They asked: Hi Po selection, Hiring the right people, Succession Planning

For my blog readers – this is a second post inspired by questions received from HR leaders that I talked with yesterday.  It was great to see a packed lunch meeting with 100 busy HR leaders taking time to talk and go through my Talent Scorecard.  Great questions, and I was happy to get my development plan template in the hands of so many HR leaders who can hopefully use it to impact their people.  

I will start back with more normal posts next week – 150 to 300 words.  Also, I apologize for any spelling /grammar issues.  I work hard to scrub a normal post, but at 1000 words the editing to perfection is not a battle I will fight.  Remember that trUe conversations are not always done in perfect english. 🙂

How do you effectively identify high potential employees based on data rather than who the manager likes?

I am guessing this comes from a negative experience trying to convince a group of leaders that they were wrong. 🙂  First of all, HR has to argue enough with business leaders about things like compensation that do not make this conversation an argument, but make it a collaboration.  Here are a few tips to make it happen.

  • Start the process with this question:  What do we look for in a successful leader here? (Hi Pots by definition are people destined for a significant leadership role – 2 moves up in a larger organization).  Take the list and prioritize it to a top 5 critieria.
  • Insert into the conversation the definition of learning agility from the book The Leadership Machine (by Lominger).  Use that description to help the group make sure the pieces of that definition are captured in your criteria.  (I am assuming you are using a 9 box of some sort somewhere in your process)
  • Make sure there is a section called Accomplishments as part of the Talent Profile you are creating for each candidate.
  • Have the discussion and air disagreements and capture(write it down) any concerns or questions people have about this person.
  • Action Plans / Next Steps should include having leaders questioning the inclusion find an opportunity to work more closely with this person and for the leader supporting them to find ways to showcase this person’s skills in projects, presentations, etc.

I have a post talking about how developing people is like cooking in a crockpot.  Here is the link.  Do not try and microwave this process and feel like ALL the answers have to be clear at the end of the process. 

Other than personal referrals, what have you found to be the most effective way(s) of determining those who will end up being high quality employees?

This is a big one, and there are endless vendors out there ready to sell you their silver bullet solution to this problem.  My favorite solution is outlined in TopGrading, but know that it is not an easy implementation.  It will be a live long skill(that will be marketable and useful) once you master it.  I have worked/networked with lots of startup/early growth companies and here are a few tips based on what they say made a difference and a few hints from me.

  • Divide interviewing into Skills/Experience to do the job and cultural fit for your organization.  Spend some time defining your culture (values, beliefs, mission) and be purposeful about evaluating people based on that.
  • Find ways to work with people first – via contracts, projects, including a ride along with someone as part of an interview, or maybe even giving them a real problem to solve during an interview.  Too many people think interviewing starts with the posting on monster or has to be confined to questions in a room. 
  • Do a 30 day, 90 day, and 6 month review of hires to determine “Good Choice?  Bad Choice? What did we learn?  How do we apply the learning?”  Over time this will make your process better.
  • In hiring decisions center the discussion around answering three questions:  Are the willing?  Are they able?  Are the manageable?
  • Give it time.  If you only have 30 minutes to interview a hire you will likely get a 30 minute hire.  If that is good enough for the leader then move on to a manager/leader who cares.  (sorry that was a bit blunt, but there is no other way to say it.)

If we are not able to have a formal succession planning system can you please provide some other ways and/or tools that we can informally work through this with leaders we support within our organization?  Thank you!

I left the Thank you in your question because I wondered if it would still be there after I gave my answer.  🙂  My answer is No, not yet.  I say this because Succession Planning is such a big topic and really the culmination of doing the basics of Talent Management well that if it is too hard, the reasons are you are not doing the basics well and the relationships within the leadership team are probably not trusting enough to make it work anyway.  The number one barrier to this happening well at the leadership level is ego.

I do have a couple of bits of advice that hit me as I talked with the 100+ HR leaders yesterday.  Stop calling it succession planning and use the terms Most Valuable People and Most Critical Roles to identify your efforts.  I did that in my Talent Scorecard because I wanted to communicate it in more ‘non HR’ language.  Leaders might balk at the ‘valuable’ or ‘critical’ labels because they will exclude people.  This process is meant to focus scarce resources (time, money) on the most critical areas(roles) and most valuable resources(best people) in the business.  I guess the question is whether the leader proposes spending a little bit on everyone?  Another thought is “Do we want our talent management efforts to resemble socialism or capitalism?  On second thought, better hold that one back unless you want a real ideological argument.  🙂  I commit to trU Tips #18 to focus on that, so sign-up for trU Tips  and I commit to addressing this for you and others that are asking the same questions. 

In the meantime, the basics I reference are already out there on my resource page.  Check it out.

If you want clarification on any of this feel free to post a question on this blog and I will gladly do my best to answer it.

3 Things Leaders Should Ask For More Of In 2012

I love the holidays because of the conversations that I have been a part of and the themes that come out as people reflect on the year.  Based on some of the things I am hearing, here are a few themes that have stood out for me as people I met reflected on work/life.  These are ideas for leaders to help make the lives of their people/teams better in 2012.

1. More Networking: I had 3 conversations with leaders/followers in very different employment situations, and yet they had one thing in common.  None of them did any purposeful networking.  When I mentioned LinkedIn to them, they all gave various answers of I am not looking for a job or I am happy where I am.  Let me yell two things from the rooftop right now:

  • Networking is not about finding a job – it is about getting smarter and helping others get smarter.
  • If you are not networking outside of your zip code regularly you are on the road to be marginalized (or you are already there).

What this might look like for a leader:

  • Encourage everyone on your team to develop a LinkedIn profile and join two professional groups.
  • Add a question to the beginning of every big decision that is What does your network say?. Whether it is buying software, looking for a great business book to read, or just finding a 10 minute energizer for your next sales meeting – mine for different ideas or different approaches.

2.  More of doing something besides your job: Efficiency for organizations has become a way of life, and it is time to recognize formally that everyone needs some of what I call Google-Time.  It is a reference to Google’s famous practice of spending a certain amount of time working on new ideas that have nothing to do with your job.  The message we send when we give people space is that “I care about you.”  I define Google-Time as work that re-energizes your body, your work, and our organization.

What this might look like for a leader:

  • In your one on ones, tell everyone on your team that you want to give them 8 hours a month to do whatever they want, and there are only 2 guidelines:
    • 4 hours must be spent working with someone on business renewal  – fixing something, reinventing something, rethinking/changing something.
    • 4 hours must be spent on personal renewal, maybe something you stopped doing because of work –   time with family, lunch with friends, exercise, sleep.
  • Ask for an update every month on where there Google-time was spent and what difference it made for them?
  • Don’t critique, just encourage.

3.  More feedback on how I am doing: I do lots of team development, and the topic of trust is always a big one.  One measure I give to leaders is How often do people disagree with your ideas? and How often do they change your mind?. I added the second question because I personally became tired of hearing the answer “Everyone argues with me” from leaders that I knew were feared.  The second question created discomfort for them, and led to richer conversations.

What this might look like for a leader:

  • In your monthly one on ones, add a 2 minute section around What are you hearing that I should know? or Of all the decisions we are facing (or I have made) – which one do you disagree with or have strong feelings about?
  • Listen (or be patient when this flops in Month 1 and 2, some people might be reluctant to share)
  • Make sure you emphasize with them that, as a leader, you often find things moving so fast and decisions being made quickly, so you appreciate it when people slow you down to re-think things every now and then.
  • Thank people for ideas / input – then do something with it.

Final direction – just pick one of these ideas to do. Remember most of your team is already trying to eat less, excercise more, pay off their credit cards, or just trying to deal with the general winter lack of sunlight.  Done for 3-6 months any one of these will make a difference.

trU Tips #16a – One on Ones and Leadership

Since you are my faithful readers that want to engage with me daily/weekly to talk about leadership – both of groups and self, with a splash of developing culture in organizations, I thought I would add some thoughts that did not make it past the 430 word trU Tip limit. (here is a link to trU Tip 16 if you missed it).

There are three things that are critical to making a One on One really work:

1. What is my job?  I am still surprised how hard it is for people to define this.  The list is either really long and detailed, or so generic that it would be impossible to use to recruit a new candidate or help with guidance/accountability for anyone in their job.  My goal over the next couple months is to create a tool to help people do this – – – if you have any input or want to help let me know.  I think it could be very cool, but maybe a bit scary to unleash a bunch of people with a clear sense of purpose or asking for just a little leadership from their manager.  More to come . . . .

2. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER Reschedule:  This might be impossible, but can we all agree on one thing – it is important that people Trust you as their leader, right?  In Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust, he makes the point that People judge themselves based on their intent, and judge others based on their actions. 

Here is a scenerio:  Leader tells everyone in a staff meeting how important they are and he/she will start doing one on ones to make sure they are getting support they need and any issues/changes that are happening get clarified quickly.  In first six meetings, three get cancelled.  Leader thinks:  We are doing one on ones just like the book!  I really care about my people.  People think:  He/She said it was important, but must not think it is that important.  Just another example of . . . . .   

3.  Make it a Followership tool:  Remember the ownership of this conversation rests with the individual, not the leader.  The leader’s job is to:  1) Show up  2) Follow-up (on commitments) 3) NOT Gobble up time (ie.  show some restraint from making their agenda the most important.

Recently I was talking to a leader that was kicking off an organization wide effort to help managers become coaches for their people.  The barrier I saw – they had no habit around one on ones and generally people did not have enough clarity in their roles to ask for help.  If they had this form/habit, their vision has a chance to be real.  Without this form/habit, it will be still be great training, but as for the ROI . . .

If you were going to add one thing to my list or one piece to my one on one form what would it be?

My Top Shelf – Books that I love

Everyone should have a top shelf – the one you share with people at work when they ask for a reading recommendation.  A few caveats on my list:

  1. I generally only recommend books <200 pages, with a few exceptions.  (I favor authors who have mastered clarity, passion, and brevity)
  2. These are around business and/or personal development books.
  3. I will explain any selection, but not apologize or argue about it.  It is my shelf – so build your own if you disagree. 🙂
  4. I do not loan these out, but will often buy people a copy.  They are marked up and I would hate to lose them.

It has expanded over the years, but my general rule is that the number has to be limited.  Now to add one I have to take one off.  I had a shelf with about 8 books for many years, then I got a bigger shelf. 

Here is my top shelf:

(they are in no particular order – but left to right in the picture)

  1. The Mindful Coach – Doug Silsbee
  2. Co-Active Coaching – Whitworth/Kimsey-House, Sandahl
  3. Sway – Ori/Ram Brafman
  4. Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
  5. All Things New, A Fable of Renewal – Rodger Price
  6. Confessions of a Public Speaker – Scott Berkun
  7. Good to Great – Jim Collins
  8. First, Break all the Rules – Marcus Buckingham/Curt Coffman
  9. Fierce Conversations – Susan Scott
  10. Linchpin – Seth Godin
  11. Strengthsfinder 2.0 – Tom Rath
  12. How Full is Your Bucket – Tom Rath/Don Clifton
  13. Mastering the Rockefeller Habits – Verne Harnish
  14. Drive – Daniel Pink
  15. One Minute Manager – Ken Blanchard/Spencer Johnson
  16. For Men Only – Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn
  17. Mastery – George Leonard
  18. Let Your Life Speak – Parker Palmer
  19. Rework – Jason Fried/David Heinemeier Hansson
  20. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Patrick Lencioni
  21. Death By Meeting – Patrick Lencioni
  22. The Will of God As A Way of Life – Gerald Sittser
  23. Season of Life – Jeffrey Marx
  24. The Servant – James Hunter
  25. Who Moved My Cheese – Spencer Johnson
  26. Into The Wild – Jon Krakauer
  27. HalfTime – Bob Buford
  28. Tribes – Seth Godin
  29. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
  30. Jonathan Livingston Seagull – Richard Bach
  31. Do the Work – Steve Pressfield

Some are great books, and some have achieved significance for other reasons.  In the end, I will recommend other books on occassion, but I love these selections.  In addition, I also have 2-3 Harvard Business Review articles I love for people not having time to read.

Looking for a good question to ask your new leader?  What two books stand out in your mind as great?  (might be a good idea to read them – it will often explain how they think and what they value)

Submit a question to this posting if you want a more detailed explanation on any of these selections.

A tool to help leaders listen

After my most recent post a colleague asked me “Do you have a tool for helping leaders to listen?”  I did not then, but 24 hours later here it is.  As with anything I load up on my website, you can have it if you use it, improve on it, and share it back.

The primary listening tool for leaders is the one on one TIME with your people.  If you have 10+ direct reports you might want to modify this for a team setting. (I would be happy to help with that)

First, remember what people need from you.  Ken Blanchard said “Leadership is an influence process.  It is about working with people to accomplish their goals and the goals of the organization.”  Listening is about making what the organization (ie. YOU) needs very clear and providing space for them to tell you what they need.  My one caveat is that this form assumes you have already had some sort of discussion around development with them. (here is a link to those templates – posted last month)

Here is a link to the form and four MUSTS for using it:

  1. The individual owns updating it and sharing a copy with the leader.
  2. The leader owns the effort to help define the core job duties, being clear about when they need a call on things, and showing up for the time. (ie.  make it a priority)
  3. Keep the time focused on celebrating greens or completes and hearing/devising plans to make reds turn yellow or green.
  4. Limit time to 15-30 minutes, and it can be done on the phone if needed – but if possible work in face time (even if it is Skype).

If you do not have a habit like this listening is extra hard, if not impossible. 

If you are wondering how the One on One fits into everything else you are asked to do as a leader around managing your people, I created a talent scorecard for leaders to get a free assessment of their habits and some feedback.  Here is a link.

Lead well!

How long do you listen?

I make it a habit of spending time with people smarter than I am.  This past year I went to see a neuropsychologist named Tim Royer talk and within a few seconds I knew I was in the right place. 🙂

He shared a startling fact:  On average, doctors diagnosing a brain disorder (ADD, ADHD, Depression, etc.) spent just under 7 minutes with their patients before making the diagnosis?

Really?  I was actually relieved because the other statistic I knew from a study was that when you visit the doctor’s they spend an average of 23 seconds listening before making a diagnosis. 

Good news:  The brain is complex so physicians spend more time (maybe 18x) before diagnosing you. (assuming the 7 minutes is spent listening, questioning, and observing)

Bad news:  Is that really enough?  For an organ that has 10,000 miles of neurons, 20 terrabytes of storage, and consumes 80% of the energy your body produces – is 7 minutes long enough?

People are complex.  Teams are complex.  How much time do you spend listening or trying to understand peers?  Your leader? People on your team?

Activity:  At your next staff meeting or one on one – Keep track of the following things: 

Number of questions you ask vs # of times you tell people something 

Time spent listening vs time spent  time talking (fyi:  doodling or answering texts is not actively listening)  

What does it tell you?

3 Habits To Help Great Leaders Be Good Managers

Managing is about being face to face with people and helping them work through the steps to success.  Great leadership is often draped in words like vision, inspiration, and determination.  But even great leaders have to put on the manager hat and address the needs of their direct staff.  Here are three habits that will make that happen.

1.  Get to know your people:  Building trust starts with knowing someone.  When I walk into start-up companies it is common for people to hire friends and family first.  They do that because the relationship is there, and with relationships comes speed in decision making and patience with stress behaviors/poor decisions.  One tool I use with all clients is what I call a Team Member Fact Sheet.  Use this in your onboarding process(after you hire) to get to know your people and for them to get to know you. 

2. Commit to regular/uninterrupted One on One Time:  At least monthly you should be sitting down with every direct report and checking in.  30 minutes is ideal, but 15 minutes is acceptable.  Two key things about these meetings.  First, you do not allow interruptions.  Show them your commitment by delaying calls from anyone (including spouse and CEO).  Secondly, give the agenda to them.  I will be publishing a template later this month to enable this, but this being their time is key.

3.  Memorize these questions: What do you need from me?  Outside of this task list, what other significant things are happening for you?  The focus of one on ones from a manager perspective is in the first question.  If the tasks are well defined and the success measures are in place the celebrations (getting things done) or problem solving (getting stuck/behind) will happen.  I NEED are two very powerful words for followers to say, and very difficult because too often NEED = WEAKNESS in the minds of people.  The second question allows you to learn what is happening outside of work.  Don’t be surprised if they start asking you this question.

Robert Hurley shared 5 principles leaders can adopt to demonstrate trustworthiness and increase trust across their organizations.  Here is the full post, but the 5 points were:

  • Show that your interests are the same.
  • Demonstrate concern for others
  • Deliver on your promises
  • Be consistent and honest
  • Communicate frequently, clearly and openly

These principles are embedded in the actions I shared. 

Lead well!  And manage a little along the way.

Why Were You Promoted?

I have been asked to read and review David C. Baker’s new book Managing Right: For The First Time.  As I go through it I will share some thoughts that make me go Hmmmm . . .  This posting is based on one of those moments**Special Offer for my blog readers:   If you are interested in reading this book yourself, the publisher has given me 10 copies to give to my readership.  I liked the book because of the simple wisdom it shares and how it fits nicely into a mentor/mentee or group study.  Email me if you want a copy – scott@thetrugroup.com. 

Why Were You Promoted?  (from Chapter4: Managing Your Boss)

Simple, but extremely important question.  The answer tells us, as leaders, about the situation we are stepping into and what we need to focus on to fulfill the expectations of our leaders and win over our new team.  Here is David Baker’s list for the most common reasons you are promoted:

  1. Keep you from leaving
  2. Improve the technical skills of the department (you are the expert)
  3. Continue the course started by your boss
  4. Acknowledge and take advantage of your management and leadership skills

Have you ever asked this question of yourself as you assumed a new leadership role?  Self-awareness and having a close friend to give you a reality check is critical in transitions. The easy answer #4, and yet what if the real answer is #3?  I have known people to be promoted and asked to continue the direction of their predecessor, when their true talent was asking difficult questions and finding new approaches.  Mismatches like this do not end well. 

What if the answer is #1 – and you really don’t want to lead?  Hmm . . . . .

For new leaders, add this to your question bank and look for proof by following up with the question “What are the 5 things you want me to accomplish in the first 3 months?” 

For current leaders, acknowledge the true reason for your selection and make sure it fits the goals/talents of the person you are selecting.

True Talent Management is about great conversations, and this question is the cornerstone of a great conversation that needs to happen to help leaders make the right choice and have a successful transition.

Do you have any reasons to add to the author’s list?

Quick trU Tips: 4 Destructive Myths

I read a great blog posting today from Tony Schwartz on the HBR site around destructive myths that are too often norms with leaders.  Here are the highlights and a link to the actual post.  I have added links to some studies I have seen that support some of his assertions.

Tip for leaders:  This list might make for a good discussion with leadership teams or groups of high potentials.  Some seed questions might be:

  1. Do you agree or disagree?
  2. How do we see any of these in practice at our organization?
  3. Which one are you most guilty of? 
  4. Over the next month, which one are you going to focus on personally to make it go away?  What is your commitment/plan?

Four Destructive Myths Most Companies Still Live By

1.  Multitasking is critical in a world of infinite demand.

  • Here is a link to the Stanford study that challenges the assertion that multi-tasking is possible and a more effective way of working.  link

2.  A little bit of anxiety helps us perform better.

  • There is always an A-Ha moment when I review the Birkman Method results, and it is generally around the stress behaviors that result when needs are not met.  Anxiety often = Stress, and leading from a point of stress can be very destructive on others / organizations.

3.  Creativity is genetically inherited, and it’s impossible to teach.

4.   The best way to get more work done is to work longer hours.

  • Be careful taking this article into your CEO’s office and demanding a nap room. 🙂  There is some support for resting along the way vs just working long hours.  link

Here is a link to the full post on the Harvard Business Review website.  Check it out.

Transformation or Training?

Parenting teenagers is not for the faint of heart.  A mother of a teenager shared some wisdom with me last night that her moment of awakening came when she realized that she “could not go to college with her son.”  While there is obviously lots of opinions/grey area around control and parenting, growing up means making independent choices to do some things and not do other things.  It takes lots of energy for the parent, and for the teen.  Growing up is a transformation for both.

So how does this relate to professional development? A cornerstone of the Gallup Research is a statement that says “People don’t change that much.  Don’t waste time trying to put in what was left out.  Try to draw out what was left in.  That is hard enough.”  I think back to a person who went through Franklin Planner class 4 times (when paper was king) to become more organized – – and I think about the effort trying to put in something.

Helping someone chart a course to a future level of performance means asking two questions:

  1. Is this about adding some skills/knowledge/experience to help them work smarter OR
  2. Are we asking for more transformational growth (shedding old habits and adopting new ones)?

If it is the former, then classes, peer support, the whole practice/feedback/practice loop will work.  People who like to learn will get it done.

If it is the latter, then a moment of reckoning has come.  The next question to ask is:  This will take hard work, lots of your energy (for a while), and undoubtedly some pain.  Are you ready – – – (if yes) then how can I help?

Too often in helping people to grow at work (often called talent management/professional development) we forget what real change takes.

How many classes have you been to more than once? 🙂