I am one of those guys who does not always get to control the TV remote in my house. Because of this dynamic, my desire to watch Deadliest Catch or SportsCenter is put on hold so my wife can watch one of her cooking shows.
One thing I often hear on these shows is to always start with the best ingredients: really good vanilla, fresh vegetables or premium meats. I see this as an essential for Building A Low Maintenance Team (LMT) as well. To truly develop a LMT, I must start with great ingredients. In this case, that means hiring the right people.
I must hire people of character. That sounds logical but Hiring Character is not simple.
I will be taking time off with my family over the next few weeks for Christmas and New Years. I will be posting some past blogs from 2012. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Blessings!
3 Character Attributes To Look For When Hiring Character
- Hire Attitude
- Hire Coachability
- Hire Failures
LMT: Hire Attitude
I found one of the easiest ways to identify a person’s or and organization’s character is to look at their attitude. Attitude manifests itself in different ways.
Does this person display traits of an optimist or a pessimist? Nothing sucks the life out of a team more than a single pessimist. Eeyore was the groaning and moaning donkey on Winnie the Pooh. Eeyores often put up a pessimist’s smoke screen by claiming, “I am just being a realist.”
To that I say, “The only time a pessimist is an optimist is when they call themselves a realist.”
I discover Eeyores in an interview by asking open-ended questions about difficult circumstances someone has faced at work.
Question: Tell me about something that occurred at work that made your job difficult.
- Use the 3rd person- They made it impossible, They had rules and regulations, He was not a good leader, she had issues…
- Use the 1st person- I adapted, I found a way, I overcame, I finished, I gathered people together…
When I hear people answer questions in the first person, I see a person who does not let their circumstances define them. Their actions in the midst of their circumstances defines who they are. An optimist sees the circumstance as an opportunity to do something. The pessimist only sees the circumstance.
Is this person a problem solver or a problem finder? Problem finders are a dime a dozen. Anyone can find something that is not working well. I want problem-solvers on my team. These people take the initiative and fix things without me asking. If I have to solve the problems myself, why do I need them? That would make my team a High Maintenance Team.
Question: Tell me about a problem you identified at work in the last 12 months.
Problem-solver: Briefly explains the situation and then describes in detail the steps they took to handle or change the situation.
Problem-finder: Describes the situation in detail. They often never offer what they did about the situation either.
I never need to ask the problem solver, “What did you do about it?” because it is not in their DNA to see a problem and not try to solve it. When a candidate fails to offer a solution to a problem, that is an important insight into who I may be dealing with after I hire them.
LMT: Hire Coachability
One of the biggest down falls of talented people who are short on character is they are difficult to coach. We all have short-comings and need guidance from time to time. Some just don’t realize it or won’t accept it. WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!
Identifying whether someone is coachable during the hiring process provides me a window into their character. If someone does not demonstrate the humility to adapt when a weakness is pointed out, they are likely not going to be part of my Low Maintenance Team.
Question: Tell me about a time your boss criticized your work?
The Coachable Person: Describes the feedback she got and owns it. She discusses the changes she made and the results of those changes.
The Un-coachable Person: Again tends to spend time on the circumstances and the relationship they had with their boss. You might hear the feedback called unfair or uninformed. If someone has difficulty here, RUN!
Humility is an often overlooked character trait in the hiring process. A great book that discusses this in more depth is Hiring On A WHIM by Garrett Miller. A coachable person is a humble person.
To have a LMT, a leader needs to find people who are eager and willing to get better. Feedback is seen as an opportunity not an attack.
LMT: Hire Failures
In my post Leaders: Hire People Who Walk With A Limp I discussed that people who have overcome adversity often have high character. Some people encounter failure and make the choice to wallow in self-pity or inaction. The Failures I want are the ones who learned from their adversity and became a better version of themselves as a result.
Hiring Failures allows me to be sure my Low Maintenance Team has:
What many considered obstacles, they see as speed bumps.
When others back down, they step forward.
When some gripe and moan about small annoyances, they keep a positive outlook and often lift others up with them.
Question: Tell me about an obstacle you faced in your life.
Low Maintenance Failures: Give enough detail on the situation to give me real perspective. He shares what he learned about himself and how he is different now.
Other Failures: Again let her circumstances define her. She describes the situation in detail, but does not share how it helped shape her character. Another person may not even articulate a time she failed or faced adversity. In either case, placing this person on a LMT is a gamble.
Character is often formed through difficulties. While character is difficult to measure in an interview process, asking about a person’s failures allows me to evaluate their character through the stories they choose to share.
The Bottom Line:
It is impossible to lead a Low Maintenance Team without hiring character. In my experience character more than any other trait determines a person’s success.
Any leader who has managed a person with a bad attitude, was not coachable or did not learn from their mistakes knows the headaches these people cause. A leader who wants to have an LMT will not allow these people on their team.
Competence is only one aspect of who I need to hire. I can find a dozen people who are competent for any job. It is Hiring Character that determines whether my recipe for a Low Maintenance Team will turnout sweet or bitter.
What other questions can a leader ask to get insights into a candidates character?