Thursday, December 17, 2015

Six Steps to Hiring Exceptional Talent

Guest post from Dee Ann Turner:

The best business leaders have a keen sense of purpose that drives their work. Ideally, they also have superior products and services that support that purpose. But noble purpose and brilliant products won’t get you far if you don’t have the right people to deliver them.

In other words, our who matters even more than our what and our why.

That makes selecting talent the most important task of today’s leader. It’s also the most difficult. So many managers don’t understand how to use the hiring process not just to fill a position, but also to truly add value that enriches and complements the company’s culture.

I have worked at Chick-fil-A’s corporate headquarters for more than 30 years. I’ve spent most of that time as Vice President of Corporate Talent, and my decades of experience and devoted personal study have led me to believe that hiring is an art, not a science. While that may seem daunting at first, especially to those of us who crave facts and precision, it’s actually great news. Hiring as an art abandons robotic coldness in favor of human intuition. When we combine our instincts with finely honed processes such as behavioral based interviewing, we can achieve game-changing results.

In my new book It’s My Pleasure: The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and Compelling Culture, I share secrets behind the exceptionally effective business model Truett Cathy pioneered when he founded Chick-fil-A in 1946. Truett’s entrepreneurial philosophy was way ahead of the curve. Over the years, he emphasized to me time and time again that our business was not about numbers, growth, or even chicken. To Truett, Chick-fil-A was always about people.

In the midst of a fluid labor market in which individuals move from company to company with expected regularity, Chick-fil-A’s corporate staff retention rate has remained at 95-97% for almost 50 years. I believe that success can be traced back in part to how we hire. Here are six guideposts to smart, soulful hiring, shaped by Truett’s people-first ideology:

1.    Think hard about the role and carefully craft its description. How can you use the new hire to address current weaknesses that may be slowing your staff down? Try also to think about the future instead of just the present.

2.    Expand your search. In It's My PleasureI call it “casting a wide net.” Different perspectives and experience from other industries can bring invaluable new energy to your team.

3.    Practice behavioral based interviewing. Behavioral based questions push candidates to draw on how they’ve responded to situations in the past. Instead, interviewers often ask questions that can only be answered hypothetically, which is not the best way to learn how someone will actually act.

4.    Check references. Too many managers do not follow up with references thoroughly. This calls for more than just verifying employment: Take the time to ask about past performance, which we know is the best indicator of future performance.

5.    Talk the candidate out of the job. Once you have decided to offer a candidate the position, try to talk them out of accepting. This may sound counter-intuitive, but it is an excellent way to gauge the individual’s level of passion and determination for both the role and your company.

6.    Make a commitment to the new hire. Once the job has been accepted, do all you can to ensure the new employee’s success. They are your investment: Use the time and resources necessary to help them grow into the position.    

In It's My Pleasure, I explore each of these suggestions in greater detail, along with other proven hiring techniques. While there are no one-dimensional solutions to the challenge of recruiting and sustaining extraordinary talent, we can hold on to one simple truth: When we put people at the center of our strategies, we gain so much more than added sales. One person at a time, we build a thriving, compelling culture that extends far beyond business hours to impact the lives of everyone who comes into contact with it.

That is Truett Cathy’s legacy, and one that is well worth trying to emulate.

About Dee Ann Turner
Dee Ann Turner is Vice President, Corporate Talent, for Chick-fil-A, where she began her career more than 30 years ago. Her first book, It’s My Pleasure: The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and a Compelling Culture, reveals never-before-shared secrets behind building and maintaining Chick-fil-A’s revolutionary business model. Dee Ann believes people are the most powerful commodity in any organization, and companies that recognize the value of individuals can succeed not just ethically, but financially as well. In addition to serving on the boards of the Kenya Project and Proverbs 31 ministry, the married mother of the three is also active with a variety of family-focused missions that support women and children.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

When Listening, Avoid Making Suggestions

Guest post from Dana Caspersen:

I offer a challenge:

The next time you are listening to someone during a difficult conversation or conflict and you are tempted to make a suggestion—don’t. Instead of making a suggestion, bring your attention back to what they are saying and why. Listen for what’s important, even if you think you already know.

If you feel compelled to respond while you are listening, try asking questions that help the other person unfold their story. Avoid saying things like: “Well, you need to…”, or “What if you just…”, or “It sounds like the problem is…”. Instead, try asking questions that look for more information, like: “What’s the most important thing to you in this?”, or “How has this affected you?”.

Whether with a colleague, a partner or a stranger, it’s obvious that listening is useful in communication. But often in the stress of a difficult conversation or conflict we don’t really listen. Even when we think we are listening, we are often caught up in getting ready to, or making, a suggestion.

Listening and making suggestions are two different actions. Each of these actions leads us in a different direction and tends to provoke different outcomes in conflict.

I have found that the principle: “When listening, avoid making suggestions”, often initially strikes people as odd. They say, “If I have a good idea, why shouldn’t I say it?”, or, “Just because I have a suggestion, it doesn’t mean I’m not listening.”

here are times when it is important for us to offer our ideas, but there are many more times when the act of making a suggestion too early in the conversation can blind us to other options and get in the way of really hearing the information that the other person is trying to give us.

It can be very tempting to make suggestions when time is short or we feel uncomfortable in the pressure of a conversation. The urge to say what you think the problem is or which action the other person should choose can be strong. However, what I have seen over and over, is that once people decide to stop making suggestions for a while—to stop telling other people what to do—they are often shocked by how little they had really been listening. They are often equally surprised and delighted by how radically relationships can improve and how beneficial the outcomes in conflicts can be when they listen first and look for solutions later.

Here’s two reasons why differentiating between the action of listening and the action of making suggestions matters:

1. Your story is not their story.
Making suggestions is about your point of view. Listening is about the other person’s point of view. One of the most basic things that people need in a conflict is to be heard. When we move from the action of listening to the action of making a suggestion, we’re changing the focus of the conversation from their point of view to our own point of view. If this change in focus happens too early in the dialogue, people often feel their story hasn’t been heard. It then becomes more difficult for them to listen to the rest of the stories in the conflict.

2. Solutions that don’t meet the needs of both sides usually fail.
Whether we like it or not, in a conflict we need the other person’s story to be able to understand what is important and what kind of solution might be possible and effective.

Listening is about allowing the landscape that you are both traversing to become more visible, which makes it more possible to find a pathway through it. Listening is a form of map-building.

Offering a suggestion, on the other hand, is an attempt to find a solution. It is a proposed pathway. But, if we don’t have a good map of the landscape, we can’t know which path will get us where we want to go.

Often it’s tempting to try to find solutions as soon as possible, because conflict can be uncomfortable. But, if we do jump into a solution too early, before we really know what’s happening and what’s important to people, then we are much less likely to find a solution that meets the needs of the situation– one that works and will last.

So, the challenge: in the next difficult conversation you encounter, stop making suggestions for a while and see what happens. Develop an investigatory mindset and find out what really matters in the situation. Build detailed maps with people, even when you disagree, to see where you are and where you both want to go. Once you have this common ground, ideas and suggestions from both sides can be more easily heard and become useful in helping to find an effective pathway through the conflict.

Dana Caspersen is the author of Changing the Conversation: The 17Principles of Conflict Resolution (Penguin, 2015), and works internationally as a conflict specialist, public dialogue designer, speaker and award-winning performing artist. Dana holds a master’s degree in Conflict Studies and Mediation and her focus is on helping individuals and communities develop their ability to see conflict as a place of possibility and the skills to make those possibilities become reality. Learn more about her work, talks, videos and events at

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Overcoming the Desire to Please Your Boss

Guest post from Chip Espinoza:

Two of the top challenges young professionals report facing while making the transition into management is a change in relational dynamics with former peers at work and the fear of disappointing the boss who promoted them. One young woman shared her distress when one of her best friends at work unfriended her on Facebook. The newly minted manager asked her friend, “Why the unfriend?” She replied, “You are the boss now, and I don’t want you creeping on my Facebook.” It is not uncommon for there to be a bit of a cold spell while the relationship with a peer goes through redefinition.

At first glance, how your peers see you and what your manager thinks about you are unrelated, but being overly concerned with your manager’s estimation of you may inhibit your ability to effectively lead your peers and the development of your own leadership perspective.

If you find yourself pre-occupied or even worried about what your boss thinks of you, give yourself a break. One of the reasons you made it to management is because you cared and your boss saw something in you that she did not see in your peers or others. That something is usually a comfort level with building a relationship with authority figures or appearing to be more mature than your peers. Perhaps you have heard your manager say things like, “You are different from other Millennials” or “You are a throwback.” The term throwback refers to someone who appears to be from a generation older than one’s own. It could be flattering, but be aware, it could also set you up to be perceived as someone you are not. It is a good thing to want your boss to be pleased with you. However, the danger comes when you become more concerned with the approval of your boss than being your own person or exercising your own voice. The slang behavioral diagnosis for those who quickly adapt what they think, say, and do in an effort to please their manager is brown nose—the kiss of death for building credibility with peers and exerting one’s own voice.

The first step to overcoming the desire to please your boss is to accept there will come a day when you disappoint him or her—not necessarily because you have done something wrong, but because you did something different from what they would do. It is inevitable! Even the best of mentor/mentoree relationships end in conflict. It is a right of passage that eventually results in reconciliation and mutual respect. As an example, my mentor primarily consulted nonprofit organizations, and when I started working with major corporations, he was disappointed. It hurt me to let him down, but I had to pursue my own path even though it was emotionally difficult. Before he died, he affirmed me for having the desire to help all kinds of organizations with generational diversity and valued my work.

The tension you may experience with your manager is often the result of leading from your own perspective. Not unlike what you experience with peers, your personal growth triggers a redefinition of the relationship with your boss. When you understand the relational dynamic that is taking place, there is no need to be defensive, make excuses, or villainize. No need to fret. It is a sign of a new phase of your leadership development. One of the first stages of leadership development is to develop your own perspective.

Which leads to the second step of overcoming the need to please your boss—develop your own leadership perspective. What do you believe to be true? What are you convinced of? What are you willing to stand for? How would you want to be managed? The young professionals in research my coauthor Joel Schwarzbart and I have conducted talk about feeling torn between the way they wanted to manage and the way they thought their boss wanted them to manage. It was like having their boss on one shoulder and their preferred “me” on the other. The dialogue in their heads between the two created a migraine. The bipolarization also led to inconsistency in leader behavior.

Having a perspective can be quite powerful. A perspective can be as simple as, “Everyone deserves a second chance.” Such a perspective has probably salvaged many a career. It is not true in every situation, but helpful in most. Not having your own perspective sets you up for being perceived as inauthentic and a mini-me of your boss. Inauthenticity is the kiss of death for a young manager. Your peers will not respect you, and ultimately your boss will be disappointed anyway.

The third step is to understand that when a peer says you have changed for the worse or a manager says you are not ready for the next level, it may be a function of them not wanting their relationship with you to change. That is not a bad thing. You have to keep it in perspective. It is not our enemies who hold us back from achieving our full potential—it is usually those who care about us the most. When you grow, advance, and seek new opportunities, it threatens relationships. If you get that, it will save you sleepless nights, the need to defend yourself, and self-doubt. Embrace all kinds of feedback—the good, the bad, and the ugly—just have your own perspective.

Chip Espinoza is the author, along with Joel Schwarzbart, of Millennials Who Manage: How to Overcome Workplace Perceptions and Become a Great Leader. He is also the author of Managing the Millennials. Espinoza is the Academic Director of Organizational Psychology and Nonprofit Leadership at Concordia University Irvine.