How to Hire for Attitude, Not Just Aptitude

How attitude is a good predictor of prospective employee success, and how you can identify those with the right attitude for your business.

The top challenge for CEOs according to a survey from the Conference Board (January 2013) is Human Capital – the ability to develop and acquire the right people, with the right skills needed to take the business to the next level.  But skills alone are not enough.

“Hire for Attitude, Train for Aptitude”

This is an old mantra which, if ignored, can be costly.  Companies I have worked with have found that recruiting people with the right skills can be costly if they do not have the right ‘attitude’, where there is a lack of ‘fit’.  This is reflected in a study by Leadership IQ of over 20,000 new hires over 3 years which found that 46% of the people about to be hired will fail within the first 18 months on the job. And they won’t fail for lack of skills but rather for lack of attitude.

Top 5 Reasons for Why New Hires Failed

The following are the top areas of failure (i.e., were terminated, left under pressure, received disciplinary action or significantly negative performance reviews):

  • Coachability (26%): the lack of ability to accept and implement feedback from bosses, colleagues, customers and others.
  • Emotional Intelligence (23%): the lack of ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions, and accurately assess others’ emotions.
  • Motivation (17%): insufficient drive to achieve one’s full potential and excel in the job.
  • Temperament (15%): attitude and personality not suited to the particular job and work environment.
  • Technical Competence (11%): functional or technical skills required to do the job.

The key point from this is that when new hires fail, and 46% of them will, 89% of the time it’s because of attitude and only 11% of the time because of skill.

As such, the key predictor of a new hire’s success or failure is their attitude, not their skills.  As such we need to be clear on what attitude we are hiring for. To do this requires two steps:

  • Define the Specific Attitudes – what are the attitudes that make your business different from the rest.  This is both in terms of what is good (which you want) and what is bad (which you want to avoid).
  • Adapting the Hiring & Interviewing Process – you need to make sure that you focus on these attitudes, so adapt how you do this as appropriate.

How Do We Do This?

Define the Specific Attitudes

Attitudes in themselves are not visible or tangible.  Where they are made apparent is in people’s behaviors.  How people behave is an active display of their attitudes.  Their behavior should also be a reflection of the business’ core values which provides guidance to people in the business.  A good example of how the core values are made tangible, and the expected behavior (and hence attitudes) is shown below.

The US Marine Corp

The US Marine Corps has Core Values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment.  The concept of these core values runs throughout all aspects of Marine life, beginning in recruit training and continuing into combat. These “warrior ethos” provide guidance to Marines in difficult ethics situations and as a reminder to provide good order and discipline. These values are defined as:

  • Honor – integrity, responsibility and accountability.
  • Courage – do the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons.
  • Commitment – devotion to the Corps and my fellow Marines.

Adapting the Hiring & Interviewing Process

Too often, when interviewing, we focus on prospective employees’ technical skills and competencies.  Why?  They are the easiest to assess but, as we have seen, they are a very poor predictor of the success or failure of a new employee.

When you look at jobs being advertised the experience, skills, and qualification that are detailed it can be seen that the business advertising the position has the expectation that a perfect candidate will apply.  This is about as far from reality as you can get.  Realistically, there is no ‘perfect candidate’ and, as such, there can only be attitudes that are right for your business – they will never be perfect.

Tests for Finding the ‘Right’ Attitudes

  • High Performers’ Test – what are the distinguishing attitudinal characteristics of your top performers.  List up to 10 responses that reflect your business.  For example:
    • They own the problem.
    • They always see problems as opportunities.
    • They are great listeners and communicators.
    • Etcetera.
  • Low Performers’ Test – what are the distinguishing attitudinal characteristics of your low performers.  List up to 10 responses that reflect your business.  These are not just the opposite of the attitudinal characteristics that make a high performer. For example:
    • They avoid responsibility and are quick to blame.
    • They focus on themselves rather than others.
    • They do the bare minimum work required.
    • Etcetera.

Once you’ve got your two lists, conduct a quick assessment to make sure every point is on target. This can be done by asking yourself the following two questions about each attitude listed:

  • How does this attitude add value or competitive advantage to this organization? (If the attitude brings no benefit to the organization, it doesn’t belong on the list).
  • Who cares about this attitude? (If the attitude doesn’t bring benefit to your customers, it doesn’t belong on the list)

Doing this provides insight into both what you want and what you don’t want in the terms of attitudes and the associated behaviors.  It then helps you to prepare for the interview by focusing on how they respond to questions around both these areas.  However, how the questions are phrased is just as important as what the question is.  You need to develop the question with the kind of response that you are looking for in mind.  But that is a separate article.

In summary, be clear on what values, attitudes and behaviors you want in your business, and which you want your new employees to exemplify in what they do and how they do it.  Get clarity by distinguishing the attitudinal characteristics of both your top and low performers – this helps you to identify what you want from a potential employee, and what you don’t want.  Around this then adapt your interview and hiring process to ask the kind of questions that will help you elicit answers which will help you determine the prospective employee’s values, attitudes, and behaviors.  Take this into account when you look at their technical skills, as it is their attitude that is a predictor of their skills – not their technical skills and competencies.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions,

Guidelines for Managing Conflict Successfully

Six key guidelines to manage conflict effectively

When dealing with a conflict you want to manage it effectively.  Conflicts are difficult to resolve as resolutions are rarely reached which everyone is happy with.  A conflict that is well-managed provides the basis for an approach that everyone will accept, commit to and action. Remember, you want to achieve the best outcomes possible whilst preserving and building on your existing relationships.

There are six things to do:

  • Focus on the position, not the person – you want to focus on what the underlying problem is.  Often the other person is not just being difficult, but has real and valid reasons for their position.  Focus on their position and reasons, don’t focus on the person – it makes the disagreement personal and adversarial, and brings people’s emotions into play.
  • Seek first to understand before you are understood – focus on where the other person is coming from. Try to understand their thoughts, feelings and position.  Once you have understood this, and have checked that your understanding is correct, then you are better positioned to explain your position and to do so from their context,
  • Relationships are your first priority – you need to build mutual understanding and trust.  A good relationship is a necessary precursor for a good outcome. If you lack this then you will not achieve a good relationship or a good outcome.
  • Listen – you need to listen actively  to what the other person is saying, checking for understanding, clarifying where necessary, and ensuring that what is said is what was heard, and that what was heard was what was meant.
  • Jointly establish the objective – what do you both want to achieve from the conflict? Doing this will allow you to scope out the extent of your conversation, to determine what factors are important and relevant, to help prioritize your goals, and to focus and align your efforts.
  • Develop and explore options together – either or both of your preferred choices may not be suitable, or can be improved upon.  Creating new options opens up the conversation and stimulates your collective thinking in finding a ‘best-fit’ alternative on which to agree.

By following these rules, you contentious discussions can be kept positive and constructive, and antagonism and dislike which can exacerbate the conflict can be prevented.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

How to Use Frames to Control Conversations

Frames are a powerful tool that allows you to define how a situation, event or occurrence can be viewed.  If you set the frame, you control the conversation; if you control the conversation, you can control the relationship; and if you control the relationship, you control the business opportunity.

A framework in the same way as the frame around a picture.  A good picture frame draws you into the picture so you can focus on it, and enhances the picture, without being apparent itself.

  1. Provides focus – so you are able to focus your clients, via your use and control of language, on what you see to be as the pith of the matter
  2. Reduces mental clutter – make it easier to identify what you need to focus on
  3. Helps to gain agreement
  4. Accelerates movement and progress
  5. Provides control

Inside of the frame is what is important, what is outside is what is not important as shown in the picture below.

Framing

Framing a Situation

For example, you may be behind budget by $20m.  You could frame this in a couple of different ways, and how you frame it will affect and determine how you perceive and act on this.

  • Frame 1 – As a Problem: We have a target of $200m for the year and we are currently behind by $20m. We should have made $150m by this point in the year, but we have only made $130m. This means that we now have to make $70m before the year end.  We need to work harder to get more deals in.
  • Frame 2 – As an Opportunity: We are working hard and well in a difficult market. We are $20m shy of where we currently want to be and need to make $70m by the year-end.  How can we leverage what we have already done?  How can we work with other areas to help them and us accelerate the time it takes to do deals and increase the average deal size?

You can see in the second frame provides a positive, optimistic and creative context from which to drive the conversation and generate innovative ideas and actions. This helps to inspire and motivate people.  The first frame is negative, pessimistic and looks at doing more of the same (which isn’t working well as they are behind budget). This is more judgmental and is likely to lower morale.

Think how you can frame things to engage and include others in what you are trying to do and to share this technique with your people, in turn, A powerful frame can help to shape the perception, interpretation and how people engage with the situation, occurrence or event.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

What to Do Before You Start Making Decisions

What you need to do before you start the decision-making process

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

Decisions Before You DecideWe make decisions every day; small ones, big ones, unusual ones, specific or general and those which have become a force of habit.  We get so involved in the decision itself that we become blind to the key dimensions that surround it. So what are they, why are they important and how can we use them to help us make better and more effective decisions?

The Four Key Dimensions

There are four key dimensions which need to be considered when making a decision.  This includes:

  1. Composition: Who should be involved in the decision-making process?  You need to make sure you have the right people, with the right information, who can contribute and develop the necessary decision.4 Dimensions of Decision-Making
  2. Context: In what type of environment does the decision take place?  Is it an open environment that fosters open, constructive dialogue?  Or a closed environment in which personal interests supersedes those of the group?
  3. Communication: What are the “means of dialogue” among the participants?  Does it involve considerable direct discussion with those with relevant knowledge and expertise, or is it ‘filtered’ through reports from senior people in the hierarchy?  Are there face-to-face meetings or is it via phone, email, reports etcetera?
  4. Control: How will the leader control the process and the content of the decision?
  • Control of the Process how do you want to shape the way that the deliberations are undertaken and followed;
  • Control of the Content how much do you want to control the outcome of the decision

This last factor- Control – is the hardest, and has the greatest impact on the decision.

A Balanced Approach

A balance between control of the process and control of the content is required.  Too little or too much control of the process and/or the content will result in sub-optimal decisions.  Some of the impacts of low or high levels of control on the process or content are shown below.

Impact of the Level of Control of Content & Process in Decision-Making

 Decisions and Control

So how can we achieve a balance in controlling both the process and content of a decision?  There are three steps:

 3 Steps for a Balanced Approach

1.      Be Clear on the Decision

Are you clear on what the decision is that you are making is?   For example, you are looking at how to improve your retention of key customers.  This is not a decision; this is a problem that needs to be solved.  Be careful not to confuse decisions with problems.

2.      Know What Objectives & Outcomes You Want to Achieve

Have a clear understanding of where you want to be as a result of the decision you have made.  Knowing this will help you understand what expertise and information you need, from whom you need to get it, and the people who should be involved.

3.      Have Checks & Counter-Balances

You will find that you and others involved in the decision-making process will fall into common decision-making traps or errors of judgement.  Understanding them, and how to avoid them will provide you with the means to check your collective thoughts, ideas and insights and reduce the likelihood of your decision being subverted.

Use this as a checklist – make sure you address the four dimensions: Composition, Context, Communication and Control – and build the means for better decisions.  Will you share this with your colleagues and those who participate in your decision-making processes?

It’s your decision.

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