Tuesday, March 11, 2014

How to Hire Hourly Team Members part 12… Can They Accept Feedback?

Well… IF we are still talking to our applicant, many of you will be anxious to make a decision and hire them, and I would encourage you to continue on the path.  Remember, this process is much more than simply getting the next person in the door.  This decision is going to impact the team in a big way.  Let’s make sure it’s a long-term positive impact.

I firmly believe that the best predictor of success in hourly team members (and perhaps in life) is the ability to ‘hear’ and act on feedback.  This one quality is perhaps more important than any other.  If someone is able to hear constructive feedback and make the appropriate changes to their behavior, they can be successful anywhere.  We want workers who are confident and take pride in their work and what they have to offer.   And… we want workers who are humble enough to know they are not perfect and don’t know it all.  So yet again, how do we find out where our applicant stands?

This is where many people will bring up those ‘tell me about a time…’ questions as a good way to find out how the applicant has heard and reacted to feedback in the past.  After all, the best predictor of a person’s future behavior is their past behavior, right?  Well, yes and no.  As an example, in my work experience, I have witnessed and experienced first hand, styles of management ranging from dictatorial, micromanaging, and heavy handed bullying; to completely absentee managers allowing the team members to do whatever they wanted; to therapist style managers, running teams where everyone was good enough just the way they were, and everything was fine, just fine; and everything in between. 

I’ve worked for people who yelled and demeaned, and I’ve worked for excellent leaders who were humble, servant leaders who had very high performing teams. We don’t know what kind of boss our applicant last worked for.  How did they communicate the feedback?  Did they get up in the applicant’s face and shout it?  Did they use words that made it easy for our applicant to understand?  Did they make sure they were understood?  Did they give examples of behavior they wanted changed?  The point being… Since we were not there to witness the reality in the applicants past it can be very difficult to know how to judge their answers to these questions.  So yes, ask them.  And ask follow up questions, and then filter it all through what we know, AND an understanding of what we don’t know.

We can ask about their experience in school of course.  And I feel that more and more teachers are overburdened (perhaps the whole system), and students today may not get the level of feedback they may have heard years ago.

We can ask about sports… since we’re hiring for hourly team members many of the applicants will be young enough that they either are playing sports or have played recently enough to be able to answer questions about their experience.  Here is one place where we can ask ‘about a time’ and be pretty sure we know how the feedback was delivered.  The vast majority of coaches will get in the player’s face and yell at them, asking ‘what the hell was that’?  “What were you thinking?”  “Do you even want to be here?”  I’ve deleted the expletives for your viewing pleasure…

Anyone who has played a sport in high school or college has plenty of experience getting feedback from a coach, and probably even from their teammates.  On high functioning teams the team members themselves will often “police” the behavior of other team members.  This line of questioning can give us an idea of the ego of our applicant.  Many players, even on school and club teams think they are much better than they actually are.  If so, we will hear them shift the blame to other team members or the coaches… Good signs that they will not be eager to hear our feedback about their work performance.  Let them work someplace else.

Anyone who does any sort of art should be able to talk about feedback they’ve received.  However, unless it was directly from a teacher they respect, we don’t generally expect artists to change their art because of what any critic might say.

We can ask, “What is the most important (or beneficial/useful) feedback you were ever given”?  “Have you received feedback you didn’t agree with”?  Be sure to ask enough follow up questions.  This can tell us a lot about whether or not our applicant has really been willing to hear constructive feedback.  I’ve had team members who were pretty good, and could have been great.  And, they were not willing to hear any real constructive feedback, so were never able to make the leap to great.  Pretty good = poor hire on my part.

Since we are talking to applicants who have made it through our gauntlet of questions, we are likely to get the kinds of answers we want to hear… stories of feedback given, how the applicant heard the feedback, and how they changed their behavior.  The real key here is some of the final weeding out… some people will state that they never really received any constructive feedback.  Really?  Well, that’s great!  Thank you so much for coming in today.  I know that I stated, and I really do believe, that it’s best to be honest with people and let them know why I won’t be hiring them.  However, there are some issues that would take many ‘sessions’ to work out and have the person understand, if indeed they ever did.  This is one of those issues that we just don’t have the time to get into.

There will be another group who will choose to give us only the most unimportant details… some small task related feedback, that they were so happy to hear and fixed right away.  I try to avoid using terms like ‘always’, ‘never’, ‘everyone’, and ‘no one’, since there are usually plenty of exceptions to any rule you can name.  And… I find it hard to believe that anyone who has held a job or two (or played on a sports team, or got through high school and college) has not received some constructive feedback about their behavior… it’s how we learn in our first years at work.  There is so much we don’t know; things we don’t know how to do, and social skills we lack; that some (sometimes pretty harsh) feedback is arguably a necessary part of our work experience.  I will try to get the applicants in this group to understand that I actually want to hear some real feedback.  If they are not able or willing to share that, I often find myself torn.  They made it this far, so I am probably feeling pretty good about them.  And… Are they superstars in everything they did?  Or were they not able to “hear” the feedback they were most likely given?  If, upon further questioning and prodding, I can’t see the superstar in them, or get them to come up with some mistakes they made and heard about, I will pass on them.  I’d suggest you do the same.

To wrap this up, if we get some decent examples of feedback heard and behavior changed, and they have answered the rest of our question to our satisfaction, I will generally call it.  We have a new team member!

The next part will be a short focus on applicants with no work history.  Then it’s on to the after party (unless I think of something else that I forgot and just have to talk about before we call them hired).  What we do next, once we’ve decided to hire someone, is just as important as making the decision, in my humble opinion.

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