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Hiring Tips for Getting the Right People on the Bus

If you’re going to get the right ingredients, you need to be disciplined about whom you hire, whom you promote, and whom you reward. It doesn’t matter how big or small your organization is:

Don’t settle for second best.

Great leaders make sure they get, in the words of Jim Collins, “the right people on the bus.”

Bob Matthews, the founder of Cable Data, one of the world’s largest billing companies, was ahead of his time in thinking about how to find the right ingredients. He had an uncanny eye for discerning what people were good at, and he wasn’t afraid to put people into unfamiliar roles that would tap their talents.

“Most people aren’t trained in ways that match their natural abilities,” he said. “I care more about a person’s natural talents than in their resumes.” He hired people who’d been successful in an eclectic array of fields – a Yoga instructor, a jewelry maker, a software marketer – and inserted them into leadership roles.

Bob also shifted people’s roles regularly. Bob knew that you get the most out of people when they are learning, not when they’re following a routine. So every three years or so, he’d give people a new role. “I think it’s important for people to get uncomfortable again,” he said. “I want to continually challenge them to learn and apply their best thinking.”

Bob was committed to placing women in senior management roles. He believed that women were, by their natures, more likely to check their egos at the door and work collaboratively. The success of the women who worked for Bob is a testament to this vision. Several went on to lead Fortune 500 companies.

Here are three quick tips for successfully hiring new employees:

1) When hiring new people, assure alignment between the values of the company and the values of people you interview. Be intentional in synchronizing the two. One tool you can use is behavior-based interviewing. It starts with writing down the values and related behaviors that are most important for your company’s success. For example, an important behavior might be providing extraordinary levels of customer service or giving honest information. You can then ask prospective employees whether they had to show those behaviors in their past – and to provide examples of doing so under pressure.

2) Once people are on board, catch them doing the right things right away. When you catch people do something well and give them praise for it, you earn their trust. Provide ten times more positive feedback than critical feedback. Ten times! Only by providing plenty of positive feedback can build enough trust in your “trust bank” that people will hear the critical feedback. When it’s time to provide critical feedback, focus on the specific behaviors you want them to demonstrate – not some flaw in their personality. For example, saying “you need to assure me that you are on top of your tasks by providing me a detailed update each day” is better feedback than “you’ve got to do a better job keeping me informed.”

3) Invest in onboard coaching. The first three months are the most critical for assuring new employees make a successful transition. (Read: The Benefits of Onboard Coaching) A skilled consultant can help by making sure that managers clearly communicate how their employees will be evaluated, and by assuring that new employees understand exactly how their performance will be assessed. By synchronizing the communication and providing a safe place to ask questions and seek counsel, the consultant can make sure that the relationship is a positive one from the start.

LRI’s onboard coaching program can help you design an effective onboarding process.

Eric Douglas

Eric Douglas

Eric Douglas is the senior partner and founder of Leading Resources Inc., a consulting firm that focuses on developing high-performing organizations. For more than 20 years, Eric has successfully helped a wide array of government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and corporations achieve breakthroughs in performance. His new book The Leadership Equation helps leaders achieve strategic clarity, manage change effectively, and build a leadership culture.

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