How is it that you start off with the greatest hopes for a new hire, especially one in a leadership role in your business, but after a while the hope fades and frustration sets in? It’s because you don’t know enough about why you hire and why you fire. You have used one set of criteria for your selection process, but forgot about another set of criteria that is crucial to determine whether the person is going to fit and stick and contribute in your organization – or not.
In most instances you start the hiring process by identifying a job description. (If you don’t have one, we can help you with that.) It includes the major functions that the person will have to fulfill, and the knowledge and skills they will need to exercise to do the job successfully. You might choose to hire someone who is not fully formed yet, one that you are investing in to train in the methods you want. But even when hiring a trainee, it’s likely that you are looking at education and prior experience as evidence of skills and knowledge, or of the potential in that individual to acquire new ones.
On downward spiral toward firing
It’s not usually the skills and knowledge that get a person fired. It’s usually because of the person’s attitudes and habits. They don’t think it necessary to communicate with other departments, or they come in consistently late, or they say inappropriate things to the opposite sex or to people who are different from them. The person on his or her way to being fired is often in that position because the attitudes and habits around dealing with other people (sometimes called soft skills) interfere with their ability to use their technical knowledge and skills effectively.
Habits are conditioned so deeply into individuals that they aren’t even aware sometimes that they are engaging in them. It’s like when you arrive at work and you can’t recall whether the traffic lights on the way were red or green. Your driving habits are so ingrained that you probably occupied your brain on the drive thinking about the upcoming work day, or singing along with the radio. Your subconscious handled the traffic signals unless something was so out of the ordinary that it was called to the foreground of your attention.
Selection and development
When you are interviewing a prospective employee, some of your questions should be around identifying how they think, about the criteria that drive their decision making. That’s how you identify some of their attitudes, and their alignment with the culture you are creating in your business. You can train them in skills, but it is far more difficult to overcome negative or limiting habits of thought.
This is not to say that the person “has it or they don’t” where soft skills and congruent attitudes and habits are concerned. You can engage that person, or better yet, a team of peers in your business, in a process that brings soft skills, attitudes and habits out of the background and into the foreground. Your staff members can learn how and when to be mindful of their responses to situations and other people. In addition, once they -and you – uncover some of the reasons behind their habit formation you can work together to build new habits of thought that help the employee improve and grow.