Leaderisticality

How to hire, train, and maintain an hourly workforce

How to Hire the Best Hourly Team Members Part 10 1/2… Self Responsibility is a Must Have

So… I was just writing another blog or something, all about helping hourly team members get ready to be promoted, when I realized that I left a mandatory quality and the related questions out of the hiring series. So here it is…

One of the qualities that I believe to be pretty much make or break is self-responsibility. How much of what you do, what happens to you, and what your life is like do you own? For instance, our 11-year-old (he’ll be happy to tell you only 6 days until his birthday!) forgets to write down his homework assignments, or forgets to bring home the book needed for the homework. Now… I’m sure forgetting this stuff is pretty normal at 11, and we can still use the example.

When I ask him why he didn’t write the assignment in his homework book, he could say I got distracted, or I just forgot, however he usually says something like… I was going to, and then Collin started talking to me and… well…. or I was about to and I couldn’t find my pencil and then blah blah blah, or I was just about to and the teacher started talking and I had to pay attention to her. In the first two, he is pretty much taking responsibility, and in the others he blames it on everyone but himself.

Kids are like that, and while we need to talk to them about their responsibility in it, we expect this behavior to continue, at least until they get a little older.

Adults however, should not be like that. And yet too many of them are just like that.   They like to justify, rationalize, or otherwise find someone or something other than themselves at fault. People who cannot accept responsibility for their attitude, their actions, or what their life is like, cannot be good team members. Taking responsibility for our actions and ourselves is a quality that we cannot teach. Or at least it takes way more time and energy than most of us have.

So… we have to ask questions to find out whether or not our applicant has self-responsibility. But what questions? Well… what questions do we always ask? We get our applicants talking about themselves of course. We already have the rapport with them, so we just ask them about things that haven’t gone as planned, or about mistakes they’ve made, or about any reasons they left another job, team, or group.

If they have left a sports team, question the applicant about what happened and why. Their description will tell you all you need to know. Was it the coach’s fault? The other players? Or did our applicant play a part in what happened?

Talk to me about something that went wrong at your last job? We can see if they take responsibility for their part in whatever it was. Get them to tell you all about their previous performance reviews, and you can see if, in hindsight, they can own any of the negatives. We all, without exception, have issues with our parents at one time or another. Ask about arguments or disagreements they had with a parent, and see if again, in hindsight, they can own their part in it.

Talk to them about their grades in school. We’re not really concerned about the actual grades at this point of course. But do ask them if, looking back, they thought they could have done better? Why didn’t you get better grades? Do you think you are smart enough to get better grades than you did? Then why didn’t you? With luck they will own their behavior, admit to being immature, choosing the wrong friends, being too involved in sports, or something like that. If they blame it on sports or the like, keep digging. Could they have made other choices? We need them to accept responsibility! I mean, here in the interview our job is not to make them see that they should accept responsibility… we will only hire those who accept responsibility.

A lot of people have had their own business at one time or another. Ask all about that, and see what happened. See if applicant owns what happened to their business, good or bad, and especially the bad. If they had an employee take advantage of them, did our applicant have any blame for hiring this person? Could they have made any different choices?

I would hope that after some time, and looking back at our examples, our applicant can own up to their part in these things. If they cannot… you know the drill… thank them for coming in, and move on.

Right after the ketchup question you can follow-up with a question about one of the team members in their store. Remember it is their store, with their name on the sign and everything. So, after the ketchup customer leaves, they are walking back to their office when a team member asks if they can have a few minutes of their time. Of course they can… come up to my office in an hour. The team member shows up, and wants to talk about why they didn’t get the supervisor job last week. That jerk Terry got the job, and they need to know why they didn’t get the job.

Well, remember that it’s your first day here, and while you do now own the whole store, you don’t know anything about Terry, who may or may not be a jerk, this team member, or any supervisor job. You do want to help though, because this team member seems really upset, and you want to make him feel better about working here. It costs a lot of money to replace a team member. Without knowing anything about the actual details of this job, what might you tell him about why people get jobs, and why people don’t get jobs? Do not accept ‘I don’t know’, or the like… they must answer this question in whatever words they have.

Listen carefully to what the applicant has to say to our team member. What they say to the team member is likely what they believe to be true. The follow-up questions you ask will depend on what our applicant tells the team member. This conversation will be very telling, so listen carefully and take notes. We want to hear something about self-responsibility, or about asking for feedback and listening to it. We do not want to hear that our new owner doesn’t have time for this crap, and the team member needs to get back to work. We can get an idea of other qualities with the answer to this question, like empathy, emotional intelligence, listening skills, compassion, and relationship building. Worst case, we thank them for coming in, and move on.

You can suggest to the applicant that problems come in three categories: ones we have no control over, ones we have some control over, and those where we have total control. Then ask whether they agree or not. Either way, ask them to explain what they think about it in more detail. If they suggest that they have control over almost all of their problems, we’re probably good with this topic. If, however, they don’t think they have control over much at all, thank them for coming in, and move on.

In my opinion, self-responsibility is right up there with the ability to hear and act on feedback, so take your time and get this one right. Otherwise you will regret it for a long time!

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