Hiring the Right People

September 3, 2017

Selecting the right people to bring into the organization is undoubtedly one of the most critical functions any supervisor has to perform. Bringing in a problem employee can set an operation back for months.

Most organizations have a set hiring process that needs to be followed, but normally the supervisor has a lot of latitude as to who gets selected. In making the best hiring choice, I believe it really matters what kind of function your group is called upon to perform.

First let me describe the most typical supervisory situation, where the job is a production function, like running an assembly line or a packaging operation.

In this situation, you want the group of individuals working as a team and with the ability to swap workers to different stations as the situation requires it.

It is a good idea to select people who will blend in well with the existing group from the outset. Select people who are similar in outlook and demographics so there will be less need to play referee down the road.

Have a specific program of cross training workers on each function, so there is maximum flexibility for backfill in case of absence or to accommodate peak loads in one part of the process.

The ideal set up for an assembly line operation is if each person can perform any of the functions equally well as another individual.

The logic is quite different if you happen to be supervising a group of people who have jobs with highly creative requirements, cognitive skills, or customer/supplier interfaces.

In this case, diversity is superior to a homogeneous group philosophy, and yet the temptation is strong to try and find people who match perfectly with the existing team.

I often hear a phrase that makes me cringe coming from the lips of these managers: “We want to hire someone who will ‘fit into’ our group.”

A lot of effort is expended in screening candidates with personality tests, multiple interviews, even role plays in order to determine that the new hire will be similar in thinking to the existing team. I think this is a big mistake, if the work to be done requires a high degree of mental capability.

It is often the maverick or even rebel among a group of people who comes up with the genius solutions to problems or creates entirely new streams of income.

When we seek to have everyone “fit in” we lose the potential for diversity of thought that is a major part of the creative process.

When creativity is a significant aspect of the work, you do not want a team of people where everybody looks, thinks, and acts the same. A room full of clones may look reassuring to the boss, but it is not the pathway to peak performance, unless you are running a production line operation as described earlier.

Obviously, it is a good idea to avoid putting a person on the team who is a total misfit, is disruptive, or always brings up a contrary point of view, creating dissent. Instead, try to foster a mixture of ideas and points of view when hiring new team members.

As the supervisor, you need to pay special attention to the team dynamics and interplay during the time when a new person is settling in.

The team will eventually morph into a way of operating that takes the newcomer into account, but it may take quite a while, and you may not be happy with the new equilibrium if you let it happen naturally.

My rule of thumb is to double your interface time with the team when they are assimilating a new person. Doing this teambuilding is your best way to have a good result.

Recognize that each time you bring a new person onto an existing team, there is an adjustment period where new team norms are established. It is the old familiar Bruce Tuckman Model (1965) of forming, storming, norming, and performing that always occurs when there is a change in personnel on the team.

Expect this pattern and help the team work through the phases efficiently. When the team expresses frustration with the storming phase, point out that it is perfectly normal for a team to go through and ask the group for patience. Point out that when the team figures out what rules they want to play by, the stress will go down again.

The first few weeks, or even days, are critical to bringing a new member onto an existing team. I will deal with some tips for the onboarding process next week.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763

Prerequisites for Better Teams

February 6, 2016

The culture of a team governs its effectiveness. Most teams have a culture that allows adequate performance despite many unfortunate outbreaks of tension and sometimes childish behavior.

It is unfortunate that more teams don’t experience the exhilaration of working in a supportive culture that produces excellent results. The methods of building teams into high performing units are well documented, but most teams do not go through the rigor required to get to that level.

This article blends well known processes with horse sense born of experience that will allow any team to perform better.

In 1965, Bruce Tuckman described four stages that every team goes through. They are Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing.

A critical time for any team is when it is forming. This is when the team is trying to figure out its role and goals. Members are not sure of their status or contribution at this point, and personal bonding is a key element to the eventual success of the team.

It is advisable for the group to go offsite for some initial teambuilding activities. Many leaders avoid this step because often team building activities involve a kind of game atmosphere that does not feel like “work.”

In fact, team building is real work that may be fun at the moment, but it is deadly serious business that can result in millions of dollars of profit if done well or millions of dollars in damage control if not done at all.

During the storming phase, there is some kind of power struggle where members vie for position and influence. It is up to the team leader to help the team move quickly through this awkward time.

Usually the storming stage is short simply because it is painful. People want to get out of the rut of consternation and move on to getting the work done.

It is in the norming phase that the team decides the degree of effectiveness it will ultimately enjoy. If individual and team behaviors are agreed upon with conviction, the team will immediately begin to perform with excellence.

Included in this phase is identifying the individual skills brought to the team by the diversity of talent in the group, the goals of the team, the ground rules of expected behavior, and the consequences of failing to comply with team expectations.

The three most basic things required for any team to become a high performing unit are

1) A common goal,

2) Trust, and

3) Outstanding Leadership.

If these building blocks are in place, all of the rest of the team dynamics (like excellent communication) will sort themselves out.

If any of these elements are missing, the team will sputter and struggle to meet expectations. A key rule fostered by most teams that is most often compromised is to treat each member with respect. There is a kind of disease that sets in most teams where members subtly undermine each other.

People often make jokes in team meetings. Keep your antenna up and you will discover that, for most groups, the majority of jokes are sarcastic digs about other people in the room. Everyone knows they are only jokes, and they laugh, but deep down some damage is done.

Smart groups have a conscious norm that they will enjoy humor in meetings but never make a joke at someone else’s expense. It may seem like a small thing, but over time this practice can really help improve the function of any team.

Team respect is easy to accomplish. The leader just needs to set the expectation and remind people when they slip up. In coaching some groups with a particularly bad habit on this, I have suggested that any time a person makes a joke that is a dig, he or she has to put $5 in a kitty. The money is used later by the group for a party. This small change can actually change the entire culture of a team.

Now that you are sensitized to this issue, just keep track in a few meetings with some hash marks on a piece of paper. You will be astonished how pervasive this problem is and also how certain people are addicted to the practice. Then, solve the problem and begin enjoying the benefits of better teamwork.

I have coached hundreds of teams, and I find that there are patterns that lead to success and other patterns that lead to extreme frustration and failure. There is one condition that rises above all the others when it comes to dysfunctional teams.

When some members of the team believe other members are not pulling their fair share of the load, the team is going to have major problems. Unfortunately, this situation is so common, it is almost universal, yet there is a simple cure that is about 95% successful at preventing this condition or stopping it if it happens.

The cure is to have an agreed upon Charter for the team upfront before behavior problems surface.

During the forming stage of a team, there is an opportunity to document several critical parameters of how the team will operate. These include:

1. A list of the talents and skills each member of the team can contribute
2. A set of solid, measurable performance goals for the team
3. A set of agreed-upon behaviors that the members pledge to follow
4. A statement of the consequences that will occur if a member fails to live up to the behaviors.

When teams take the time at the start to document these four items, the chances of success are much higher than if this step is omitted. The most powerful item is #4, and it is the one that is most often omitted from a charter.

The reason it has power is that when the team is forming, usually all members have good intentions to pull their weight for the good of the team. If they agree that letting the team down by slacking off and having others pick up the slack will result in some unhappy consequence (like being voted off the team, or having no points on an assignment, or having to do extra clean up work, or some other penalty) they are far less likely to practice what is called “social loafing.”

If they are tempted to goof off, then the penalty they have already agreed to is quickly applied, and the bad behavior is immediately extinguished.

Most teams without a good charter end up with the frustration of having one or more people believing they are unfairly doing more than their fair share of the work. When a good charter spells out the expected behaviors and the penalty for non-compliance before the team experiences a problem, it greatly reduces this most common of all team maladies.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change, The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763