The Boss is ALWAYS the last to know

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QuitMany people may not be aware that before I became an interviewing specialist, I owned and managed a restaurant in Boulder, Colorado. When I owned the restaurant, I hired a manager who committed several crimes right under my nose. I really had no idea how bad it was until my 2 best managers at the time came to me to turn in their notice together. They sat us down and told us horror stories about what it was like to work at my place of business and ultimately mine and my family’s second home. We fired the manager effectively immediately. After the fired manager was gone, the complaints really started pouring in… My employees suddenly felt they could freely speak about this former employee. We had lost really good staff and continued to have turn over as a result of this incident. If it were not for the courage of our two managers, who at the time were ready to quit, I still would not have known.

I had heard complaints before from other staff members, but I didn’t really take them seriously. Looking back on it, I should have. So, why didn’t I? Because the complaints seemed so minor. “He didn’t do his side work right.” “He didn’t wipe down the counters.” “He makes me do his work for him, even though he pays me for it.” I simply thought people were just blowing off steam.

After we fired him, I asked my staff: ‘Why didn’t you tell me that he was stealing money/inventory/food?”  And the answer was always the same: “Beth, I tried to talk to you about this.”

The biggest complaints that I hear from my clients is that they wish their employees would be more forthcoming about problems in the business/department. But, the employees say, “If you don’t take my small problems seriously, how am I supposed to talk to you about the big stuff?” In other words, those early, seemingly minor, complaints are opportunities for employees to see how you handle the little stuff. They are trying to figure out if you will hear them with the big stuff. They will talk to you about the tip of the iceberg as a way to begin the conversation about the bottom of the iceberg.

Your job as the boss is to take complaints very seriously, even the smallest of them. Usually, if you have an employee who is willing to come talk to you, the problem is bigger than they indicate. Use this opportunity to really look at the work environment that you are providing and make sure it is operating the way that you intend. Don’t ignore it, or you will be “the last to know”. 

Harley in a Fish Bowl continued…

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In my last newsletter, I shared with you the story of the fish that my daughter “fish napped” from a science experiment and nursed the fish, Harley, back to life. Here is the REST of the story…

Light FishLast week, Randy and I went to parent/teacher conferences and met with Katy’s science teacher. He began by asking if we had any questions that we specifically wanted to address, and I asked him if he was aware that Katy had stolen the fish from the science experiment. He laughed and said no. He thought that the fish had died and that someone had just thrown him away. I told him the story of Harley and how Katy had nursed him back to life, and I asked him if she was going to fail her experiment.

He said “Absolutely not! The goal is to learn how to collect data every day in a scientific experiment that the kids set up themselves.” Then, he smirked and said “That story is AWESOME.”

I am asked all the time by my clients about how to encourage their employees to be more creative and innovative, and you do that by letting your employees try new ways of doing things, even if the outcome isn’t what you wanted. Mr. Leary is a wonderful example of a teacher who allows innovation and creativity in his classroom. He is flexible enough to let outcomes unfold without micro managing the process. In fact, he is thrilled to encourage passionate displays.

Katy’s science teacher is the epitome of a great leader, and we can all learn something from him: innovation comes from trying new things, and sometimes, that means failing. We learn from both trying AND failing. And, in addition, Katy learned to stand up for something she believes in with the support of the adults around her. You can’t ASK for a greater experience than that.

Thanks, Mr. Leary!

P.S. Harley thanks you, too!

Harley in a Fish Bowl

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FishBowl_2gallon_70-8_zoomLast Friday I came home to a fish in a plastic cup on my kitchen counter. My daughter named him Harley.  She promptly went out and bought him a really nice bowl with beautiful blue rocks then filled the bowl with fresh water. I thought the fish was dead… really. He laid on the bottom for awhile and then he floated to the top. I tried to tell her that Harley was not going to make it – that he was dead in the water. She did not believe me and kept at it. She kept watching this half dead fish, trying to keep it living through pure will. We watched this fish for hours before he really began to swim around and attack the way-too-may- food pellets that we dropped in his new home. Two days later he is thriving – he looks like he is a brand new fish with a new lease on life.

A client called last week frustrated with his employee of almost 3 years… things were not getting done, balls were dropping and clients were not happy. I coached my client to sit down with his beloved employee and explain how he was feeling. Explain to your best employee ever that balls are getting dropped. Turns out, this really great employee needed fresh water and some attention. Remember, our employees are not us. They do not learn the job through osmosis; they learn it from their boss. And they continue to perform and perfect as a result of that leadership.

So, if you are feeling like your staff is half floating through their work, it is time for some attention. Show them that you are committed to their success by asking them how they are feeling about their work. Simply ask what you can do to help them enjoy their job better.  And you know what? It is shocking to me how easy it is to keep your employees engaged and happy with a committed boss who cares enough to ask “Do you need some fresh water?”

And Harley? Well it turns out that he was the subject of a science experiment in my daughter’s science class. She “fish-napped” him because she said he looked dead. I said “Won’t your teacher be mad that you stole the fish from the experiment?”

“Mom,” she said with an eye roll. “The class is called ‘Life Science’, emphasis on LIFE!”

Well said, kiddo. 

The Hiring Hangover

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tumblr_inline_mrkpyfH8o11qz4rgpLast week, I met with a new client who suffers from what I call “the Hiring Hangover”. He had just fired a long time employee and had to hire someone else quickly. The whole experience left a really bad taste in his mouth and he was having a hard time getting over it. He kept trying to change his policies and procedures to make sure that he did not get into the same position with a new employee that he had experienced in the past. In other words, he wanted to punish the new employee for the sins of the old employee. While it is completely understandable, it will not work. When you hire a person while “hungover”, you will make a bad hiring decision. You have to feel good about bringing a new person onboard. You have to be excited. 

So, how do you recover from a bad hire? 

  1. You take a deep breath. Do not hire too quickly. If you need immediate help, hire a temp. Jumping in to a situation with a new hire when you are not ready sets you both up for failure. 
  2. Create your ideal candidate list. Put your head in the clouds and dream BIG. And I mean really big, like roses and rainbows and unicorns. You cannot have what you want unless you know what it is and how to identify it. So until you are ready to write a list of what you want, then you are not ready for a new hire. 
  3. Be patient. Do not start the interview process until you feel excited again. 

Every manager has had a bad hire. It feels awful and firing someone should never feel good. So give yourself time to recover and breathe. Things will look better tomorrow. And your next amazing employee is right around the corner. I promise.

$300,000

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handshakeThe end of the year is always a time of reflection for me. I like to look back and see the difference I have made in the lives of others and plan for how I will continue to bring value in the coming year. 2014 should be an exciting year, as my plan to publish a book about interviewing in a new era has taken shape and well on its way to being realized. During this process of publishing a book, I was given the rare opportunity to interview my clients to learn more about how I have assisted them with better hiring practices. Below is one such testimonial I received that brought tears of joy to my eyes. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I….

One of my clients, The Doss Heritage and Culture Center, hired me 2 years ago to find them an Executive Director. “Our Board had a very poor hiring record,” said James May, the Board President at the time of the hire. ”We floundered for a number of years. We would hire folks because they were local, and we’d sit down with them for a chat. This is not the best way to do business.”

“The whole experience with A-list Interviews was so different for us, in that we sat back and observed, and let the expert keep us on track. We made decisions very quickly. We now have a successful operation that runs seamlessly, and we are reaching goals that we never dreamed possible. “ 

Heather Castagna, the Executive Director, said “How has A-list changed our organization? I now have a cohesive team of people, and our budget has increased by $300,000 in the two years since I got here. Our attendance has doubled, our events have doubled. I now understand the importance of looking past experience and skills- I need to find the right fit and develop them. It has worked out fabulously!” 

What a great way to end 2013! 

Happy Holidays to all of our clients and here’s to a prosperous 2014! 

Yours in success, 

Beth

The Experience Trap

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BearTrap_01.jpga203455b-ef09-4c5a-be36-5fe7351fd23fLargeEvery client that I begin to work with wants a certain level of experience for the position that they want filled. They say, “Beth, they have to have 5 years experience. Not negotiable.” The problem with experience is that it is a mixed bag. According to the book Talent is Overrated, “…people with lots of experience were no better at their jobs than those with very little experience.” Are you shocked? The book goes on to say, “Researchers from the INSEAD business school in France and the US Naval Postgraduate School call the phenomenon ‘the experience trap’”. Their key finding is that while companies typically value experienced managers, rigorous study shows that, on average, ‘managers with experience did not produce high caliber results’”. 

So, if experience does not make for a good hire, what does? Basically, you are looking for 3 traits in good people: 

  1. Can they handle conflict resolution? Whether there is conflict with the boss or conflict with a team member, how does this person resolve it? Basically, if your employee needs to you to solve their problems for them, then that is what you will spend your time doing. It is called management. 
  2. Can they do the job? This sounds like experience, right? It is not. It is more about basic communication and team work. Do they want to help the customer? Do they take ownership of their work? Do they ask for help when they need it? These are the qualities of the employee who is self sufficient and motivated to get the job done. 
  3. Do they want the job? Are they passionate about the work they do? If so, then they do not mind the occasional drudgery of the job. They love to solve the problems of the position and motivates them to innovate. 

If you want to hire good people, do not get caught in the experience trap. Find the person who can solve conflict, has basic customer service skills and the passion for the job, then train, train, train. In the end you will then have to manage less. You will be so glad that you did!

“But I hired you for another job!”

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red_lanesFor the past few blogs I have been telling you about my swimming experience. Recently, I had a setback. One day, I began to experience hip pain. The diagnosis is a herniated disc in my back. Much to my dismay, I have had to quit swimming and go into rehabilitation mode to become healthy again. I was at a crossroads and needed to make a decision about my swim lessons. I really did not want to quit working with my coach but swimming was no longer an option with my back issues. So, I decided to meet him for coffee one morning to deliver the bad news. He immediately suggested that a treatment option could be trigger point massage work, and lo and behold, he is a certified myotherapist. He was right. The trigger point along with chiropractic is doing the trick. Our relationship has changed dramatically from when we started working together, and I could never have predicted this amazing outcome. 

The job that I originally hired my swim coach for has changed. As a business grows, the positions that you will have within the company will also grow and change. The right hire will grow and change with you and your business. If you can remain flexible, you might be surprised at what other skills your great employee can bring to the table.  

The lesson here is that none of us can predict the future. We do not know how our businesses will change, but when you hire the right person, you can travel that journey together.

Go With Your “But”, Not Your Gut

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Stone in the shoe

I just read yet another article talking about how hiring with your gut never works. As a matter of fact, hiring on your gut reaction not only sets your employee up to fail, you will hold on to them longer when you know they are not right for the position, because your gut is involved. So, what exactly does all of this mean?

If you have been around me long enough, you have heard me tell you that your gut does not help you in the interview process, because the candidate is trying to sell to you. They want a job. They are anxious, worried, nervous and scared. They WILL tell you what you want to hear, because they want a job. Remember: an interview is not a normal interaction, so the dynamics are off. Therefore, your gut reaction will be skewed and will not help in making a good hiring decision.

Instead, I want you to go with your ‘but’. The ‘but’ is the potential big problem, the proverbial “pebble in your shoe.” You will talk about your potential employee like this: I like this and this about her, BUT… she doesn’t seem to want the job. I really like XYZ about him, BUT he complained about the commute.  If the ‘but” is something that you can live with and will not bug you later on, then you can dismiss it from your hiring criteria. If you ignore it, you will make a bad hiring decision.

Therefore, go with your ‘but’, not your gut. You can do it!!!

A-list Success story: Taking Fridays Off

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success1For the past few weeks, I have been visiting my clients to get quotes for my upcoming book about the interview process. The success stories have been awesome to hear, like the one from my client Steve. He and I hired his right hand employee a little over 2 years ago. Steve is reporting that he now has the drama- free office environment that he has always wanted. As a matter of fact, he now takes Fridays off and is making more money! To give you an example of just how great it is to be Steve, he faces a bi-annual audit as he is in the financial industry. The audit process has typically taken about 4 hours with the auditor and several weeks of Steve’s time to prepare. This last audit took 45 minutes and Steve’s employee prepared the entire document.

Lesson learned: Great hires = more time and more money.

Are you ready to get started on your A-list hire? 

Getting Through Your Fail-Set

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Go swimming

To stay fit, I have been swimming six days a week: 5 days a week with a Master’s group and a private lesson on day 6. A few weeks ago, my coach asked me to swim a “fail-set”: 15 laps in a certain time frame that get harder and harder as you go. The purpose is that you will fail. You can’t help it. This is why it is called a fail-set, but failing isn’t really the point. What is important is WHEN you fail and what you do as a result. 

The same process of failing can happen in interviewing. You will post your job ad, interview a lot of people who you will not want to hire and will need to start the whole process over. You will go through lots of candidates and find that you have to re-post your job ad and begin the process over again. You will get tired, frustrated and want to quit. My job, as your interviewing coach, is to encourage you to keep going and to keep your eye on the final prize of hiring the best person for the position and your company. When you have the right person on your team, your life is so much easier, the company will grow and your clients will be satisfied! 

Are you wondering about my fail-set? I failed on the #11 lap out of 15. I sat one out, re-grouped, and finished my last 3 laps. My coach was very pleased, and I walked away satisfied- knowing that I got through my fail-set… swimmingly.

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