We are only as good as the people we bring into our organizations

The most important responsibility of a manager is finding and hiring the right talent. It is unfortunate that in today’s business world, this is sometimes perceived as a secondary responsibility. I even met a few managers that simply pass on this responsibility to their direct reports. These managers cannot even be bothered to interview job candidates. They do not see it as value added.

The biggest waste of a manager’s focus is not giving enough attention in selecting the right candidate. That is why these managers usually end-up with the wrong hire. They end up with mediocre employees that they will need to exit the company sometime down the road.

Alen, the young Philippine Country Manager of a huge Japanese conglomerate, does not leave hiring to chance. He makes sure that he interviews every potential candidate in his company regardless of rank.

Bringing in the right employee starts with having what we call a sourcing strategy. You simply cannot afford to leave finding the best candidate to luck. There are companies we came across in our consulting work that would focus purely on job ads. It is important to remember that great employees are mostly employed. Good employees are never out of employment. Good employees seldom check job ads. That is why good employees need a nudge or two from their friends to jump ship. Friends that hopefully work for you.

You need to be clear on the competencies you are looking for and where to find them. Another truly mistaken assumption is that recruitment is purely the job of HR. Wrong! Recruitment is the job of every employee. Most often, the best finds are candidates that were referred by someone in the company. In some companies, they even have recruitment as part of everyone’s KPI or Key Performance Indicator. Personally, the best employees I had the privilege to work with were often referred by someone else in the company.

Filtering candidates from the rest of the pack is an important skill for a company to possess. Filtering is best done through a series of interviews. Interviewing is a critical skill and should not be taken lightly. Interviewing should be approached as a dialogue with a great deal of respect for the candidate. Interviewing is best done looking backward by questioning a candidates past experience. It is best approached looking in the past to see how the candidate tackled challenges or circumstances. The interview process needs to check if the candidate already possesses the core values of the company. It is funny to see managers that hire people with beliefs opposing the company core values. You find them struggling later trying to force fit the new employees into the company culture.

There are three additional things I seek for, on top of the normal job required competencies, in a candidate. The first is leadership potential. I seek signs of a future leader. Someone who seems comfortable leading teams, taking accountability and delivering on commitment. Second, I seek for someone that is curious, enjoys learning and reading. Third, I make sure that all my hires are optimistic. Nothing drains a team as fast as a negative team member. Great skills can get overshadowed by pessimism.

Selecting who to hire is a group effort. A person making the decision would at times be biased. Deciding on a hire needs to be a team responsibility. Three views are better than one. Coming into a consensus as a result of a good debate is healthy.

We are only as good as the people we bring into our organizations. Let us make sure that every single person we hire makes a positive difference and adds value to the company.

After all, hiring the right person is the most important responsibility a manager has.

Do you think about the bigger picture?

Linking seemingly unrelated ideas is an important trait of a great leader. The ability to see the possible impact of an action or decisions to other parts of the organization is vital in decision making. It is also a key ingredient in innovative thinking.

How to develop the ability to see the big picture? For one, only through lifelong learning can big picture thinkers generate enough materials to connect the dots. A Leaders vision cannot be mapped out clearly without big picture thinking. Predicting possibilities from different relationships cannot be done without big picture thinking. People who refuse to continuously learn cannot possibly be big picture thinkers. Learning can come in many forms; love of reading, observing people and events, stepping back and questioning our experience, formal training and so on. If there is no reference point to compare an idea with then how can big picture thinking happen?

Big picture and creative thinking is infectious. Spend time with big picture thinkers. Observe how they think. Observe how they base decisions on. I got the opportunity to observe this when I was in a meeting with both the CEO of a successful HMO company and its owner. The questions they raised were interesting. Their team focused the discussion around two things: the departments they are managing, the process they are currently using. The CEO questioned the status quo. Instead of focusing on incremental improvements on the current process, the CEO asked the executive to look at revamping the entire process instead. He asked how a completely revamped and improved process would affect the respective departments and improve the service to the customer. He stepped back and looked at the bigger picture. He questioned the status quo.

Big picture thinking is about asking the right questions. It’s about questions that challenge conventional thinking. It’s about questions that bring out the root cause of issues instead of accepting the first reason that comes to the collective minds in a meeting. Big picture is about getting the root of the question “why?”.

Finally, big picture thinking is about looking at events and situations through the lens of data. Data drives big picture thinking decisions of leaders while everyone else goes with their gut feel. Gathering data, looking at it, finding relationships between different sets of data, validating cause and effect through data is an important ingredient in big picture thinking. Decision making is made using data.

Do you want to go up the corporate ladder? Do you aspire for a key leadership role? If so then you need to develop your big picture thinking abilities. It is a pre-requisite to leadership success.

Are you a big picture thinker?

A 76 year old Uber driver with a purpose

My 22 minute Uber ride yesterday was different from the rest of the dozens rides I took before. Yesterday, I had the opportunity meet a dignified senior named Thomas.

Thomas is a 76 year old Uber driver that studied in the prestigious school of Ateneo. After getting through the usual small talk, he shared his experience attending the Victory Church in Greenhills. Pastor Dennis was talking about an upcoming game between La Salle and Ateneo. Pastor Dennis, hailing from La Salle, prayed for his school to win. Thomas and six other Atenistas walked out he recounted. Thomas did not take it personally and went back to attend Victory Greenhills for the next few years.

Thomas spoke in impeccable english as he shared his experienced the leadership of former President Marcos. He recalled that the Philippines infrastructure was maintained much better during the Marcos regime. In the former Presidents time, we were the main exporter of rice in Asia. Thomas was saddened by the fact that we now import rice from Thailand.

What amazed me about Thomas is what gets him up in the morning to drive his car for Uber. At his age, I am sure he can take it easy. Thomas can choose to spend his time playing with his grandkids.

With great pride he told me the reason why he drives an Uber. Thomas is supporting six scholars from the REAL Life Foundation of Victory Church. Every single peso he earns goes into funding the education of six young Filipinos. That’s very admirable. A 76 year old man with perfect eye sight driving for Uber to help six students achieve their dream of getting an education.

What drives Thomas in the morning is his purpose. A purpose that is noble and unselfish. God bless Thomas. I only wish there are more Thomas in the world regardless of age.

What are you passionate about? What gets you up in the morning? What’s your purpose?