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.

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

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4 Ways to Manage for Long-Term Results (& Its Not About Profit!)

Managing for profit can be detrimental to your business in the longer-term.  Discover the 4 guidelines to help your business thrive, not just survive.

We are in uncomfortable times.  Europe is facing a myriad of difficulties, China’s growth is looking to slow-down (albeit continuing), competition is more intense and customers are more demanding and better-informed. Yet amongst these difficulties there are companies who are not just surviving but thriving.

How are they managing to do this and what can we learn and apply from them?  Here are four guidelines for thriving, not surviving.

1. Manage for Value, Not For Profit.

You can’t manage profit – profit is an outcome of your revenues and costs.  You can manage your revenues and your costs, but you cannot directly manage your profit..

Successful companies look at managing value – they ascertain whether what they do creates and provides value both to them and their customers, or not.  You need to create value for both parties in order to be able to capture value for yourself.  Too many companies look at their relationship with their customers as a zero-sum game or as a win-lose opportunity i.e. we are dealing with a pie of a set size, so if I want a larger slice of the pie then the other has to have less and vice-versa.  This is a weak mind-set which immediately puts you in conflict with your customer.

Rather, look at your customer relationships as a win-win opportunity – the opportunity to create and grow value with each other.  This mindset allows the size of the pie to be increased, allowing you to capture more value, even if the split remains the same.  This enables you to collaborate with your customers and create long-term opportunities and relationships, rather than short-term gains at the cost of your customer relationships.

As such value is a driver of profit – the greater the value, the greater the opportunity to drive profitable outcomes.

2. Manage for the Long-Term

Too many businesses are driven by short-term considerations and take actions which, although they may provide relief in the short-term, destroy value in the long-term.  For example, investment in R&D may be cut now to save money and improve short-term profit – but it destroys value in the mid-to long-term as those assets which can create future value in the years to come are weakened, undermined or even destroyed.

3. Manage the Development of Your People

Every company claims that “people are our most important asset,” but few mean it. Frequently business’ investment in leadership development is cut during hard times – at exactly the time when it is needed most to enable and empower high-potential managers to lead the business to success and through these hard times.

In a recent survey of leadership globally, it was found that many of those countries with strong supplies of leaders today are facing a shortfall in the future – this includes countries such as the UK, Australia and Canada.  As such, business leadership is an important issue not only now but in the future (for further information see the blog “The Ticking Talent Timebomb”).

4. Manage your Focus – Be Customer-Centric 

Business needs to understand their customers in terms of what they need, what the business can offer, and how this translates into value for both parties.  As such you need to be able to properly address and craft your offerings to meet their needs.

Furthermore, you need to know not only what business you are in – but what business you are not in.  I have seen many companies grow and expand their offerings beyond what is their core business in response to meet their customers’ demands.  However, this has come at a cost.  As a result, management focus and attention is dispersed, scarce resources are allocated ineffectively and inefficiently, the business lacks the necessary skills to operate in these new areas, costs increase and margins reduce, and the business grows in an unstructured and  ad hoc manner which is difficult or impossible to consolidate.  All of which increases the level and range of risks to which the business is exposed, often beyond the gain that they might realise from this unstructured growth.

Summary

Don’t focus on profit – focus on value and you will achieve profit.  However, this requires discipline, courage and the willingness to invest in the long-term and in developing your people to ensure that you deliver what the customer needs and values.

What are you doing to grow your ability to create, share and realise value?  What has been stopping you and how have you overcome these barriers?

Share your thoughts and comments here.

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9 Things Successful People Do Differently

9 tips on how to meet your goals and grow your capabilities

Do you think you can tell?
Do you think you can tell?

In Part 1 of this article, we identified why we are our own worst enemy when it comes to identifying how to improve ourselves.  Here we look at what we can do to help us, given the fact that we are not always the best person to do so.

Psychologist, Heidi Grant Halvorson, recently studied the science of success asking – Why have you been so successful in reaching some of your goals, but not others? Decades of research on achievement suggests that successful people reach their goals not simply because of who they are, but more often because of what they do.  As such, in her ebook – “Nine Things Successful People Do Differently” – she identified the following:

1. Get specific. When you set yourself a goal, try to be as specific as possible. This gives you a clear idea of what success looks like and helps to keep you motivated until you get there. Also, think about the specific actions that need to be taken to reach your goal.

2. Seize the moment to act on your goals.
Achieving your goal means grabbing hold of these opportunities to work on our goals before they slip through your fingers.  To seize the moment, decide when and where you will take each action you want to take, in advance. Again, be as specific as possible. Studies show that this kind of planning will help your brain to detect and seize the opportunity when it arises, increasing your chances of success by roughly 300%.

3. Know exactly how far you have left to go. Achieving any goal also requires honest and regular monitoring of your progress — if not by others, then by you yourself. Check your progress frequently — weekly, or even daily, depending on the goal.

4. Be a realistic optimist.
When you are setting a goal, by all means engage in lots of positive thinking about how likely you are to achieve it. Believing in your ability to succeed is enormously helpful for creating and sustaining your motivation. But whatever you do, don’t underestimate how difficult it will be to reach your goal.

5. Focus on getting better, rather than being good.
Believe you can get the ability to reach your goals is important.  , but so is believing you can get the ability. Many of us believe that our intelligence, our personality, and our physical aptitudes are fixed — that no matter what we do, we won’t improve. As a result, we focus on goals that are all about proving ourselves, rather than developing and acquiring new skills.

Research suggests that the belief in fixed ability is completely wrong — abilities of all kinds are profoundly malleable. Embracing the fact that you can change will allow you to make better choices, and reach your fullest potential.

6. Have grit – the willingness to commit to long-term goals, and to persist in the face of difficulty. Again, you can develop your ‘grit ability’.

7. Build your willpower muscle. Your self-control “muscle” is just like the other muscles in your body — when it doesn’t get much exercise, it becomes weaker over time. But when you give it regular workouts by putting it to good use, it will grow stronger and stronger, and better able to help you successfully reach your goals.

To build willpower, take on a challenge that requires you to do something you’d honestly rather not do. Start with just one activity, and make a plan for how you will deal with troubles when they occur. It is hard in the beginning, but it gets easier. As your strength grows, you can take on more challenges and step-up your self-control workout.

8. Don’t tempt fate. No matter how strong your willpower muscle becomes, it’s important to always respect the fact that it is limited, and if you overtax it you will temporarily run out of steam. Don’t try to take on two challenging tasks at once, or over-expose yourself to temptation.

9. Focus on what you will do, not what you won’t do. Plan how you will replace bad habits with good ones, rather than focusing only on the bad habits themselves. Research on thought suppression (e.g., “Don’t think about white bears!”) has shown that trying to avoid a thought makes it even more active in your mind. The same holds true when it comes to behavior — by trying not to engage in a bad habit, our habits get strengthened rather than broken.  If you want to change your ways, ask yourself, What will I do instead?

So what does this all mean?

To achieve your goals overcome the common mistakes above; build, develop and apply your abilities; and use this knowledge to your advantage from now on.

What has worked for you to help you reach your goals?  Have you tips or ideas of your own that you would like to share?

Share your ideas, insights, and experience – and share the wealth!

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About Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions (“GPS”)

Who Knows You Best?

Can you tell how good your performance is or how you can improve?  Read on to find out, you might be surprised…

Do you think you can tell?

Those of you who are Pink Floyd fans will immediately recognize the lyrics from the song, “Wish You Were Here”.  The first part of the song, for those of you not familiar with it are below:

So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell,
blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

Let’s be honest – yes we can!  The difference between them is immediate and obvious, and we can all do this easily. Here is another question:

“Do you think you can tell who knows you best?”

If I was to ask you that then you would probably see one word – “Me!”  Yet you would be wrong. How you see yourself and how other people see you are only weakly correlated.

The research suggests that other people’s assessment of your personality predicts your behaviour, on average, better than your assessment does. The truth is, we don’t know ourselves nearly as well as we think we do. When it comes to performance, our surprising self-ignorance makes understanding where we went right and where we went wrong difficult, to say the least.

If you want to be more successful — at anything — than you are right now, you need to know yourself and your skills. And when you fall short of your goals, you need to know why. This should be no problem; after all, who knows you better than you do?

Why is this?

The problem is our brain.  Just because its our doesn’t mean we know what it’s doing – most of what happens is below our consciousness awareness, it’s not directly accessible to us at all.  As psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson described it our unconscious mind is like a Cray supercomputer processing everything at high speed, whereas our conscious brain has the power of a Post-It note – unable to handle much and when too much is asked of it, it starts dropping things.  This means when things start going wrong we often have difficulty in understanding why.

When you fail to reach a goal you try to establish why(for example, lack of innate ability, lack of effort, poor preparation, using the wrong strategy, bad luck, etc). Of all of these possible culprits, it’s lack of innate ability we most frequently hold responsible.  As such, innate ability is the go-to explanation for all of our successes and our failures.

Research shows that this is rarely the case – for either succeeding or falling short.  If we need to improve performance we need to know where to place blame.  As we can’t find it ourselves, we need to help to find the right answers.

How do we do this – we focus not on who people are, but what they do.

To find out more, and to read the second part of this article then “Do You Think You Can Tell?” – Part 2 at growthandprofit.wordpress.com

What have been your experiences?  What works for you? Share your ideas and thoughts, and share the wealth!

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

The Difference Between Being Involved & Committed

The Chicken & The Pig

An executive coach is not a silver bullet for your problems.  But what do you need to do before you engage an executive coach, and to make sure you get the most out of your time with them?

Coaching is a two-way process and dialog, based on open, honest  communication and a strong commitment to self-improvement and learning.  It requires effort, discipline and humility – on both sides.

Commitment

But the question to ask yourself is are you ready to be coached?

Coaching starts with the coachee – the person being coached.  There is an old joke that goes, “How many shrinks does it take to change a light bulb? One, but the light bulb must want to change.”

If you want to be coached you need to be committed: “The difference between involvement and commitment is like ham and eggs. The chicken is involved; the pig is committed”

Unless you are willing to change, and are committed to doing so, then no coach can help you.  Before a coach can help you, you need to help yourself so you in turn can help others.  It is like being on an airplane when an emergency occurs – the first instruction is for you to put you oxygen mask on yourself before you help others.  So you need to be willing to change before any other change can take place.  Change starts with you, not with others.

Even if we think that we want to change this is not always true.  The human capacity for self-deception is well-known.  We can rationally believe that we want to change, but unless we are emotionally invested in changing it will not last.  Logic makes people think, but emotions makes people act.

We often overestimate our capacity to change ourselves.  Even in situations which can be life-threatening our resistance to changing ourselves.  Studies show that, when giving up smoking, it takes on average seven attempts and five years; and that half of those quit on New Year’s Eve start smoking again within ten days.  This is despite the overwhelming evidence and availability of information on the risks associated with smoking.

How Do We Reduce Our Resistance to Change

1. Create Commitment, Not Compliance

Research has shown that compliance, when you are responding to a demand, incentive or threat only works in the short-term.  As soon as the pressure is removed people revert to their original behavior.  This is because we are not motivated to change – motivation only comes from within yourself, not externally.  Demands, incentives or threats are there to make you avoid something.

Commitment comes from within you because you are personally engaged in achieving a personal change.  This is the only way of maintaining the change for the long-term and on an on-going basis.  As such commitment comes from your beliefs and mindset.

However, a mindset is not just brought into being.  It has to be developed – you need to view the change as an opportunity and not a problem; to see the opportunity to grow the pie rather than seeing it as of a fixed size where others only gain if you lose and vice-versa.

2.  Commit to the Coaching Process, Don’t Just Participate

When it comes to a breakfast of eggs and bacon there is a major difference – the chicken is participating, but the pig is committed.  Which are you – the chicken or the pig – when it comes to the coaching process?  You need to be invested in it and have skin in the game.

3. Be Honest with Yourself

Do you really want someone to coach you and to be candid and honest with you? Or are you looking for having you ego stroked and lots of unqualified encouragement?  If you are the latter then don’t hire a coach – save your money and don’t waste the coach’s time.

Coaching will do nothing for you unless you are willing to change.  Be clear on whether you want to be coached or not, what you want to achieve from the process, and whether you are committed to it or not.  It’s up to you.

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

How Middle-Management is at Risk

Why middle-management is essential for business survival and the risks you run of if you lose or alienate them.

The Challenges of Middle ManagementMiddle management.  Often described as the ‘backbone’ of the company, they provide the continuity across the business and the key people for getting things done; communicating and resolving problems up, down and across the line; translating strategy into action; leading key operational areas; have considerable expertise and experience within the business; providing linkages between senior executives and front-line staff; and are implementing and responding to change.

As such, middle management is crucial to the on-going success and survival of the business.  Senior executives are starting to appreciate their role and the impact of their work, but at a time when it becoming harder to develop and retain middle management.

Middle Management Stress & Turnover

In a recent poll by Lane4 in the UK (July 2012) more than 90% of workers believed that the vast majority of workplace stress was falling on middle management, and two in five (39%) of middle management reported that they were under severe stress.  As such, many mid-level managers are dissatisfied and would like to leave their current organization.   In harder times it is those middle managers who are your best and who perform well who find it easiest to find new roles and new opportunities.

This has several impacts on your business: firstly, the business will lose its top middle management talent, this will put an increase burden on those who are left behind; secondly, the exodus of mid-level talent seriously compromises the business’ future  leadership pipeline and its ability to have the right people in the right place to enable the business to grow and develop in the future; and finally those mid-level managers remaining will be the low-performers, who are more likely to be disengaged and who have “quit and stayed”.  All of this means that business’ ability to survive and thrive – especially in challenging times – is seriously compromised.

The Impact of Mid-Management Turnover

One of the current major growth challenges facing CEOs is the lack of key talent to enable them to grow the business.  This is exacerbated with the turnover of good mid-level manager as it compromises the business’ ability to execute the CEO’s strategy and drive results and outcomes.

Furthermore, the costs of middle management turnover are also high.  A common rule of thumb is to assess the cost of a middle manager to the bottom-line at one-and-a-half to two times their annual salary.  Assuming an average salary of $125,000 then this could mean $250,000 off your bottom line.  Alternatively, look at it in terms of the extra revenue you need to achieve just to stand still – assuming your net profit is 10%, then that is a further $2.5m of revenue required!

Practically, I think this heuristic is conservative.  Once you take into account the corporate knowledge, experience, expertise and insights that have been developed over a number of years you are looking at the loss of a very valuable contributor.  Furthermore, to recruit someone who is an equivalent is both difficult and expensive to do.

Causes of Mid-Management Stress

Middle management is under increasing stress for a number of reasons.  They are the people who have to lay off staff when the company downsizes (or more cynically “right-sizes”), in an environment of poor morale, having to do more with less, with little or no increase in salary or benefits whilst being responsible for more, a reduced opportunity for career progression, dealing with people who like them are worried and scared, and frequently being seen as an “unwanted layer” and at a high risk of being laid off themselves (often having had to lay off others first).

So what do we do?

Dealing with the Problem

In challenging times we need to maintain our middle management.  In economies which are struggling the senior executives need to work with and engage with their middle management even more closely.  It is at the mid-levels that the most important projects are, and reducing their resourcing is nigh on suicidal.  If the level of responsibility for middle management is extended, and their capacity and resources is limited or reduced, then you need to invest in their developing the necessary capabilities.  If this is not done then senior management will be faced with a “frozen” middle management compounded by cycles of low morale and low engagement.

Companies need to be resilient – leaders need to provide clear direction, they need engage the middle management and rebuild trust, and in doing so enable them to engage with their reports and teams in turn.  If you cut out the middle, then you are just left with the head and tail of the business – unable to do the necessary work effectively, and a corpse all but in name.

It may seem counter-intuitive but now is the time to invest in your middle management – this will pay off in terms of loyalty, results and longer-term growth.  Treat your key people as an investment, not a cost to be cut but people to be valued, developed and through whom you can achieve leverage and significant returns.

So what are you going to do?

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How to Bait Your Hook

What do good anglers know which we can use in driving stronger business growth and results?

Fishing is one of the most popular leisure time pursuits in the world.  There is something about going out there, rod in hand, to capture that ever elusive fish.  This takes time, patience, skill and – let’s be honest – a bit of luck.

One thing that experienced anglers do is that they don’t waste time in an unproductive location.  You can try a few casts, change the bait, but if the fish are not biting then it is time to move on to a new spot.

We need to be like good anglers – if the fish do not bite quickly, then be prepared to move on and try elsewhere.  You might try for the same fish in another location, or using different bait or lures, or even go after another type of fish.  You want to be in a market where you will get a positive reaction as early as possible.

Doing this will save you time, money and embarrassment – it will also allow you to learn from the experience, and to apply it in future fishing spots.  What we do or how good we think something is not important.  There is only one judge out there and that is the market, and the market only cares if what you’ve done meets its needs.

The lesson here is that business is not about us, it is about our customers.  The question I like to ask to illustrate is this: “Why do people buy a quarter-inch drill?

I get a lot of answers – to hang a picture, for home improvements, to replace my old hand-drill etcetera.  They are all wrong.

The answer is simple: “To drill a quarter-inch hole!”

Customers are not interested in the features of the drill – such as its colour, whether it is turbo-charged, the special safety grip it has etcetera – they are only interested in the outcome from using it.

So if your product or service is not getting traction or garnering the sales you want then you need to do three things:

  1. Check that your product or service provides the outcomes that the customers/market need (have your hook properly baited);
  2. Be prepared to change fishing holes if the fish aren’t biting
  3. Continually learn from your experience so that you can:
  • produce a product/service that better meets the needs of the market (don’t confuse this with a better product which has more features but still fails to address the needs) and;
  • find and locate better fishing holes more quickly.

What do you do to find the right fishing holes?  How long do you wait before you move to a different location?  Are you really focused on delivering the outcomes a customer needs or delivering the product or service itself?

Share your ideas, insights and experience!  Share the knowledge, share the wealth!

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