Archive for July 2015

Use One-On-One Documentation For Performance Reviews

July 31, 2015

Regular one-on-one meetings with their direct reports is the most effective leadership tool available to leaders.  We recommend having these sessions at least bi-weekly and every week if possible.

 The leader should take careful notes during and after each session, including:

  • Did the direct report accomplish what they said they were going to?
  • What are they planning to accomplish by next meeting?
  • How did the direct report handle obstacles?
  • How are their development plans coming along?

If leaders have their one-on-one sessions documented, conducting performance reviews requires little preparation as most of the work is already done.  Simply review all the notes and discuss the outcomes with the direct report.  There should be no surprises and you’ll both benefit from a focus for the whole time period, not just the last few weeks each remembers.  Nothing new should be discussed.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate or formal; just a simple review of performance over a period of time.  We suggest leaders conduct these sessions quarterly and even annually in lieu of formal performance appraisals.

Leaders who empower their direct reports to meet with them regularly in one-on-one meetings, document the conversations, and use the documentation for performance reviews experience more success.

Administer Critical Thinking Assessments For All Positions

July 24, 2015

We’ve all experienced the frustrating food server who just doesn’t seem to get it.  No matter how they try, they have a hard time working through complex orders.  Conversely, hopefully you’ve had the pleasure of being waited on by the sharp, quick thinking server who finds creative solutions for the unexpected curve balls.

Critical thinking aptitude is important in all positions.  Unfortunately, many hiring managers do not bother assessing for critical thinking skills for lower level jobs.

A strong critical thinking aptitude may not be necessary to complete job functions and may not be a hiring criteria but that doesn’t mean hiring managers shouldn’t test candidates for it. Knowing the mental horsepower of every team member allows leaders to develop appropriate successions plans, assign workloads appropriately, and understand who may need extra challenges to remain engaged.

Empowered hiring managers assess the critical thinking skills for all roles and build stronger organizations.

Take A Chance To Let Direct Reports Grow

July 17, 2015

Most successful leaders can recall the specific point in their career when one of their bosses took a chance on them. The leader will typically credit this boss/mentor for having launched their career and greatly appreciated the chance to demonstrate their abilities.

It’s flabbergasting how many of these same leaders today are reluctant to take similar risks with their direct reports.  In all likelihood the boss who took a chance on them had some trepidations but realized they and the organization would be more successful by giving them a chance to grow. Sure some of these risks don’t pay off, but the learning experience still pays dividends.

Leaders don’t have to blindly empower their direct reports and hope they deliver. Establish borders and boundaries for the empowering task. Be clear about what success looks like and specify the available resources, restrictions, and timeframes.

Successful leaders might not be where they are today had their boss not taken a risk on them.

Leaders who empower direct reports will see more success for both themselves and their direct report (and someday the direct report will credit the leader for launching their career).

First Who, Then What

July 10, 2015

We have all known a leader who’s struggled trying to fill an open position because they wanted the perfect combination of hard skills and really weren’t persuaded by exceptional soft skills.  These leaders are holding out for a candidate’s work experience that includes a particular previous employer, or an unusual technical skill, or a certain project experience.

Surprisingly, when these same hiring managers are asked whether or not they would have been better off hiring a smart, energetic person to whom they could teach the hard skills, they answered “yes”  — especially when they’ve been waiting for those elusive hard skills for months.

To make matters worse, in almost every case in which a hiring manager was seduced by some particular hard skill for which they’ve hired, they fired for misaligned soft skills.  Rarely do we hear of someone being fired for not having a hard skill they professed to have.  Yet, how often have we heard someone fired for poor work ethic, no initiative, poor people skills, or they just don’t fit?

So why are hiring managers still so hung up on searching for candidates with ideal hard skills when they know most (not all) critical hard skills can be learned?  One reason is these leaders aren’t sure how to screen for those soft skills.  Another reason may be the IBM syndrome: the leader stands a better chance of being criticized for taking a risk on an unknown than for going with someone who has a “proven” track record.  The flaw in that reasoning is we don’t know if the candidate’s perceived success is due to their own skill, others on their team, the environment, or just a perception created by this candidate.

When hiring managers review candidates, they should challenge their bias towards hard skills and ask themselves what someone with good soft skills can learn.  One of Jim Collins’ most important leadership principles is “first who, then what.”

Empowered hiring managers focus on “who” and the successful “what” then comes.