How to hire, train, and maintain an hourly workforce

Archive for the tag “Leadership”

Building Relationships… What Exactly Does That Mean?

What Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team?  Part 9 of a series…

So let’s try to finish up our series on hiring for, and developing our team from average to great.  You’ll remember (I hope) that we’re talking about hourly team members, from no experience/entry-level to Store Team Leader level… you can find part 1 here.  At this level, which includes almost all retail/restaurant jobs (almost anyone paid hourly) we are hiring for qualities rather than skills, as we can teach anyone most any skill needed, however we cannot teach anyone the qualities we need…  And as an added bonus, if we hire exclusively for Leadership qualities, we need never look elsewhere for our future Leaders.

We also talked about how to hire for customer service, as well as the importance of indoctrinating our new hires.  For the last few posts we’ve discussed moving those few people who don’t belong on our team off of our team; moving our current team members from average to great by introducing new expectations (while owning our part in allowing the old behaviors); and the beginning steps to changing the culture of our team.

So let’s pick up by talking about developing relationships… what exactly does that mean?  A long time ago, when I was new to being responsible for the behavior of other people, I kind of thought that meant figuring out how to manipulate them into doing what needed to be done.  I was not very self-aware, and looking back; I was a pretty selfish young man.  So… what I wanted, and what I was responsible for making happen, was much more important than what the people working for me wanted or needed.

Needless to say, I found my work to be a constant struggle, moving between attempting to befriend my workers, attempting to coerce them through fear or intimidation, and following up after them, often doing the work that still needed to be done myself.  It was exhausting!

Through SO MANY mistakes, some huge and painful life lessons, reading some great books, and with some great advice and mentoring by a few good Leaders I was lucky enough to work with/for, I was able to start to understand that it’s not all about me and what I want or need.  I remember my mother, as well as the nuns in Catholic school, telling me that doing for others is it’s own reward; and that working for the good of the group will almost guarantee that you will get what you want (perhaps by changing what we want!?).  It was many years before I understood these lessons, and could start putting them into practice.

So where am I going with all of this?

Building relationships is not about getting what you want.  In order to have our team members want to do what needs to be done, they have to trust us, believe in, and care about the goals of the team, and know that helping them achieve their goals is genuinely important to us.

So… building a relationship with another person starts with getting to know that person.  It’s about them… not you!  I have come to believe that most people can tell in pretty short order when the person speaking to them is genuinely interested in them, or if they are trying to manipulate them.  The only reason to proceed from here is because you are genuinely interested in learning about the other, and in helping them achieve their goals.  If you move forward with any other intentions, I believe it won’t be long before you are found out, and you will have blown your chances of developing a trusting relationship.

Let’s move forward believing that we are all on the same page… that we are not saints, so we have our own goals, wants, and needs (sometimes we act selfishly, and sometimes we are self-absorbed).  And… more often than not, we are genuinely interested in helping other people achieve their goals, and helping other people makes us feel good.  We good?

Building relationships takes time.  We have to make a real commitment to this effort, as it will take many months (at least) depending on the size of your team, and how you have acted in the past, to get to know your team members, and start to build trust between you.  You will have to meet with each team member (or at least your department team Leaders) a couple of times/month at first in order to get to know them; show them you are really committed to them and this process; and to be able to take some action towards helping them achieve their goals.

If you try to rush this process, you will not achieve the results you want.  Your team members will see that you simply want to get to some end where they do your bidding, and you will have wasted all of your time.  Please either commit to this fully, or do not start the process until you are ready to fully commit.

Do not fool yourself into believing that you already have the relationships you need.  If you did, you would not need to change the culture of your team.  You would just need to alter your expectations, and perhaps get your team together to come up with some aggressive new goals.  And if you are reading this, that is not where you are.  If you actually have great relationships with your team members, you probably don’t need my help, and you most likely already have a great team.  So let’s get realistic, and commit to doing this right.

Wow!  1000 words, and my posts are already much longer than people tell me they should be.  So… we’ll stop here, and perhaps part 10 will be the last of the series.  Next time we’ll talk about purposefully developing a culture where feedback is expected, and where it is “heard” as an attempt to help us constantly and incrementally improve.

Remember that this Blog Leaderisticality.wordpress.com will be going away, so if you want to continue reading (and I suggest you do!) you’ll want to go to http://www.leaderisticality.com and sign up to follow there.  Thank you!

Changing The Culture Of Our Team…

Japanese wave posterWhat Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team?  Part 8 of a series…

We’re winding down in our series on how to hire for, and develop a great team.   We’ve talked about hiring our hourly team members (from no experience/entry level to Store Team Leader level) for qualities rather than skills, indoctrinating those new hires, and changing the expectations of our ‘old’ team members to begin the transformation from average to great.

Hiring only the best is a mandatory starting point.  I believe indoctrinating them is also mandatory to have a truly great team.  Introducing the needed changes to our ‘old’ team members must be done carefully and intelligently in order to avoid the pushback that comes so naturally.

Now we must introduce and maintain some behaviors and relationship habits without which I don’t believe great can be achieved.

3.  Changing the culture of our team.  This part will take some time, and can only be changed by building relationships with your team members… each and every one of them.

Changing the way our team members interact with each other is perhaps the hardest part.  Since our actions and choices allowed the current culture to form, the only way to change it is to change our actions, and make different choices.  Yes… you are to blame for the culture on your team.  You are to blame for the average performance of your team.  Blaming your team members is like parents blaming their kids for playing video games all day.  You allow the behavior…  If you don’t like it, don’t allow it.   And the change must begin and end with you!

As Leaders, we can break our teams all by ourselves.  Our actions (or lack thereof), our selfishness, arrogance, and any number of other behaviors can easily crush the spirits of our team members, and destroy any positive efforts on their part.

We cannot however make our team Great by ourselves.  For most of us it takes concentrated effort, more energy than we thought we could muster, and the investment of an insane amount of time in order to bring together the people around us and form an actual team.

The crazy part is that most of us are capable of achieving this goal as long as we are in it for the right reasons.  Our team members do not expect us to be perfect; have all of the answers; or always say the right things.  They do expect us to genuinely care about them; to try our best; to admit our faults and failures; to freely give credit where it is due; to accept the blame when things go sideways; and to put the goals of the team ahead of our own.

We must all be willing to admit and talk about our faults/failures.  As the Leader it is our job to show everyone how this is done.  We must be the example, and talk openly and honestly about our faults and failures.  I believe that the only way to get our team members to admit to, speak honestly about, and ‘hear’ feedback about their mistakes is seeing their team Leader do the same.

We must never punish failure, or allow other’s failures to become fodder for jokes.  If we are not failing, we are not trying enough new ways to achieve great!  Many of you are/will be hesitant to really open up and share your mistakes/failures with those who work for you.  I would suggest that anything like this, that is difficult for us, is necessarily the very work we need to do in order to improve ourselves as Leaders.

We must install a culture of almost constant feedback.  At first it may be difficult to get the rest of the team on board with giving and accepting feedback.  It is human nature to take a defensive stance when we believe we are being attacked.  Feedback is rarely used to foster positive change in most workplaces, so accepting this as a long-term process will serve you well.  This topic needs a lot more time, so we’ll talk about this more next time.

We must align our rewards systems with innovation, risk taking, and Leadership development.  If the bottom line (or any other measure) is given the highest reward, everything else is guaranteed to fall by the wayside to be forgotten.

Profitability and the bottom line can and should be rewarded, and… unless all of the steps needed to move our team towards Great are recognized and rewarded, and the process itself is given the importance and attention it deserves, all of our efforts will be reduced to yet another failed attempt to create positive change… just another flavor of the month come and gone.

We must build strong, trusting relationships with our team members.  Sometimes this will mean developing relationships with all of our team members.  On larger teams, we will only be able to develop deep relationships with our team Leaders.  We then teach them how to develop those relationships with their team members.

Since team member happiness and engagement is really a measure of our relationship with the person to whom we report, this relationship chain is vital to achieving Great.  We cannot fathom moving past average without getting the vast majority of our team members actively engaged in their work.  And this can only be achieved through strong, trusting relationships!  We’ll talk more about relationship building next time too.

I think one additional post; to more fully describe the behaviors and habits needed to move our culture to one that values Great is in order.  More specifics on building relationships, as well as how to develop a culture of feedback will help.  I’m sure that in my haste to wrap this up I’ve left out many steps that you will recognize by their absence, so please don’t hesitate to speak to them in the comments.

Remember that this blog will be going away soon, and all content will be available on http://www.leaderisticality.com   If you are interested in continuing to read my posts, please head over to http://www.leaderisticality.com and sign up to follow that blog.

Thank you!

Moving Towards Great… Changing behaviors that were acceptable in the past

bonsai forrestWhat Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team?  Part 7 of a series…

Next time we will talk about how expectations for behavior and performance will be changing, and how to make this process as painless and blameless as possible.

(Cue into music)  So we’re back with part 7 of what seems to be a growing series on how to hire for, and develop a great team.  We’ve talked about hiring for qualities because they can’t be trained; about how and why we welcome (indoctrinate) our new hire; and how to start removing roadblocks that are keeping our current team members from being great.

Next up, we have to change our team member’s expectations for service, performance, and behavior. 

If we have been leading this team for some time, we have allowed the team, as well as the culture, to become whatever it has become.  We have allowed the current standards to develop, and our actions (or lack thereof) have allowed the current culture to be the norm.

In the end, it really doesn’t matter if we are new to the team, or if we have been the team Leader, our goal is the same… we need to change the standards, the expectations, and the culture of our team.

I have found, through trial and more error than I’d like to admit, that the best way to go about this is accepting responsibility for the current state of affairs.  Even if you are new to the team, accepting responsibility for allowing the current reality will go a long way in beginning to develop trust with your team members.

Blaming the past Leadership, even if you don’t feel as if you are bad mouthing them, will certainly turn off a number of your team members.  It seems that the most simple and productive way through this is to tell ourselves that they did the best they could with the tools they had (because that is exactly what they did), and our job is to move forward from where we are now.

So, to continue changing the expectations for our team, we will need to address the behaviors or standards that were acceptable in the past, and state clearly what will be the standard moving forward.  These conversations will happen with individual team Leaders, team members, department teams, and with our entire team gathered together for a whole team meeting.

I realize that I write very differently than most, in that I try to spell out exactly what to do in order to achieve the results I describe.  This makes for longer posts, as well as fewer bullet points, so I hope you’ll bear with me.

Perhaps a few examples are in order…

We’ll start by talking about why we feel the need to make these changes, with honesty and transparency.  This is the only way to move forward and have any chance of achieving great.

You will own all responsibility for allowing the current conditions and standards of behavior… If you are not willing to do this you will not achieve great!

The more open and honest you are with your team members the better the odds they will trust your intentions and want to move forward with you.

So… I’ll list some examples of behaviors with the one successful way I have found to state how things will be changing.  This is not necessarily the only way to go about this, just the way I’ve found that works.

In the past, it’s been OK to complete and turn in your period end inventory without being audited by store Leadership.  Moving forward, you are responsible for getting a member of store Leadership to audit your inventory before handing it in.  This is not a punishment, nor is it because I do not trust you… it is simply a smart way of double-checking important work.  We all make mistakes, and using another pair of eyes is the best way to run our business.

In the past, I have allowed people’s attention to be on cell phones and laptops during meetings, instead of what was happening at the meeting.  Moving forward, cell phones will be put away, and laptops will be closed during meetings so we can all be present and participate in the running of our business.

In the past, team members have been allowed to have phones in their hands while on the clock, and on the sales floor.  Moving forward, once clocked in (and not on break or lunch) we will focus on our work, and our customers.  Cell phones are distractions, and so should not be in our hands or used at all during work hours.  If a team member has a personal situation that they feel necessitates cell phone use or availability, they need to talk to their team Leader about it before beginning work.

In the past, it has been acceptable to turn in team member reviews past the due date.  Moving forward, reviews will be completed and filed before the due date.  If there is a reason you do not feel this is possible, you must speak to your team Leader about it 2 weeks before the due date.  Our team members deserve their reviews on time.

These are just a few simple examples, and in each, we are accepting that the behavior had been accepted in the past, so there is no consequence for that past behavior.  However, in the future, we spell out the new expectation, and explain why the expectation is changing.  Doing this right will answer most questions, and get everyone on board.

Only a few parts left… We started changing the culture of our team by hiring only great team members, and continued by addressing behaviors that need to change.  In the next few posts we’ll talk about how to create a culture where feedback flows pretty freely, and where our team members ask forgiveness rather than for permission when trying something new.

Great Doesn’t Happen By Accident… Changing expectations

What Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team?  Part 6 of a series…

Welcome to part 6 of this series on hiring and developing a great team, specifically with an hourly workforce.  We’ve talked about hiring for qualities, correctly welcoming (indoctrinating) your new hires, and now we are moving to the next steps necessary to keep your great new hires great, as well as changing expectations for your current team members.  In part 5 we talked about helping people who do not belong on your team find their happiness elsewhere, and deciding if they really have to go, or are we acting out of fear.

Today we will focus on:

2. Changing expectations for our existing team members.

We will likely have a large number of our team members happy to be getting great new people on the team (finally!), and happy to see the worst go (what have you been waiting for?).  The rest will be swept along by the strongest force (whether it be good or evil), and while they are not the yet the great team members we’d like to have on the team, I’ve found that the ‘window’ for great team members is wider that most people think.  Many more people would be great additions to the team if they are properly trained, trusted, allowed to take chances, and if they really believe that we, their team Leaders, have their best interest at heart.

Our current team members are not yet acting like Great team members for several reasons.  As Leaders, I believe our first job is to assume that our team members are fully capable of greatness, and our job is to remove the roadblocks that are holding them back.

Some of them have had the creativity and willingness to speak up beaten out of them by past bosses.  They are now doing average work because in the past it has not been in their best interest to speak up, make suggestions, maintain high work standards, or exceed expectations.

For these people the process will include brainstorming sessions, allowing them to move forward with their ideas with little or no input from you, and rewarding and celebrating each and every time one of them speaks up, offers an idea, or provides even the smallest bit of constructive criticism.

You should expect the process of encouraging people to speak up to take some time… months at least, if not longer.  At first they will not trust you to listen to, or care about what they have to say.  The need for patience and understanding is paramount, and your ability to ride out this process will be tested.  If you are able to stick with it, the payoff will be more than worth it.

Some of them have always had each and every step of their jobs spelled out for them, and have not had the freedom to innovate, or make any decisions for themselves.  These people have been taught to follow orders, rules, and job descriptions to the letter, and the thought of changing this learned behavior could be very scary.

These people do not expect to be trusted (in fact they will likely expect just the opposite), so you must be not just willing, but eager to extend trust to everyone on your team.  People don’t need to ‘earn’ your trust… people deserve trust simply because they are people.  And as Leaders it is our job to extend trust.

Here again, we get more of what we reward and celebrate.  So… if we want our team members to take chances, try new methods, and innovate, we should celebrate and reward each and every instance.

I have found that it helps to suggest ways in which people might step out of their rigid confines (whether they are self defined, or have been defined for them by others).  We are often able to see the right answers and best course of action for others, and yet unable to see any path at all for ourselves.

Literally making suggestions about how to approach their work differently may not work, since too many people will hear our suggestions as yet more direction.  So… I’ve had success simply relating my experiences…  “When I was… I tried this…” or “I had this great team Leader who suggested that I try… I failed miserably, but because of that failure I thought of trying… which worked out great” or “I’ve seen this… or this… work in the past, and I bet you can come up with an even better way to…”

This is where celebrating every attempt will help you, because many of your team members will be hesitant to try something new for fear of failure… or more specifically, the consequences of failure.  So… having their team Leader celebrate and reward every attempt at innovation will go a long way toward helping your people break out of their old habits.

Some people have ideas or pictures of themselves that are not true, or not supported by fact.  You know the stories we tell ourselves… like: I’m not good at math… I could do everything about the next job but the financials.  For whatever reason, many of us tell ourselves, convince ourselves that we are not capable, or not able to do certain jobs or tasks … we can help people break out of these limiting molds and thought patterns.

As we develop relationships with our team members, we will begin to understand what thought patterns are getting in the way, and over time we can work on helping our team members see that these beliefs are not only false, but often the opposite is true!  They will only listen to us however, once we show them that we have their best interest at heart.

Some people have attitudes that stand in their way.  We can be too idealistic, feel that everything we do must be perfect, or that we cannot compromise at all without compromising who we are.  Attitudes like this can easily keep us from building on our strengths, getting enough tasks accomplished, or working well as part of a team.

We can help these people by showing them how this belief or behavior is getting in the way of achieving their goals.  Our first job, as usual, is to develop strong, trusting relationships.  Then, when they realize that our goals for them are the same as their goals for themselves, they will actually hear us when we talk to them about how these attitudes (which then affect their behaviors) are keeping them from achieving their goals.

To sum up… to move our current team members from average to great, our first steps are to build strong, trusting relationships; assume there are obstacles keeping them from being great; removing the obstacles and roadblocks we can remove; helping our team members develop new habits and overcome old patterns; and rewarding and celebrating every attempt towards the behaviors we need to see more of.

Next time we will discuss how our expectations for performance and behavior need to change in order to achieve great, as well as how to relate these changes to our team.  As the past behavior of the team is exactly what we allowed it to be, we need to fully own our responsibility in order for the team to accept the needed changes.

Great Doesn’t Happen By Accident… Indoctrination

Navy seals What Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team?  Part 4 of a series… So here we are in part 4 of this synopsis of my 70 or so post series, walking through hiring the best hourly team members, indoctrinating them onto our team, choosing the right apprentices, and changing the culture of our team from the one that allowed us to be average to one that will not allow average people to remain on the team.  The original posts can be found here starting with hiring… We’ve talked about the importance of hiring for qualities rather than skills (remember, we are hiring hourly team members, from no experience/entry level to Store Team Leaders) since we can train almost anyone pretty much any skills that might be needed, however we cannot teach qualities…   Qualities are the things that make our best people “clone worthy”. We’ve also talked about using the “ketchup question” when hiring for customer service, and the need to determine the default customer service level of your applicant. If you haven’t already, you can read part 1part 2, and part 3. So… we’ve interviewed our applicant by making them comfortable, and getting to know them through an in depth conversation, where we asked questions to find the behaviors that describe the Leadership qualities we are hiring for. And, we’ve decided to hire the person siting in front of us. Now what?  Well… In order to build a truly great team, we cannot allow our great new hire to simply adapt to the team as it stands.  We will simply end up with yet another mediocre team member. First step: Before I leave the room I will spend another 45 to 60 minutes with my new hire.  Yup… another hour to make sure that I get them off on the right foot invested now will pay off in more ways than you will believe. Remember, great does not happen by accident.  We are not satisfied with the standards of behavior, or the culture of our current team (if you are, good for you!  Keep up the great work!), and it is going to take hard work and tough decisions in order to affect the change that needs to happen.  You can do this, and you need to start today… right here and right now. You will invest the time and energy to get this new hire fired up.  You need them to come onto your team with a full understanding of the new standards you will be holding the team to.  You need to indoctrinate them with your excitement about what the team is going to be like, how excited you are to have them on your team, the important role they will play in achieving the goals of the team, and how interested you are in helping them achieve their goals (you just got done talking to them for an hour… you better be able to talk in depth about their goals!). Some people will state that they don’t like the word indoctrinate… and that’s OK.  You don’t have to use that word if it makes you feel uncomfortable.  And… Think of the best, strongest, and highest performing teams you can.  Perhaps the Navy Seals come to mind?  I grew up in the town that borders West Point… that comes to my mind (and where I hope our 17 year old will go)…  Now, do those teams welcome and train their newest team members?  Is there coffee, nice music playing in the background while we talk about how we like our team members to treat each other with the same respect you would like to be shown?   Not so much… What kind of process is it? I’ll give you a hint… it’s indoctrination.  Before anyone is brought onto the team they are told that it will be a difficult job, that it will be hard work, that you’re your teammates will be committed to excellence, and that you will be expected to uphold the highest standards of behavior and performance. I don’t believe that there is any way to maintain that level of performance without some form of indoctrination.  You don’t have to agree, and has what you’ve been doing gotten you a great team?  Is there a reason you can’t have a team that functions at an incredibly high level?  This process of hiring for qualities and indoctrinating every one of my new hires worked wonderfully for me, and that’s why I’m suggesting you take a chance and go for great! Whatever you choose to call it, if you want to achieve and maintain a very high level of performance, you will have to instill your new hire with the values and beliefs of your team.  Make sure they understand how much you value having them on the team, and that you are looking forward to them using their experience and knowledge to help the team improve everything it does. This is not something that you can delegate, nor can it be left to someone who does not even work on your team.  You, and only you (because you are the team Leader) can instill your new hires with your excitement about the future of the team, your passion for the success of the team, the rewards that come from achieving the goals of the team, and what the future can/will hold for your new hire.  If you feel you have found a great addition to the team, make sure they really understand how excited you are about having them on the team, and how they will be a key player in helping the team achieve it’s goals. If you do this right, your new hire will come in for his or her first day of work with more motivation that anyone currently on your team.  And as long as you continue to stay involved in their work and development, you can help them maintain that level of engagement. I believe that team member engagement is all about our relationship with the person to whom we report.  So you are starting to build that strong, trusting relationship the day you decide to hire them! Since we are transparent, we make sure our new hire understands that we are a team in transition. That means they might work with team members who are not upholding the expectations we just discussed, or acting in a manor consistent with the culture we described, and that does not mean it is OK for our new hire to do anything other than meet or exceed those expectations. We will explain that we are working on changing/improving the culture of the team, that we have some team members who may not be a good fit on this team, and that we are working hard to change their behavior of get then off the team. It is imperative that we are honest and transparent from our very first encounter with each and every great new hire.  We may not have always been as honest and transparent as we should have been in the past, and the only way to develop a truly great team is by making a commitment to honestly and transparency moving forward. I wrote a post about how and why I indoctrinate (you can read it here) and your indoctrination process should be personal, and fit your workplace.  I honed this process hiring and developing great teams for Whole Foods Market… a fast paced retail environment where standards are high and so are customer expectations.  You should indoctrinate your new hires with your ideals, your team’s values, and your hopes for their future.  Tell them everything you would want to hear if you had made it onto a team that had very high standards, and happy to have you join them. That’s probably long enough for today (too long by many standards), and I feel that too often posts and articles are too short to effectively help us really understand how to achieve the results talked about in the post.  So… I write until I feel I’ve said enough to actually help you.  I know this will mean some people won’t read them, and that’s OK. In part 5 we’ll talk about the next steps in building a great team, like the next steps in our new hire’s work life, moving those who are holding the team back off the team, and how to change the culture of our team.

Great Doesn’t Happen By Accident… Part 3

huge fossil shark tooth

What Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team? Part 3 of a series…

So here we are in part 3 of this synopsis of my 70 or so post series, walking through hiring the best hourly team members, indoctrinating them onto our team, choosing the right apprentices, and changing the culture of our team from the one that allowed us to be average to one that will not allow average people to remain on the team. The original posts can be found here starting with hiring…

We’ve talked about the importance of hiring for qualities rather than skills (remember, we are hiring hourly team members, from no experience/entry-level to Store Team Leaders) since we can almost anyone pretty much any skills that might be needed, however we cannot teach qualities…   If you are interested you can read part 1 and part 2.

Back to it…

You will have to determine what, if any, qualities are particularly important in your workplace. As I stated in the earlier, I believe that teachability (the ability to hear feedback and change our behavior accordingly), some level of self-awareness, self-responsibility, honesty, and some level of emotional intelligence are perhaps the most important qualities when hiring hourly team members, and I will not hire anyone in which I can’t find some level of development.

Teachability because they will be coachable, and able to hear feedback.

Self-awareness because if we are not aware of our own character, desires, and everything else that is going on within us, we end up feeling that life happens to us, rather than seeing much of what happens as a consequence of our choices.

Self-responsibility because if we don’t own our actions and behaviors, we end up blaming everything and everyone else for our problems. This goes hand in hand with self-awareness.

Honesty because, well we don’t want to hire anyone who is not honest or lacks character. We need them to do the right thing even when no one is looking.

Emotional intelligence because I don’t believe we can develop honest, authentic relationships unless we know what we are feeling. If we are not aware of our feelings, we can end up driven by our feelings… out of control.

I’ve already mentioned that every applicant I hire has to have a default standard of customer service that is at least as high as my own, because it’s next to impossible to get someone to consistently uphold a higher level of customer service than the level they believe is the right level, at least without constant supervision, and who has the time for that?

As I described earlier, and starting here over 3 posts on my blog, I’ve identified behaviors that describe the qualities I am looking for. Then during my conversation with the applicant, I concentrate on finding those behaviors. I’m sure you can come up with many more behaviors than the ones I listed… and then you just have to get your applicant comfortable and talking all about themselves. You keep listening for the behaviors that describe the qualities you need.

For customer service, I ask one question, and one question only. It is the ‘ketchup question’, and I talk about it at length here. I may need to do a video of it, because after teaching scores of people how to ask it, I’ve found that the delivery is incredibly important. Once you get it down, it is the only question you need to make sure your hires have a very high level of customer service. Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions you have about the ‘ketchup question’ or any of this.

So… since this is a synopsis, I’ll skip ahead to the point where we’ve decided to hire our applicant because they answered the ‘ketchup question’ the way we wanted, and we are satisfied that they have developed the qualities we are looking for enough so that we feel confident we can help them continue to work on their Leadership qualities.

Next step, indoctrination. Yup… next time in part 4.

Great Doesn’t Happen By Accident… It Takes A Carefully Planned And Ruthless Assault On “Good”

Assault on horseback

What Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team? Part 2 of a series…

So here we are back with part 2 of this series. We are starting with hiring hourly team members, everyone from no experience/entry level to Store Team Leaders. When hiring for this level we are hiring almost exclusively for Leadership qualities. This is because those qualities are the things that make people clone worthy, as opposed to skills. We can easily train for pretty much any skills needed, however we cannot train qualities. So let’s continue…

Before we get too far, we should talk for a minute about the actual interview. I’ve seen it happen enough times that want to state very clearly that the interview process is no place for us to ‘exert our authority’, make sure ‘they know who is in charge’, or work to make the applicant uncomfortable to see how they react. If you are doing these things you are doing it wrong, at least if you want to call yourself a Leader by any stretch of the imagination. Interviewing with this attitude is pretty much guaranteed to give you mediocre workers who will do what they are told to do, and little more. Mkay?

Hiring for qualities is a bit different from hiring for skills, as at least in my experience, the best way to determine what Leadership qualities our applicant has been developing is through conversation, rather than simply questions and answers… I find “tell me about a time…” much less useful than getting my applicant comfortable enough to tell me all about the things in her life that she is proud of, where she puts her energy, what kinds of things frustrate her, and what gets her into a ‘flow’ state, to name just a few. I believe that we all have Leadership qualities within us to one degree or another. The key is finding the people who have been developing these qualities throughout their lives.

I know that a large percentage of our applicants have been interviewed many times now, so a good number of them know just what we want to hear. If they are smart they probably have already thought about how to answer many of the questions they have heard before. This is another reason why I prefer the conversational approach… it doesn’t allow the applicants to stick with their ‘script’ or preformed answers.

I believe the best way to find Leadership qualities in others is to determine whether or not they show the behaviors that describe those qualities. Qualities, by their very nature can be difficult to pin down, however I think we could easily come up with a list of behaviors that describe each quality or trait. Read more about behaviors that describe Leadership qualities starting here.

For instance, I believe that the ability to hear and respond to feedback is on of the most important qualities a new hourly team member can have… In my experience it is perhaps the best indicator of future success, maybe because it means they are trainable, coachable, and humble. So… how will we determine whether or not our applicant has this quality?

I try to get them to tell me all about their experience of school, trying to get into college/grad school, involvement in sports, or any other way they may have received feedback. I don’t ask specific enough questions to allow them to fall back on any prepared answers. Since no one else ever asked them what they thought about their performance in that pick up game last weekend, how they responded to the feedback they got from their high school football coach, or the grade they got in that college class when they thought they deserved better, I generally get honest answers.

Any instance in our lives when we get feedback is fair game. What makes you think you are a good driver? On what do you base that opinion? Do you follow the advice of the personal trainer at the gym, or do you think you know better? What have you learned in your personal relationships? I can easily give many examples of when I have hurt the feelings of people in my life, and how I reacted to that feedback. Is that their problem? What’s my responsibility, if any? These are all roads that out applicant has never been down in an interview, so we are likely to have an honest and genuine conversation.

I know you are all screaming at me… how about feedback from another job? Of course this is appropriate, and can be very useful. However, remember that our applicant has been asked about this many times already, so again, if they are smart they have learned what to say about feedback from work. I also feel that my personal experience has some bearing here. I’ve worked for, and with, some really poor bosses, and at work places where honest feedback was not the rule. There are a lot of people out there who have been forced into the bottom, middle, or top third simply because that’s the way the company did things, so bosses had to come up with some reasons for assigning a person to this rung. Because of the way this is set up, the feedback that many people get at work is often not honest feedback, with the intention of helping that person learn and grow. If it happened to me, it happened to a lot of other people, so I feel we have to take feedback from past jobs with a grain of salt.

What about another quality before we call it a day? How about self-responsibility? Since we are already involved in a friendly, casual conversation with our applicant, we probably already have some example of something that didn’t go as planned. So we just need to find out a little more about the outcome… who was at fault? Did our applicant have any part to play? What about that feedback you got from your guidance counselor/coach/parents/friends/boss? What did you learn from that? How were you responsible for what happened?

Have you been late for work or some other appointment? What happened? I need to hear the applicant take responsibility… yes the train was late… not your fault. And… what, if anything did you do? Did you start taking an earlier train since we know trains will be late? Did you find alternatives, like friends you can call when the train is late? These are simple examples of self-responsible behaviors.

To spell it out, I need to hear that our applicant, at least at some point recently, heard feedback and understood that the other person’s experience of them is that person’s reality.   To be coachable, the applicant needs to have changed their behavior in response to that feedback. For self-responsibility, I need to believe that our applicant takes responsibility for the things that happen in their lives; that their choices determine what happens (not everything that happens of course) and that they are responsible for the choices they make. If I don’t hear these things, I’ll thank them for coming in and move onto my next applicant.

Self responsibility, teachability, honesty, some level of emotional intelligence, some level of self awareness, and feeling that quality work is it’s own reward are some of my make or break qualities. If I do not believe that my applicant is developing these qualities I will not hire them, no matter how skilled they might be. Remember, this is just a quick synopsis… you can find my whole 16 part series on hiring, with a lot more detail, starting here.

Wow… this takes so long to discuss doesn’t it? That has to be long enough (probably too long many will tell me) for today, and we’ll pick up next time with what to do once we decide to hire the person sitting in front of us. No… if we want great we cannot simply shake their hand and send them off to have another person take over. We need to indoctrinate them. Yes… I understand that many of you don’t like that word, and all of its connotations.   And… I don’t believe that we can get ‘great’ by using the same process (welcoming and training, the same onboarding that gave you the average team you have) you’ve been using. Great doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a planned assault on Good. Hey, that’s catchy… maybe I’ll use that for todays title huh?

What Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team? Part 1 of a series…

blue angels

A truly great team requires obsessively great hiring, a trusting, transparent Leader who strives to be a servant Leader, shared goals and values (best if developed by the team), a culture of ownership and responsibility, and a need for constant improvement.

I have been writing about hiring and training the best hourly team members, as well as how to change the team culture to enable the development of a truly great team on my blog for some time now. It’s been almost 100 posts in the making, and I imagine it can be daunting jumping into what is essentially a book on hiring and team development.

So… I thought we might shorten all of those posts into a much shorter series on hiring the best hourly team members; how and why to hire for Leadership qualities; honesty, trust and transparency as they relate to Leadership (servant Leadership in particular); developing team goals and values; developing/changing our team culture; and developing enough trust and ownership in that culture that will not only allow for constant improvement, but will demand it.

I’ve been hiring hourly team members, from entry level/no experience people to department Leaders and Store Team Leaders for 30 years now, and that is what I’m writing about. When hiring executives, or other jobs where specific job skills, talents, and/or a specific educational background is needed, weed out the applicants without these mandatory requirements, and then follow the steps I outline below. If you disagree, I’m sure you’ll let me know

Hiring is arguably the most important thing we do. You cannot have a great team without hiring great people. If you don’t have the team you want, the first thing you need to look at is your hiring. In fact, if you don’t have the team you want, and you have been doing the hiring, I’d suggest that you need to get someone who has a track record of hiring great people either take over your hiring, or retrain you on how to hire. Yes it’s hard to own up to that, and admit that we aren’t good at hiring. And… without great hiring we will never have that great team.

Too many of us have some notion that we cannot admit we are not that good at hiring… for some reason admitting that is a huge blow to our egos. We are all very good at one or two things, OK at most things, and not so good at other things. Build and play to your strengths, and find people who are very good at the jobs you are not so good at. You can read my whole series about how to hire hourly team members for Leadership qualities starting here on my blog. It will take some humility to fully accept that we need to unlearn our old ways of hiring in order to learn to hire for qualities. And the payoff is simply amazing!

You will be hiring for attitude/qualities first, and any needed skills second (again, I’m talking about hiring hourly team members). In fact, you should be hiring for every position based on Leadership qualities first, skills second. If you are serious about developing a great team, you will need the best Leaders. How many places have you worked where great Leaders are being developed? Any? So… you will have to grow your own, and hiring for Leadership qualities is the best way to start. The hourly team members you are hiring today will be your Leadership team in the near future.

Your should read my post about Hiring for what can’t be trained, and in a nutshell… Think about the people who you would love to clone… they are probably really good at the skills of their job, and is that what makes them clone worthy? Probably not… They are most likely clone worthy because of the qualities they possess… because of their attitude towards their work… that’s what makes them great! I can take the next person you see and train them how to do every task needed to run a grocery store (you can probably train the skills needed for your workplace), however I cannot train qualities. We cannot train anyone to be self aware, to show self responsibility, to have courage, to extend trust, or to be honest… those cannot be trained, so we must hire for them, and I dare to say, at least for hourly team members, almost only for them!

The best way I have found to determine which people have the qualities we are looking for is through a long and friendly conversation, with some specific questions used to draw out our own make or break qualities.

For instance, if your new hires will be dealing with your customers, it is imperative that their default level of customer service is at least as high as your expected level of service. I have found it next to impossible to get people to consistently provide a higher level of customer service than they believe is the correct level, without constant supervision, and no one has the time for that. So… we must hire people who already believe that our expected levels of service are the correct and only reasonable level of service. Then, and only then, can we count on them to consistently deliver that level of service without any supervision. I wrote a post specifically about hiring for customer service here.

Well, we knew this would be a series… next time we’ll start to talk about just how we discover whether or not our applicant has been developing the qualities we’re looking for.

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