Posts Tagged ‘communication’

Failure to communicate is a quintessential leader challenge and problemIn life and in leadership, even among quintessential leaders, many of the upsets, mishaps, implosions, and irreparable fissures that we experience are begun and ended by communication. 

Communication is perhaps the one thing we all struggle – and I do hope that we, at least as quintessential leaders, do struggle, because this means thinking before we speak or write, choosing our words carefully before we speak or write them to avoid misunderstanding and to exactly convey our exact meaning – mightily with at every turn in this thing called life. (more…)

Modern Hiring ProcessThere are a gazillion fancy catch phrases in the Human Resources world-that-exists-unto-itself that describe the hiring process. Talent Aquisition is my least favorite (as if people are inanimate commodities that are bought from or sold to the lowest bidder – although that can seem like the crux of a modern employment search).

But in the end, the process is still, despite all the automated keyword vetting that allows the cream of the crop to get overlooked because some programmer (who doesn’t know anything but coding) is doing the vetting instead of a live human being, essentially to find a person to fill a position.

But today’s hiring process is a mess. So many extraneous and nonsensical layers have been built into the hiring process that the actual person hiring and the actual person they should be hiring have less of a chance to connect in person with each other than we do of seeing Halley’s Comet again in our lifetime. 

This is unquintessential leadership on steroids. Whatever “genius” thought this was a good idea was clueless about teams, team-building, and quintessential leadership. 

By taking the control of the process out of the hands of the people directly responsible for building teams, the current hiring methodology limits (and eliminates) viable – and, in some cases, the best – choices that would be considered without all the filtering layers now in place.

And, yet, because unquintessential leadership is the norm in most organizations, the very people who have built this Frankenstein of a system complain loudly and frequently about how hard it is to find good candidates and qualified candidates to fill their open positions.

The reality is those candidates exist, but the hiring process in its current iteration makes it next to impossible to find them. 

Why?

Because instead of depending, as quintessential leaders do, on their own eyes, their own ears, their own evaluation skills, and on their own intuition to spot strong soft skills and a good fit for existing teams, these unquintessential leaders have outsourced the most important function of building an organization to programmers, recruiting mills, and generic Human Resources departments, instead of doing this essential work, start to finish, themselves.

They don’t realize, to their detriment, that while you can quantify many aspects of organization-building – and, therefore, relegate it to people who don’t know anything about it, but can follow an if-then-else logic sequence that’s defined for them – you can’t quantify people.

And most organizations have forgotten that their most valuable resources are people: living, breathing, thinking, creating humans with personalities, skills, talents, strengths and potential that can’t be assessed or utilized without a direct human-to-human relationship.

Let’s look at the current hiring process and see why it exemplifies unquintessential leadership.

Major Online Job BoardsThe hiring process usually starts with digital job boards.

Most of the job boards, frankly, are a joke, even if a job-seeker uses keywords and date filters. Monster is the worst at just throwing out the most random and irrelevant search results you can imagine, no matter what parameters it’s given. Careerbuilder isn’t much better. Dice is pretty iffy as well. And LinkedIn ranks in the bottom of the tier as well. 

Indeed is probably the best of the job boards, but their search results aren’t all that great either. And it’s always a bit disconcerting to see job titles that spell “Manager” as “Manger” and other similar typos.

Once a prospective candidate has what has to pass for maybe-related search results, then the online application begins.

Alice Cooper did a song called “Welcome to My Nightmare.” Job applicants should consider playing this on an endless loop while they are applying for jobs, because this part is a nightmare.

It’s important to remember that this process happens with every single job that an applicant applies for. It is enough to make the most sane among us go stark-raving mad.

There is no standard for digital employment applications.

Almost all of them require setting up an account and creating a password just to get into the application. 

While most systems ask the applicant to upload a resume, almost none of the systems automatically populate the application form with the information on the resume. The applicant has to manually fill in everything.

Some systems have twenty or more screens to go through to actually complete an application for submission. Some retain the application information and some require an applicant to re-enter everything all over again for each new job being applied for. 

When the job applicant finally gets through this process and actually submits an application, then they wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. 

Apparently most job applications go to Never Never Land, because applicants don’t hear anything ever on 99% of them.

The 1% that job applicants do hear back on take various forms and are as infinitely frustrating as the 99% that they don’t hear anything back on.

The 1% shakes out like this:

  1. Immediate autobot email that says Human Resources has carefully reviewed the applicant’s qualifications, and while they’re impressive, Human Resources has decided to pursue other more qualified candidates. In other words, our program glanced at your stuff and decided you suck.
  2. For the most part, if a recruiter calls, it is a shiny-happy recruiter (remember, they get paid for every applicant they place) that calls and chats Recruiter Processfor 30 minutes with the applicant and promises to get back to them. Applicants will grow old waiting for that next phone call.
  3. In rare cases, a serious recruiter will call, then Skype, and then tell the applicant they will get their paperwork to the person hiring and will be in touch with the applicant when they hear something back. This ends up, for the most part, being another situation in which the applicant will grow old waiting for the return phone call.
  4. Even more rare, somebody at the hiring company will email the applicant with a one-line question, like “Are you willing to relocate?” or “What are your salary requirements?” Apparently, when the applicant responds their responses go to some sort of email dead zone, because that’s the last the applicant hears about the position.
  5. And in the rarest of cases, after the applicant jumps through a myriad of convoluted hoops, they finally get an interview with the hiring company.

The unquintessential leadership continues into the interview process, in most cases. As I’ve discussed before most people hiring aren’t exactly sure what they are hiring for. These are the same people who end up interviewing for a position they’re nebulous on themselves.

Once in a blue moon, the interviewer is a quintessential leader and the process works. However, blue moons are rare and so are interviewers who are quintessential leaders.

Generally, these unquintessential leaders can’t communicate well or effectively.

Poor Interviewing SkillsInstead of leading the conversation, they expect the applicant to do all the work. Pulling any concrete information out of these interviewers is next to impossible. Questions that the applicant asks are either deflected or answered in such vague terms that the interviewer might as well have not answered.

It may not be uncomfortable for the interviewer, but any job applicant worth their salt will have a high level of discomfort, as they sit there and ask themselves, “Why am I here?”

And the odds are extremely high that the applicant won’t get hired, which is probably for the best, because if somebody can’t even lead an interview, they certainly can’t lead a team. But, again, it’s frustrating.

The whole hiring process is replete with endless frustration. It’s demoralizing. And it seems to be designed to favor the survival of the fittest – only those who don’t quit until something finally breaks seem to be the winners.

Ask anybody who’s been through it and finally found employment, though, if they feel like a winner. The answer, because job applicants are the losers just about all of the time in the hiring process, will be “No.”

Besides all the unquintessential leadership involved in the current hiring process, the biggest problem throughout the process is communication. No communication. Delayed communication. Iffy communication. Vague communication. Wrong communication.

Quintessential leaders put a high premium on excellent communication, clear communication, correct communication, and prompt communication. That is a core component of life, of team-building, and of hiring.

Quintessential leaders also forgo the multilayered, inefficient, and dysfunctional current trend of hiring. They don’t let anyone or anything get between themselves and potential team members.

Because they know what they are looking for and they know that they will know it when they see it, quintessential leaders will do all the legwork, from advertising a position to filling the position, hands-on and by themselves (they will involve their teams in peer interviews when applicants come in, though, because the team’s input is an important part of the decision-making process).

This is the best and most effective way to hire people and, despite the unquintessential leader’s excuse that they don’t have time to do that, it is the most productive, long-term, time that quintessential leaders can spend to build their teams for productivity, for success, and for profitability.

Is your organization a mess when it comes to hiring?

Is the hiring process so convoluted that it takes forever to get a new team member on board and when they finally get there, everybody realizes it was bad hire?

Does the choice come down to making do with somebody who is not the right fit just to have a body or to leave a position open and go through the whole time-intensive, convoluted hiring process again, with no guarantee that the results will be different the next time around?

For those of us striving to be quintessential leaders, this is unacceptable. We need to take back our team-building responsibilities, no matter how much of our own time we have to invest. It’s that important.

What are we going to do about it?

More importantly, what are you personally going to do about it?

 

 

 

 

Part 2 looks at the last six verbal and behavioral hand grenades that we as quintessential leaders need to strive to eliminate from ourselves and from our teams.

Going Gentle Into That Good Night

verbal and behavior communication hand grenades dementia Alzheimer's Disease human relationshipsIn “Eliminate Behavioral and Verbal Hand Grenades in Our Relationships with Our Loved Ones with Dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease – Part 1,” we looked at the first six of the 12 verbal and behavioral hand grenades that psychoanalyst Trevor Mumby has identified that hamper and inhibit communication with our loved ones with dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease.

As I stated in the first post, these 12 verbal and behavioral hand grenades should be eliminated from all our communication with all humans, because although our loved ones with dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease will visibly and negatively react to each of these hand grenades while non-neurologically-impaired people may not, we still damage and destroy relationships when we use them.

The last six verbal and behavioral hand grenades of communication that Dr. Mumby has identified follow below.

verbal behavior hand grenadeUndermining.

Slowly and insidiously tearing people down from the foundational level with regard to their abilities, their intelligence…

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As is usual when I’m writing about a person who’s involved in politics, I will continue to say first that I eschew and hate politics of any kind – governmental, organizational, personal – because politics, by its very nature and at its very core, is both corrupt and corrupting. Politics is self-serving, dishonest, manipulative, and driven by greed and a desire for power. This is universally true. There are no exceptions.

Politics and quintessential leadership are, therefore, incompatible.

This post is not about politics. Any feedback that tries to bring that subject into the discussion will be ignored with the upfront advice that the trolls and hijackers go somewhere else to spew and vent your venom.

This post is instead about a person in a leadership position who is at the crossroads of determining whether he will be a quintessential leader or not. It’s a place that all of us in leadership positions come to at some point, although, fortunately, most of us don’t have to go through the process on a national stage under the intense fishbowl scrutiny of 370,000,000 other people. (more…)

This is an excellent quintessential leadership post by Dan Rockwell. Alarmists tell everybody all the time all the things that could, that might, that possibly go wrong and they expect everybody, including those of us in leadership positions, to address and focus on these potential problems (which, by the way, seldom materialize at all, or in the rare cases, they do, not at all the way the alarmists envisioned them) instead of the real problems, issues, and projects at hand.

My way of addressing this alarmist syndrome on my teams is to tell them at the outset not to bring a problem – real or potential – to me without bringing me a solution as well. And “Do you have a solution?” was always the question I asked as soon as I heard either “We have a problem…” or “We might have a problem…” If the answer I got was “No,” then I reminded the person that they had a part in the process of solving real or potential problems and they hadn’t done their part, so we wouldn’t discuss until they had.

Potential problems, interestingly, almost never came back to me. Real problems did, but so did some really innovative solutions, which was win-win for everyone.

In my earlier post, The Most Unquintessential Leader in My Experience, I reviewed in summary form, the characteristics that made this person the antithesis of a quintessential leader. In today’s post, I will review the characteristics of the most quintessential leader I’ve had in my career. Much of what he taught me by example went over my head at the time – I encountered him on my second fulltime job out of college – but as time has passed, I find myself reflecting more and more on the invaluable lessons of quintessential leadership that he used and modeled for me and have tried to incorporate those in my own quintessential leadership.

Unlike the last post in which the unquintessential leader was nameless, I will name this person. He was Wayne Grovenburg. He died in a motorcycle accident in Oklahoma in 2000, so I’ve never gotten a chance to thank him personally for his great example, so this is my overdue tribute to his legacy as a quintessential leader.

I was hired by Wayne and another technical manager as a technical writer for a little – but growing – software company that had spun off from a larger long-established electrical components distribution company. The software had been developed in-house to handle the unique business cycle of a distribution company, but the executives of the existing company saw the potential of the need for this product by other distribution companies.

About half the employees were legacy employees with the parent company and about half had been hired when the new company started up. The person who had been writing the user documentation for the software was a legacy employee who was old compared to most of the other employees and had a quasi-marketing background. She wrote most of the marketing literature for the company and was involved in doing trade shows early on, but was phased out as the company looked for a more professional image.

The quasi-marketing person was my supervisor, but I reported ultimately to Wayne. The age difference between the quasi-marketing person and me was at least 30 years, so that alone set up the scenario for inevitable clashes. We were also both very intransigent when we believed we were right, so this added to the inevitability of butting heads. A lot. I was very young, very brash, and very confident in my knowledge and abilities. She was an aging employee who was, in the end, trying to keep a paycheck until she could retire and pursue her real interests, which were nebulous and ethereal. Her real interests were reflected in her writing style which didn’t sit well with my logical, down-to-earth, let’s-get-it done mentality. Another potential for conflict. She had no knowledge about technical writing; I had helped one of my college professors write a technical writing textbook while I was finishing up college, and I’d had about a year’s worth of experience working with real technical writers at a large software/hardware company, so I knew what I was doing.

Another technical writer was hired at the same time I was. She was a good bit older than me as well, but she had military technical writing experience, so we were okay together professionally.

My first day at work quasi-marketing person handed me one of the user manuals she had written and asked me to edit it. It was bad. I read the first of what we later covertly called “the Tony stories” and it was neither technical nor instructive. In fact, it was insulting from the perspective of the user because it basically explained the process of his or her job to them instead of showing how to use the software to do a job he or she already knew inside and out.

I grabbed one of the red pens I had gotten from the administrative assistants up front and got to work. When I handed the manual back to quasi-marketing person two hours later, she opened it up and immediately burst into tears seeing that most of the pages were bleeding with red ink. I had not expected an emotional response, but before I could even address that, she had run off to find Wayne.

Before she found him, though, she had tried to trash me, in hysterical tears by then, to almost everyone else in the company. Ironically, her first stop had been at the administrative assistants’ area. When I had met them all that morning, I made a point of noting their surroundings to see what was important to them, and had engaged in a little getting-to-know you conversation with each of them based on what I saw in their work areas. I knew, intuitively, that this group of people could make my time at this company pleasant or hell, and since I genuinely liked them, based on my brief interactions with them, I decided it was going to be as pleasant as I could make it.

Quasi-marketing person was also a bit of an elitist, so she talked down to the administrative assistants and also spent a good bit of time berating them. The only time she talked to them was when she had to, and there was no love lost between them and her (I got all of this in my introductions to them that morning). They, though, were the eyes and ears of the executives in the company, so I have no doubt the executives knew what quasi-marketing person was up to. Other than the president of the company, none of the rest of them had much use for her.

She finally found Wayne and went behind closed doors with him. I got a call from the administrative assistant to the president and she asked me to come up front (this began the pattern of how we would communicate when she was watching my back). When I got there, she and the other administrative assistants told me what happened and then said “Don’t worry. No one takes her seriously.”

After a couple more hours, Wayne came to my cube and asked me to go to lunch. We went and he gave me one of the most meaningful conversations and some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten professionally.

He wasn’t angry or upset with me. He wasn’t angry or upset with quasi-marketing person. But he realized that if the two of us could not figure how to tolerate each other without these flashfires – from her – every day, we’d get nothing done and he’d be spending all his time trying to referee between her and me, which meant he wouldn’t be getting his work done either.

He intuitively understood how to communicate with people and he was very effective in making his points without being critical or destructive to anyone. He also had that rare knack for knowing how to effectively communicate with each of his team members in spite of the diversity of our backgrounds and temperaments. And, of all the people I’ve worked for along the way, I never felt like I needed to put body armor on, even if the conversation was serious and I needed to make some changes for the good of the team and the company.

He made a very wise decision in putting the responsibility to keeping the relationship with quasi-marketing person in my hands. He knew that she was not going to change and that talking with her to help her see her deficits was an exercise in futility. So, in that lunch meeting, we had a heart-to-heart and he reminded me to stay focused on the company mission and on the big picture. He advised me to find less in-your-face ways of making changes – after all, that garbage that I’d read was exactly why he and the other technical manager hired me and he reminded me of that and the value they knew we were bringing to the company – and, if necessary, to go around her if I knew face-to-face could bring on an eruption (she was furious by the time she talked with him). He finished by reassuring me that I had his support and all of us, except her, were on the same page, but she was there because the president felt obligated to her, so I’d have to find ways to live with that and live with that peacefully.

Several things stand out in my mind to this day about that conversation. The first thing that Wayne did was refocus me on the big picture: the goal. Since I’m a goal-oriented person, this was the best approach he could have taken at the outset of the conversation.

The second thing was the balanced and gentle way Wayne discussed both my strengths and my weaknesses. Not once did I hear “you were wrong” come out of his mouth, but by the end of the conversation, I knew what I had done wrong and I knew what I needed to change.

The third thing that Wayne did was to engage me a participatory way in the process of keeping the peace while the necessary transition of redoing the documentation happened. By making me responsible for watching myself and giving me advice on what to do to help keep the peace, he made me his partner that day and it made a huge difference. I wasn’t just the new kid on the block, the youngest person in the company, but instead I was a full-fledged participant in the company and the team.

The fourth thing that Wayne did that made a deep impression on me was that he didn’t take sides. Not once did he bad-mouth quasi-marketing person to me, even though I suspect, looking back, that she was a thorn in his side, since she certainly was to almost every other person in the company. Whatever he felt personally about her, he kept to himself. And he made it clear that he would not put up with anyone disrespecting her. That was an ethical standard that I try to remember in my leadership today, because it can be a very hard thing to separate personal feelings from professional obligations.

The last thing he did was to end the conversation positively, making sure that I didn’t walk away from the conversation and lunch believing I was the worst person on the planet. He brought up some of the things that I could have done better or differently, which was exactly how he phrased it, and then gave me practical ways on how to do it better or differently – in effect, giving me tangible parameters within which to work that were acceptable to him and to the company to get the job done -, without attacking me or tearing me down. And in the end, he let me know that I had his support and everything was okay between us.

Unfortunately, that was not the last conflict quasi-marketing person and I had, but I took the wise and generous mentoring of the most quintessential leader I’ve experienced in my career, did my best to implement it and build his belief and trust in me, since he had already demonstrated that he had belief and trust in me, and eventually she was moved out of the department and out of the team.

Wayne’s gone now, but his lessons and his example resonate with me to this day. So I’m a bit late, my friend, but thank you!