Category Archives: hiring

Welcome aboard!

Welcome to Uncertainty

Congratulations! You just hired a new leader. Helping them succeed is a crucial, and often overlooked, transition. The new leader is ready to show their stuff, you are excited about the grand ideas you shared during the search process, your colleagues are expecting results, and their new team is full of experienced workers. What could go wrong?

Actually quite a bit. As leadership transition expert Michael Watkins says in his book, Your Next Move “Transitions into significant new roles are the most challenging times in the professional lives of managers.”

The book does a great job describing the different types of transitions the new leader will experience. Regardless of their specific transition you can take the following five actions to give them the best chance of succeeding in their new role.

  1. Deliver transition support just-in-time – Strategically identify what information and resources are needed immediately and what can wait. No one can digest everything on the first day! Your new leader needs time to assimilate information.
  2. Leverage the time before they start – Provide access to meetings, people, information, budgets, and yourself before their first official day. Check in and answer questions they have before they are swamped with first-day paperwork and work demands.
  3. Create action-forcing events to guide the transition – Don’t rely on random circumstances during the first few weeks. Instead use your influence and experience to create a learning environment for your new leader. Set up meetings, invite him or her to your meetings, delegate certain tasks to them, add them to different groups, and actively debrief with them to strengthen their understanding and competence.
  4. Provide focused resources that support their transition – A new leader needs a different type of support than an experienced leader. Resources, information and contacts must address culture, basic information, unstated rules, “land mines” to avoid, and other topics above and beyond project or work issues.
  5. Clarify roles – Take the time to clearly identify who is responsible for what. Start with your role, their role, and the roles of other leaders on your team. Then move on to the roles and responsibilities of leaders in other departments and divisions.

You can’t guarantee the success of a new leader but you can give them the best possibility to succeed with your actions.

Todd Thorsgaard

 

Hiring for great customer service

interview 1While most of us in higher education are not hiring customer service representatives, all of us have an element of customer service required in our roles. Whether we are providing direct services to students in admissions, advising, financial aid or in the classroom, or providing services and resources to our colleagues or bosses, it can help to hire people with the right customer service skills, knowledge and abilities.

While browsing for good resources, I happened upon a set of great customer service interview questions from happyfox.com. I’ve skinnied down the list and adapted them a bit for higher education below. What I like most about them is that they help you zero in on the qualities you are seeking, such as honesty, engagement, attitude, engagement, etc.

Honesty and Communication:

1. Have you ever had to communicate a bad news to a student (or colleague, community member) who was affected by your service? How did you do it?

2. Give me an example of a time when you have successfully handled an irate student, parent, faculty or staff member?

Engagement:

1. Do a role play as a customer support agent who is trying to manage a customer when facing a performance hiccup during a solution demo.

2. How do you sense the mood of your customer (student, parent, colleague, etc.) while communicating with her?

Attitude:

1. What is that one skill you possess that will influence the success of our college/university?

2. Why do you want to be a member of our team?

Passion:

1. What do you enjoy about working as a __________? in a college/university?

2. How do you think you can help our  team become more efficient? Where would you start?

Knowledge:

1. What do you do to keep yourself updated with industry best practices?

2. What do you think is key for contributing to both your personal growth as well as the institution’s growth?

Empathy:

1. What is that one quality in you that helps you understand a customer’s problem better?

Creativity:

1. How much fun do you have in your job and what can you do to make your co-worker’s job fun as well?

2. What was the best mistake you did on your current job and explain why that’s the best?

What interview questions have you used to hire for great customer service?

Anita Rios

Minnesota (not so) nice

mnniceIf you’re a native of Minnesota, you’ve probably heard of the phrase “Minnesota Nice.” And maybe you’ve heard that it’s a good thing. According to Wikipedia, Minnesota Nice is “…the stereotypical behavior of people born and raised in Minnesota, to be courteous, reserved, and mild-mannered.”

Interestingly enough those same “nice” behaviors often make it difficult for those not born and raised in Minnesota, or those not part of the dominant white culture, to fit in and feel welcome. Recently I’ve become acquainted with Corey Bonnema and Jerilyn Veldof, authors of an e-book: Minnesota Nice? A Transplant’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving in Minnesota. After much research into the Minnesota Nice culture, they’ve identified common behaviors shared by many Minnesota natives that often confounds people who move here from other areas of the country. They include:

  1. Polite friendliness.   Polite friendliness is just that; it doesn’t mean interest in being friends or imply any future obligation.
  2. An aversion to conflict and confrontation.  This goes both ways – Minnesota Nice makes it hard to confront and to be confronted. This can include a strong aversion or unwillingness to give or ask for feedback that might cause friction as well as a pattern of jumping to surface agreement rather than dealing with conflicting and divergent ideas.
  3. A tendency toward understatement.  This can show up in the workforce as a difficulty to tell others when they have done something well.
  4. A disinclination to make a fuss or stand out.  Minnesota Nice causes people to squirm under the spotlight.  They still may want to be acknowledged, but in a low key sort of way
  5. Emotional restraint.  You’ll hear a lot of “not too bad” when you ask how a Minnesotan is doing.
  6. Self-deprecation. When asked to explain their own contributions or critique their own performance Minnesotans are more likely to undervalue themselves.
  7. Resistance to change.  As you have most likely discovered, Minnesotans tend to be born, raised and continue to live in the same town surrounded by the same friends they’ve had since baby play dates and preschool.  These tend to be folks who are suspicious of anything different and fearful of a lot of change.
  8. Passive aggressiveness.  Look for signs like procrastination, sullenness, stubbornness, or confusion and it’s likely you’ve hit on passive aggressive behavior.

Of course, not every Minnesotan shares every characteristic of Minnesota Nice, but I’m sure you can recognize some of these behaviors in your Minnesotan-born friends, colleagues, and possibly yourself!

Non-Minnesotans often say that it is very difficult to make new friends here because most Minnesotans socialize with friends that they’ve had since preschool. In fact, a few months ago while at Macy’s,  I met an African-American makeup artist who said that he had moved here 18 years ago from San Francisco, but his only friends were also transplants.  He said it was just too hard to get past “Minnesota Nice” to make good friends.

Listening to Corey and Jerilyn, I realized that these behaviors can create unwelcoming campus climates for many people. At the same time, I realized that there are a few things I can do to help new employees feel welcome in my workplace. I can help decode Minnesota Nice behaviors and point them to   “8 Tips for Dealing With Your Passive-Aggressive Colleagues, Friends and Neighbors.   Or better yet, I can move beyond polite friendliness and take the time to invite that person to coffee or lunch and really help them feel welcomed.

What can you do to combat the effects of Minnesota Nice and make your campus climate or workplace more welcoming?

Anita Rios

Hearing each other’s stories

MLKOne of the keys to understanding others is to learn how to listen and learn from each other’s stories. As leaders, it is dangerous to make assumptions about where other people have been and what they might do next. Understanding their stories can help make a personal connection the helps build relationships and move the work forward.

This week we’ve been celebrating the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. That always reminds me of a lesson I learned about hearing other people’s stories. I had an acquaintance that I’d known for a long time. Some years ago we were traveling together and getting to know each other better. The person was a retired professor from a local seminary and I made some wrong assumptions about what his political experience might be.

We had an opportunity to go swimming and I saw his legs for the first time when he wasn’t wearing long pants. One of his legs was scarred with what looked like bite marks. As we talked, I learned that he had been with Martin Luther King, Jr. on the courthouse steps in Alabama. The bites occurred when police turned dogs loose to break up the event. He’d been part of history and I never knew it.

On another occasion I was looking at the reviews posted in the window of a local community theater. Someone came up to me and I thought, “here’s another homeless person asking for a handout.” As it turned out, the person told me about an opportunity when the theater sells tickets very inexpensively to local residents. We had a nice talk about plays we had both seen.

When I work with project teams, I’m teaching myself to ask questions before giving my opinions. Tell me more about why you want to do it that way? What happened that makes you so frustrated? How can it be improved to make your life easier? Providing an opportunity for colleagues to share their stories helps build trust and I’ve learned a lot that I wouldn’t have known any other way.

Have you had experiences where hearing someone else’s story helped you to understand yourself and the other person in a new way?

Dee Anne Bonebright

Hire a veteran

memorial day 1Happy Memorial Day! Like me, today most people will be spending time with friends and family. Many people will also attend Memorial Day ceremonies or parades or visit a local cemetery to pay respects to those who have served our country.

While it is important to honor those who have paid the ultimate price serving our country, we can also honor the living who have served our country by hiring a veteran. There are many resources that are available to employers who would like to recruit veterans in their efforts to diversify their workforce. One helpful resource is called Hire a Hero, Hire a Vet. It outlines the many benefits of hiring veterans and contains links to useful tools for employers. If you are hiring in Minnesota, here is a web site with a video showing you how to hire a veteran in three easy steps.

As the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) points out, there are many reasons to hire veterans.  Veterans bring education, training, values, leadership and teamwork to the workplace. They also have learned to work side by side with many different people, regardless of race, gender, geographic origin, ethnic background, religion, economic status and capabilities.

Hiring a veteran can represent diversity and inclusion in action.

Anita Rios

 

 

Get it right the first time

The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.”

Many of us have read the above quote or some version of it, yet thanks to the internet I discovered that we really don’t know who first said it! It is often attributed to the psychologist Albert Ellis, while others give credit to Mark Twain and even Shakespeare is believed to have made a similar comment.

What we do know is that using a structured behavioral-based interview gives you the best chance of making the right hiring decision the first time. Big data analytics at Google and multiple published studies confirm that asking candidates to describe what they actually have done and the outcome is the best predictor of success on the job. And bringing the right person onboard is a key part of building and sustaining an effective work team.

The steps to develop behavioral-based interview questions are:

  1. Identify the critical job related competencies required for success on the job.
    1. These include the knowledge, skills, abilities and characteristics necessary to do the job and to be a contributing member of the work team.
  2. Write questions that require the candidate to describe what they have actually done or said in a previous situation that demonstrates the application of each critical competency.
  3. Plan probing and follow-up questions to clarify what you are asking or to verify the answer provided.
    1. Probing and follow-up questions are based on the original question.
    2. Probing and follow-up questions are used to help the candidate understand the question and competency or to help you understand their answer.
  4. Establish a common criteria or rubric to be used in evaluating responses.
    1. The criteria will rate the quality of using the required competency or the actual demonstration of the competency.
    2. The criteria must be observable and applicable across candidates and interviewers.

We have created a set of behavioral-based interview questions that you can use as examples or a resource to develop your own – Behavioral based questions.

It takes work to develop and conduct effective structured behavior-based interviews but increasing your odds to get the right person the first time to join your team is a great payoff.

Todd Thorsgaard

Hiring the best talent

people assetIn building organizational talent, one of the most important jobs we have as leaders is to hire the right people. Here is helpful hiring advice from Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric:

“Before you even think about assessing people for a job, they have to pass through three screens. The first test is for integrity. People with integrity tell the truth, and they keep their word. The second test is for intelligence. The candidate has a strong dose of intellectual curiosity, with a breadth of knowledge to work with or lead other smart people in today’s complex world. The third ticket to the game is maturity—the ability to handle stress and setbacks, and enjoy success with equal parts of joy and humility.

I then apply the “4E (And 1P) Framework” for hiring that I’ve found consistently effective, year after year, across businesses and borders. The first E is positive energy. It means the ability to go go go—to thrive on action and relish change. The second E is the ability to energize others, and inspire them to take on the impossible. The third is edge, the courage to make tough yes-or-no decisions. The fourth E is execute—the ability to get the job done. Then I look for that final P, passion—a heartfelt, deep and authentic excitement about work.”

–Jack Welch

What do you think about Jack’s three screens and framework for hiring? What have you done in the past that has resulted in a successful hire? Please share your comments below.

Anita Rios