Art of Managing—5 Big Lessons Learned from My Hiring Mistakes

Graphic with the words of Art of Managing and other management termsThe Art of Managing series is dedicated to exploring the critical issues we face in guiding our firms and teams to success in today’s volatile world.

Over an extended career, you will make more than one hiring mistake. I guarantee it.

No hiring manager escapes unscathed in this process. While a misfire is inevitable, this painful mistake (for you, your firm and the hire) is packed with some powerful life and career lessons. Trust me, I’ve learned the hard way.

While I’m incredibly proud of a track record hiring and cultivating talent during a career now entering its 4th decade, there have been some notable misfires. Each mistake offered a painful but much needed lesson in this most critical of managerial activities. While I regret the mistakes (they were controllable), the lessons learned helped me dramatically improve my batting average over time. Use these in good health and great hiring!

5 Big Lessons Learned From My Hiring Mistakes:

1. Haste always makes waste. My critical need for help drove at least two hires where I failed to properly assess character. Both individuals had seemingly great credentials and were excellent performers during the interview process. After the hire, excellent and performance weren’t used in the same sentence around them ever again.

I had failed to appropriately apply behavioral interviewing techniques and in one case, I violated my gut sense (more on this in the next example) that something just wasn’t right. I needed help to hit a critical product launch window and I let this pressure overrule the need for process and patience and thoroughness. One of the individuals put on a great public show for management while quietly asserting as the evil dictator with his team. The other was unable to back her talk with action. After offering feedback and coaching to no avail, I had to fire them both.

2. If you have to talk yourself into hiring the person, you’re probably making a mistake. With the recognition that I must be a slow learner, much like the examples above, I made this mistake twice as well. In both cases, an initial very good interview was followed by a series of discussions where I began to doubt the accuracy of the positive first impression. Others involved in the process had similar positive first impressions, however, I was the only one to meet with the individuals on multiple occasions, and after each meeting, I recall struggling with the sense that I had been wrong with that first impression. Nonetheless, I went ahead with the hires. One lasted 48 days and the other 8 painful months.

While hindsight is of course 20:20, I know now that the creeping sense that something wasn’t right should have prompted additional diligence or simple disqualification. However, at the time, I fought this feeling and anchored on the positive first impression. Instead of my blink reaction being right, it took multiple exposures for me to begin to question the accuracy of that first impression.

One individual was a carefully veiled megalomaniac and the other a charter member of the 70-Percent Club. (The 70-Percent Club is an exclusive organization where membership requires that you start a lot of good things and finish none of them. You bring them to 70-percent completion and then let them die.) If you have nagging doubts, they’re probably real. Don’t make the hire.

3. Intelligence doesn’t always translate into actions. I enjoy talking and working with people who are great critical thinkers…who are well read and who do something other than soak up the latest reality television shows in their time away from work. I’m also guilty of imputing that intelligence equates to ability. Sadly, that’s not always the case. Don’t become enamored by how smart and well rounded someone seemingly is. Assess their track record and ability to turn great ideas and insights into meaningful actions. The talk may be interesting, but it’s not going to move the meter unless it can be backed by actions.

4. Misjudging the stretch. It’s my nature to believe in the ability of people to stretch and grow. Nonetheless, people develop mostly on their own timetables and not at the rate that you might desire. In several instances, I’ve opted for people who I believed had “the right stuff” for stretch positions. These were roles that exceeded their prior roles in terms of responsibility, decision-making and leadership, but I perceived the stretch to be within reason for them. While this has worked in many instances, there were a few where it was too much too fast and I had to step-in and simplify the challenge while their brains and their self-confidence grew to match the larger challenges. Noble mistakes…but mistakes nonetheless that came with real costs to the team and organization and psychic costs to the individuals.

5. Don’t ignore reality. Beware the natural inclination to hide from a hiring mistake. While this is one I’ve not stepped in before, I’ve observed it with other managers who viewed it as too costly to admit to a mistake, and therefore, they ignored reality and compounded the problem by letting the poor hire become a long-term poor employee.

Yes, it’s embarrassing to recognize that your judgment call on your hire was wrong and yes, your boss won’t be happy with your mistake. However, no one will be happy with a lousy hire that turns into a long-term problem employee. Admit the mistake to yourself up front and plan on approaching your boss with the message and a plan. Just don’t hide from reality.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

No one gets out of the work of managing and leading with a perfect hiring score. Some managers are outstanding judges of talent. Others bolster their batting averages with external resources that assess fitand that purport to improve predictability. But every manager at some point slips and lets one through the net.

It’s what you do at that moment of truth and what you learn from this experience that either exacerbates the damage or stops the bleeding. Adding the right resources to your team is a sacred responsibility and owning up to and learning from your mistakes is a critical part of your growth as an effective manager.

Don’t miss the next Leadership Caffeine-Newsletter! (All new subscriber-only content!) Register herebook cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check out: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.

New to leading or responsible for first time leaders on your team? Subscribe to Art’s New Leader’s e-News.

An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.

 

 

Friday Leadership Ideas to Help You Finish Strong for July 24, 2015

mountainEvery week I share a few ideas to help you finish strong. A great ending sets the stage for success next week.

Work some magic by re-approaching “What’s not working?” discussions.

All of us have been in the project wrap-up that focused on what went wrong or the team brainstorm meeting that emphasizes looking at where we have to improve. While there’s a place and purpose for those discussions, they emphasize the negative and frankly, they generate the same lists over and over again.

At the next occasion (why not today?) pull your team together for a creative dialog and ask, “What’s working well that we should do more of?” Be prepared for a slow start followed by a torrent of ideas, energy and enthusiasm. Take great notes and be certain to have the team prioritize those they believe are the most important. And then challenge them to put the ideas into action.

This simple framing change is an antidote to the negativity and frustration attached to too many of our team and group discussions. Try it and watch the magic unfold!

Shift the Focus to Your Own Professional Development.

I offer regular reminders in this series and in my other blog posts to take time and focus on the professional development plans of your team members. It’s challenging for most busy leaders and team members to stay on top of this, and kudos if you’re current. (If not, it’s time to catch up and refresh those plans and ensure progress. After all, the calendar year is more than half over.) Now, it’s time to look in the mirror and assess your own professional development progress.

Ask and answer:

  • How am I refreshing my skills?
  • What have I read that has challenged me to re-think my role and/or raise my performance level?
  • What new skills have I developed this past year?
  • Have I received feedback that has challenged me to change or reinforce key behaviors?
  • What was the last training session I attended that wasn’t mandated by H.R.?
  • Am I doing ostensibly the same work this year as last year?
  • What challenging new assignments have I completed this year?

If you’re answers are less than complete, it’s time to get to work. Take the time to talk with your boss and team members and solicit input and feedback. Explore external training courses that will challenge you to stretch and develop new skills. And importantly, sit down with your boss, ask for input on his/her perceptions of your professional development needs and jointly develop a plan. If your boss isn’t the sympathetic or thoughtful type on professional development, come to the discussion prepared with a plan and suggestions versus expecting him/her to generate the ideas. Last and not least, seek out opportunities to build new skills through job rotation opportunities or taking on challenging new projects.

As I reference regularly in my It’s Your Career” series, you truly do own your own professional development. Now more than ever in an era of constant change, the only security we have is the security of ensuring that our skills are refreshed and current. Don’t let your learning program go dormant.

That’s it for this week. Enjoy your weekend and come back next Monday ready to conquer the world. -Art

Don’t miss the next Leadership Caffeine-Newsletter! (All new subscriber-only content!) Register herebook cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check out: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.

New to leading or responsible for first time leaders on your team? Subscribe to Art’s New Leader’s e-News.

An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.

 

 

Ideas for Professional Growth for the Week of July 19, 2015

Problem is Opportunity Blackboard ConceptNote from Art: Every week I offer ideas to encourage you to stretch and grow. Use them in great professional health!

Do: Volunteer to Lead an Initiative to Solve a Lingering Problem.

In most organizations, the problems are well identified. It’s finding someone to do something about the problems that’s the issue. Listen carefully for one of those annoying, recurring issues that seem to exist in some gray area between functions, and volunteer to lead an initiative to stomp the problem out of existence. Make certain to recruit some help on the spot.

In addition to the chance to stretch your leadership skills with your volunteer team, you’ll quickly gain the attention of your senior managers as someone willing to go the extra mile to improve the business. What a great, positive way to grow your power and influence!

Make certain when the project wraps up successfully to both thank your team members and to reach out to their direct managers and offer your appreciation for the hard work of their employees. You’re team members will appreciate your support.

Rinse and repeat.

Experiment: Add Energy to Your Team by Rotating Responsibilities

Keep your team members fresh, challenged and learning by making assignment rotation a regular part of the working culture. Nothing builds empathy with others by spending some time walking in their shoes or navigating their tasks. I value team members who are competent and confident in stepping up and filling in for a colleague. Instead of waiting until it’s a necessity, be proactive and have team members teach and then step in for each other.

Explore: Take Your Team on a Field Trip

Chances are you haven’t been on a field trip since middle school. While you can skip the permission slips and leave the pb&j sandwiches behind, consider an opportunity to get your team off-site and immersed in an activity or environment that stimulates creativity and thinking. My favorites…a visit to a natural history or cultural museum; a symphony concert or a tour of a factory in a completely unrelated industry. Encourage your team members to jot down any ideas sparked by the trip and schedule a debrief meeting. While I can’t guarantee that a killer idea will emerge, the opportunity to rest and recharge and engage in a unique setting will be a positive for the team. And, remember, it just takes one idea!

That’s it for the early encouragement in our new week. Best of success as you do/experiment and explore! -Art

Don’t miss the next Leadership Caffeine-Newsletter! (All new subscriber-only content!) Register herebook cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check out: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.

New to leading or responsible for first time leaders on your team? Subscribe to Art’s New Leader’s e-News.

An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.

 

Friday Leadership Ideas to Help You Finish Strong for July 17, 2015

Thank YouEvery week I offer ideas to help you finish on a high note. Use the ideas to finish strong and set the stage for success heading into the new week.

Purge The Lingering Effect of Unfounded Criticism.

Feedback is important in our professional development, but not all feedback is credible and worth the space it rents in your mind. Authors, actors, playwrights all agonize over reviews. They are momentarily excited by the positive feedback and often crushed by the negative. It’s easy to let the opinions others have about you dictate how you feel about yourself. It’s a bad habit to take the positive reviews too seriously or to let the negative reviews crush you.

I learned long ago that I won’t win glowing reviews from everyone…in a workshop, an MBA course or a keynote. The batting average is great…high 90’s on a percentage basis who appreciate and benefit from the work. I value the ideas people proffer for strengthening the content or my approach. And then there’s the input from the 1 or 2 who it just didn’t work for. I look for the pearls of actionable wisdom in the negative feedback, and if there are none, I move on quickly.

Everyone has opinions…and not all of them are equal or worth the energy it takes to fret over them. If you’ve been on the receiving end of some undue criticism this week, take the time to explore the areas for genuine improvement. If it’s just hot air and toxic talk, purge it from your brain. It’s not worth the effort it takes to retain it.

Have You Said “Thank You” to Your Team Members Recently?

It’s easy for the months and even years to fly by in our workplaces without hitting the pause button once in awhile and offering a very well deserved “Thank you” to our team members. While it’s unlikely you take them for granted, it’s ridiculously easy to simply count on people being there to execute on their work and to solve problems and drive performance. I’ve known senior managers who skipped the “Thank you” step and found themselves sitting with a resignation letter in hand wishing they had done more to acknowledge their appreciation for the person along the way.

Take the time today to start working through your team members and offering your thanks for their hard work and dedication. Better yet, thank them for applying their own unique “superpower” to the team and firm. If appropriate, offer a minor token of your appreciation, but be certain to personalize it to the individual. And no, company logo-gear is typically not appropriate.

One business owner reached out to me and shared that he had rarely ever offered anything resembling positive feedback or a sincere thanks. Nonetheless, his team had remained largely intact over the years. (This was a positive sign that he had treated them with respect regardless of the lack of visible appreciation.) He wondered how his staff would react if he started this behavior. I assured him that after counseling them that he was neither ill nor leaving, they would appreciate the shift in style. It’s never too late until it’s over.

OK, that’s it for the week. Finish up in great style and come back next week ready to conquer the world! -Art

 

Don’t miss the next Leadership Caffeine-Newsletter! (All new subscriber-only content!) Register herebook cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check out: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.

New to leading or responsible for first time leaders on your team? Subscribe to Art’s New Leader’s e-News.

An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.

It’s Your Career—Try Reframing the Problems to Stimulate Success

Graphic image with the words, It's Your Career and other related professional development wordsThe “It’s Your Career” series at Management Excellence is dedicated to offering ideas, guidance and inspiration for strengthening your performance and supporting your development as a professional. Use the ideas in great career health!

How we frame a situation guides our development of options and biases our decisions. In my coaching work, framing is almost always an issue with under-performing professionals. Here are five common situations that can benefit from some active, personal re-framing.

Framing Error 1—Professional Development: “My company isn’t supporting my development.”

Reframe: You own your own professional development, not your company. Now, more than ever, you must take responsibility to invest in yourself for education and training and the most valuable of all developmental activities…participating in a series of challenging assignments. Seeking out these new challenges must be a deliberate part of everyone’s career strategy.

Framing Error 2—Politics: “Getting ahead around here requires me to play the games. I’m not going to do it.”

Reframe: All human groups are political. Given that someone must choose us for success, ignoring the politics and power issues in your work environment is naïve and limiting. A good strategy is to focus on cultivating “clean power” (no backs stabbed, no games played), by identifying and resolving the thorny issues that reside in the gray-areas between functions. This is typically project/team effort and requires that you gain buy-in across functions and involve a network of resources to resolve the challenges. Place your team members in the spotlight of success with these initiatives and you’ll not only gain the support of higher-ups but of a growing network of your colleagues. Congratulations, you will have grown your power without playing any questionable games!

Framing Error 3—Lack of Advancement: Blaming everyone but the person in the mirror for your lack of advancement.

Reframe: If you’re not advancing in your career at a pace that you believe is proper, it’s time to look in the mirror, not at the boss or your coworkers. Much like the use of “swim buddies” in the Navy Seals (someone who watches, supports and challenges you), you need a “feedback buddy” who will share the hard truth on your presence, your weaknesses and your strengths. We’re notoriously poor at seeing ourselves as others do and cultivating a clear understanding of this view offers ammunition for improvement and for better managing the perceptions about you.

Framing Error 4—Blaming the team. “My team isn’t performing up to my expectations.”

Reframe: You’re likely the one not performing to expectations. Reassess your role. Ask your team what they need you to do to better help them succeed. And then do it. You’ll be amazed how much better you will feel about your team when you’re doing your part.

Framing Error 5—Blaming the strategy. “This strategy just isn’t working. What were they thinking?”

Reframe: While it is possible the strategy is flawed, more than likely, there are problems of coordination, communication and execution. Look closely at where the situation is breaking down and collaborate with co-workers to identify solutions and offer insights to senior leaders. No senior leader expects the strategic plan to unfold exactly as it was drawn up on paper. Strategy refinement is an iterative process based on real-world feedback. Be part of the solution here by sharing insights and offering suggestions for strengthening.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

It’s easy to sit back and view the world of challenges as other people’s problems or other people’s mistakes. The human tendency to take credit for successes and offer blame for failures combines with framing errors to create a cognitive stew of biases and poor thinking. Get out of your own way by reframing the issues and problems, and then take action. Get this right and you’ll be dealing with a whole new set of framing challenges as you gain responsibility and grow in your career.

Don’t miss the next Leadership Caffeine-Newsletter! (All new subscriber-only content!) Register herebook cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check out: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.

New to leading or responsible for first time leaders on your team? Subscribe to Art’s New Leader’s e-News.

An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.