Posted on

ERP: Enterprise Resource Planning

ERP: Enterprise Resource Planning
ERP: Enterprise Resource Planning
ERP: Enterprise Resource Planning

ERP, or Enterprise Resource Planning is nothing more than a big piece of software. It sits at the centre of big organisations, handling lots of important tasks.

More recently, smaller scale ERP applications have come onto the market. These allow new and small businesses to get the benefits of  linked back office functions. This is due, in large part, to the availability of managed, cloud-based software.

Continue reading ERP: Enterprise Resource Planning

Share this:
Posted on

Isabel Briggs-Myers & Katharine Briggs: Type Indicator (MBTI)

Psychologists and, before them, philosophers have spent centuries trying to divide us into types. Whilst their attempts have had somewhat less of the hocus-pocus and downright prejudice to them than the racial typographies of some early ethnographers, many systems have advanced little beyond Hippocrates’ theory of four temperaments based on the bodily humours.

Rigour in Personality Testing

It wasn’t until the twentieth century that scientists had the statistical tools to analyse and understand personality with any rigour. Even so, the strongest, most widely used personality classification system – the so-called ‘Big Five’ Personality Factors – is still a matter of much research and debate as we reach approach the third decade of the twenty first century.

So perhaps the biggest change that the twentieth century wrought was not in reliability, but in accessibility and application. Personality assessment tools became widely popular and, through the second half of that century, widely used in workplaces to support selection, group development, team-building, personal development, marital counselling, and a range of other uses. Not all of the uses have been endorsed by the developers of these tools. And not all tools are widely supported by the more rigorously trained academic community of psychology.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

And so we come to Katherine Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs-Myers. Their tool, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, is very widely used. Every day, trainers and development professionals introduce it to new cohorts of staff and managers. These employees often take full self-evaluation questionnaire and are then told what this means about them and their colleagues.

The moments of insight are a joy to watch. The MBTI certainly seems to capture something of our personality, and explain something of our behaviours. But does it? This remarkably resilient and successful tool started through nothing less than a mother’s desire to understand her daughter’s choice of husband. What mother can’t empathise with that?

Katherine Briggs & Isabel Briggs-Myers
Katherine Briggs & Isabel Briggs-Myers

Katherine Cook Briggs

Katherine Cook was born in Michigan, in 1875 and was home schooled. Her father was an academic. She went to college to study agriculture and stayed on as a teacher and academic. She married prominent physicist and administrator, Lyman Briggs.

As her daughter grew up, Briggs became interested in children’s educational and social development. This led her to create a vocation test for children, which she thought could guide a child’s future well-being. This thinking focused on four personality types: meditative, spontaneous, executive, and sociable. These are still present among the wider set of 16 MBTI types.

Her quest was to find one unifying theory, and she considered ideas from many philosophers, scientists, and psychologists. Her own big breakthrough was when she discovered the work of Carl Jung. He advocated for four principal psychological functions by which we experience the world: sensation, intuition, feeling, and thinking. This, along with our orientations to extroversion or introversion, give us the Jungian Personality Types, which Briggs and her daughter developed into their own type indicator model.

Isabel Briggs-Myers

Isabel Briggs was born in 1897, and was home schooled by her mother. Following her mother’s discovery of Jung’s work, Briggs-Myers (now married) became interested in the work too, focusing on how character and personality influence the type of work we might thrive in. Together, they developed their framework and the questionnaire that goes with it. They began a long program of observation and discussion, refining their interpretation of Jung’s work.

During World War II, Briggs Myers wanted to help reduce conflict among people, but more pragmatically also to understand why some people hated their jobs in the military and others thrived.

It wasn’t until 1945 that they did some solid empirical research. With the help of Lyman Briggs, they ran their first MBTI assessment on around 5,500 George Washington Medical School students.   Briggs Myers studied the results for years, searching for patterns among dropouts and successful students.

The Outcome of the Work

Briggs was the primary driving force and inspiration behind the creation of the MBTI from Jung’s original work. Briggs-Myers created the physical test itself, and did the work on validation and interpretation.

The result was one of the best-known and widely used personality tools, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Wikipedia reports that an estimated 50 million people have taken the MBTI. Whilst it is not widely endorsed by the academic community, and is based on largely desk-research and theorisation, rather than empirical trials, the MBTI remans popular. This is doubtless due to the ease of superficial understanding.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator – MBTI

The MBTI classifies personality types along four pairs of categories. Briggs-Myers and Briggs claimed that we all fit into one of the 16 possible combinations of personality type, and that we have a dominant preference in each pair.

MBTI - Myers-Briggs Type Indicator - 16 Types
MBTI – Myers-Briggs Type Indicator – 16 Types

The Type Indicator is a test  to assess which personality type offers the ‘best fit’ with the assertion that knowing your personality type that will help you succeed in life. The three original pairs of preferences from Jung’s typology (Extraversion and Introversion, Sensing and Intuition, Thinking and Feeling) are supplemented by a fourth pair (Judging and Perceiving), added by Briggs-Myers.

This is a phenomenally rich model and there are many excellent resources online. So here, we’ll only attempt a very superficial outline of the types.

Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I)
This axis refers to where where we get our energy from, and where we direct our attention. This can be  on people and things in the outer world; extraversion. Or it can be on ourselves and our inner world; introversion.

Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)
This axis refers to how we like to deal with information. People with a Sensing preference tend to focus on the basic information, whilst the Intuiting type prefers to interpret the information, and add meaning.

Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
This axis refers to how we like to make decisions. Thinkers like to make objective decisions, using logic and rationality. The feeling style is more subjective, considering special circumstances, and how people feel.

Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)
This axis refers to how we like to dealt with experiences and circumstances. The judging style prefers to make a choice, and stick with it. The Perceiver likes to stay open to new information and options, and respond flexibly.

Assessment of the MBTI

The MBTI correlates poorly with more robustly researched psychological traits or types models, like the Big Five Personality factors. So why do so many people readily endorse their MBTI type? The answer, I think, lies in a combination of two factors.

Firstly, while not a strong correlation with rigorous typographies, it is derived from extensive observation and the factors that make up the MBTI undeniably exist – regardless of whether they are truly the ‘right’ fundamental elements of personality.

And secondly, we have our old friend, the Forer Effect. This is the tendency of people to rate sets of statements as highly accurate for them personally even though the statements are highly general and could apply to many people. If this sounds worrying, it is. The Forer Effect (sometimes known as the Barnum Effect (after showman and huckster PT Barnum) is also the basis of much mentalism and fraudulent cold reading.

The MBTI definitely has value as a personal and executive development tool. But if the trainers and specialists who deploy it do not make its limitations clear, they are doing your organisation a disservice.

Share this:
Posted on

Lynda Gratton: The Future of Work

What will work be like in the future, and how will we respond to it? These are big questions being asked by the influential and much respected Professor of Management Practice at the London Business School, Lynda Gratton. The answers she is uncovering are both obvious and important. We won’t know if her work is ‘right’ until the future arrives, but for now, we would be wise to understand the trends Gratton is uncovering, and respond to them.

Lynda Gratton

Short Biography

Lynda Gratton was born in 1955 and, grew up, and was educated in the north west of England, in Liverpool. She gained her BSc in Psychology from Liverpool University in 1976 and started work there on her PhD. In 1979, she started work with British Airways as Chief Psychologist, while continuing her doctoral studies into Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. She was awarded her PhD in 1981 and, in the following year moved to management consulting firm PA Consulting.

She stayed at PA until 1989, becoming their youngest Director at age 32. But Gratton valued the autonomy to create time to read, think, and be with her family above the high salary. So she took a post as an Assistant Professor at the London Business School in 1989.

Gratton’s academic career has resulted in praise and awards. She has authored 9 books to date (the ninth is due out in June 2016) and many influential papers, the most widely read being two Harvard Business Review Articles: Eight Ways to Build Collaborative Teams (Nov 2007) and End of the Middle Manager (Jan 2011).

Gratton’s best-selling books are Hot Spots: Why Some Companies Buzz with Energy and Innovation – And Others Don’t (2007) and The Shift: The Future of Work is already Here (2007), with her new work looking at one of the five forces she sees as shaping our world for the future: The 100-Year Life: Living and working in an age of longevity (2016)

The Five Forces Shaping our World

We need to start our summary of Gratton’s most important thinking with the forces she identifies as driving change in the world. I think each of us might add one or two of our own, but it is hard to dispute that each of these five will have a big impact. What gives her list credibility is the wide range of big name organisations that collaborated in her research.

Technological Developments

Some of the big developments she points out that will affect us (and some of the other forces, below) are:

  • Cognitive assistants (advanced knowledge systems moving towards artificial intelligence)
  • Cloud and distributed computing – especially linked to mobile devices
  • Advanced robotics
  • Digitisation of knowledge

At some point she projects (as do many computer scientists) connected computers will start to become capable  of creating knowledge without human help. (Note that this is not the same as the potential ‘singularity event’ of computers gaining consciousness, which is at another tier of speculation)

Globalisation

Here we can see trends like labour force mobility, especially in the direction of mega cities that are, increasingly, in the East. This is feeling and fuelled by the emergence of the new economies; the so called BRIC and MINT nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey – along with other less acronymed nations like South Korea and Egypt). Many of the new dominant player will bring new cultural and societal norms to the world of work.

Demographic Changes (and increasing longevity)

The biggest changes will be shifts in life expectancy and the struggles of Western nations in particular to meet expectations around retirement. But as populations age and birth rates decline in the presently less developed nations, the same effect could have far greater implications.

Societal Trends

There are so many trends here – many linked intimately with technology, globalisation and demographics. Women’s social and economic power cannot (and should not) do anything but rise. Freelance work will increase to take advantage of technology and meet the caring needs of people with ageing relatives. Predictions of the demise of family life or the increase in attention given to families from home-based workers seem the most confused – but then the future may not yield neat categories.

Energy

The need to shift to a low Carbon economy to protect the world from rising atmospheric CO2 levels and the inevitable devastating consequences of the global climate changes it will drive will increasingly dominate our futures. This will have complex economic impacts – but nothing compared to what will happen if oceans rise substantially and crops fail around the world. I’d like to see Gratton give more attention to the consequences of water stress and the geopolitical impacts of large mismatches of water availability and need that we can readily predict.

The Three Shifts we can Expect to See in our Lives

These are big forces and Gratton envisages three big shifts in our lives.

Mastery

There are too many generalists, so the law of supply and demand will crush their economic value. This will drive a shift to in-depth mastery and narrow specialisation of workers.  We can easily see how she comes to this conclusion, as the five forces combine to drive and facilitate this shift.

Connectivity

Linked to this is the need and increasing ability for workers to connect with one another globally.  She thinks our work lives will become less competitive and more collaborative. Gratton coins two interesting concepts:

  • Your narrow group of close collaborators, whom she calls ‘the Posse’
  • Your wider group of loosely connected working relationships, which she refers to as ‘the Big Ideas Crowd’

Quality of Experience

From my point of view, her third shift is the most parochial: a move from focusing on standard of living to the quality of our experiences. In Gratton’s timeframe of now to 2025, I doubt this will be a major trend outside the wealthiest parts of the world (and, even here, it may only apply to the wealthy middle and affluent classes). The displacement of work by machines has been heralded for over 100 years and the rise of hedonistic society for many hundreds. I’d like to buy into this one, but it feels most like a consumer business driven rehash of an old trope (Sorry Lynda).

The Five Impacts this will have on Organisations

What I do one hundred per cent buy into is Gratton’s assessment of the big impacts these shifts and forces will have on global-scale organisations. Small, local organisations will lag behind, but even they will need eventually to bow to some of these changes.

Leadership

Connectivity will drive the need for more transparent leadership of our corporations (while many will fight it, fearing the impact of consumer reactions). This will need a more authentic style of leadership from individuals throughout those organisations.

Virtual Teams

Cross border, cross timezone working has grown up over the last 20 years, and will increase. From my perspective, real, empirical research in how to drive high performance from virtual teams is still lagging this trend. This is a hard question, because we evolved to co-operate in small, intimate, and geographically contained teams. We need to find ways to optimise our reactions to an alien environment.

Cross Business Networks

‘Social Capital’ is not just something we acquire as individuals, Gratton suggests. Corporations need connectivity to drive innovation and profitability. I predict that these wider eco-systems may yet morph into the dystopian mega-corporations and global cartels of science fiction.

Partnering with consumers and entrepreneurs

As more workers become independent freelancers, and consumers become more savvy about what they want, corporations will increasingly need to extend their relationships to more fully engage with them.

Flexible Working

You didn’t see this one coming, did you? (Joke) If social, demographic, and lifestyle preferences are shifting, then so too will work patterns. And this will require flexibility from employers.

Lynda Gratton at TEDx

Hear Lynda Gratton talking about how to be ready for the future now, at a TEDx event at the London business School in 2012.

Share this:
Posted on

Lotte Bailyn: Life and Work

Work-Life Balance has been a buzz-phrase that I have been aware of since the mid-1990s. And we no longer (in the West) think of work as somehow ‘walled-off’ from the rest of life. But this wasn’t always so. At the forefront of charting the shifts in the relationship of working life and home life through the twentieth and into the twenty first century, has been Lotte Bailyn.

Lotte Bailyn

Very Short Biography

Lotte Lazersfeld was born in Vienna, in 1930, into a Jewish family. In 1937, as a young child, she travelled to the US with her father, to flee Nazi persecution. Her mother, Marie Jahoda, went to England. Lotte studied Maths at Swarthmore College and then entered Harvard in 1951, where she studied Social Psychology, earning an MA and PhD. She married historian Bernard Bailyn.

She spent many years struggling to gain a full time academic post before being appointed, in 1972, to the faculty of the MIT Sloan School of Management. Between 1997 and 1999, she chaired the faculty T Wilson (1953) Professor of Management, Emerita.

Bailyn’s Research

Bailyn’s research interest is the intersection of work and home lives. This necessarily involves her in the issue of gender at work, because of the disproportionate role that women play in care-giving. She is therefore interested in the impact this has on women’s careers.

Her first book, however, focused on the way male engineers who put more time into their families and communities were under-valued by their companies, despite enhanced people and relationship skills. Living with Technology: Issues at Mid-career was published in 1980.

But her more important book, Breaking the Mold: Redesigning Work for Productive and Satisfying Lives (1993), had a wider perspective, looking at the impact on modern workforces of equating time at work measures with commitment and competence. The book was way ahead of its time.

Bailyn’s research consistently shows that long hours actually hinder productivity and creativity. Employers can maximise their success by encouraging maximum flexibility of work scheduling, by creating motivated employees. She argues that senior leaders need to recognise that their path to the top will not be the right path in the future: the ideal worker is no longer one who will put in long hours, attend meetings at the drop of a hat, and put their family and community in a clear second place.

Instead, organisations need to shed what Joan Williams has called ‘flexibility stigma’ and embrace what Bailyn calls the ‘dual agenda’: that we thrive best when we are able to meet our personal and business needs at the same time. This is particularly important for low wage workers whose shift scheduling can be changed at short notice, creating havoc with care arrangements. Unsurprisingly, this results in low morale, reduced productivity, and absenteeism. Bailyn finds that predictability of working hours is highly valued. Unpredictability is a more significant factor than long hours.

Her conclusion is that the presence of flexible working policies is nowhere near enough. It is the extent to which organisations see them as a positive asset to be exploited, rather than a burden to be managed. We all need to recognise that our lives outside work are intimately intermingled with our working lives. They influence our attitudes, capabilities and, ultimately, our productivity.

Share this:
Posted on

Staff Induction – A Point of View

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


Let me be frank: I hate the term ‘induction’. At best it sounds like something from my undergraduate electromagnetic field theory lectures: at worst, it sounds like an obstetric procedure. So why do we use it to refer to the process of welcoming a new staff member or volunteer to our organisation, and giving them the preparation they need, so they can fit in, feel at home, and contribute as soon as possible?

How you welcome people into your organisation and into their team can have a big impact on their performance. Use the process to set expectations, but do it gently. Far better to demonstrate the behaviours and attitudes you expect, and involve real role models, with top performance, in welcoming new staff, than to inflict a heavy handed set of cosy chats and dreary PowerPoint presentations.

Trickier still is the task of bringing in new joiners are new to the world of work, because they are school leavers, graduates, long-term unemployed, or returners. What can you do to smooth their transition to productive contribution and fitting in?

In preparing for their arrival and during their first months, here are three things you can do:

  1. Welcome them
    Shortly before arrival, write to them to welcome them and, when they arrive, have someone to welcome them and show them around. An “induction programme” sounds scary – a welcome programme is far more… welcoming.
  2. Give them a buddy
    Ask an established colleague to act as their buddy to show them the ropes and answer questions. Allow time for them to meet their buddy frequently in the first few weeks.
  3. Ensure they have the skills they need
    Sit down with them and identify what skills they need, to do their job well. Where their experience has left gaps, plan a response, combining on-the-job and off-line training, coaching and mentoring, regular feedback, and formal learning.

My preference for creating a really good welcome is to pair each new joiner with a recent joiner. To give them some time to go out for a good coffee, where they can discuss the most valuable programme of learning about the joiner’s new role. What they need to see, who they need to meet, and what they need to learn. Empower the transition buddy to arrange whatever is necessary, from enrolling the joiner on a training course, to letting them work-shadow people in other parts of the business, to meeting the CEO. This kind of tailored experience gives real responsibility to the new joiner to get started effectively, and will give the recent joiner a new set of insights into the organisation.

Further Reading 

If you want to take less of a risk and make sure you cover all of the bases, try the terribly named but well-written Induction Pocketbook.

Share this:
Posted on

Recruitment

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


The Pocketblog has covered one part of the recruitment process in great detail: Interviewing. In our three-part series: ‘The New Manager’s Guide to Interviewing’, we covered:

  1. Preparing the Ground
    Increase your chances of success well before the interview.
    It covers how to:

    1.  Think about the job requirements
    2. Handle the advertising and admin
    3. Review applications
    4. Prepare for the interview
  2. Getting it Right
    Hints and advice for conducting effective interviews.
    It looks at: 

    1. Questioning
    2. Social skills
    3. Responding to candidates’ answers
    4. Inviting questions
  3. Polishing your Process
    Tips and tricks of the trade, such as: 

    1. Fact checking
    2. The ‘horns and halo effect’
    3. Psychology
    4. Data protection

Lets now look at the whole process, as a series of questions.

Question 1: Do you have a vacancy?

Not as obvious as it may seem. In current times, it will serve you well to look at alternatives to just ‘filling a perceived gap’. And if there is a genuine gap, is it a full-time vacancy or should it be either joined with another or be seen as a part-time role? If there is a vacancy to fill…

Question 2: What shape is the hole?

What sort of skills, experience, personal traits do you require to make the very best appointment? Consult widely on this and consider a range of perspectives, before drawing up a job description and person specification, against which to recruit. Review your documents with some further people to confirm that your expectations are reasonable. If your person spec requires Wonderwoman or Superman, then think again: they may not be available at the moment.

Question 3: Do we need to recruit?

Before considering a recruitment process, think about the pros and cons of appointing from among ‘nearby’ staff. This can be quicker, less expensive, and lower risk. But it can also entrench biases and unproductive habits. This is a difficult decision and needs to be made in the context of internal policies and external regulation. If you do choose to recruit…

Question 4: How will we find the best applicants?

Will you do a search for the right people, or will you advertise and hope they find you? Will you search or advertise internally, externally, or both? What media will you use to advertise and what will your advert contain? How will you portray your organisation in general and the role in particular? Then you need to create the advert, or the search brief.

Question 5: What process will you put your applicants through?

The quality of your process will determine the quality of your decision at the end of it – and therefore the result. The process needs to give applicants every opportunity to show all of the assets they could bring to the role, so you can identify who offers the most. It also needs to ensure that the best applicant will want the role at the end of the process. Recruitment is sales. The process will doubtless have stages:

  •  a long list of good applications to be reviewed in depth
  • a shortlist of applicants to go through some form of interview or selection process
  • a small final list of excellent candidates to go through a last stage before decision-making

Question 6: How will you close the deal?

When you get the right candidate, you need to notify them, negotiate terms like salary and start date, and then notify other candidates. Do this well and unsuccessful applicants will still want to work for you. Get it wrong and they will be glad they failed and tell everyone they know.

Question 7: How will you welcome them on board?

This is where recruitment becomes employment – and we will look at the induction process next week.

Further Reading 

Two Pocketbooks you might like.

  1. The Managing Recruitment Pocketbook
  2. The Managing Assessment Centres Pocketbook
Share this:
Posted on

Appraisal Time: a Polemic

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


Appraisals are one of the least enjoyed aspects of organisational life: few people enjoy conducting them and still fewer like attending them. Often they are done badly and many times this is largely due to a poor internal process, supported by weak (or absent) training and confounded by other pressing business priorities.

So an important part of career development, skills acquisition, organisational growth and good governance, gets squeezed into 25 minutes of of a rushed conversation, ticking of boxes and a superficial assessment followed by formulaic goal setting, stipulating weak goals.

Sound familiar?

I have only one message for this module:

‘Performance Appraisal is Important’

So give it the preparation and the time it deserves, do it well – by asking good questions, and listening hard. Whether your internal process is good, bad or absent, make it your priority to sit down with your team members quarterly and discuss openly:

  • what they have done
  • how each of you assesses their performance
  • what you each want from the next period and for the next one to three years
  • what goals will help them achieve these
  • what their realistic and stretch prospects are

It is not neuroscience, rocket science nor even high school chemistry. Doing a good appraisal requires only two things:

  1. That you care
  2. That you deploy a dose of common sense

Polemic Over: Onto Process

Your organisation will have its own specific process. Frank Scott-Lennon gives us a good generic one in the Appraisals Pocketbook.

Appraisal Process

Revision

We have already covered the tools you need, earlier in the Pocket Correspondence course, so work your way back through…

 

Further Reading 

Share this:
Posted on

Backwards and Forwards

Pocketblog comes out on Tuesdays, which means that this year, it coincides with both Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.  Which means that there will be a short hiatus before the next edition.

But never fear – I shall be busy.  I will be preparing for next year’s exciting new project.  More about that later.  But first…

The Best of 2012

As before, here is a selection of my own favourite Pocketblogs from 2012.

Early in the year, we did two blogs about Emotional Intelligence: ‘There’s more to Emotional Intelligence than Daniel Goleman’ and then offered practical tips to ‘Boost your EQ’.

Emotional Intelligence

In this Jubilee year, we let you into The Management Secrets of Queen Elizabeth II.  Sadly, advance orders for the Modern Monarch’s Pocketbook have been disappointing (we just received our third, with the same address as the last) and we are holding back on publication until orders pick up.

The Modern Monarch's Pocketbook

Another big event for us was the launch of our Management Pocketblog 100 Day Challenge.  We know (from orders) that some of you took it up.  Please do tell us (on the blog page comments) about your experiences.  If you have not yet, it is not too late to take up the challenge.

The Management Pocketblog 100 Day Challenge

We were able to offer readers insightful business and management tips from to impeccable sources this year.  In ‘What matters today, in Business and Management?’ we extracted tips from Time Magazine’s 2012 100 Most Influential People in the World.  In ‘The Oracle of Omaha’, we took guidance from some of Warren Buffet’s top CEOs.

Our three-part series: ‘The New Manager’s Guide to Interviewing’ will be a helpful resource if you are new to this role.  It covered:

  1. Preparing the Ground
    Increase your chances of success well before the interview
  2. Getting it Right
    Hints and advice for conducting and effective interviews
  3. Polishing your Process
    Tips and tricks of the trade

And, for people on the receiving end, we wrote ‘Seven Ways to Interview Well’ just for you.  If you want to stick with your current job, but spice it up a little bit and renew your motivation, try ‘Same Job: New Job’.

Edward de Bono's Six Thinking Hats

Closest to my own heart were:

Our three-part series about dealing with poor performance in staff, ‘Let’s sort out poor performance’, parts:

          1. Infrastructure
          2. Turnaround
          3. The Alternative

These followed on from two blogs, ‘What is Performance Management?’, and ‘The Root of the Issue: Dealing with Poor Performance’.

Bruce Tuckman: Group Development model...  forming - storming - norming - performing - adjourningOur blogs about Bruce Tuckman’s model of Group Development (Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing) continue to be the most heavily read.  In February, we provided a link to all four of them.

.

And finally…  Pocketblog honoured two sad losses this year: Neil Armstrong, the astonishingly humble all-American/all-global hero; and Stephen Covey, who wrote one of the very best of the best personal effectiveness book: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Neil ArmstrongStephen Covey


Coming Next Year

Pocketblog is nearly 3 years old (we started on 23 February 2010) and has chalked up over 150 posts to date.  It’s time for a little refresh.  So 2013 will see a new style of Pocketblog.  Not a radical departure: more of a shift in emphasis.

Next year, we’ll be presenting our Management Pocket-Correspondence Course.  Over the course of the year, we’ll be blogging about the full range of management skills in a structured way.  Why not Subscribe to the Blog by email (towards the top of the column to the right of this) to receive them all in your inbox.

Until then…

From everyone at Management Pocketbooks…

Have a very merry Christmas,
and a happy and healthy New Year.

Share this:
Posted on

The New Manager’s Guide to Interviewing Part 3: Polishing Your Process

One of the most daunting tasks for a new manager is conducting their first job interviews. The stakes are high: get it wrong, and you may be stuck with a capable – but not that capable – colleague for years. Get it right, on the other hand, and you have not just added a huge asset to your organisation, but you will probably make your own life easier.

So what can you do to improve your chances of securing the right candidate?

This is the final of three articles that Management Pocketblog will offer you:

  1. Preparing the Ground
    Increase your chances of success well before the interview
  2. Getting it Right
    Hints and advice for conducting and effective interviews
  3. Polishing your Process
    Tips and tricks of the trade

Polishing Your Process

As in all matters, details are important.  So let’s look at a few of them.

Checking Facts

Sadly, exaggerating, reinterpreting, and outright lying about qualifications and experience are facts of the recruitment process.  So don’t get caught by them.  If qualifications matter, make it a condition that candidates bring original copies for you to inspect.  Ask questions about experience and listen carefully to be sure the answers are plausible and internally consistent.  Always take up references before finalising an appointment.  Where possible, speak to the referee as well as getting a written statement.  It’s easier to hear hesitancy and reservation in the voice than detect it in writing.  And some people are fearful that an honest reference could get them into trouble, so a written reference can miss out important concerns.

Horns and Halos

Warning: this advice may be impossible to follow, but that doesn’t mean you should not make every effort.

First impressions are powerful – whether from the application documents or the minute they walk in the room.  If your first impression is positive (a neat application document, the same set of A levels as you, an upbringing in the same town as your best employee, the right colour shirt or blouse…) you will be constantly noticing evidence of their capability and mossing all but the boldest evidence of weak points.  This is called the Halo Effect.

If your first impression is negative (a scruffy application document, a mis-placed apostrophe, an upbringing in the town you hated when you visited, the wrong colour tie or scarf…) you will be constantly spotting more and more evidence to justify that initial assessment.  You will also miss all but the strongest evidence of real talent.  This is sometimes called the ‘Horns Effect’.

Horns & Halo

These cognitive biases – so well documented in Daniel Kahnemann’s wonderful ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ – can lead to poor judgement.  Simply being aware of them can help but it is not enough.  You must strive to look for evidence that counters your first impression and keep focused on seeking the objective data you planned in your preparation for the interview.

Mini Me

It’s natural.  You want rapport with your staff, and you most easily build rapport with people like you.  So it is an easy trap to fall into, to hire someone just like you.  You’re good at your job, aren’t you?  So it stands to reason, surely, that someone just like you will also be good at their job.

No, it doesn’t.  And more to the point, someone not like you could be equally good – or better.  Diversity is what brings real strength to a team, so make every attempt to see the strengths of candidates who are different to your current team, to counter your inevitable bias to recruiting more of the same.

Cod-Psy

Psychology is everywhere, and we all learn bits and pieces along the way.  But if you are not an expert, leave your amateur analysis to the social settings of the pub, cafe and dinner table.  Not only will it not help with your recruitment, it may well get you into all sorts of trouble.

Data Protection

Data protection can also get you into trouble – as can Freedom of Information if you are in the public sector.  SO be very careful to record your notes of interviews accurately and without any inappropriate comments or doodles.  Ask yourself, how would I feel if this were on the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper?  If the answer is anything other than ‘I’d be happy – I could back up anything there with real evidence I gathered at the interview’ then think again.

What Else?

One of the most valuable questions for anyone whose task it is to learn from another person.  You cannot possibly ask all the important questions every time.  So a good question to end with is:

‘What else would you like to tell us, before we finish this interview?’

or

’What question would you like us to have asked you
– and how would you answer it?’

Management Pocketbooks you may enjoy

The Interviewer's Pocketbook

The Interviewer’s Pocketbook

The Managing Recruitment Pocketbook

Or, if you are expecting to be on the other side of the table…

The Succeeding at Interviews Pocketbook

Share this:
Posted on

The New Manager’s Guide to Interviewing Part 2: Getting it Right

One of the most daunting tasks for a new manager is conducting their first job interviews. The stakes are high: get it wrong, and you may be stuck with a capable – but not that capable – colleague for years. Get it right, on the other hand, and you have not just added a huge asset to your organisation, but you will probably make your own life easier.

So what can you do to improve your chances of securing the right candidate?

This is the second of three articles that Management Pocketblog will offer you:

  1. Preparing the Ground
    Increase your chances of success well before the interview
  2. Getting it Right
    Hints and advice for conducting and effective interviews
  3. Polishing your Process
    Tips and tricks of the trade

Getting It Right

If you have prepared well, the interview is set to go well, but a few details are worth attending to:

  • You need a suitable place – a quiet and pleasant room, which is big enough for comfort but not so big that it overwhelms (unless that is the image you want to convey – because you work for a global merchant bank, for example)
  • You need long enough time slots to allow you to really gather the evidence, but not so long as to bore yourself and the candidate with the interview. Half an hour to an hour is about right – and it is your responsibility to keep the interview to time
  • Allow plenty of time between interviews to write up notes, refresh yourself and prepare for the next – 15 minutes at least.

Great Questions vs Great Questioning

In the preparation stage, you will have developed the questions you want to ask your candidates, but how you ask them is equally important.  This is where you can customise your approach to the details of what you learn about individuals.

Use the funnel process: start with an open question to give the candidate the opportunity to put their point of view in their own way, emphasising what they choose to, and then use probing follow-up questions to investigate details and evidence for the parts that are most relevant to you.  Only used closed, ‘yes/no’ questions to confirm specifics where you want to be absolutely certain you have a fact right.  Then, go back to another open question and repeat.

Avoid the temptation to grill your candidates, to try to catch them out, or to use trick questions .  Good questions focus on things like:

  • relevant experience, qualifications and expertise
  • problem solving skills
  • decision choices under realistic scenarios

The All-important Social Skills

Most jobs have an interpersonal component that makes social skills essential.  The early and closing stages of your interview are good for examining these, but be aware that interview nerves can mask some of the skills of even the best candidates.  Ask your receptionist or other colleagues who interact with the candidates to tell you how the candidates treat them.  Good candidates will treat receptionists with respect: poor ones will treat them as unimportant or worse.

Avoid the temptation to try and read body language cues.  You are probably not as good at it as you think, unless you are properly trained.  On the other hand, use all of your senses (except, perhaps, touch!) to get a feel for the candidate’s demeanour.

Responding to Answers

You job is to assess candidates objectively, but not to be judgemental about their answers.  Unless they step far out of line and exhibit the kind of behaviour that might elicit disciplinary action in a staff member, keep your reactions to their performance measured.  Stay interested in what you are hearing but don’t get caught up in supporting or decrying what they say.

If, however, they don’t say much, make it clear that you are not getting the answers or the detail you need to make a fair assessment. If they still remain evasive or vague, that is valuable information that the topic is a weak spot for them.  But they may simply be misjudging your question or setting the scene.  Say things like:

  • ‘Could you give us an example of that, please?’
  • ‘Here is an example… What would you do in these circumstances?’
  • ‘In that example, can you give me more detail about what happened?’

Who is Interviewing Whom?

Yes, it is a ‘buyers’ market’, with far more candidates than jobs, at the moment.  But don’t let that fool you into complacency.  There are probably still fewer first class candidates for many jobs than there are jobs, and you want the best, right?  So make sure you give your candidates a chance to learn about you and your organisation too.  Be on your best behaviour and conduct the interview to impress.  That way, when you know who it is you really want to have working with you, your job offer is likely to be accepted.

Next Time…

… we’ll be looking at a few extra tips and tricks, to sharpen up your performance.

Management Pocketbooks you may enjoy

The Interviewer's Pocketbook

The Interviewer’s Pocketbook

The Managing Recruitment Pocketbook

Or, if you are expecting to be on the other side of the table…

The Succeeding at Interviews Pocketbook

Share this: