Sunday, 29 May 2016

Start in the Corners

As many companies approach their fiscal mid-year it is not uncommon to pause and evaluate how they are doing against their objectives.  They determine whether or not changes need to be made to the strategies that they implemented some months ago.  The companies that do this best are the ones that start in the corners.  Let me explain.

Some years ago I spoke with an executive consultant who had broad experience in the Far East.  He said that manufacturing in some countries was more difficult than others because of cultural practices. This is the example he described.

In country A, when it came time to clean the house the process started in the middle of the room.  Diligently, the dust and dirt was neatly swept into the corners where it was out of sight. 

In country B the process was in the reverse.  Cleaning started in the corners and the dirt was swept to the middle of the room.  From there the dust pan removed it outdoors.

To the unseen eye, both rooms were clean.  It was only when the windows or doors were opened and the wind blew in that the difference was noticeable…the consequences clear.

If your plans are not working out as anticipated, don’t look at the issues in the middle of the room.  More often than not, they are only symptoms of the problems. Instead, look behind the curtains and in the corners of your room to find the fundamental flaws in your plan.  Bring that which is unseen out and into the open for critical review. 

It may prove difficult, even embarrassing, to acknowledge that you did not start with a `clean` slate that was capable of supporting your ambitions.  But until you address these underlying issues, nothing that you try to do will have a reasonable chance of success.

Do you have the strength of character as the leader to admit your error and clean the room properly?  Or will you continue to push the dirt to the corners, out of sight, until revealed by the breeze which inevitably blows through.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

The Three C's of Hiring

One of the most important tasks that you are called upon to complete in your leadership role is that of  building at team.  At the end of the day, it is not about you accomplishing objectives but rather your team fulfilling their respective responsibilities that all contribute to the results of the whole.  So selecting the right team members is of critical importance.

Broadly speaking, there are three key components to the process.

1.  Competence.   

Begin by fully describing the duties of the position that you seek to fill.  Then determine the skill set that you believe is required to meet your expectations.  These become the minimum requirements that you will consider.  It is important that you define these issues clearly and completely as you will likely be presented with candidates with similar but different skill sets and you may be tempted to accommodate their abilities.  The interview process is an emotional one for both the candidate and the employer.  Because you have established your criteria during an unemotional time and have done so with proper reflection and input from others, these must remain your benchmark. Therefore be confidant that your needs are properly expressed and look for skill sets that meet your minimum requirements.

2.  Chemistry

Teams succeed because everyone has a role through which they contribute.  Recognizing this, you must find candidates whose skill sets not only fulfill your requirements but which also complement the skills of other team members.  This should be an outcome of defining your expectations.

Chemistry is a broad term to remind you that skills, personalities and as well as other factors need to be part of your decision.  If your company highly values moral and ethical behavior, why would you introduce someone whose character is not consistent with these values.  Likewise, if your approach is to build and maintain long term relationships with your client base, you really don't want or need someone who is a hit-and-run specialist.

When you try to incorporate an individual into the wrong culture, you are headed for disaster.  Some organizations are large enough to tolerate a bit of a misfit.  But as a rule, square pegs in round holes do not work.

3.  Compromise

Nothing good ever happens when you compromise in the hiring process.  Placing a body simply for the sake of filling a position is far worse than leaving it open for a longer period of time. But this happens when we let emotions get in the way  and we react to pressure rather than holding to the principles that we have built.   If you have been unable to find the right person to fill the role, don`t hire the person who, by default, is the least of the evils.  Instead, return to the criteria that you first established and determine if these needs are still properly expressed.  If that is the case, hold on to your goal.  The consequences are far more than appear on the face of it.  For example:
  • A compromise means that you have hired less than you require.  You are now faced with the wasted costs of recruiting and training; you have delayed hiring the right person; and you face the termination expense once you accept reality.  
  • A compromise opens the door for questions both internally and externally.  Clients are likely to ask `what were you thinking`while employees question your ability to make sound judgments.  Your standards are only as high as the lowest that you will accept.
  • The wrong chemistry can make the whole workplace a toxic place.  Can you really afford the impact of lost productivity from the existing workforce whose efforts are disrupted by the lack of chemistry.
It is not always easy to find the right person to fill a gap in your organization.  But good companies attract - and retain - good employees.  Likewise, those who are willing to compromise the hiring process for the sake of expediency will also get what is coming to them.  

It is your choice.  Is it really that hard of a decision...