Another must read – Crucial Conversation

I have not been keeping my must read Amazon-based book selection up to date. That’s something I commit to fixing within two months from now. (BTW, here it is – Nick’s Outsourcing Must Read Selection.) In meanwhile I’d like to share a few words about a book I picked up in airport and found extremely helpful: Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition

The book addresses a topic high stakes dialogues, that are highly common in day-to-day lives of managers. The book helps the reader understand the foundations of dialog and elements of the dialog that turn it into a “crucial conversation”. The authors cover the traps crucial conversations and show how often and easy we lose the ability to maintain a productive dialog and instead defer to an instinctive flight or fight response. More important though, the book offers a lot of tools, tricks and techniques that allow to choose or change communication patterns. For example one of them offers almost a fail-safe method for conflict resolution:

  1. Start with heart (Am I acting like I really want?)
  2. Learn to Look (Am I going to silence or violence? / fight or flight)
  3. Make it Safe (Is safety at risk?)
  4. Master My Stories (What is my story?)
  5. State My Path (Am I really open to others’ views?)
  6. Explore Other Paths (Am I actively exploring others’ views?)
  7. Move to Action (How will we make decisions?)

Of course taken out of context this might appear too simple or even silly, fortunately the book is filled with solid realistic examples from business and personal communications that communicate the intended points without distracting from the flow of the book.

The book is easy to read, extremely engaging and very helpful.  I recommend it as five star / must read.


Recruiting: Getting Organized

One of my friends has a pretty amazing quality – he manages to pack unbelievable amount of activities in his life. He spends every weekend, holiday, vacation day in actions and activities with his friends and family. The main difference between him and many of us that his activities are typically complex and require a lot of preparation, for example a scuba diving trip to the Great Barrier Riff, hiking in Peru, or racing in Sea of Cortez.

Anyone who has ever been on one of those trips knows that the key to having fun and enjoying these trips is careful planning. Even a day trip on a familiar trail can be easily ruined by lack of preparation. Planning takes time, as a matter of fact a lot. For some of outdoors enthusiasts planning trips becomes a full time job. But how many of us can afford to spend so much time in planning? As the result we have to limit what we do based on how much time we can allocate to planning, for many that leads to not more than a couple of events a year.

But back to my friend, how does he manage to pack so much in his schedule? Well, his secret is very simple. He has check lists for everything – camping trip, skiing weekend, rigging the boat, etc. Simple and tremendously powerful timesaver. Going out to BBQ party with your friends? Just get the appropriate checklist and you can plan the outing in a matter of minutes and won’t find yourself out in a field short of charcoals. And if you do realize that having folding chairs could have improved the experience add them to you BBQ Checklist for the next time.

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Basics of Casting in Recruiting Process

Casting is the term I use to describe a process of matching a person with a task, an employee with a position, or a talent with a challenge. Recruitment is the first step in making sure that your team members are properly cast to their positions, tasks and assignments. That is the first step to higher job satisfaction of your team members and their productivity. Basics of matchmaking during recruiting process fall into three major categories:

  • Skills Cast. You need a person who has the ability to perform specific tasks, activities, etc. basically, deliver on the job duties. During recruitment process, in particular during screening and interviewing you will be looking for the proof/indication of an ability to perform required activities by juxtaposing Typical Duties and Responsibilities, Required Skills, Experience and Background, and Desired Skills, Experience and Background of the job description with candidate’s qualifications, skills, background, experience, and credentials.
  • Talent Cast. That’s a complex and very interesting topic. The idea is rather simple – interview for specific talents, strong suits, intelligence in order to gain a proof/indication of level of performance and modus operandi or proof/indication of whether the person can develop into a perfect match for position. That is easier said than done and in many ways requires substantially higher interviewing skill. I put it in a category “nice to have”.
  • Personality Cast. While rather complex, possibly even more challenging that Talent Cast it falls in category of mandatory items. Personal qualities are often equally or even more important than specific skills. It is critically important during interviewing process to make sure that behavioral patterns, personality traits, style and other personal qualities / characteristics match what is indicated in Desired Personal Qualities section of the Job Description. During the hiring process you will be looking for proof/indication of a desire to perform and ability fit in.

There are a couple more aspects to casting that are particular important during interviewing process:

  • Stop Light. Interviewing is a process that might get somewhat emotional and fall out of control, especially when the interviewing team is small and hiring pressures are high. In that light is exceptionally important to define and never lose sight of Must Haves – specific requirements that can not be compromised.
  • Concessions. On the other hand you sometimes can be open for rather significant sacrifices – the tradeoffs you are prepared to make to gain specific talents, skills, or abilities.
  • Candidate expectations. Keep in mind that while you are in the process of evaluating potential cast of the candidate to the position s/he is evaluating the cast from their own standpoint. Make sure you provide as much clarity about what you are prepared to offer in every aspect of the position.

Of course that’s just basics; there will be more discussions about casting, probably one of the most important aspects of manager’s job.

Secure that Position

Whether you are replacing headcounts lost to attrition or bringing the new team member the chances are you will need to make sure that you have the budget for the new employee or using common slang secure the rack. That could be a fairly simple / straightforward task or could be comprehensive multi-step process that involves building consensus and collecting multiple signatures. I would like to cover middle of the road scenario that involves several distinct steps of selling the new position to management.

Typically before presenting your ideas to management you need to build a Business Case and prepare the materials you will need through out the process of getting the position secured.

My approach for selling organization on a new position is to deal with it as if you would deal with selling a product or service to a client. I prefer to be over-prepared with more material in my hands than I would need in a likely situation. I use power point slides, spreadsheets, etc. All documents have a single objective illustrate that bringing the new employee is the most meaningful and responsible thing to do.

I typically start with covering the business situation and my reasons for suggestion the new (replacement) hire. One of the ways to do it is to present perspective employee’s impact on organization –

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Job Description Basics

best-job-in-the-world-newspaper-ad1Job Description is a critical component of an entire employment lifecycle from recruitment to termination. Its format and content could be substantially different at every phase of the lifecycle. The first instance of job description is the one used during recruitment. Before covering the structure of a job description let me point out a few important objectives that it should cater to. The job description should

  • act as a marketing / promotional material for the company and the position (commercial)
  • educate candidate about the company and position (infomercial)
  • filter out people not qualified for the position in positive manner (gatekeeper)

Sometimes job descriptions cater to different objectives or to just one of the above mentioned, that’s not exceptionally common and I won’t cover substantial changes to the structure that may be required in such case. In general a job description should have the following components:

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Recruiting Process Demystified

missing-pieceRecruiting is tough, laborious, and could be quite frustrating yet we have no choice:

  • Organizations grow opening new needs and requiring new resources.
  • Teams and organizations at large go through significant structural changes redefining resource requirements.
  • Attrition calls for replenishment.
  • Sometimes need for recruitment comes from change of focus.
  • And sometimes from completely unjustified executive directions.

Many organizations look at Recruiting Process mainly as simply an interviewing process. There is of course much more to it from marketing the company to potential employees to maintaining good vibe about it even after layoffs and terminations. Simplifying that just a little bit let’s look at nine key components of the Recruiting Process:

Identifying the Need. The first step in recruiting is deceivingly simple – decide what position you need to fill in. For example one of the most common mistakes in this case is assumptions that position that just opened up is the one that needs to be filled in. Another common trap not rethinking the needs in case recruitments takes a long time. Organizations even the least dynamic constantly change, people step up to new challenges, new projects start, processes change, and so on. In addition consider these questions to ask yourself:

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Introduction to Recruiting

job-interviewWhen I teach my management classes the first topic I typically get into is Recruitment. There are many reasons for it, here are a few most important –

  • Recruitment activities almost never stop, even during economic downturn like nowadays.
  • Recruitment is never easy, even during “employer’s” market.
  • Recruitment mistakes are some of the most expensive.
  • Most of managers (including myself) overestimate their abilities to recruit right people.
  • There is always a plenty of room for improvement in any organization’s recruitment process.

Recruiting is a key responsibility for majority of managers. In some organizations that is not the case, the managers are isolated from the recruitment process, and I feel sorry for these guys. While complex, laborious and error prone recruitment continues to be one of the best levers a manager have in building solid teams.

I will cover my views on recruitment, tips, tricks and traps in a series of posts, for now let me just cover the basics.

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