Archives for 6 Feb,2015

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What is Potential?

ladder 400x265Research and recommendations on defining and assessing potential.

The research on potential from two big hitters in management consulting, YSC and Korn Ferry has many companies combining their two famous models. But what does that really mean and how can it work?

YSC’s model of Judgement, Drive and Influence (JDI) shows us the most critical attitude, behaviour and skills required for successful leaders. In any situation a leader finds themselves in, these three qualities will be required for success. We need to be able to recognise problems, analyse information and produce solutions.

We also need the self assurance and ambition to move things on and get things done. And we need strong emotional intelligence to take people with us and gain buy in.  As always, there will be some of these things each of us is naturally better at, and some we will need support with.

YSC back this up with impressive breadth of study across nations and industries, and the practical application of that research is clear and straight forward.

So what about Korn Ferry?  Equally robust with their breadth and depth of research, it is a different model and set of qualities this company raises up as critical for success.  Learning Agility is the ability and willingness to learn from experience and later apply that learning to succeed in never faced before situations.

Totem Gummi Bears

It is precisely because leaders are always facing new situations they have never dealt with before, that this curiosity, appetite for learning and speed of learning application, is key.  The first time a department head is asked to set up a new unit in an emerging market, most of what they know goes out the window. What makes me successful here does not usually make me successful there.

Korn Ferry have identified different types of agility, and again each of us are stronger at some of these than others.

So to be successful we need to be agile or quick to learn and adapt, with regards to people, change, mental problem solving and delivering results.  Two great models, well researched and backed up.

It’s not surprising then that many businesses are combining these two models to give an over arching definition of potential. But how exactly does that work?

Depending on the preference of the business it can be YSC with a bit of Korn Ferry, or Korn Ferry with a bit of YSC.

We have come across more companies taking that first approach.  They assess potential by interviewing against judgement, drive and influence, and add in deep dive questions on learning applied within each of those qualities.  The important thing to ask is what are we trying to achieve?

If we want to select people who might have the potential to be successful future leaders in business x, then arguably we should conduct our own research on what makes success here. But that can be costly and difficult to future proof.  So instead many of us work with a best fit model, that we tweak to better fit our culture and estimated needs for the future.

With the budget and resources to put to it, doing your own research, backed up by the expert findings from these companies, can be the best option.  And if the resources aren’t there, so much insight is available from this research, you can still have something built for you on that basis.

We’ve used both approaches and every client is simply happy to have something bespoke for them, safe in the knowledge it has been built on solid foundations.

Totem Lollipops

But after all that, here is a very different way of thinking…

What if instead of starting with a company’s or academic’s review of what success looks like, and assessing who has the potential to meet that list, we started with the individual?

What if we asked each individual where their potential for growth might be?  And supported every individual to become their best self?  This is the other angle of potential… The more human side, which taps into the statements that come up with every model of potential or success… Some of us are better at some of these things than others.

So rather than trying to help everyone grow five aspects of learning agility, on top of judgement, drive and influence, what if we simply helped them tap into their own natural potential?  This would be a significant shift from the current thinking around models of potential, and yet it seems more realistic.

We know from Gallup’s Q12 and wider research into strengths, that doing what we do best every day is critical to great results.  So let’s work to those strengths and natural potential.

Perhaps once again there is an opportunity to combine the ideas.

With a model of potential based on JDI and learning agility, combined with a focus on understanding where an individual’s natural potential lies, maybe we find the answer we really need: Who has what it takes?

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Burning Questions

Kettenreaktion - Konzept mit ZündhölzernWhat questions your hiring managers are failing to ask at interview and how that burns through your bottom line.

How do you encourage hiring managers to interview more effectively?  Where do you start?  What skills do they need?  How will they know what questions to ask?  And once they’ve learned the skills, how can you be sure they’ll use them?!

Bringing in external consultants to interview and assess candidates can be highly beneficial for large volume and senior level appointments.  It can certainly be expensive and after that external person gives you a recommendation, what next? And what about all the other roles you recruit for?

When we ask managers to use a new system or process, we provide guidance or training.  Sadly, as with many people management skills, this tends to get missed for interviewing and hiring candidates.  So if you’re considering doing something about this, where can you start? What challenges might you face and how can you overcome them?

Getting Started

Gaining buy in to the time out of a busy workload can be a challenge, so managers will need a good reason to be doing this, seeing both personal and commercial benefits.

Companies we work with have used various combinations of the following to explain the need for change;

We need to be consistent – we don’t have a consistent view on what good looks like, so we risk making decisions that aren’t right for the whole business.

You haven’t had any support and we want to change that. We feel we’re letting you down if we don’t give you the core skills required to interview and select candidates.

We’re losing money, wasting time, making work harder and upsetting the rest of the team. Making a bad hire takes up management time, lowers morale and costs hundreds of thousands. Let’s avoid these pains by making more robust decisions – it will make your life easier.

Prepare for the future. Few other decisions we make as managers can affect the business for five, ten or twenty years. If we’re bringing someone in who might stay a long time, let’s make sure they’re the right person.

Totem Lollipops

Back up what you already know and build your skills for your future.  If you’ve been interviewing for 10 years already, you’ve probably got a way you like you do it and habits that work for you. Let’s learn from each other, find out the science behind what works and all become better interviewers, a key skill for future careers.

Learning Content

Once you have a group of people to work with, what will you cover on a skills workshop?

Two key principles are critical with this content. Firstly, make sure it is a facilitated, adult conversation. It’s easy to sound patronising without ever intending to, simply because this content can be assumed to be something we all already know.  Ask people what already works for them and what they find challenging.

Secondly, make sure the focus is on more objectively agreeing criteria and more objectively assessing candidates against that.  This is the single most important learning point, yet workshops on this topic often end up stuck on debates about whether we should put candidates under pressure or not, how we should avoid too many CVs, what to do when you know in the first two minutes the candidate is no good etc.

Whilst those questions are valid, the focus should be on the criteria for the role.

And that’s what is usually missed before and during interview – which causes bad hiring decisions and burns through your bottom line: A full understanding and assessment of the needs for the role.

Encourage hiring managers to ask questions amongst themselves before advertising a role like:

  • Why does this job exist?
  • What value will it add to my team / department / business?
  • What might be some success measures of the role?  How would I know after say 12 months that someone is doing well in this job?
  • What skills, knowledge and previous experience would be essential for someone to fulfil all of the above in my team / department / business?

And then the interview questions are written for you.  Let’s say for example that answers to the final two questions brought up things like “increase sales by 10%, so I need to see they have a track record in sales – particularly in a saturated market.”  So the interview question can be written: “when have you delivered sales increases in a saturated market?  What was the context?  What did you do?  How did you achieve growth through those challenges?”  And so on.

Or the questions raise people management needs like “turn around team performance to deliver better results (as measured through KPIs).”  The interview question could start along the lines of… “when have you turned around a team’s performance?  How did you go about it?  What was your understanding of why the team was not performing at their best?  How did the team respond to your approach?”

For fear of stating the obvious (but since when is common sense common action as we always hear?!) the simplest way to interview most effectively is to clarify what the role really needs – and ask questions against those criteria.

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