The Sweet Spot: How to find it for yourself

The Sweet Spot: How to find it for yourself

Touring a garden recently with a master gardener (My Mom) and these words kept coming out of her mouth – they love it here. At the nursery last week, another seasoned gardener talked about healthy places for certain trees. Both of these experts taught me the same lesson, to always look for vibrant signs of health – growth, healthy color, and a full look. Life through the eyes of a gardener gave me a different view of the world around me.

It hit me that same view can be taken with people. That place where we are comfortable, happy, challenged, and energized is a great place to be. What words would you use to describe yourself in that spot?

  • Energized
  • Creative
  • Confident
  • Collaborative
  • Positive

This is our sweet spot. The ultimate trick is not knowing how to find this spot, but how to realize when we get there and how to return to it.

Some leaders can see it, just like the master gardeners can see when a plant is in the optimal spot for growth and performance. Most of us need help from people to tell us where that spot is, and maybe a little more help to stay on track making the moves necessary for all people on our team to be in their sweet spot. Imagine if we could coach our team so each individual knew where that spot was for themselves, and were driven to continually improve and increase their understanding of their own sweet spot?

Maturity is simply the knowledge to know where your spot is, the patience to work toward it, and the ability to make the shifts to perform at a high level even if you are not in the exact sweet spot. Mature does not equal old, it just means wise.

Leaders need to know their own sweet spot and surround themselves with people who can handle the critical work outside of that spot. Great leaders also know how to develop the wisdom in others to replicate that sweet spot for themselves at all levels of the organization. Imagine being surrounded by a dozen people who feel energized, creative, confident, collaborative, and positive? Even an amateur gardener like me could spot that team.

There is nothing better than to watch your kids, your friends, your team, or yourself perform in that sweet spot!

Anybody told you lately, “I can tell that you like it here…”? If not, it is time to get to work finding it.

Three great resources to help your thinking:

Master gardeners don’t just work with plants.

Lead well . . .

The talent shortage – and 4 tips for what you can do today

I saw an economist yesterday describe a perfect storm around talent with numbers.  These are for my immediate area:

  • Unemployment under 5.5%
  • Job listings outpacing job seekers
  • Flat wages for 3 straight years

The good news:

  • People are coming back into the workforce that were not in it a year ago
  • People are leaving organizations for new roles (see wages info above – seems to be the only way to get a raise)

So what does that all mean to you as an employer?

My observation – if you are not skilled at looking for talent, you will likely live into the headlines and feel the shortage.  Let me explain:

I do a couple of hiring projects a year for some of my partner organizations that are struggling finding people.  Here are the two things that I always see when I start a project.  (Always is a risky word – but these have been true for all of the roles I have helped with):

  • A posting that lacks a compelling reason to work for you.  Example:  I helped a charter school hire an HR leader.  They were struggling finding the right person and I noticed in their listing no mention of kids, the market they served (urban / high poverty), and their mission (every child deserves a quality education).  We made some of those critical changes, re-posted, and found a young and energetic candidate that was from the area and reflected the racial makeup of the district.  Recruiting is always a challenge – but step 1 is this simple.
  • A process that focuses on an external listing and does not leverage the greatest organizational sales team in the world – which is the people that come to work everyday.  LinkedIn is just another tool, but if it is used correctly it can be a way to leverage the networks some of your people have to get word out to their groups/networks to generate leads that helps you find people that might not be looking.  LinkedIn also gives candidates a way to rigorously check you out.  The question I got one time was “What if they ask a few ex-employees and they get scared away?”  My only thought is “What if they accept the job and get an earful at the next soccer game after it is too late?”

Here are four tips that build trust from Day 1:

  1. Spend time in the process.  Phone screen, initial in-person, 3-4 hours on-site, and a final conversation where they get to ask all the questions as you hand them an offer.  I use topgrading for all full interviews – no cat and mouse interviewing to test their skills at interviewing.  Candidate – You tell me your story that includes ups, downs, frustrations, and what your old bosses will tell me when I call them (and I will call all of them).  I don’t care if you were fired from a role, and it would be helpful to know why and what you learned from it.  My promise – Open access to anyone you want to talk to, plenty of time to ask questions, and  encouragement to contact anyone they know that is connected with the organization to vet what they are getting.  When candidates start commenting on how thorough your process is and how it stands out for them versus some of the other experiences they have had you know you are doing it well.
  2. As soon as there is personal contact – all communications happen with a phone call.  This  includes the “Sorry, we are not going to ask you back for a next round of interviews.  Do you have any questions for me about the process or feedback?”  There is always the time argument, especially the hiring managers.  I don’t argue, because the more people that think that the better chance I have of taking your best people.
  3. All of my time commitments are hit – no excuses.  Note to hiring managers – if you get busy and two weeks pass without you being active in your selection process you send a very strong message to candidates – my time is more important than yours and I will likely lead that way.  Most people will choose NOT to work for leaders like that, except the desperate ones.  If I commit to a call by Thursday, even if the process is going slow, I call Thursday.  I am amazed at the positive feedback from people for just using the manners I was taught as a child.
  4. The admin/receptionist is part of the interview – through observing and interacting.  I want to know how they treat people that they think are not part of the decision making process.  That is why they always come through the front door several times and I ask the admin to watch and give me their opinion.  This is the same reason senior leaders go to dinner with the CEO and spouses are included.  If the vibe from the spouse is not positive, then the candidate is not hired.

Here is a link to the role summary and focus sheet I use to either build or boil down a job description to something that can be used.  I also offer other templates around talent and performance if you are interested.

Talent is tight, and yet there are still things you can do to stand out because too many companies still don’t get it.

 

1 on 1’s – Do you ask this question?

Shortly after publishing my last trU Tips on doing effective One-on-Ones (read it here), I received a note from a leader I respect.  I have never worked with him, but every time we talk he asks me questions that make me think.  He is also very willing to try new things.  He is a very valuable part of my network.

Let me call this trU Tips 22.1. In addition to the two questions I recommend once you mastered the basic One-on-one conversation, a third question to ask is – What should I keep doing the same?

Remember the goal of a One-on-One is to build trust and focus by creating space for your people to talk about what they are getting done, where they need help, and get a sense for how they are performing vs the standards you have set for them.  The advanced questions are about getting feedback for you that will help you continuously refine your own effectiveness as a leader.  Think of these three questions:

  • What do I need to do more of?
  • What should I keep doing the same? (the new question)
  • What do I need to do less of?

If you ask these questions and log in the answers over a 3-6 month period, I guarantee it will give you the same results as a professionally administered 360 feedback tool.  In financial terms, the choice is listen for free or spend five figures having someone else listen for you.

I love my network – they make me better.  I am listening.

Talent Wars – How to not fight them

I am not much for going through walls, I usually look for a way around them.

It a recent study released by the Northern California Human Resource Association, the following statistics were shared:

93% believe there is now or will soon be a talent shortage
44% report full leadership support for the New Reality
78% said retention is a high priority this year

When I hear the words high priority this year, I automatically think initiative.  I can hear the front-line business leaders now – “HR wants us to do something new this year . . . “.

So a slew of new priorities and initiatives are happening to deal with the talent shortage and make retention a high priority.  We get in the talent wars because we join the same battle everyone else is fighting – post the job, recruit for the job, hope they can do the job, hope they stay, hope the skilled people mentor the new people effectively, and hope people tell us when they want to do more.  Here are some questions to help you think about how you are fighting this war:

  • Do you have a list of key jobs and are you adding names to it every couple months that you would hire today if you had an opening?
  • Is every candidate greeted by the nicest person in the company?
  • Do you allow yourself to smile during the interview?
  • Do you always respond to interviewees in a timely manner?
  • Do you(manager) send a present/personal note to people when they accept an offer?
  • Do you(manager) personally call people back when you want to have another interview with them?
  • Do you(manager) personally call people back after interviewing them and deciding not to continue the process with them?
  • Do you share with people as part of the interview how important this role is to the strategy of the team/organization and take five minutes to share with them why you love to work here?
  • Do you tell them the truth without prefacing it with “Let me be completely honest with you” or “I am going to be 100% truthful on this one”.
  • Do you(manager) map out a path to success for new people(onboarding) and spend extra time with them over the first 3-6 months?
  • When they say No to your offer do you(manager) personally call them to learn more about their Yes to someone else and No to you – then wish them great success. Do you then invite them to connect on LinkedIn so you can stay in touch?

Talent wars are real in areas where skills are scarce, but they are also about every employer being equal in the eyes of the people looking for work.

What if you were so good at telling your story and matching passions/talents with your needs that people could not imagine going anywhere else when you offered them a job?  What if your people were recruiting for you because they were so passionate about your organization?

Don’t have time to worry about these little things?  Wars are expensive, but good luck fighting it.

Personally, I would try and position myself so everyone else is fighting over the people I passed on.