  The reason for these unhealthy clashes is that we often don’t understand and appreciate our internal motivations and those of our coworkers.

Leaders who empower their team to assess workplace motivators, share the findings, talk about the likely conflicts, and prepare for solutions before confrontations arise are successful even through the most difficult situations.

Follow Instincts When Deciding To Terminate A Poor Performer

June 5, 2015

Escalation of commitment is the tendency for people to continue to support previously unsuccessful endeavors. With all the talent decisions leaders make, it is inevitable that some poor decisions will be made. Of course, the logical thing to do in these instances is to change that decision or try to reverse it. However, sometimes leaders feel compelled not only to stick with their personal decision, but also to further invest in that decision because they have made a commitment; never is this more apparent than with a hiring decision gone bad.

If a leader’s instincts, observations, and development efforts to date clearly indicate they made a hiring mistake, fight the emotion to invest further time and energy in a direct report that is not going to work out.  Everyone makes a mistake, that’s how we learn.  The key is understanding the mistake, cutting losses, and fixing it.

Leaders who know they need to let go of a poor performing direct report should put together a specific 30-90 day performance plan and make sure the direct report understands they will be asked to leave if the plan is not achieved.  Leaders should hold them accountable to the performance plan and hold themselves accountable to following through on the dismissal, learn from their mistake, and move on.  Escalating the commitment and trying to make an unwilling or incompetent direct report better just makes the termination harder when they finally come to terms with it.

Empowered leaders overcome the natural tendency to unnecessarily work through a poor hire and their teams are more successful.