I was planning to write this month about Power and how to use it. Then a news story made me realize you can’t build power without the basics. Like actually getting the job done. This months article discusses the two factors that account for all of your business success or failure.
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- Article: You can only achieve through process *and* people
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Stever’s Upcoming public events
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12 Sep 06, Teleseminar on ‘Developing the Executive Mindset’, noon Eastern Time. Hosted by Art Giser.
26 Sep 06, Teleseminar on ‘Overcoming email overload,’ noon Eastern Time. Hosted by Mary Cole.
30 Oct 06, Live workshop on ‘Manipulation 101: Advancing your agenda when logic fails.’ Harvard Business School Club of Boston.
Article: You can only achieve through process *and* people[Send your questions to Stever at: inquire@SteverRobbins.com]
Competence. I read an article about a company hired by the US to build a number of roads, hospitals, and buildings. Nice, measurable goals. Years later, they had failed miserably on all counts. Complete incompetence, paid for with billions of taxpayer money. If you were CEO, would you consider that a job well done? (If so, either hire me to help you change or unsubscribe from this newsletter. I’d rather it not be found in your inbox when you’re arrested for racketeering and fraud.)
And that’s the whole trick in business, isn’t it? To get results people value. When good results are the exception rather than the rule, there are only two possible causes: check your people and check your systems. I’ve found most of us naturally care about one or the other, but not both. We love people, but never have time for the systems. Or we’re great with systems, but … people? Who cares about them?
You should care. They do all the work and set the quality standards. Do you know you’re hiring for competence? Most people hire for skill. They look for resumes with keywords or for experience doing exactly what the open job needs today. Earnest folk develop assessments, tests, and competency models, rating each candidate along a dozen painstaking scales.
Shallow, shallow, shallow. Those are skills, and you can train skills. But you can’t train people to care deeply about doing a good job. You want people who are proud of their work and devoted to getting better. Who cares if they’re good at a skill before you hire them? Trust me. In six months, you’ll care far, far more about whether they’ll move heaven and earth to master and grow in their job once they’re on board.
Look for the right attitude. Southwest Airlines is famous for group interviews, in which they actually watch each candidate in a group setting and notice who cares about pleasing others. That’s who they hire. Go talk to your candidates and employees. Listen carefully to find out who looks proud when talking about doing a good job. Dig. Ask questions like, ‘What was your favorite work experience and why?’ If there’s no evidence they care about the quality of the job, they’re likely not your dream employee. If people are just showing up for the paycheck, they won’t put in the effort it takes to produce results. And that includes you!
In fact, if they have no work ethic, they might deliberately sabotage you. The owner of my local Subway sandwich shop hires kids with a strong work ethic. He once heard a new hire tell the others they could get more hours by making sandwiches more slowly. He fired her on the spot. That kind of attitude doesn’t change, and will poison a business unless it’s nipped in the bud.
Hiring the right people is only half the battle. You have to back them with the systems to do good jobs. Yes, you need to give them computers, machinery, cash registers, and the other tools of the job. You also need to give them policies and procedures that let them do a good job. We’ve all called customer service people who are super friendly and helpful, and spend the entire call confiding that ‘management just won’t let me do that.’ How long do you think a quality-committed person will stay at a job that only allows mediocre results? Not long.
The system underlying everything is your system of Money. Moola. Cash. Scratch. Pay. People do what you pay them for. They take pay as a signal for how to behave. If you pay and promote mediocre-performers the same as high-performers (an astonishingly common practice), your high-performers are more likely to start imitating your mediocre-performers than vice-versa. And when you promote people just because they’re politically savvy, you get a political organization that only incidentally does any work. Think about it: politicians are hired solely for political reasons. Which member of Congress do you want running your business’s cash register?
Also pay attention to how flexible your policies let people be at their job. The Customer Service world is filled with stories of overnight packages being delivered by helicopter by daring deliverymen during a storm. Or department store clerks letting customers return merchandise they didn’t even buy there. By giving those front-line people flexibility, companies created a culture where the job got done and customers became evangelists for life.
We’ll never know what went wrong with the company that couldn’t build hospitals. Likely as not, they didn’t subscribe to this newsletter. You can avoid their mistake. Start by looking around to find out whether your people even want to do a good job. If not, start cleaning house. (Hold yourself to those same standards, by the way. You might be in the wrong job.) Then make sure your people have the systems and policies they need to deliver the results. Just ask, and they’ll tell you if it’s so. And pretty soon, you’ll be able to create an organization where you set out a goal and your company is able to Do Great Things.[Send your questions to Stever at: inquire@SteverRobbins.com]
‘You’re back from vacation and face a mountain of emails: It’s time to tame the beast’
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