The three C’s

For those of you who attended our recent event on business growth, you would have heard Liam Forde from ‘The Zone’ talk about the role of human engagement in successful business execution, and the tools essential to optimise that.

I was introduced to Liam by a mutual friend over 20 years ago, that’s two decades of conversations with him on the role of culture, purpose, and values in business success. When I first heard him speak all those years ago, he was an evangelist on this, while most people thought business was about process and making a margin, transaction by transaction. Most did not understand the long game of community, belonging, connectivity and the role of humans in creating that ‘X factor’. So thank you, Liam, for your gift.

What he didn’t talk about, was the process of getting the right people to join the bus and getting the wrong people off the bus. What he mostly spoke about was how to keep the bus moving and getting everyone focused on singing happy songs along the way.

It is a hell of a lot easier if you only open the doors to the right people. Those who want to share your journey, can sing your songs, and feel as though they can grow to admire their fellow travellers and trust the bus drivers. It is also (obviously) useful if they know how to fix a flat tyre, change the oil or jump start the bus if required.

We all know that recruitment is a fraught art and highly risky. Typically, we are dealing with humans who can be conniving, devious, and to be honest, fake little shits. Sorting out the gold from the gravel is a difficult and time-consuming process.

To focus the HR process on CV’s and what they can or can’t do is the easy way, and is a little more absolute than whether they will sing Kumbaya with the rest of the team (i.e – changing a tyre is easy to test for).

Then you get a short list and seek to filter the potential candidates with some sort of psychometric test, or worse, some online video that you make them do, or even an automated online interview with the aim being to filter the smart from the dumb, the personality types, and so on, to try and test the ‘soft stuff’ which in the past, was left to human intuition. 

The problem of course, is that this process is often demeaning, gameable by all the participants, and as the first view of your organisation, defines your culture.

It is almost laughable how large organisations have value statements about all sorts of ‘fluffy caring human stuff’ and then use these sorts of HR processes, which is just the first experience of those they wish to induct into their teams.

After sifting through hundreds of applicants, you then interview a short list, time is precious after all. But so is brand. What do you think the process of ‘filtering’ and how you do it, says to those who you have filtered out? Do they not leave with an impression of your team and your culture? Of course they do… and these people, end up all over the village. 

Then based on your gut you make a choice, and you check the verbal references. In short, another human interaction clouded by the motivations of those humans. 

We do all of this before we get on the bus to eliminate the suicide bombers.

If there are no warning signs, the doors open, and the next happy traveller jumps aboard.

At the end of the day, it is still a human call to hire.

Why not cut to the chase? You will either get a good feeling about someone, or you won’t. In other words, you will like them, or you won’t. Why not have the confidence to trust your judgment?

What do I encourage all of my businesses to do?

Firstly, understand your business culture and its values. Make sure that these are very clear to you and your team, because if they are not, they will not be clear to anyone else looking to join you.

Secondly, don’t be afraid of paying recruitment agents. But be absolutely certain that they understand what you are ‘about’ so they only send you those who are likely aligned with your organisations culture and values. There is a lot of gravel to sift, so pay someone to do it. The plus side of this, whichever way the recruiters choose to do it, it is their brand at risk, not yours.

Thirdly, be very clear what you are looking for in the interview. This is where my ‘three c’s’ come in. It is a six-point system. A candidate must get at least four points to be a hire, six is better.

  1. The first C – Character. Three points of the six.
    You want to get tease out of them their interests, their background, their values, and their sense of self. 
  2. The second C – Confidence. Two points of the six.
    Are they prepared to try new things? Are they up for a challenge? Are they inquisitive? Are they confident to express their character?
  3. The third C – Competence. One point of the six.
    Can they change a tyre?

Why this order? Well, you can’t change character. You can help people recover confidence, and you can sure as hell can teach them to change a tyre. In short, defects in the third ‘C’ are easier to manage as opposed to the first two, the first ‘C’ is impossible to deal with and usually the reason why you exit people post hire.

So firstly, among my interview party tricks, I always ask the candidate to talk about anything that they like for five minutes non-stop. If they talk about their work, I stop them to start again and talk about themselves.        

Secondly, we ask them questions about their life. Their parents, family, hobbies, what they read, and so on. Nothing is asked at the first stage about what they can do (after all, it is already in their CV). Get your candidates talking and don’t interrupt them, this beats the hell out of asking them questions which they will be ready for anyway. If you decide at the end of this that they are not fitting, cut it short and say so. Don’t waste their time.

Second party trick that no one really understands… is I ask them to sing me their favourite song! Why? If they have the self-confidence to self-humiliate; confidence to ask dumb questions should not be a problem and they should have no problem with owning up to mistakes.

Burying mistakes and a lack of self-confidence, only comes with business risks that in my opinion, are best avoided. Worse, these traits frustrate one of our core values, which is to grow eachother. No one learns without failing at something and understanding why they failed. Teaching and learning from one-another (including our clients), is the core of what contributes to making each day better.

Some choose to dance instead, some choose to duet with me… then they soon work out that no matter how bad their singing voice is, mine is worse. 

If the candidates can get through this and the usual questions, then we tell them about us, followed by an interview with two other team members they will be working with, so that we can actually ask those who work here what it’s like. It is really important they understand our culture is multifaceted and felt differently by all. This third step is intended to be the candidate’s chance to interview us instead. However, having never sat in one of those with the team for obvious reasons, I have no idea how that free form flow actually happens.

Don’t forget that in any interview you learn as much by the questions asked, as you do from the answers given.

If anyone who interviewed the candidates have doubts or an adverse gut instinct, we don’t hire them.

Listen to your team. They will be the ones working with this person. It is they, that will make this person a success. If your team are bought into the hire, they will induct them well, train them well and help make them feel like they belong.

Human instinct when spread and diverse will beat the hell out of a ‘scientific’ test. 

So in short, trust yourself, be authentic, trust your team, and most hires will work out. If you make a mistake and you must exit someone, own the issue. You hired them with your eyes open, it is your mistake not theirs. Make the exit if you can have dignity, respect, and fairness as a feature. If, however, it is bad behaviour, or a breach of trust issue in your mind, and if you are confident with your judgment about this, just throw them out. At the end of the day, it is just money. Leaving an untrusted or poor behaving team member in your environment causes harm to others whom you also care about.

In some ways this is much harder than the hire decision, as everyone has a different fuse length. Mine is very long, which means most of my grief comes not from the underperformer who I have eternal optimism I can turn around, but from the others around them.

If you are the leader in this situation, then you are judged by how you manage the line and point of action. The noise will intensify until you have no choice but to act. The line between protecting individuality and protecting the whole, is a judgement line and one that is extremely hard to quantify. Don’t try, the second order is behavioural consequences which are probably worse. When that point arrives, do it with dignity and give the other party viable choices to leave with grace.

To summarise;

  • Pick character and confidence over skills when opening the doors to the bus,
  • trust your instincts over all the other processes, remember that those who you reject will be fine somewhere else in the community,
  • and above all, be authentic.

Trust beats fear every time.

Once you have decided to act on an exit, don’t falter. The exit is non-negotiable. If you can stop the bus and let them off with grace and respect, then do it. Again, trust beats fear.

If you don’t know where to begin, want to talk through something, or have a specific question but are not sure who to address it to, fill in the form, and we’ll get back to you within two working days.

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