The beginning of the year represents a timely opportunity for employee reviews and providing feedback regarding performance and development. This is a cherished time for most leaders; it is the chance to reflect on the milestones achieved in the past year and the creation of new objectives for the new year. Annual reviews allow managers to praise positive behaviors, award well-earned promotions, and continue to bring out the best in each team member. In organizations around the world, the New Year brings revived optimism.
As a manager, creating a well-rounded and high-performing team is one of the most fulfilling aspects of leadership. Seeing and helping superstars develop, watching individuals become more confident with their unique abilities, and grooming the next generation of leader within the organization is incomparable.
“B” and “C” Players
A less enjoyable component of management is the act of working with and coaching the perpetual underperformers. Every department has them, every leader has struggled with them, and some may even have a few who come to mind immediately. They are the few who we try to encourage, who we try to train, and for whom we hold out hope that change will come, but it can seem like an endless cycle of performance management and frustration.
We all recognize “A” Players. These are the star performers, with the highest potential, and who can step up to and handle any challenge or new scenario. In his book, Leading Apple with Steve Jobs, former Apple senior vice president Jay Elliot details his former boss’ strategies for hiring “A” Players. “I noticed that the dynamic range between what an average person could accomplish and what the best person could accomplish was 50 or 100 to 1. Given that, you’re well advised to go after the cream of the cream … A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.”
So where does that leave the “B” and “C” Players? “B” Players are competent, steady performers who balance their work and personal lives while still performing a significant amount of tasks that need to be done. They stay in their lane, don’t require a great deal of attention, and they get the job done.
On the other end of the spectrum, “C” Players sometimes make up the smallest segment of the team yet require the most time and attention. They are the employees with a constant litany of excuses – a vehicle is broken, someone is sick, excessive days are missed, and the workload either gets passed to someone else or delayed altogether. They walk the fine line between “good enough to get by” and “fireable offense worthy of termination.” They are granted continual employment primarily because the act of hiring, training and managing someone you don’t know is sometimes more intimidating than continuing to deal with the perpetual issues of the presently employed “C” performer.
Most would agree that the ability to recruit and retain the top talent that exists in the industry is paramount to the success of an organization. In Topgrading, industrial psychologist and global consultant Bradford Smart expands on the three levels of contributors within an organization. “Simply put, topgrading is the practice of packing the team with A players and clearing out the C players,” Smart writes. “’A players’ is defined as the top 10 percent of talent available at all salary levels–best of class. With this radical definition, you are not a topgrader until your team consists of all A players. Period.”
Thus, again the question is raised: where does that leave the “B” and “C” Players? Smart writes: “Topgrading does not necessarily mean that you must fire every B player in your company; however, if you currently have less than 90% A-player employees, then you will likely engage in a painful, uphill battle.” Smart advocates that all companies should strive to hire 90% A-players, promote 90% A-Players, and eventually achieve 90% A-players in management.
Proactive vs. Reactive Topgrading
Achieving a team comprised of 90% “A” Players might be a significant leap for most teams. Instead, keep one foot firmly planted in present day reality while making immediate and proactive efforts to improve the future bench. Evaluate those on the team who would score less than a “B+” grade for competency, reliability, and consistency. With those individuals, provide concrete feedback and opportunity for measurable improvement. Negative performance issues should be validated by at least two or three specific examples, and collaborate on a plan to move forward with a resolution.
Consider focusing on proactive hiring that improves the strength of your bench – not just hiring that fills empty seats. Spend less time addressing reoccurring performance issues and instead craft a hiring plan that proactively attracts the “A” or “B+” contributors to the team. Will 100% of an organization be comprised of “A” Players? Not likely. But be proactive in hiring replacements that will create a topgraded bench for 2015 and beyond.
Finding People Who Make a Difference®
The Sanford Rose Associates® Executive Search Network is comprised of independently-owned firms who are committed to “finding people who make a difference®”. Executive Search Review has recognized the totality of the Sanford Rose Associates network as being one of the Top 11 Search Firms in North America. Sanford Rose Associates has 60+ offices worldwide and is a member of the International Executive Search Federation (IESF). To learn more about how to create a bench of “A” Players, please reach out to your Sanford Rose Associates® executive search consultant today.
Recruiters often say that the purpose of a first interview is to get invited back for a second interview. This is because the decision for next steps then rests solely on the shoulders of the candidate, and options are limitless. But does every candidate who interviews with your organization want to be invited back for a second interview? If not, consider the possibility that although the interviewing process is designed to both screen as well as sell, there are ways to maximize the odds of candidates craving an invitation to return.
Every encounter with your brand influences a candidate’s perception of your organization, which impacts your firm’s ability to stay in the driver’s seat when deciding which candidate to hire. Employer brand and candidate experience are inextricably linked, and they matter greatly for recruiting and retaining talent. How can you communicate your brand while simultaneously improving the candidate experience throughout each step of the selection process?
Get on the Same Page
How employees represent the company’s mission and brand is as important as anything said by human resources or leaders during the hiring process. Within the first interview, a candidate needs to grasp an understanding of what is unique about the organization, environment, and opportunity. If a candidate was to ask “why your firm” as opposed to others, do you know how your employees respond? The “why your firm” moment is an excellent opportunity for an employee to communicate the elevator pitch of the organization. Consider providing employees with an example of a strong and succinct elevator pitch script to be used in both social settings as well as the interviewing process. Make sure all individuals involved in the interview have a concrete understanding of the mission of the firm, the vision for the future, and alignment of organizational goals.
Contrary to popular opinion, prospective candidates do not wait to get home from work to look for new career opportunities or research alternative employers. The most popular day to search for jobs is Monday, and it tapers off throughout the week before plummeting over the weekend. This means that candidates are looking for jobs while at work. Since most users realize their computer use is monitored, those searches are conducted on their mobile phones.
Mobile does not only apply to searching for new opportunities. A recent survey conducted by Glassdoor.com found that 43% of candidates research their prospective employer just 15 minutes prior to their interviews. However, according to a study by CareerBuilder, only 20 percent of Fortune 500 companies have a mobile-optimized career site. Employers must implement a mobile-friendly experience to create a recruitment strategy that aligns with consumer behavior.
Personalize the Experience
Once upon a time, business was rooted in personal relationships and one-on-one interactions. Then came decades of technology, with automated recruiting, email, job boards, training videos, all of which remove the human element of relationships.
Electronic and telephonic communication works well, but video communication personalizes the candidate experience significantly. As a way to incorporate videos into the hiring process, Sanford Rose Associates partners with a leading video interviewing technology platform so clients can share their stories in their own voices and communicate their brand with depth and personality.
Additional videos can enhance the experience even more. Employees talking about why they love the organization or key customers sharing why they value the firm serve to provide multiple perspectives to potential candidates. Videos with clips from around the office and spotlighting superstars can be an effective way to share “why your firm” to prospects considering applying to your organization.
Create a Compelling Story
Prior to a first interview, provide candidates with an “About Us” packet highlighting the history of the company, growth plans, success stories of employees, and other items that will engage them on a human level. Sharing testimonials from recent hires who can attest to how much they enjoy their new roles and the firm, or snapshots of recent promotions and advancements within the ranks are also great ways to get candidates feeling good about your organization.
Consider having a binder in the lobby for candidates to flip through while waiting for an interview. The binder could be stocked with pictures from company events, parties, charity events, or volunteer initiatives. Including company newsletters, quarterly updates with announcements and achievements, and photos from events and cultural initiatives add a sense of the company’s personality and may appeal to candidates.
Take time to evaluate the lines of communication between prospective candidates and your internal hiring team. When a candidate applies to your organization, is an automatic response sent to notify that the information has been received? If the candidate interviewed and is no longer in consideration for the role, how is that communicated to the candidate? Set expectations and do not leave candidates in the dark; be clear about what your process is, when they can expect feedback, and how quickly a decision will be made.
Finding People Who Make a Difference®
The Sanford Rose Associates® Executive Search Network is comprised of independently-owned firms who are committed to “finding people who make a difference®”. Executive Search Review has recognized the totality of the Sanford Rose Associates network as being one of the Top 11 Search Firms in North America. Sanford Rose Associates has 60+ offices worldwide and is a member of the International Executive Search Federation (IESF). To learn more about how to communicate your brand and culture throughout the selection process, please reach out to your Sanford Rose Associates® executive search consultant today.
The concept of having a best friend may seem more appropriate for schoolyard conversations than workplace ones. Although there is no need for friendship bracelets to be exchanged across cubicle walls, there is most certainly a need for significant connections within the workplace in service of employee contribution and retention.
The best employers recognize that loyalty doesn’t solely exist to the company; it exists at a much deeper level – among employees toward one another. All employees have moments when they examine their professional situation; as recruiters, on a daily basis we speak to individuals who consider leaving an organization. The best managers recognize that the quality and depth of relationships (both peer-to-peer and employee-manager) is a critical component of employee loyalty.
One reason deep friendships are so essential in the workplace is because a necessary element of friendship is trust. Development of trusting relationships is a significant emotional component for employees in today’s workplace. Thus, it is easy to understand why it is such a key trait of retention, and is one of the 12 key discoveries from a multi-year research study by The Gallup Organization. When strong engagement is felt in a workgroup, employees believe their colleagues will help them during times of stress and challenge. In this day of rapid-fire change, reorganization, technological advancements, and innovation, having best friends at work may be the true key to effective change integration and adaptation. When compared to those who don’t, employees who have best friends at work identify significantly higher levels of healthy stress management, even though they experience the same levels of stress.
The Inner Circle
Consider your own inner circle at work. In Tom Rath’s Vital Friends, his extensive research outlines the types of individuals you must have in your life in order to elevate your professional game. Who of your vital friends can you count on for the following?
Building the Inner Circle of Others
Gallup’s research found that managers are the ones primarily responsible for the engagement level of their employees. Think through what you can do to take active role in fostering vital friendships within the workplace and the team. Friendships are about more than simply having fun; camaraderie can be built around a common sense of purpose, meaningful goals, and powerful day-to-day experiences. Studies have proven that soldiers form resilient bonds during missions in part because they believe in the purpose of the mission, rely on each other, and share the good and the bad as a team. Consider ways to increase engagement at weekly meetings, in action-planning sessions, and in one-on-one meetings with employees to make it part of your workplace’s DNA.
Camaraderie at work can create “esprit de corps,” which includes mutual respect, sense of identity, and admiration to push towards goals and outcomes. Certainly, the coordination of group events such as charitable initiatives, wellness competitions, community service events, and other activities can help build a sense of teamwork and togetherness. However, vital friendships serve many different dimensions. It is important for business leaders and managers to be acutely aware of the need employees have for strong bonds in each of the areas described by Rath, and use that knowledge within their own inner circles and the circles of others to enhance and engender employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention.
Finding People Who Make a Difference®
The Sanford Rose Associates® Executive Search Network is comprised of independently-owned firms who are committed to “finding people who make a difference®”. Executive Search Review has recognized the totality of the Sanford Rose Associates network as being one of the Top 11 Search Firms in North America. Sanford Rose Associates has 60+ offices worldwide and is a member of the International Executive Search Federation (IESF). To learn more about how the right people can elevate your game, please reach out to your Sanford Rose Associates® executive search consultant today.
Since childhood, we have all been raised by the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Many would cite this ethical code as one of their aspirations by which to live, both personally and professionally. The problem with the Golden Rule? It implies the basic assumption that other people would like to be treated the way that you would like to be treated.
As a leader, consider instead operating by the Platinum Rule: “Treat others the way they want to be treated.” The Platinum Rule accommodates the desires of others, and shifts the focus from “this is what I would want, so I will treat everyone the same way” to “let me first understand what my employees want, and I’ll figure out a way to give it to them.” Operating from the Platinum Rule doesn’t require leaders to change who they are, it doesn’t require submitting to the demands of others, but it does require an understanding of what drives people and recognizes the options for interacting with them.
In The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, author Gary Chapman helps managers effectively communicate appreciation and encouragement to their employees, resulting in higher levels of job satisfaction, healthier relationships between managers and employees, and decreased cases of burnout.
Perception versus Reality
A recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management discovered that although 51 percent of supervisors say they recognize employees who do a good job, only 17 percent of the employees at the same organizations report that their supervisors do well at recognizing them. The truth is that it is essential to learn to appreciate employees in the language that speaks to them the most. We need to recognize what motivates the people we work with, so we can show them appreciation in a way that means something to them – not to us.
Regardless of the appreciation language, there are fundamental needs every employee needs in order to stay with an organization. An opportunity for challenge and growth as well as strong lines of communication and are two of these fundamental needs.
Be cognizant of offering growth opportunities to each individual. Every role comes with less-than-glamorous responsibilities, but it’s important to balance out mundane tasks with challenging assignments. When you only dole out repetitive responsibilities (or tasks beneath someone’s skill level), you’re conveying that you don’t really need or appreciate his or her individual talents.
Alternatively, when you assign an employee a challenging task and actually put your trust in him or her to see it through, you’re conveying, “I know you’re capable of this, and I trust you to do a great job.” Find new ways to engage employees, including developing new projects specifically for their talents or being more aware of what each person does best and assigning tasks accordingly.
The second universal truth of valuing employees is to create open lines of communication. Examine the world’s greatest leaders and you’ll find them all to be exceptional communicators. This does not mean they are great talkers; rather, they talk about their ideas but they do so in a way which speaks to your emotions and your aspirations. They realize if the message doesn’t take root with the audience then it likely won’t be understood, much less championed.
Instead of including employees only in “need-to-know” conversations and decisions, create opportunities for open discussion around initiatives and policies. In the absence of communication, employees fill the void with often-incorrect tidbits of information. Build trust by communicating as often and as openly as you can and allow people to have insight into the decision-making process.
Finding People Who Make a Difference®
For more than 50 years, Sanford Rose Associates® has been committed to “Finding people who make a difference®” for its clients. To learn more about how to create a culture of appreciation and retention within your office, please reach out to your Sanford Rose Associates® executive search consultant today.
As a leader, you are responsible for making sure your team has the necessary skills to perform well in their roles. Training likely revolves around concrete and definable abilities that link directly back to the expectations of acceptable performance in the role. Concrete training is valuable, but training should not stop there. What can be done to impact not only an employee’s skill set, but their mindset as well?
Organizations and teams that inspire an ownership mindset, where ideas are encouraged and initiative is commended, are more successful than those that don’t. However, you shouldn’t expect behavior that you haven’t asked for. How do you train a mindset of entrepreneurial thinking and individual responsibility?
Learning to Think
One of the best ways to help your employees assume an ownership mindset is to help them understand your own mindset – what you think about, how you prioritize, how you make business decisions and how you solve problems. You are their best teacher, but you must be transparent about how you operate.
Remember to provide access to pertinent information. Share historical data and context, past cases of failures and successes, and even confidential information if it will create a more insightful thought process and outcome. It is impossible to withhold relevant information and still expect profound thinking and deep insight.
It is certainly desireable for employees to be able to look around, see what needs doing, and proactively step into those tasks. If they do not, it might not be because they can’t or don’t want to. It may be because you have not made clear to them that this is what you want and expect on a regular basis.
Ask more questions and give fewer answers; the best leaders ask more questions than they answer. Thinking is a developmental activity, and tough questions stimulate thought. Instead of immediately responding to a problem or issue voiced by an employee, start with:
Foster the Right Environment
If you ask for feedback or opinions, create an environment in which employees are comfortable sharing their feedback and opinions. Defensiveness by a leader is the genesis of apprehension and insecurity from employees. Even if you do not agree with their thought process, ask questions to lead them to a more appropriate conclusion – one that they arrive at by themselves.
Similarly, employees can’t be expected to take risks if failure isn’t tolerated. Good employees make mistakes, and great leaders allow them to. Give people the opportunity to learn from mistakes, own them, fix them, and then put safeguards in place to ensure the same mistake will never be repeated. Give employees room to fail – within reason – and they will step up more readily.
Be comfortable delegating. Fear of losing control is what stops most people from delegating; as a leader, you will ultimately be held accountable for failure. It can be intimidating to hand over the keys to the car if you don’t fully trust the person driving.
Hire Employees with Proactive Track Records
Hiring proactively-minded associates can be difficult. Instead of relying on job titles or skill sets, look for signs of proactive behaviors and accomplishments. In the interview, be aware of language choice. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen Covey claims that “our language is a very clear indicator of the degree to which we see ourselves as proactive people. The language of reactive people absolves them of responsibility…whereas the language of proactive people embraces responsibility.”
Proactive language demonstrates an ability to choose and take action, while reactive language tends to be more focused on removing responsibility. Keeping this perspective in mind when hiring is key to developing a team inspired by an ownership mindset.
Finding People Who Make a Difference®
For more than 50 years, Sanford Rose Associates® has been committed to “Finding people who make a difference®” for its clients. To learn more about how we can coach you to inspire an ownership mindset with your current team while hiring like-minded individuals in the future, please reach out to your Sanford Rose Associates® executive search consultant today.
For many, pending deadlines and packed schedules are not overwhelming, but instead can be a driving force that pushes them toward greater productivity. We have processes to streamline, goals to achieve, promotions to earn, debt to eliminate, exercise regimes to master, dreams to chase, and people to help and inspire. The “I work best under pressure” mantra environment creates a Catch-22; we get frustrated with ongoing stress, but perform at the highest level of effectiveness and efficiency when under the exact stress we try to escape.
For some, busyness can be reassuring; a feeling of constant forward-motion and accomplishment is much preferred over being stagnant or empty. That reassurance can come with an eventual price – stress, while beneficial in moderate amounts, is harmful in excessive amounts, as are most things.
Can We Become Addicted?
The present hysteria is not an obligatory or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it. Heidi Hanna, author of Stressaholic: 5 Steps to Transform Your Relationship with Stress argues that multiple demands on our time and energy have created a neurochemical dependence on stress. By activating the dopamine reward center in the brain that feeds us feel-good endorphins, stress can temporarily boost performance, explaining why some appear to get so much done when under extreme pressure.
Just like a drug, the feelings of stress and preoccupation are extremely addictive. The transition between being hyper-busy to more reasonable levels of activity may be a foreign feeling and withdrawal symptoms may come along with it. When one becomes addicted to non-stop thinking, worrying, striving, efforting, achieving, straining and stressing, to allow oneself to be truly relaxed and simply breathe can be an adjustment. It may even feel boring!
Simplifying and Balancing
If you are a self-diagnosed “stress junkie”, start by asking yourself a few simple questions to be sure your efforts support your true intentions:
Break the Addiction
One suggestion is to evaluate, and then trim away, all of the non-essentials in your day. What are you involved with out of obligation that could be less frequent or eliminated entirely? How many social networking sites do you really need to update or check, and how often per day? What professional responsibilities could be delegated to others, but stay on your plate because “they’ve always been there”? Eliminating a few non-essential tasks or activities gives you the time and energy to invest in those things that are essential for your balance and wellbeing.
Make a list of all your current important projects that are not urgent, and then assign at least two one-hour slots a week to work on them. If you don’t begin to do some of the strategic work now, when will you? Sometimes we get so busy with the minutiae that we neglect the forward-motion activity required for true progress or change. Usually, the most important things in your life are not necessarily the most urgent. They don’t call you on the phone, put deadlines on your calendar, or knock incessantly at your door. They are often quiet – in the background – easy to forget and neglect. Schedule time for those important projects, and then schedule the nonessentials around them.
Consider dejunking your office or living environment. Get rid of physical items you don’t need from old magazines and newspapers, to clothes that don’t fit, to toys and movies that the kids have outgrown. When what you don’t need is out of the way, it takes much less time and energy to find the things you do need.
Add activities into your schedule that you enjoy, and be fully present as you’re doing them. You may feel you don’t have the time, but consider how much extra energy and motivation you receive from pursuing hobbies and gratifications, and how that energy might help you with your regular responsibilities.
Finally, stop trying to be all things to all people! It is okay to say “no”, or to set expectations as to when it is realistic for you to accomplish the task at hand. In today’s busy, demanding world, we will likely always have more to do than we can ever get done in a single day. Find joy and fulfillment in small achievements, day by day, and one at a time.
Finding People Who Make a Difference®
Creating the right team is critical to relieving stress and avoiding an extra workload. For more than 50 years, Sanford Rose Associates® has been committed to “Finding people who make a difference®” for its clients. To learn more about how we can create a synergistic and high-performing workforce within your organization, please reach out to your Sanford Rose Associates® executive search consultant today.
By the year 2030, Millennials, also known as Gen Y (those born in the 80’s and 90’s) will make up 75% of the workforce. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2015, this hyper-connected and tech-savvy demographic will come close to overtaking the majority representation of the workplace.
This should not come as a surprise as it’s been on the horizon for years, but are we prepared for the rise of Millennials?
These new wave of Digital Natives coming through your office doors are not just tech literate; they are accustomed to being connected at any place and at any time. They can’t recall life before the Internet, they’ve always had a cell phone with Caller ID, and they communicate via text and social media more frequently than phone and in-person. Thanks to the rise of mobile, cloud and social media, Millennials are used to flexibility, openness and instantly connecting with people regardless of their location.
About 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 were jobless or underemployed in 2010, the highest share in at least 11 years. The figures are based on an analysis of 2011 Current Population Survey data by Northeastern University researchers relying on Labor Department assessments to calculate the shares of young adults with bachelor’s degrees who were “underemployed.”
This creates a generation acutely aware of the importance of job security and financial responsibility, yet that balances an innate need to do meaningful work and make an impact. They are idealistic, diverse, social and perhaps most importantly, ambitious. They are digitally-enabled, question the status quo, and work on their own terms. You may think that eventually this group will grow up and things will change. You may be right, but in the meantime it is necessary to readjust the way Millennials are recruited, managed, and inspired.
To attract this generation, you must have more than an appealing job posting or creative job description. Take note of how you describe your corporate culture on your organization’s website and social media pages. How compelling is the “Join Us” section on your website? Consider sharing testimonials from recent hires who can attest to the significant benefits of working for your firm. Share Newsletters or Quarterly Updates with photos from events and cultural initiatives. Contact your city’s Business Journal and investigate “Best Place to Work” awards or accolades to which you could apply. A video with clips from around the office, community, and spotlighting superstars can be an effective way to share “why your firm” to prospects considering applying to your organization.
Managing and Engaging Millennials
Emily Matchar writes in the Washington Post, “The current corporate culture simply doesn’t make sense to much of middle-class Gen Y. Since the cradle, these privileged kids have been offered autonomy, control and choices… They’ve been encouraged to show their creativity… Raised by parents who wanted to be friends with their kids, they’re used to seeing their elders as peers rather than authority figures. When they want something, they’re not afraid to say so.”
What Millennials are not used to are constraints of any kind. They need to be creative through their work and their ability to solve problems. They need to be able to work remotely, and have technology that allows them to access information quickly and at all hours of the night. They use social media as a form of communication – not just socially. Restraining social media access would be suffocating their ability to communicate.
Develop small milestones and incremental titles in order to serve the need for constant career advancement. More than their Baby Boomer parents or Gen X older siblings, Millennials are especially eager to progress in their careers and less willing to wait three to five years for a promotion. This can also provide incremental training that will aid them later with larger career advancement opportunities.
Creating a Millennial-Friendly Culture
In numerous studies, Millennials said they would prefer feedback in real time rather than through traditional performance reviews. Millennials are used to speed, multi-tasking, and working on their own schedule; all are ingredients for success if your organization values end results over the process. Make sure Millennials understand the organization’s corporate vision; they are more likely to look for meaning and impact in their work and helping them understand their role in a larger plan gives them a clearer sense of purpose. If a Millennial recommends a new tool that they think would improve working practices, increase productivity and make office life a little easier, strongly consider that tool. Millennials live and breathe technology and they may be able to teach their managers a new thing or two!
Finding People Who Make a Difference®
Creating a multi-generational workforce has always been essential, and it is a tall task when attitudes toward work and careers differ generation to generation. For more than 50 years, Sanford Rose Associates® has been committed to “Finding people who make a difference®” for its clients. To learn more about how we can create a thriving multi-generational workforce within your organization, please reach out to your Sanford Rose Associates® executive search consultant today.
As human beings, we are naturally programmed with an existing set of emotions, habits, perspectives and opinions. We are sometimes drawn to making decisions for reasons we do not fully understand; we might hire a new employee because it feels right, or we promote those on our team because they deserve it.
Decision making lies at the very core of our personal and professional lives. Understanding the psychology of good decisions on an individual level can make a tremendous impact on an organization as a whole. Psychologists and behavioral economists have studied this issue, and understanding their discoveries can help avoid the traps that get in the way of wise, calculated professional business decisions.
A recent article in Forbes posed this scenario: a bored rich woman sits between two strangers (we’ll name them Robert and Juliette) on a plane. For entertainment, she offers to give Robert $10,000, with the proviso that he must make a one-time binding offer to give some of it to Juliette. If Juliette accepts Robert’s proposed split, they divide the money accordingly. If she rejects it, the rich woman keeps her money, and Robert and Juliette get nothing. In theory, Robert could offer Juliette only $10. A rational person would accept that: It’s free money. In practice, and the experiment has been conducted repeatedly, people in the Juliette role regularly reject offers they deem unfair. A powerful moral principle – fairness – plays a big role in decision making, often stronger even than self-interest.
Keep fairness in mind when evaluating decisions – both how fairness plays a role in the verdict, as well as how the decision will be perceived by others. In a professional setting, any decision deemed unfair (such as giving raises and bonuses to senior level management while laying off junior staff) can be met with resistance solely due to the principle of injustice.
In their book, Think Again: Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions, Sydney Finkelstein, Jo Whitehead, and Andrew Campbell explore the concept of pattern recognition – a complex process that integrates information from as many as thirty different parts of the brain. They share that when faced with a new situation, we make assumptions based on prior experiences and judgments. This pattern recognition is exactly why a chess master can assess a chess game and choose a high-quality move in as little as six seconds; he or she draws on patterns seen before and determines the most appropriate course of action. However, pattern recognition can also hinder us; when we’re dealing with seemingly familiar situations, our brains can cause us to think we understand them when we don’t.
This pattern recognition can also explain part of why leaders can have a difficult time transferring prior success to a new company. Just because you have a track record of achievement doesn’t mean that it will apply within your current organization. As such, leaders need to be mindful of the workplace conditions, co-workers, resources and how to create momentum in a new environment.
The Ladder of Inference
The Ladder of Inference can be climbed in milliseconds. You observe objectively, as an observation by itself is not a biased activity. Next, you select data from what you observed – which is where the filtering begins. Assumptions are created about which parts of the observation are important, and this assessment is based on how the things that have been observed affect you, or fit into your cultural experience. You then add meaning and make assumptions because when something is unknown, it is natural to assume that the motivations, behaviors, wants, desires, likes and dislikes will match your own. Now that you’ve convinced yourself you understand the situation, you draw conclusions and have feelings about these conclusions. You then take action based on those feelings, and usually exhibit an emotional, rather than a rational, response. These assumptions take the guesswork out of understanding the situation.
The Psychology of Good Decisions
What can you do? Begin by identifying the true decision to be made, and reasons behind the need for the solution. Get all of the facts, and understand their causes. Make your thinking process visible to others by explaining your assumptions, interpretations, and conclusions. Invite others to test your assumptions, push back on your conclusions, respectfully confront your reasoning, or give you an alternative perspective.
After all information has been considered, a decision based on that information should be made and implemented. While this might seem obvious, a decision only counts when it is executed. Former CEO of IBM Lou Gerstner said, “There are no more prizes for predicting rain. There are only prizes for building arks.” The final examination of any decision is whether or not the problem was solved. Did it go away? Did it evolve? Is it better now, or worse, or the same? What new problems did the solution create?
Finding People Who Make a Difference®
Whether you are leading a team and responsible for making decisions, or coaching those on your team to do the same, we are experts in strategically coaching your most valued asset – your people. For more than 50 years, Sanford Rose Associates® has been committed to “Finding people who make a difference®” for its clients. To learn more about how we can assist your organization’s long-term success, please reach out to your Sanford Rose Associates® executive search consultant today.
“Tell me about a time when you failed, and what you learned from that experience.”
Think of the most successful employees you’ve ever worked with, or the individuals you’ve mentored who excelled the most, or the leaders you’ve studied who seem to achieve every goal they set for themselves. Undoubtedly, a common thread between all will be that those individuals have the strength to learn why they failed, what to do in the future to succeed, and the willpower to get back on the horse and try again.
But exactly what is it that leads one person to try again when others just give up?
Industrial and organizational psychologists have spent decades researching this very subject. Angela Duckworth, assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and her research focuses on a personality trait she calls “grit.” She defines grit as “sticking with things over the very long term until you master them.” She writes that,“the gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina.”
Success and Talent
What causes an individual to experience significant success? The obvious answer: success is about talent. Successful people can do something – hit a golf ball, dance, trade stocks, write a blog – better than most anyone else. This answer begets another question: What is talent? How did that person get so good at hitting a golf ball or trading stocks? Although talent can appear to be based on inheritance, it turns out that the intrinsic nature of talent may be overrated.
The problem is that a major contradiction exists between how we measure talent and the causes of talent. In general, we measure talent using tests of maximum performance. Imagine tryouts for most any sports team; players perform in short bursts under conditions of high intensity and motivation. The purpose of the drills is to see what players are capable of and determine their potential. The problem with these drills is that the real world is not set up for short bursts of work ethic under conditions of high motivation. Instead, professional success requires sustained performance, spending hours upon hours perfecting your craft, deliberately and methodically staying the course during times of frustration or exhaustion.
In his book, Self-Made in America, John McCormack references a trait studied by Kathy Kolbe: conation. Conation is “the will to succeed, the quest for success, the attitude that ‘to stop me you’ll have to kill me,’ that elusive ‘fire in the belly’ that manifests itself in drive, enthusiasm, excitement, and single-mindedness in pursuit of a goal – any goal. All consistently successful people have it. Many well-educated, intelligent, enduring, and presentable people don’t have it.”
Interviewing for Grit
A segment of the workforce is made up of smart people who aren’t high achievers, and others who achieve a lot without having the highest test scores. In one study, Duckworth found that smarter students actually had less grit than their peers who scored lower on an intelligence test. This finding suggests that people who are not as bright as their peers “compensate by working harder and with more determination.” And their effort pays off: The grittiest students, not the smartest ones, had the highest GPAs.
So how can we start to understand an applicant’s or an employee’s grit? Try some or all of these questions to identify the trait:
Finding People Who Make a Difference®
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