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Why I cringe when people say “hire for fit”

Companies are constantly looking for differentiators. In the first tech bubble, it was all about stock options and perks like kegs in the breakroom. In the second tech bubble, it’s been all about….stock options and kegs in the breakroom. Huh. I thought we’d come further than that. Moving on…

What you hear about more and more now, though, is “culture.” Culture is the great differentiator. It will make or break your company! It will make you productive! It will cure cancer! (Okay, I made that last one up.)

Listen, I’m a big fan of being intentional about the culture you’re allowing to develop in your workplace. It DOES impact the way people work, their ability to be successful, and how your customers view you. Whether or not you personally like Southwest Airlines (and I love them, so there), you can’t argue with their success in a tough industry. And they attribute it to their “culture” – from how they operate, to how they hire, to how they make, spend, and save money.

It’s the “how they hire” piece that I think people screw up all the time. (And I’m not the only one who thinks that!)

Too many companies who are concerned about their culture focus on hiring as the way to “fix it.” They think that by hiring the “right people,” they’ll magically get the culture they’re looking for. They focus on pre-hire assessments like personality tests and quirky questions and conversations about “passion.” And the next time the employee survey results come back, employees still say they don’t like the culture and turnover proves it.

At this point…I’m over “hire for fit.” Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s important that an employee aligns with core elements of the organization whether it’s the work they do, the people they work with, the values experienced, or what the company represents. But I think we’re going at it wrong. And here’s why:

ILLUSION #1 : Hiring for fit = a cure for all our ills: Every organization I’ve ever worked at that struggles with a “challenging culture” focuses on hiring as the fix. Why? Because it’s the easiest process to change. You add a couple of assessments, change some interview questions, and voila! All done.  

REALITY:  Hiring’s not your problem: Culture consists of EVERYTHING within your workplace, not just the people. It’s your systems, your processes, your location, your parking habits, the industry, your policies, your leadership practices, the behaviors of managers, communication….get the point. If you’ve got issues with your culture, it’s going to take more than just hiring people who SEEM to be part of the culture you want. You have to be willing to dissect the WAY you work. If you’re not wiling to do that, all those “new culture” people you hired are going to leave as soon as they can.

ILLUSION #2: Culture is about attitude, so we’ll ask about that: After all, we want to make sure people share our “values” so let’s make sure the questions are all about how they feel and what they like and dislike. That way we’ll know that they’re the right person to match our culture.

REALITY: Culture is about activity, not attitude: When you read about how Southwest (and other strong “culture” organizations – like Disney) hire people, you’ll see that they focus on BEHAVIORS, not feelings. That’s because behaviors are measurable and you can see how they impact work. Disney records how candidates interact with others, how they treat the receptionist, their inherent curiosity when sitting in a room…all behaviors. Southwest asks candidates how they handled a tough customer situation, looking for examples of the actions taken and the results of those actions. If you want a “culture fit” hire, find people who embody the culture through action, not words.

ILLUSION #3: Our managers are skilled enough to decide if someone is a good fit: We gave them a set of questions and told them to follow the law, they should be fine. Besides, these people have been here FOREVER and totally know what a good hire would look like.

REALITY: At best, they’re guessing. At worst, they’re using “not a fit” as an excuse for discrimination: If you don’t require interview training and calibration before a person is allowed to interview candidates, you have little to no assurance they know what they’re doing. Even then, you’ve got unconscious bias that no amount of training can overcome. By allowing “not a fit” to become the reason a qualified, promising candidate doesn’t get hired, you’re making it okay for managers to make snap judgments. If you can say “not a fit because of x,y,z examples of behaviors,” you’ve got a better chance. Also…DO YOU EVEN REALLY KNOW WHAT YOUR CULTURE IS? Probably not. You think you know. But unless you’ve done a valid assessment, you’re just describing what YOU think the culture is. 

ILLUSION #4: Same is good: Companies believe that if everything acts the same, thinks the same, and looks the same, then the culture will be fabulous and the company will be 100% successful.

REALITY: Diversity is good: You need diversity of backgrounds, thought, experience, age, race, gender…all of it. It breeds innovation. It pushes the company forward. It helps reduce that unconscious bias that gets us into trouble. It’s not the friction that’s the problem – it’s how you function with friction that’s hurting you. Include and celebrate differences and learn to leverage that friction in a way that’s beneficial to the organization.

In a perfect world, I would want companies to share openly enough of who they are and how they operate so that potential candidates can make the educated choice about whether or not they might be a “fit.” There are also tools out there that can help identify alignment with company values/behaviors in such a way that both allows the candidate to decide if they want to proceed AND helps the hiring manager identify questions that will get at the heart of whether full alignment is good or if the team needs that friction.

So please….stop acting like all  you really need to do is “hire for fit.” There are bigger issues at stake. Tackle those and then MAYBE you can start hiring for fit.

Maybe.

 

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Everybody lies


lie [lahy]
noun

1. a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional untruth; a falsehood.

2. something intended or serving to convey a false impression; imposture.

I loved the TV show House. Well, the first few seasons of it, anyway.

I’m a nerdy Sherlock Holmes fan, so when the creators of House took the general DNA of Sherlock Holmes and put it into the character of a grumpy addict who also happened to be a brilliant doctor, I was sold. (Plus, Hugh Laurie is a genius as Dr. Gregory House. Go listen to his actual voice – you’re freaked out he’s not American, right?! Because it sounds wrong? But I digress.)

One of the basic tenants of House’s belief system is that everybody lies – particularly patients. In fact, it’s a quote: It’s a basic truth of the human condition that everybody lies. The only variable is about what. The reason why he’s able to diagnose the craziest diseases (but not vasculitis; it’s never vasculitis) is because he doesn’t allow his patients to hide behind the white lies that they tell out of embarrassment or unwise desires to keep something a secret from a loved one.

While most characters on the show think it’s a pathetic way to live, it seems to serve House well. I mean, he’s miserable and all that (addict!), but in terms of being a successful diagnostician – it’s the only way to go.

Part of the reason why House hhouseas his worldview is because he lies to himself constantly. By projecting his tendency to lie to himself unto other people, he therefore justifies his actions and can wallow in his misery.

Other characters get mad at House about his worldview because it so often turns out to be true and makes them question their beliefs. They lie to themselves by pretending a situation or person is a certain way, and then are disappointed when the picture they’ve painted in their minds is the opposite.

So why do I bring up House?

I bring this up because people in the working world need to accept the fact that everybody lies. Not to the extent that House believes, but it’s there. In varying degrees…it’s there.

  • We lie about what happened on a project: “I have no idea who approved that approach, but it doesn’t sound like something I would say.”
  • We lie about our motivations: “I’m taking that job to make a difference! Oh, does it pay more? I had no idea.”
  • We lie about leaving a horrible job: “Next time she says something like that, I’m gonna quit!.” [she says something like that] “Next time…”
  • We lie about why we rated an employee too high: “It has NOTHING to do with the fact I think they deserve a higher raise.”
  • We lie about why we rated an employee too low: “It has NOTHING to do with the fact that this employee proved I was wrong about something.”
  • We lie about employment decisions: “HR said I had to fire you. If it were up to me, I would never do that….”

We lie to cope with tough situations. We lie to cover our butts. We lie to spare feelings or soften the blow. We lie to connect to others. We lie to look smarter than we are. We lie to look dumber than we are. We lie to get ahead at work. We lie to pick our battles.

We lie. We lie. We lie.

I want to make this next point loud and clear, okay: THERE ARE DEGREES OF LYING AND LYING 100% OF THE TIME IS A DICK MOVE, SO DON’T DO IT. I do not, in any way, condone a sociopathic narcissist who lives his/her life telling one lie after another.

Got it? Good.

Some lies make it necessary to live in a society. If we were 100% transparent all the time, it might work – but only if we could tell the truth about never taking anything personally. And we know how much of a lie that can be, right? On the flip side, society can’t survive if we lie 100% of the time either. That’s why we all walk a tightrope. Most of the time, we don’t even realize we’re lying.

I am not a miserable, paranoid person. I don’t think everyone is out to lie every time they open their mouth. I am constantly awestruck by our ability as humans to show compassion, love, support, selflessness – all of it. I tend to think overall, humans are pretty damn cool and have the capacity to be amazing. And we also have the capacity to lie. A lot. About lots of things – most of them tiny, stupid things that don’t matter at all. (Hell, I could be lying right now – how would you know?)

So how do we deal with all the pretty little liars out there? Do we give up and start lying more? Of course not.

Try this. Give people some grace. Give yourself some grace.

When you catch someone in a lie, find out why. Have you created a safe environment? Or do people feel like they have to lie in order to survive around you? Do you fail to reward truthiness? Do you only award people who tell you what they want to hear? Are you, yourself, as truthful as you could be? Are you honest with others? Are you honest with yourself?

And if a person continues to show a pattern of lying despite the work you’ve done to establish trust, then get them out of your life. You are under no obligation to lie to yourself to condone constant lying that hurts you or your organization.

Everybody lies.

The best way to survive and thrive is to acknowledge that…and then move on from there to build relationships with people who matter so they tell the truth when it’s most important.

The most common lie is that which one lies to himself: lying to others is relatively an exception.
~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Truth begins in lies.
~ Gregory House, MD

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2016 in Clarity, Self-Awareness

 

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Get To vs. Have To: The employee’s dilemma

I’m writing this on a Sunday evening while watching playoff hockey waiting for Game of Thrones to start and trying to figure out why our dog has become endlessly fascinated by a piece of paper on an end table. In short, it’s a lovely evening and I’m happy that I get to do this.

I bring this up because as the weekend winds down, people are lamenting the fact that they “have to” go to work tomorrow. (Don’t believe me? Check your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram feeds.) And thus we are confronted by the dichotomy all employees deal with at work – what they “get to do” vs. what they “have to do.”

“Have to” is all the work employees tend to complain about – answering emails, attending recurring meetings, data entry, making phones calls, paying invoices…all the tasks that fulfill the basic functions of their job descriptions.

“Get to” is the work that employees say they want – stretch goals, new projects, visibility, variety, excitement…all the things that a new and different from the day-to-day. swivel chair

In short, “have to” is the work we get paid for, “get to” is the work that engages us.

What’s interesting is how quickly the “get to” turns into “have to” for so many employees. What was once new and exciting gets absorbed into the background as just another thing you work on in your job.

This phenomenon is known as the hedonic treadmill (or hedonic adaptation, if you must be specific) and refers to our singular ability to return to a relative level of happiness (or unhappiness) following a positive or negative event in our lives. Basically, if you’re a happy person, you’ll still be a happy person even after undergoing a setback. But if you’re a negative person, you’ll still be a negative person even if you win the lottery.

Let’s apply this to work. If you (generally) like your job, the “have to” doesn’t bring you down too much. The “get to” is a nice perk, but you don’t really need it because you’re already in a good place.  Chances are, you’re probably more engaged (or at least satisfied – NOT THE SAME THING) than the average person. If you (generally) chafe against your job, the “get to” won’t be enough to change your tune.

So if you are more of a Grumpy Cat than an Oprah (The Secret), how do you maximize the “get to” moments at work?

  • Keep your eye on the prize: Work will feel less “have to” if you find ways to help you reach your long term goals. Working an office day job but really want to be an agent? Look at your internal relationship building as honing your networking skills.
  • Take control of your “have to”: Be efficient and work your way through your “have to” list every day so it doesn’t weigh on you. Talk to your boss about restructuring your “have to” if you’re approaching burnout. One of the reasons “have to” brings us down is because we don’t have control over it. Try to get some.
  • Think of the “get to” as a reward, not a right: Remember, “get to” is development and growth. It’s not something that you should take for granted or sit back and wait for it to come to you. Be proactive and ask for the “get to”. Now it’s something you’ve earned, which can extend your happiness about the “get to.”
  • Check your attitude: Granted, people will land somewhere on the spectrum between Pippi Longstocking and Chicken Little, and it’s okay to know who you are. But if you find yourself unable to appreciate the “get to” in your life, find out why. Maybe you need more sleep, maybe you need some perspective, maybe you need therapy. Whatever it is, figure it out.

The reality is that the “have to” work will never ever go away. The trick is to find enough “get to” work to keep it interesting.

And try to have a good week, everyone!

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2015 in Managing Up, Self-Awareness

 

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The best part about being a manager

There are hundreds – nay, thousands – of blog posts about how hard it is to be a manager, the struggles one faces, the challenges we deal with.  I’ve contributed to that number.  Heck, this whole blog was created on the premise that it’s difficult to be a leader, as well as to be led.

None of that has changed. It’s hard out there for a pimp, yo.

But we focus so much on negativity that I thought it would be good to take a moment to talk about the best part about being a manager – employees.

Yes, employees are the best part about being manager. (Some of them are the worst part, but that’s another story.) Unless you are ready to work with your employees to help them be successful, you shouldn’t even consider being a manager – I don’t care what the compensation rate is.  You need to WANT to develop people. Because it’s hard work and can lead to heartache.

It can also lead to moments of incredible joy and pride.you da best

I’ve had the opportunity to manage a lot of different people in a lot of different situations in my career – some good, some bad.  While every single one is one of God’s special creatures in their own way, there have been a few that stood out because of what they accomplished.  And let’s be clear…they are the reason they are successful.  I was just lucky to be there.

I don’t want to publicly embarrass any of them, so I won’t go into great detail about their circumstances (Sam, Steven, Jim, others…you know who you are).  I worked with all of them when they were individual contributors – some in mid-career, some at the very beginning. All of them loved challenge, hated me from time to time, and have moved on to build training organizations of their own, to manage people, or to find the job that brings them happiness. And they did it because they are awesome.

There was no secret ingredient to helping them.  Really, it was about having high expectations, having their back, letting them fail from time to time, challenging them when I thought they were selling themselves short, and then getting the hell out of their way.

Whenever I have a chance to interact with these former employees, I’m always in awe of what they have been able to accomplish in spite of me.  It’s always a shame when a great employee moves on, but that’s tempered by the knowledge that they have done so much more than what they could have done if they had stayed my employee. And I learned far more from them than they did from me.

So, yeah…there are times when I hate being a manager; when I wish all I had to do was sit down, do work, and not be responsible for anyone else. But all that (well, most of that) goes away when I see an employee succeed.

Treat employees like they make a difference and they will.
 – Jim Goodnight, CEO SAS

 

Do you have a great employee success story? ARE you a great employee success story? Share in the comments!!!

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2015 in Self-Awareness, Teamwork

 

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So, you’re a crappy employee. Now what?

Okay, maybe you’re not really a crappy employee.  Maybe you’re just a misunderstood genius.  A tortured artist whose brilliance is unappreciated by the rest of us.

Right.

Or maybe you really are an employee who just isn’t very good at your job.

Hey, it happens. Sometimes responsibilities change and you don’t have the necessary skills.  Sometimes you take a stretch job and you’re in over your head. Sometimes you get a new boss you just don’t get along with.  Sometimes you just run out of gas.

Whatever it is, you probably know you’re not doing your best, and it bothers you. A lot.

Nobody likes being bad at their job. And contrary to popular belief, most employees know when they are struggling.  We don’t always admit it…but deep down, we know.

never_said_incompetent

The real question is – what do you want to do about it? Well, you have a few choices:

  • Decide if you want to stay in your current job: Maybe you like your job.  Maybe you don’t like your current job but need it.  Or maybe you really hate it and have the freedom to walk away.  Figure out the answer to that question and act on it.
  • If you want to leave, leave: Don’t be one of those people who quits but keeps coming in every day. It hurts your reputation, hurts your teammates, and never turns out well.  If you’ve decided to leave, do it sooner rather than later. But leave like a grown up, okay? No mic drops needed.
  • If you want to stay, fight for it: Acknowledge that you are not performing up to expectations. Get some help.  Ask for for honest, specific feedback from your manager, stakeholders, teammates – anyone who can give you some suggestions on how to turn things around. And don’t settle for “just do better.”  Ain’t nobody can act on that advice.
  • Own it: Maybe someone else was the spark for your troubles at work, but you’re the one who controls your actions. Admit you own your performance and the outcomes.  It’s the only way you will be able to make the necessary changes.
  • Get your head on straight: If you’re having trouble at work, you’re probably not the happiest person right now. It’s easy to work yourself into a downward spiral with negative self-talk and a crappy attitude. Take some time to reflect on how you got to where you are. Confide in a friend, a group of friends, a therapist, your dog – whoever you need in order to help you work on your outlook.
  • Keep checking in: It didn’t take you a day to turn into a crappy employee, so give yourself some time and keep the dialogue with your manager open.  Course correct as needed and keep moving in the right direction.

Whatever you decide to deal with your current situation, don’t forget to celebrate the wins. When you’re in a tough situation, you can forget how awesome success can feel. Whether you quit a job you hate or decide to take control of your current performance – you deserve a little pat on the back. It takes courage to take action when you feel beat up.

You might be a crappy employee now, but there’s no excuse to STAY a crappy employee.

You can do it. I believe in you. After all…you’re a misunderstood genius.

Just like the rest of us.

 

Failure is good as long as it doesn’t become a habit.
~ Michael Eisner

 

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2015 in Personal Development, Self-Awareness, Skillz

 

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Control Yourself (or face the Wrath of Dilfer)

It’s funny how Trent Dilfer keeps saying things that relate to being a person in the modern workplace.

And people say sports analogies are overused. (They are, but stick with me here.)

In his post-game analysis of the “game” between Green Bay and Chicago, Trent Dilfer referenced the fact that an athlete can’t control who they play, when they play, or the conditions in which they play.  But they CAN control three things:

  • Their attitude
  • Their effort
  • Their energy

After dropping this knowledge bomb, Trent went on to rip into the Bears.

Regardless of your feelings about football, the Packers, the Bears, or even Trent Dilfer, the point he made is incredibly applicable to each of us working in the corporate jungle.

control

We don’t always have full control of with whom we work, the environment in which we work, the traffic in which we drive, the customers we serve, or the load of craziness that gets dumped on our desk every single day.

We do, however, have control over how we respond to it.

How you choose to control what you can control is up to you.  The point is…CONTROL it.  You won’t always be successful, but at least you won’t have any excuses.  Don’t set yourself up for embarrassment.  (I mean, 6 TDs in the first half, guys?? For shame, Bears.)

So my challenge to each of us as we make the final push towards the holidays and year end is to make our New Year’s Resolutions early.

I will check my attitude at regular intervals throughout the day, and ensure I’m controlling it and not the other way around.

I will put forth the appropriate effort in my work. If I’m working too hard on unimportant things, I will fix it.  If I’m not working hard enough on important things, I will figure out why…and I will fix it.

I will take care of myself to ensure I have the energy for both work and home, and I will prioritize my energy for the things that matter most.

Stay focused.  Keep control.  Do your best. Own the outcomes.

And don’t give Trent Dilfer a reason to make this face.

TD_frown

 

 

 
 

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To Burn or Not to Burn? (a question of bridges)

Early on in my career, I had one of those proud/not-so-proud moments (depending on how you look at it) while working for a small company as an “office manager” – you know, that all-inclusive title that pretty much means you have no authority but all the blame.  I dropped an F-bomb on the owner’s wife.  [It’s a long story, but basically she accused me of not caring enough about the job. Because I didn’t respond to her request in 3 seconds.  But I digress.]

I believe the exact phrase I used was, “F*** you and f*** this job.”  I grabbed my phone and my purse and made my dramatic exit.

After walking away from the building, the reality of what happened hit me and I called my husband and said, “I think I just quit my job.”  The thing was, I couldn’t afford to quit my job.  So…I turned around and went back to the office to figure it out.   So much for leaving in a blaze of glory.

Luckily, the owner’s wife apologized first, then I apologized, and we made it work until I moved on to complete my student teaching.  Despite the time that has past, I’ve never forgotten that moment, thinking back to it with a certain wistfulness every time I’ve moved on from a company.  But I have never reenacted that moment because I know there would be consequences.

man lighting fuse

Before you decide to lay waste to the past and leave in a dramatic fashion (like these extreme quitters), decide if it’s worth it by answering these questions:

  • Will I need a reference from anyone at this company?
    Obviously you would only select “friendly” references.  But any recruiter worth their salt will do what they can to find backdoor references – folks NOT on your friendly list – because they want the real scoop.  Those are the people you need to be thinking about.
  • Did I gain a significant amount of experience at this company that I will need to be able to refer to in the future?
    A job you had for a month or two might be okay to leave off the ol’ resume.  But what if you were there for 2 years?  Or 5 years? Or 15?  You’re going to need to be able to use that experience to sell your skills to a future employer.
  • Is it possible I may want to return to this company?
    Sean Connery claimed he would NEVER play James Bond again…and then came back to make, you guessed it, Never Say Never Again.  I get tough work environments, burn out, impossible bosses, etc.  The reality is that people move on, circumstances change, and time lends perspective.  Don’t risk future opportunity to for short-term satisfaction.
  • How small is my industry’s world?
    This is particularly important if you have a niche skill set – IT, legal, and yes, even instructional design, can fall into this arena.  Word of your behavior will get out.  And with social media, the range will be even further than you think.  If there’s a chance your exit may reflect poorly on you if told to a potential future employer, it’s a BAD idea to burn that bridge.
  • Am I an adult?
    Seriously, are you?  A true professional tries to address the issues at hand, and if that doesn’t work, he or she leaves like an adult human being rather than a 2-year-old or viral video wannabe.  Yes, it’s really entertaining to watch the videos of extreme quitters, and we all live vicariously through their efforts.  But what did it really change in those companies?  And where are those people today?  A few people did turn their moment of fame into a career, but most probably traded a moment of triumph for a professional lifetime of explaining away that YouTube clip.

There are times when burning bridges might make sense (companies engaging in illegal activities come to mind).  The point is, only you can make that choice – so make it a good one.

If you decide it’s totally worth it – go for it!  And please, film it so we can enjoy it, too.

Do you have story of a burned bridge to share?  Are there times when it DOES make sense to burn a bridge?  Let me know in the comments!

 

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