2 Warning Signs in Talent Selection

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One of the hardest areas in business to consistently get right is “picking winners.”  Great talent that makes an impact is a game changer for any business.  Of course, picking winners is easier said than done.

I’ve written on some recruiting challenges in the past….

The Talent Hunt:  Where’s the Will To Win?

Where Job Candidates Fail:  Articulating GBE

Talent Selection:  Skills or Values? 

Picking the winners is flat out hard, no matter how sophisticated the process.  Many people try different methods to increase their batting average:

  • Personality Profiles
  • “Case Study” Presentations – Give the candidate an assignment, have them present results to a panel
  • Extensive reference checking
  • Skill screening tests (especially for technical areas)

All methods provide insights/data points to increase the odds of success.  Unfortunately, I have yet to see a combination of methods that increases the odds over time.

However, I HAVE seen a couple of warning signs that DECREASE the odds of the candidates success:

  • A real hard charging focus on up-front salary negotiation  
  • A greater than “average” concern for a particular title, one that looks good on the resume’ or provides a degree of “prestige.”

Let’s take the first one, the hard charge towards maximizing the starting base salary.  I get it, I love the hustle, the ambition and the fight for what a candidate perceives to be their fair market “value.”  Salary is one of the most sensitive areas of business, it’s a black and white number that tends to be compared, analyzed and too much self worth wrapped up in that one number.  It’s one of the ultimate barometers of business.  There’s a problem however with the hard charging negotiation for candidates that have been extended an offer/invitation to join a company….

By definition, a job candidate that has been extended an offer has not accomplished one thing.  What they have demonstrated is an impressive showing BEFORE the bell rings.  

Their pitch on value is all related to potential, or their past track record.

Some level of negotiation could be considered “expected.”  However…

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see a candidate completely confident in their ability to produce great results and say “why don’t we go with YOUR number, than lets sit down in 90 days when you actually see me action?”  Do you think that candidate would stand out while simultaneously showing they are willing to let their performance do the talking? [Continue Reading…]

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The Growth Challenged Player: Warning Signs

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Most leaders like to talk about growth.  Few will do what’s necessary to make it more than a concept.

There are plenty of reasons for why businesses don’t grow:

  • Industry is flat to declining
  • Too many financial constraints (tight margins, leverage, lack of capital for investment)
  • Lack of talent
  • Competition is dominant

The list can be endless.  But at it’s core it is more basic than business constraints.

Growth begins and ends with INDIVIDUALS and their ability to grow themselves.  

This is ESPECIALLY the case if you happen to work in one of those “non-sexy” businesses that are tied to industries that measure growth in single digits vs double or triple digits.

For leaders wired for growth, there may be no MORE frustrating profile than people that are simply unable or unwilling to grow THEMSELVES.  If those people are in a key role, this can not persist for long or something will need to “give.”

Many people are not ready for dynamic growth.  Why?  It isn’t easy.  It creates CHANGE.  Some people flat out struggle with change.

There are clear warning signs for people that will struggle with a growth orientation.  One or two aren’t a problem, but if the person starts checking off multiple warning signs, leaders better be prepared to have a difficult conversation.

The “Growth Challenged” Warning Signs

If they are Growth Challenged…….they very well MAY:

  • LOVE their routine.  Same route to work.  Same activities.  Same check-list.  Same closing time.  Same starting time.  They value ROUTINE and the certainty it creates OVER the uncertainty of change.  Challenging routine is a no no.

  • Invest VERY LITTLE in themselves.  No books, newsletters, You Tube videos, courses, etc have been consumed and assimilated in MONTHS trying to take their game up a few notches.  Because that is a break from routine, or countless other excuses not to grow (no time, too busy, etc).

  • Never make noise.  Never involved in conflict that results from trying to push the envelope, get better, break things, bring people together and build a team.  Sometimes rumbles are good.

  • Always involved  in the same conversations, vs developing new ways to conquer new paths.

  • Stuck to old processes that worked in a stable world but add little value in a dynamic world.

  • Defensive when receiving feedback.  As if their purpose is to protect their own image vs. figuring out how to grow.

  • Never SEEK feedback.  Too risky, or why bother?

  • Don’t ask for help when they hit road-blocks.

  • New challenges always need to be handled by someone else…..

  • Cling to the past and may even question the fundamental premise of growth: “Is this even better?”

There are natural skeptics in the world, or people that like to play devil’s advocate with every new idea.  That doesn’t mean they are anti-growth.  These could be some of the greatest assets in building a growth mindset in companies.  That’s not what the growth challenged player is about…

Leaders need to understand if their players are capable and WILLING to grow.  

If there are multiple warning signs, they need to have a difficult conversation that makes the concern clearly known.  These are not conversations where you sugar coat.  If Growth is important and a key player exhibits anti growth tendencies (and multiple warning signs), they need to clearly understand this.

The leader has a choice if they do not want to confront the warning signs with the Anti-Growth Players:  Don’t confront it.  Continue to be frustrated.  Give yourself a nice little barrier on your marathon.  ANKLE WEIGHTS.

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Too Much? Over the Top & All In

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Questions are magic for jump starting the mind.

A great, yet simple question came from one of my colleagues in the context of  developing a series of ideas:

“Is it too much?”

Meaning, is it too much of a break from tradition, outside of our comfort zone and those that will be touched  by it?

I bet everyone asks themselves sub-consiounsly something along these lines when developing any NEW thinking.

It’s in part driven by fear.  Maybe fear of rejection, or fear of the blood/sweat/tears that may be associated with pulling the idea off.  Few things are easy.

How many great contributions are NOT brought forward in a business because people are holding back and thinking it may be too much?  Too many.  What a shame….

Maybe it’s too many because our education system does not value “playing loose” but insists on staying in line and talking only when your called on.  18 years of that model and you wouldn’t exactly be trained to push the envelope would you?  That’s a digression, but I’ve profiled some lessons from my son’s first grade class…

Leadership’s role is to inspire a culture where people disrupt the status quo and feeling trusting enough to do that.  Killing business as usual.  

Cultures that inspire fanaticism, breaking things and pushing the envelope may often be chaotic, and not everyone thrives in chaos.

What about the individual?

First, performance is rarely equally spread.

Show me any company and I will show you a “bell curve” of distribution among its talent.  There will be an 80/20 rule emerge where the few contribute out-sized results.

We can all wonder why this exists.

  • Natural Born Talent……they hit the genetic jackpot!
  • Education!
  • Great Mentors!
  • Luck!  Right place, right time!
  • Out-sized achievements that were parlayed time and time again….

How about this for a hypothesis?

The people  that tend  to be the top 10% of any business come in all shapes and flavors.  But they tend have one thing in common:  They believe that nothing is too much.  They tend to go over the top.  They go all in, not just enough, in every area that matters.  

All in

Pick any area of the operation that matters, and I bet you will see something emerge with the stars.  Everything about them, when compared to the “average” will be considered TOO MUCH, especially in the eyes of the average.

There’s a great  law of statistics that is worth understanding:

Correlation does not imply causation.

Just because two things are related, does not mean one drives the other.  BUT, when 2 variables move in the same direction……you are in the area of needing to poke around and learn more.  You are getting warmer.

And maybe the most important question of all?  

If you have a burning desire to achieve something, ask yourself:

Am I ALL IN?  

If your being honest with yourself and the answer is not an emphatic HELL YES!, CONGRATS!  You have just walked up to the starting line.

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Kill the Energy Vampires!

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A friend of mine reccomended a great read:

The Energy Bus

Some books focus on “break-through research,” while others focus on common sense principles.  This one is that later.

One particular rule (out of 10) that resonated?  Rule #6:

“Post a Sign that says: No Energy Vampires Allowed!”

Business (and in some cases life) is difficult enough.  Attitude is life’s most significant choices, not traits.  Positive attitudes fuel energy, negative attitudes deplete it.

Negative Attitude = Negative Energy. 

  • There are people in your life, your business, your community that simply DRIVE you to step it up.  And there are people that are flat out toxic to your present or future.
  • Knowing the Energy Fillers tends to be easy.  However, sometimes we refuse to acknowledge that others can be depleting our energy, or at worst, TOXIC.

Achieving great things in business and in life is not easy, or everyone would do it.  

Having the discipline and courage to Kill your energy Vampires is like taking off 15lb ankle weights prior to running a marathon.  If you do, you will finish faster.  Check that, you WILL finish.  

Would it not be devastating to  train for a marathon and not finish, simply because you chose to wear ankle weights?

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The Brutal Reality of The Truth: Unavoidable.

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“You Can’t Handle The Truth!”

One of the great 3 minute segments of cinema history.  Can’t beat Jack!

Delivering the Truth can be brutal, harmful to one’s ego and self esteem.  But it is a leaders obligation to shoot straight with people.  

Jack Welch refers to it as “Candor.”

My previous company had a different spin on Candor:  “Candor Done Right.”  

The “Right” part was the critical piece.  Shoot straight, but don’t be a jerk about it.  It is a skill indeed.

What’s missing from the workplace however is not the “done right” part, it’s the lack of Candor to begin with.

  • Performance issues

  • Attitude problems

  • Missing deadlines

  • Not doing what they say they will do

  • Not having an edge, when an edge is needed.

All require Candor.  Straight Talk.  Telling it like it is.

If you have to chose between shooting straight with someone (and risk hurting their feelings) vs. avoiding a difficult conversation, SHOOT STRAIGHT.  Failing to do so is more cruel to the person than confronting issues head on.  

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Your Hustle Tank is on “E”? Now What?

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Hustle Tank on E

A recent post discussed the career dangers that result in a Hustle Tank on “E.”  The purpose was just to raise awareness that if you find yourself there for an extended period, you are in a REAL AND PRESENT career danger zone.

Than someone dropped me a line and said, “I’m there, any advice to get out of it?”  I always appreciate readers engaging, and this is not an easy question!

So here are some thought on how to attack a Hustle Tank on “E.”

First, let me assume (could be dangerous) that things in one’s personal life are relatively stable and not in a state of turmoil.

Everyone has challenges beyond work, but let’s assume those challenges are not EXTRAordinary.

Step # 1

1)  Analyze Your EXISTING Daily Routine:  How you use your time can be a major contributor to a tank on E.

  • How much “dead” or wasted time are you spending per day?  (Take a look at your TV habits for a starting point)
  • Are you working out?
  • Are you reading new things?
  • Having conversations with trusted people?  Old Friends?  New contacts?  There’s a coffeehouse on every corner, use it.

Key Point:  Getting your tank beyond “E” will likely involve utilizing your time in a very different way.  Start small, 20 minutes a day with something different.  Write it down, whatever that new activity is, each day.  Nothing fancy, a cocktail napkin works.  But do SOMETHING different each and every day.

What “bigger chunks of time” or new experiences are you consistently engaging in?

  • Service to others?  Non Profit service is a great way to charge your batteries and get the attention off yourself and onto others
  • New “side projects?”  Start yourself a blog, new hobby, a free on-line course from Wharton or a bunch of other elite institutions, etc

This one is harder to do daily, so you may want to think of this as a WEEKLY activity or bi-weekly.

2)  Get a Plan Quickly And Approach Your Employer

  • Nothing infuriates an employer more than someone that is clearly on “E” and doesn’t seem to care.  If your in this situation you need to deal with it head on and start sitting with your management.  The more well thought out your meeting the better.  More solutions you bring to the table the better.
  • The point is to not let “E” be long term, it will diminish your reputation, get on top of the situation and confront it.

There is risk involved with sitting down with your employer and telling them “I’m burnt out!”  Many people don’t want to approach it for fear of losing their job.  Maybe the emergency funds are not built up?  Maybe the confidence is low?  There could be a hundred reasons why people avoid the conversation.

Balance the risk of “looking the other way/ignoring the problem” vs. confronting the reality head on and a being in the room while the problem gets discussed and worked.

I’ve never met a high achiever that prefers to let OTHERS make a decision (especially negative ones) behind close doors vs. having a seat at the table.

There is one obvious solution I’m leaving out:

Expand your options, find alternatives.  Translation?  Find another job.  That is intentional.  Most people don’t analyze the root cause of what gets them on “E.”  Or some do, but they never confront the situation with their Employer, for whatever reason.  Lets say you jump to a search and find another job, great, Congrats!  How long will it be before that tank finds itself on “E” again?  The answer is not “IF”, it’s “WHEN.”  What’s the solution going to be then?

Working towards Excellence is not an easy road.

Business is a CONTACT SPORT.  There’s no shame in having your Hustle tank fall to “E.”  The only shame is not figuring out why, than developing an action plan to fix it.

Good luck, and I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts on how you refill an empty tank….drop a comment below!

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Advice: Not All is Created Equal, so Use The ENERGY TEST!

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There are some realities in life I refer to as “Brutal.”  You may not like them, but they are true.  One of them that always seems to ring true is that of the….

They are close cousins.  Most people won’t dispute that there is not a “normal” distribution of anything.  Very few things are created equal.  Just look at the nation’s wealth where it is concentrated among a very small % of people.  Or influence.  Or “problems.”

These principles can also be applied to your career development.  Take one simple aspect of self improvement:

ADVICE.  Who you seek it from?  Who influences you to improve (or not)?

Personal growth is certainly about learning from others, their experiences both good and bad.

There’s an interesting thing that must be recognized when it comes to advice.  NOT ALL ADVICE IS CREATED equal.

  • Some advice needs to be filtered.
  • Some advice needs to be given more weight to tip the scales and move to ACTION.  And you need to do this YESTERDAY.
  • Some advice needs to be appreciated, but flat out ignored.
  • Some advice is game-changing.  Act on it and you will accelerate.  FAST.
  • Some advice is poison.  It will slow you down at best, maybe even help you self-destruct at worse.

So what do you do when being given Advice?[Continue Reading…]

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The Crazy One’s: “Retail Negotiating”

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This picture seems innocent enough right?  A customer (who is also a colleague of mine) contemplating their order at the Golden Arches.

While working the graveyard shift (2:30pm – 5am) we made an 11pm run to Dunkin Donuts and Mcd’s to keep the troops fueled, productive and a very small thank you.

Negotiating at Mcd's

This is a fun little drill I subject select people too…..

“Retail Negotiating:”

Trying to get a deal for basic things, where deals are never cut.  It will drive 99% of the population crazy, and create a fair amount of embarrassment.  

And of course, I love it.  

Your looking to engage.  And Score.  And make a little life moment.  

  • A free donut.
  • A cheaper price on the $ menu.
  • Throw in something extra.
  • See what your server is made out of.

Here’s the Negotiating Drill in action:

  • $80 of Mcd’s is a ton of food.  What’s the average ring, $7?  Time to have some fun.
  • Shouldn’t they give us 4 large cups of ice for free?
  • Shouldn’t they throw in apple pies for free?
  • Wouldn’t walking away with just our $80 purchase put us in the rest of the 99% of America, the sane?

I put my colleague to the task, providing nice “encouragement” while she assessed me as borderline pathological.  But she was game to try….and here’s what we learned.

  • She needed to pull out her Spanish on the manager.
  • She also found out they do $10k in revenue per day, a number I would not have guessed (and I’m skeptical of).  And we were the largest sale of the day.
  • She got 4 extra large cups of ice thrown in for free.  And about 5 free apple pies.  But this was after being told we would be charged for the Ice.

To borrow an expression from the New School? BOOM!  She got something done.  We laughed.  We learned a couple of things we didn’t know.  

  • Dunkin Donuts was tougher.  Elmo was our server, and how can you not like a server named Elmo?  He said he’d lose his job.  I told him our people are working with heavy machinery and the caffeine he’s providing is an enormous safety issue, he won’t lose his job.  He laughed to himself.  He thought we were crazy.  He may be right.
  • We worked hard to get 4 coffee rolls put into our 2 dozen donuts without paying the incremental charge.  Maybe a $.75 win.  But a win nonetheless.

These are fun little moments in life.  Chances to interact with people and push them out of their comfort zone.  

Little moments make days stand out, for the negotiatOR and the negotiatEE.  

Opportunities are everywhere to learn something.  To make an impact.  To attack life with energy.  And maybe…. create a few smiles along the way.  

Hustle knows no off days.

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The Teamwork $ Test

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One of the big difference makers in business rests in the power of effective teams working together to solve problems.  The old adage matters:

2 Heads are Better Than 1!

But encouraging teamwork, group problem solving, brainstorming or any other activity where people are supposed to work together is fraught with challenges.  A few come to mind:

  • LISTENING:  Lets face it, listening is a skill, and not many people rank high on this one….

  • Ego: Even for good listeners, sometimes ego gets in the way of hearing what others have to say, that it has real value

  • Change:  Maybe collaboration has never been pushed before?  What are the ground rules?  How do we all behave?

Sometimes there’s no better way to advocate change than to PROVE that the change creates a clear better outcome, that can be quantified.  

In the area of teamwork, here’s a little test to try:

  1. Find a business issue that needs to be tackled, that creates a specific $ result.  Examples:  Purchasing, sales growth, supplies, capital spending, training.

  2. Identify a group of people that could form a diversified/cross-functional team to solve it.

  3. Ask them each as individuals to spend SOME time (maybe 1-2 hours) coming up with their plan and $ outcome.  Tell them to write it down, but it won’t be shared.

  4. Bring the team together and discuss the same issue.  Pick someone that knows how to facilitate the discussion, get all thoughts on the white board, don’t analyze as you go, save that for the end.

  5. Solve the problem with the group.

The team $ outcome by definition should be greater than the average of the individual outcomes.  If they are not, than something was not facilitated properly, or people with the higher outcome did not make their case effectively.  Or the solution was not universally accepted as feasible.

The point is this:

If you want Teamwork, prove that teamwork creates better outcomes.  And when you do solve a problem with effective teamwork, celebrate the achievement.  

 

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A Leader’s Obligation: Deal With Your Employees Mental Freight Train

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One of the more anxious events in someone’s career is enduring a change of control & leadership transition.  People’s fears tend to go sky high when a new Leader takes over, with many thoughts along the lines of:

  • Will I lose my job?

  • Will they bring their own team in?

  • Will they change everything about how I do my job?

  • Will my pay/benefits be cut?

  • Will my quality of life go down/up/sideways?

It’s natural for people to let their mind race, and it may be racing in “packs” as they talk with their co-workers and supervisors.

Change is mandatory in business, but it needs to be managed aggressively.  An employee’s mind can be like a freight train when it starts to run.  A leaders role (and in my opinion, OBLIGATION) is to NOT allow it to become a freight train if it heads in the wrong direction.  It is the leader’s role to tell them….

  • What their leadership principles are (how they manage)

  • What a vision for the future could be.  Make it a better tomorrow than today

  • Start ACTING in accordance with both who you ARE and where you want to GO.  

Last, a novel concept:

Catch people doing something RIGHT.  Not wrong.  Call them in.  Celebrate it.  Make it a habit to recognize the productive behavior.  

Another reason why leaders should do this?  It feels pretty darn good for all those involved.

Recognition injects Oxygen into a culture, something a business can never have too much of.

Catch them doing something right

The Great Production Team of LM Foods, LLC, Celebrating An Everyday Positive Moment

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