Am I Teachable?

…Or Just a Learner?

I wonder if anyone has ever answered “no” when asked if they were teachable.  “No, I’m done being taught – I already know everything I need.”  Makes for a good chuckle, but we wouldn’t really admit to thinking that.

We couldn’t completely stop learning if we wanted to.  Our five senses are constantly feeding new information to our brain.  But the question, “Am I learning?” is different than, “Am I teachable?”

Learning can be passive, happening to us pretty much by accident.  Or our curiosity may drive us to experimentation that we learn from.  But the idea of being teachable implies being in a state where we welcome insights from others.
Continue reading Am I Teachable?

Interviewing for Character and Culture Fit

Probing Beyond the Hard Skills

I want to share this list of insightful interview questions, adapted slightly from those used by a client[1]. Try asking some of these in your interviews to assess the culture impact of your potential hires:

  1. Describe a skill you feel you are missing.

Can the candidate properly assess himself/herself?  Humble enough to see where a skill is missing?  Desire to learn new skills? Hunger to be better?

  1. Describe a situation where you had to admit to others that you had made a mistake. How did you handle the situation?

Does the candidate have the humility and integrity to admit mistakes and apologize? Have the people skills to effectively verbalize the admission of mistakes to others? Care enough about the team to be honest for the benefit of the team?

  1. Describe the dynamics of the best team you have been a part of.

Is there humility to put team above self? Indications of caring about fellow team members? A passion regarding team performance; a shared team standard of excellence; results better together than apart? Examples of team innovation?

  1. We all have people that we don’t hate but dislike. Why did/do you dislike a former/current co-worker and how have you dealt with him/her?

Can they explain the dynamics without disparaging the person? Do so in a professional way? Do so while protecting the other person’s reputation? Express empathy or understanding about someone they do not like? 

  1. Tell me about a time when you had to make a big adjustment in order to succeed.

Is this person able to be flexible? Innovate or find creative solutions? Have a hunger for excellence that will not be derailed by obstacles?

  1. What is a misconception that people may have about you?

How realistic is the candidate’s self-perception? Humble or selfish as they express the misconception? Mature/immature in what they express? Care about how the misconception affects their team or others? Express their concerns about this misconception in a socially appropriate way?

  1. Describe the boss who would get the very best from you.

Is the candidate aware of what helps them succeed? Express their relationship with the boss in the context of team? Examples of humility in describing the best boss? Want a boss who holds to high standards vs. coddling them?

  1. What are you most passionate about?

What gets this person excited? Animated? Truly hungry about? Examples of caring about other people as more important than self? Service-oriented traits? Passion to do something really well? Passion for self-improvement?

[1] Courtesy of Action Property Management

Balancing on a Three-Legged Stool

Responsibility, Authority, and Privilege

The nice thing about a three-legged stool is that it won’t wobble.  That doesn’t mean the top will be level enough to keep you from falling off, but it won’t wobble.   Ever try to play Jenga or build something on a stool that wasn’t level?  Not a formula for success.

I like to picture responsibility, authority, and privilege as a three-legged stool that I can build an organization on.  If we want to build successfully, we need that stool to be level.  If any leg is too long or too short, our growth and stability will be constrained. Continue reading Balancing on a Three-Legged Stool

Four Foundations of a Team

…Success Starts Here

”Team” is one of those words we use too loosely. Or maybe we’re just hopeful that calling a group of people a “team” will magically make them act like one. But becoming an effective team takes intentionality, skill, and hard work.

Whether it’s a project team, a management team, or an operational team, here are four foundations to build a team on: Continue reading Four Foundations of a Team

A Plan is Nothing…

…Planning Is Everything

In a 1957 speech, President Dwight D. Eisenhower quoted a statement he had heard in the Army, ”Plans are worthless, but planning is everything”[1].  Eisenhower understood that the thought processes and collaboration involved in planning are more valuable than the document.
Some organizations are good at creating and executing strategic plans.  Others don’t see the value in planning, or at least not enough to give it the time it takes.  In between you have those who faithfully create their plans and set them on a shelf to collect dust until next year’s planning cycle. Continue reading A Plan is Nothing…

Influence Without Authority

Leadership Without a Title

It’s easy when you’re the boss. You tell people what to do and they do it. Ok, maybe it’s not always that easy.

Authority does increase the odds that people will do what you want. But it doesn’t necessarily increase the likelihood that those doing the tasks will grow while getting the tasks done. Authority is a great management tool for driving for results. And it does have its place in the leadership toolbox. But authority can be a crutch that interferes with good leadership. Continue reading Influence Without Authority

Defining Leadership Success

It’s Not About You

How do you know if you’re a successful leader? Regardless of your title, two things are true if you’re really a leader:

  1. Someone is following you. No followers, no leader. Following under compulsion (like just to get a paycheck) doesn’t count. People choose to follow true leaders.
  2. You’re going someplace. If you’re going nowhere, you’re not leading.

Leadership is inherently other-centric. You only succeed when your followers do. My followers should be more successful with me leading than if I wasn’t. My success is multiplied when my followers become leaders whose followers are becoming leaders. As a student in a recent class commented, leadership is a “pyramid scheme”. Continue reading Defining Leadership Success

Affirmative Accountability

Giving Success the Attention It Deserves

It’s a well-established fact that accountability greatly increases the likelihood of success.  Yet most of us cringe at the idea of being held accountable.  Why is it so hard to set aside our egos and welcome something that we know would help us succeed?

Rather than dive deep into the psychology of our resistance, I want to propose just one idea that might lower the barrier to accountability we find in our followers. Continue reading Affirmative Accountability

Trust and/or Transparency

A Paradoxical Relationship

Transparency is often touted as foundational to building trust.  And it can be – or not…

We live in a culture that equates our desire to know something with our right to know it.  We feel entitled to tap into the endless free-flow of information, believing that anyone who holds anything back is hiding something and can’t be trusted.  Except, of course, that we choose to keep some things private and we can be trusted. Continue reading Trust and/or Transparency

Sources of (Dis)Trust

Competence, Character, and Motivation

Building a high level of trust within an organization can seem like the search for the Holy Grail: It’s highly valued, but very elusive.

Some of us believe that trust must be earned. We’re not willing to accept the risk of betrayed trust. Some of us grant trust more freely until we have reason to withhold it. We recognize that people give their best when we expect the best out of them. Most of us start off relationships somewhere between extreme trust and extreme lack of trust.

We Don’t Need Trust Where There Is No Risk

Continue reading Sources of (Dis)Trust