The worst reason for not hiring someone?

I think I found it….and it happened to me.

Warning…small rant.

Imagine you are a hiring manager trying to find someone to lead a group of IT professionals.  What are the things that you would look for in a candidate?  For me, it would be someone that has the following profile:

  • Strong leadership skills
  • Intelligence
  • Initiative
  • Technical knowledge (not necessarily a techie…someone that understands technology)
  • An understanding of basic business skills and terminology
  • Customer Service skills
  • Good Communication Skills (written and verbal)

Now, imagine you find a candidate that seems to meet all of the above requirements.  You talk to them and enjoy the conversation…so much so that you want to bring them in for a face to face interview.

By chance (or by planning?), you find that your candidate is giving a talk at a local conference so you attend (or send someone).  You (or your proxy) attend and think that the candidate wasn’t very “dynamic” in their presentation.

Based on this, you cancel the interview and tell the recruiter that its because the candidate isn’t a “dynamic speaker”.

One question: WTF?

I’m fine with not being a dynamic speaker….heck…I’d be the first to tell you that I am far from dynamic when speaking…but I do think I’m an engaging speaker.  Perhaps next time I talk, I’ll put on a fake smile, wave my hands and make bold movements around the room.  Is that dynamic enough? 🙂    My presentation at UTD wasn’t my best…I wasn’t as prepared as I would have liked, but that wouldn’t have changed my presentation style much.

On a positive note, I do prefer to receive feedback on everything I do….it does help….but if you don’t think I’m a dynamic public speaker, have the courtesy to tell me in person rather in the manner in which these people did.

To completely discount a person based on one presentation that you attend (or hear feedback from someone who attended) is ludicrous IMO.  If they make their hiring decisions based on the public speaking abilities of candidates, then they’ll be looking long and hard.  I just hope they require all the other candidates to prepare a paper and then present it at a conference 🙂

I guess this type of judgment would be similar to comparing a company’s ability and skill in implementing Cisco systems to the professionalism and look/feel of their website.   If I were to do that, I’d never hire this particular company as their website appears to have been created in Frontpage 97 and hasn’t been updated since 🙂

BTW – Anyone know of a good Toastmasters group around Dallas (preferably around Richardson, Plano, Allen, McKinney)?

Linus Torvalds on Managing Software Projects has an interview with Linus Torvalds that I’d just had to share…very interesting commentary from Linus on managing software projects.

In the article, Linus provides five ‘tips’ for managing projects…they are:

  • Find people you can trust.
  • Be trustworthy yourself.
  • Be honest—sometimes painfully honest.
  • You also have to let the others get their say in.
  • A combination of bluntness and honesty leads to the best code ending up in Linux.

Interesting thoughts…what I found refreshing is that Linus never talks about ‘process’…he talks about getting results…something I believe a great deal in myself.

If you click over and read the interview, you’ll see Linus talking about being painfully honest…even to the point of calling people ‘incompetent idiots’.  I’m not a fan of this approach…you can be honest and still be civil.  I expect that one reason Linus is able to get away with calling people incompetent idiots is because of his fame in the Linux world…but I’d suggest that his approach would fall under the ‘asshole boss’ syndrome

That being said, I’d like to create my own ‘tips’ for managing software projects that are closely aligned with Linus’.  They are:

  • Hire the right people. Look for people that are trustworthy, knowledgeable and driven.
  • Create an environment of trust
  • Value open, honest two-way communication
  • Be willing to admit when wrong
  • Deliver Results

Focus on the above five things with your team (whether its a project team or not) and you’ll find yourself closer to success.

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a sense of urgency

John P. Kotter, author of “Leading Change” and “Our Iceberg is Melting” is set to release a new book titled “a sense of urgency” (release date September 3 2008).  I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy to review….and for the most part, I’m glad I read it.

The basic thesis of the book is that organization’s have a heard time “creating” the ‘right’ sense of urgency in order to ensure organizational change occurs. NOTE: My regular readers may remember me complaining about the term ‘creating a sense of urgency‘ in a previous post (see here and here)….I still don’t like the term ‘create’ but am coming to grips with it. 🙂

The author presents the following three key issues to consider during organizational change initiatives.

  1. Urgency – The sense of urgency must be ‘high enough’ before beginning any change efforts.
  2. Complacency – organizations become complacent and ignore the need to change.
  3. False sense of urgency – could also be described as ‘urgency directed at the wrong things’.

According to the author issues #2 and #3 above are the key issues keeping organizations from implementing and retaining the ‘right’ changes.

Many organizations have become complacent with their current position in their industry.  This complacency lulls the people and organization into thinking that their previous successes will allow them to remain leaders in their industry.

In contrast to complacency, false sense of urgency occurs when an organization recognizes that they need to change but don’t really understand what or how to change.  Because of this, most organizations ‘create’ change initiatives by forcing change, which does nothing but create a flurry of activity.  This flurry of activity is quite impressive…but it is energy expended on the ‘wrong’ change.

The author suggests that when an organization has a true sense of urgency, the leaders of the organization will demand change now with real progress made every day.  He suggests that leaders ‘win the hearts and minds’ of their staff.  He argues that presenting information and data to your staff is all well and good but information by itself will not embed the proper sense of urgency within the organization.  In order to install the ‘right amount of urgency’, you must present a logical case for change as part of an overall strategy to engage the hearts and emotions of the people within the organization.

The author provides some information on how to capture the hearts and minds of an organization, but doesn’t go into too much detail or provide in-depth analysis of why these methods work.  I like this fact because there’s never really a ‘right way’ of winning people over and I believe the author understands that.

I will say there is one minor aspect to this book that I didn’t like…the fact that the author uses words like ‘right change’, ‘wrong change’ and ‘proper sense of urgency’ without describing how to determine what these words really mean.

That being said, I liked the book overall.  It is an easy read and full of helpful information. If you have an interest in organizational change, I’d recommend this book.  It is an excellent primer for anyone interested in learning how to instill the proper sense of urgency by winning over the hearts and minds of your organization.

NOTE: This book was provided by the publisher as an advanced review copy.

Reasons for Resisting Change

Peter Vajda has a great post over on Slow Leadership titled “Why People Resist Change” that is well worth the time to read.

Peter argues that the reasons people resist change is that they are ‘told’ to change….rather than being ‘asked’ to change.   He writes:

What’s the most common process for introducing change in our organizations? We hold a meeting. Tell people why the change is necessary and give our reasons for the change, the expected benefits and tell them be prepared to do it our way. Then, we become angry and frustrated as all heck when we experience their subsequent resistance and lack of buy-in. Usually, little or no change happens in the long run.

Now…in most instances, the management team have done their homework and really believe that the changes that they trying to implement are the best things for the organization…but they do a poor job of engaging their employees in creating these changes.  This ‘telling’ approach makes employees feel as if management doesn’t really care about them.  Again, Peter writes:

If those in charge take a ‘telling’ approach towards change, in essence they are saying to employees: “We really don’t appreciate you; we really don’t want to include you. You have to change, like it or not.” That’s the perception and we all know perception is reality — especially in workplace situations when change is the issue.

Think about the last time you were told that change was coming.  Were you in complete agreement that it was the right change and it was necessary?   If you are like most people, you might agree that change needs to occur but you aren’t sure that ‘this’ change is necessary or that the implementation of the change is quite right.

What would happen if you were involved from day one in the decision making process?  Peter suggests that:

If you would take the time — and be honest and sincere in your efforts — you could ask people for ideas and be assured they will come up with most of the solutions required for them to do their best, both for themselves and for the good of their team and organization…

….What would it be like if leaders engaged employees in the change process by inviting them to join in the decision-making and problem-solving leading up to the change?

Most organizations can’t involve every single employee in change initiatives but a good cross-section of employees would be better than nothing.  Ask employees what they think about the current environment and what needs to change…most times, they’ll come up with some excellent ideas for change that may have been missed by management alone.   Lastly,  engaging employees in creating change initiatives will normally bring about the proper sense of urgency and ownership required for the change(s) to be successful.

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Moose on the Table

Just finished reading “Moose on the Table“by Jim Clemmer.

Before I get into the review, let me define “moose on the table.”  According to the author, it is a rephrasing of the old saying “the elephant in the room”…as in…the thing nobody wants to discuss (or can discuss, etc).

Jim Clemmer uses a fable to tell the story of an organization that is in need of leadership and change…but the ‘leader’ is brow-beater who only wants someone to agree with him.  The story follows Pete Leonard as he works his way through some issues at work and at home.  Pete attends a seminar and realizes that the way his boss is acting is forcing the organization down into the depths of failure and that he and the other folks need to make an effort to “face the moose”.

The author provides some concepts about how to deal with the moose on the table…some are novel and others aren’t but all are great ideas that can be implemented by anyone trying to approach solving a problem like a moose on the table.

The basic outcome of the story is this:  When a problem rears up, communicate and solve the problem rather than rather than talk around it, place blame for the problem or go into ‘pity city’ (e.g., poor me, etc).  Leadership and communication are key to solving the “moose on the table” problem.

This book is a good read and is short enough to finish quickly.  The concept is a good one and the story is engaging.  I’d recommend it to anyone out there who is dealing with a “moose on the table”.

NOTE: This book was provided by the publisher as an advanced review copy.

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From Project Manager to IT Leader

One thing that I’ve heard often is that a project manager role is a good thing for your career and will help your ascent up the ladder to more responsibility.

I’m wondering how often this actually occurs. I’ve met a lot of Project Managers who have been PM’s for years and have had very little chance to be promoted.  Now, some of these people are perfectly happy being PM’s and don’t want to do anything else…but others are struggling with moving into higher responsibility positions.

I’ve got a good friend who’s looking to make the transition into a leadership role (she’s hoping for a Director or VP spot) and she asked for my thoughts on what she needs to do to make herself more appealing for a more senior role.

I couldn’t really answer the question…surprising I know! 🙂  She’s a great PM but an even better leader.  She understands business and technology and is a perfect candidate for a a senior leadership role but she’s found that companies are passing her over for advancement.  I took a look at her resume…everything looked great.    She’s personable and interviews well.  She has peer reviews and recommendations from current and previous managers…everything is the way it should…except she can’t land a job in a more senior role.

I’ve mentioned to her that she might want to start looking elsewhere because it seems as if her managers don’t want to promote her because she is skilled at what she does and they don’t want to lose a good PM.  I’ve seen this happen other places…people aren’t given a chance to move into a management role because they are ‘too good at what they do’.   Of course, that’s absolutely the wrong thing to say and do…if you have good people and they have the right skill sets to be a manager, you should move them into that role.

Does anyone have any ideas for those PM’s who can’t seem to get promoted?

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