Delivering the Systems and Expertise You Need to Confidently Make Great Hiring Decisions
One of my very favorite songs is called Down Together by the Refreshments. The refrain includes the lyrics, “Cars break down and people break down and other things break down too so let’s go…down together”.
I had the chance to have dinner with Chris Mursau last Tuesday night in Chicago and we were discussing the single, most important reason why companies continue to experience a 50% failure rate when it comes to hiring. His assessment: Communication Breakdown.
How does this manifest itself thousands of times a day in the US alone?
- Hiring Managers understand what their priorities are in their role and they (rarely) include hiring talent to earn their bonus. As a result they email someone in HR that says “write me a job description“
- HR, not quite sure what to put in the job description, references similar jobs the company has filled in the past and creates it to get it off of their To Do list.
- The job is posted on the Internet somewhere and the resumes that come in get screened by the HR associate who wasn’t sure about the role in the first place.
- The resumes that pass the initial muster of the HR associate are forwarded to the Hiring Manager who looks at a few and decides to interview some people (though they’re not even sure what the HR team posted on the web)
- The first candidate comes in and the Hiring Manager asks a couple of associates to interview the person too (though these associates don’t have a clue what they’re even supposed to be interviewing for).
- The Hiring Manager narrows the pool down to 2 and then calls HR to ask them to decide who the best one is (again, without providing the HR team the definition of “best”).
If this sounds remotely similar, you’re not alone!
As you’ve likely read on this blog before, I believe there are 3 reasons why a new hire doesn’t work out:
- You failed to clearly define what you needed someone to do
- You failed to clearly articulate to the new hire what you needed them to do to be successful
- You failed to gain the agreement of the new hire on what it will take to be considered successful
I completely understand if you brush off my counsel but choosing to ignore this when even Chris agrees that it’s true is a true sign of foolishness.
In addition to blogging here I also contribute content to Recruiting Blogs. A slightly modified version of my recent post “How to Prepare for a Topgrading Interview” drew quite a few comments but there was one in particular that I felt deserved some additional attention.
I really believe in the principles of Topgrading, and have cited it along with Brad Smart many times in my own writing, but the candidates I’ve seen subjected to CIDS interviews have NOT had wonderful or even fair experiences. I have three issues with CIDS:
1. It doesn’t apply context. The behaviors analyzed in a CIDS interview can be from 20 years ago, and don’t get asked in a way that aligns with the current goals for the position. I advocate performance objective based questions that elicit the specific skills and experience needed today from the candidate, in the context of the specific job, not in a vacuum.
2. CIDS provides too much ammunition by which to DESELECT a candidate. Not every behavior or lack of behavior from someone’s past is relevant to what is needed today.
3. CIDS interviewers are often inexperienced, and don’t know how to really use the tool to best advantage.
Here are my thoughts in response to Mark:
1. The behaviors analyzed in a CIDS interview may be from 20 years ago but it’s the interviewer’s fault if they allow the discussion to drift into conversations that don’t necessarily align with the current position. On top of that, the basic questions that are used in every position are critical information that you’d want to know about someone – regardless of if the experiences are 20 years old. Example: What was the #1 thing you regret about not accomplishing in that role?
2. At HireBetter this is a discussion that we have a lot. Recommending someone for hire takes courage. It’s nearly always easier for a Hiring Manager or outside consultant suggest that inaction is better than action. Roosevelt nailed it in 1910 when he said [paraphrasing] “It is not the critic that counts. The true credit belongs to the man in the arena.” With that said, if a Hiring Manager has done their homework, they’re clear on what they need someone to do and they conduct a proper CIDS interview, they’re going to be more prepared to make a hiring decision than with any other kind of interview that I’ve seen conducted.
3. It doesn’t take much for someone to learn how to conduct a CIDS interview. However, as I shared in my response to #2, from what I’ve witnessed a poorly conducted CIDS interview is still significantly better than an “on the fly” interview that doesn’t have a structure, purpose or plan.
Bottom line: Mark brings up some good questions and CIDS interviews do have some shortcomings but, in my opinion, there’s not much else out there that will give you a better understanding of if the person you’re interviewing is right for the role you’re looking to fill.
Joe Navarro’s career as a counterintelligence special agent for the FBI made him one of the most uniquely qualified experts on nonverbal communication. When you spend 25 years interrogating terrorists and criminals you’re bound to pick up on a few things.
In Chapter 1 of this 4 Part blog series he shared that even the “experts” in law enforcement can’t accurately tell if someone is deceiving you or lying to you. The 2nd Chapter focused on the significance of dis-possession: how it’s NEVER a good thing when someone suddenly stops claiming ownership for something (my gun vs. the gun).
As my interview with Joe progressed we started talking about specific nonverbal behaviors and actions that someone might exhibit that would give you a huge clue that they’re uncomfortable and you should dig in further. It’s important to point out that this also ties in nicely with what Chris Mursau shared a few weeks ago about the significance of self-awareness and why a Candidate who answers a question about their weaknesses or career mistakes with, “You know…I can’t think of any.”
[JDavis] Earlier in our conversation you suggested that it’s fairly easy to pick up on INDICATORS OF STRESS. We discussed the weight that certain words can have (a knife or blade vs. a machete) and that if someone knows how to look for these key indicators they should dig in further. What’s an example of an INDICATOR OF STRESS?
In my experience, the most honest part of anyone’s body is their feet. If you watch someone who’s on the phone, even if you can’t hear what the dialogue is, their feet will tell the story. When a conversation is going well, their feet will defy gravity. Just like tapping your feet to the beat of a song you like, our feet and legs move up and down based on whether something is positive or not. Interestingly, gravity-defying behaviors rarely show up in people who are suffering from clinical depression. It’s because the body reflects precisely the emotional state of an individual – even if their mouth is saying something different.
[JDavis] Is there anything really specific that might happen to the feet and legs during an interview or a conversation that an amateur could look for to help them detect stress?
Yes. I call it “Distancing”. Most of the research that has been done on nonverbal displays of discomfort or guilt seemed to concentrate on the face. One thing I found was that people with guilty knowledge or discomfort (stress) distance themselves with their feet. If you bring up a subject they don’t like they’ll place their feet in the “starter’s position” because they literally want to run away and not be there.
[JDavis] I can see it being a bit awkward as an interviewer to constantly be looking under the table at someone’s feet when we’re supposed to be talking with them and acting like we’re paying attention. What are some examples of nonverbal behavior above the table that an interviewer might notice?
To answer this question it’s important to explain how the brain works first. In nonverbal communication, the limbic brain is where the action is because it’s the brain’s emotional center. From here, the signals that go out that orchestrate our behaviors as they relate to our emotions. It’s considered the “honest brain” because many of the behavioral reactions that are manifested through our feet, torso, arms, hands and faces occur without thought and, unlike our words, they are genuine.
With that said, we use our shoulders all the time. If you get asked, “do you care where we eat?”, a quick shrug would be representative of a low confidence display that shows that you don’t truly care.
In a more serious setting, if you ask someone, “Will this project be done by July?” and they answer by having ONE shoulder rise up to their ear, you can deduce that the person who is answering lacks confidence. Having one shoulder come up is a subconscious way of that person demonstrating that they have some internal doubt or internal dialogue that doesn’t support the verbal answer that they are giving you. The opposite is also true: when we answer something with confidence, our shoulders are down and squared.
In the final installment of this 4 Part Series I’ll share Joe’s Top nonverbal actions that represent a change in countenance of someone you’re interviewing.
For twenty-five years, Joe Navarro was an FBI counterintelligence special agent and supervisor specializing in nonverbal communications. A frequent lecturer, he serves on the adjunct faculty at Saint Leo University and the FBI. You can learn more about Joe through his website or by following him on Twitter.
In observing an interview on-site with a client earlier this month I recognized a disturbing trend across everyone in the organization that, upon further research, is happening in nearly every company and in every interview. When asking someone a tough question, instead of waiting for a response, the interviewer is rescuing them.
We’ve modeled our interview process on the best practices of Topgrading® and they all start with:
- In your most recent role, what was the situation when you accepted the position with respect to talent, resources, systems and efficiency?
- What were your top 2 or 3 responsibilities?
- What were your top 1 or 2 accomplishments?
- What are the 2 mistakes that you made in the role or what would you do differently if you were starting that role again today?
What we’ve witnessed is that nearly everyone is more than willing to answer the first three questions – and when asked in this order, they feel more and more confident as you give them permission “brag” about themselves. However, when you get to the 4th question, a significant number of candidates (whether for fear of appearing weak or not wanting to have to talk about the tough parts) will respond with, “You know, I can’t think of anything.”
Because interviews are often scheduled for 30 or 60 minutes at most companies, hiring managers and interviewers often feel like there’s a ticking clock that doesn’t allow them to stop and wait and (this is the hard part) endure the awkwardness of silence. Yet throughout history, the top business leaders are in agreement that our greatest learning opportunities happen when we are making mistakes – not when things are going really well.
To learn more about the skill of the skill of purposely allowing candidates to struggle, I interviewed Christopher Mursau, the Vice President of Smart & Associates in Chicago, IL.
JDavis: What’s the benefit of letting someone struggle through a tough question?
CMursau: It sets the stage early on that you’re going to ask the questions that allow them to give positives but you also need to know about the negatives and you’re not going to let them off the hook. It’s important that they understand that when you ask them a question they need to answer it honestly and if they need some time to think – that’s ok!
JDavis: How have you learned to be patient during these difficult stretches of an interview?
CMursau: It depends on where we are in an interview – if I’m talking about someone’s career when they were just coming out of college and they can’t think of a mistake that they made (in a position from 20 years ago) I’ll often use the opportunity to let it slide to get to know them a little better. I’m also starting to “train” them about what’s coming up in future questioning – that’s why it’s called a CIDS Interview (Author’s Note: CIDS = Comprehensive, In-Depth, Structured)
There’s a difference between pushing and building rapport. Ultimately, I want the candidate to give me their best and honest answers about their most recent positions. If they’ve had 5 jobs in their career, I might let them off the hook on the 1st one but the next 4 jobs (leading up to the present day) I’m going to be more patient and more insistent on them answering the tough questions. Because I’ll ask the questions in the format you mentioned above about every position, the person I’m interviewing realizes quickly that it’s going to be awkward for them and unacceptable to me when they say, “I don’t remember” twice in a row about the same difficult question.
JDavis: How much significance do you give to the questions around admitting weakness or owning up to mistakes?
CMursau: Incredibly significant – it’s possibly the earliest warning sign for me of an interview that won’t end well. When someone is unwilling to talk about weaknesses or mistakes, it’s been my experience that they won’t respond to constructive criticism, they’ll be hard to coach and more often than not they’ll be prone to blaming others when something goes wrong. When someone has shallow insights into their strengths and weaknesses I seldom advise a company to hire that person.
JDavis: What counsel would you give to an interviewer to help them deal with the candidate who can’t find it within themselves to share the mistakes that they made?
CMursau: Give the candidate opportunities. Ask the question around the mistakes about 3 straight jobs (if they struggle twice in a row, try asking it in a slightly different way the 3rd time). Employ the “pregnant pause”. If, after the third time they can’t think of anything, it’s likely they have low self-awareness. When this is present, I’ve found it to be a leading indicator of a lot of other red flags and the likelihood of that person being a fit for your company is very, very low. I’d strongly encourage someone to end the interview if the candidate shows lack of awareness about 3 consecutive roles in their career.
Chris completed his undergraduate degree in psychology at The University of Wisconsin, and his MBA at St. Thomas University. He joined Smart & Associates, Inc. in 2001 and provides the full range of professional services.
David Sandler once said, “You can’t teach a kid how to ride a bike at a seminar”.
With that in mind, I personally don’t believe that you can teach someone how to be a great interviewer through a blog post. My hope is, however, that by using a few of these simple tips in advance of your next interview, you can do a much better job than you previously have.
Here are my TOP 4 WAYS TO BE A GREAT INTERVIEWER
1. Setting Up the Interview Properly:
Through my volunteer efforts with EO I was responsible for managing our Event Calendar for 18 months. During that time I learned that every great event that you’ve likely ever been to had great planning at the beginning. Some companies base their entire reputation on it (i.e. Disney). When everything is planned properly it says a lot not only about your company but also significantly increases your chances for success:
- Does the candidate have a copy of the Job Description and our Company Website?
- Have they been called, confirmed and sent directions to our office?
- Do they know how long they will be there and what the schedule is during their time?
- If we don’t share the schedule or expectations, what does that say about us?
- Who will greet them when they arrive?
- What’s the 1st Impression someone will have of our company?
2. When Your Team Plans the Fight, they Won’t Fight the Plan
Be sure that the Job Description, Competencies, and Accountabilities are distributed to all of those who are interviewing the candidate and everyone on the Interviewing Schedule has gotten the chance to review and ask questions. Here’s the Checklist:
- Does everyone have the itinerary for the interviews?
- Have you been selective in choosing WHO will interview people?
- Where will they be interviewed in our office?
- Has everyone received a copy of the Candidate Packet (Resume, Description of the Role, Prior Interview Notes)?
- Does everyone involved know what role the candidate is interviewing for and how/why they are being asked to evaluate the candidate?
3. Have a GAME PLAN with your Interviewing Team:
- Add or delete questions based upon what previous information (resume, Comprehensive Interview Notes, preliminary interview notes) has revealed about the candidate.
- Assign areas of focus for your Interviewing Team so that questions aren’t redundant and everyone is maximizing their time away from their day to day responsibilities.
- Encourage everyone to establish their estimated time to spend on each section of questioning.
- Refresh your memory regarding the sequence and wording of questions to ensure a smoother interview.
- Remind everyone to never, ever write on a resume.
4. Setting the Stage for an Effective Interview once you’re Face to Face:
After a couple of minutes building rapport, let the candidate know about the expected time frame and then sell the person on being open and honest. Topgrading® suggests that you state your purpose and plan in the following way:
- Review your background, interests, and goals to see if there is a good match with the position and opportunities here
- Determine some ways to assure your smooth assimilation into your new position, should you join us
- Get some ideas regarding what you and we can do to maximize your long-range fulfillment and contributions
- Tell you more about the career opportunities we have to offer and answer any questions you have
- Understand your career history, which will be thoroughly verified in reference checks we’ll ask you to arrange with your previous managers
I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to evaluating talent and Topgrading is about the best way that I’ve ever seen to do it. It’s objective, gives you a structure to follow and makes it easy to judge prospective employees without a lot of emotion.
To keep up with the latest and greatest tips for Topgrading better, I’ve subscribed to Brad’s newsletter. You can sign up here.
His most recent newsletter was fantastic – it was titled “The 5 Best Ways to Judge People”. The most significant parts of that newsletter can be seen below. Enjoy!
When people are just learning Topgrading, it’s easiest to use the A, B, and C categories, to show the dramatic differences. Topgrading professionals are able accurately put people in the right categories. In doing this they actually have three slightly different categories – A Player, A Potential, and Non-A. We define A player as someone in the top 10% of talent for the pay, in your location, in the industry, and reporting to you.
Following are 5 of the best ways I know of to judge people in a fair, objective, legally defensible way:
1. How A, B, and C players differ on key competencies. The following chart is a bit simplistic because not all A players are that great on all competencies and not all C players are that bad on all the competencies. Indeed, in real life C players usually are A players on some competencies.
2. Look for patterns of success. The “magic” of Topgrading comes from understanding, bottom line, how successful a person was in job 1, job 2, job 3, etc., with the greatest weight given to the most recent jobs.
Last year I interviewed a smooth talking executive who had clearly been a superstar in the industry, but the guy had not worked hard for years. He had peaked years ago, was on a decline and frankly the pattern showed he was “over the hill,” someone who had lost his energy, drive, resourcefulness, and passion.
3. Recruit a replacement. This really is the best way to see if your employee is truly among the top 10% of talent available.
After you have argued with your employee, complained about unsatisfactory performance, and heard 1,000 excuses, the simplest way to see if there are better people is to actively recruit them. This can be done secretly, but go through all the Topgrading hiring steps including talking with former bosses.
Over the years I’ve heard it hundreds of times: “It became very easy to replace my employee after going through the Topgrading hiring steps, because I became absolutely certain my excuse-making employee was a C player, and I had three A players very willing to join me at exactly the same salary as my C player.”
4. Never stop building your recruitment networks. As a Topgrader, you know the best way to recruit is by staying in touch with 40 A players you’ve worked with and also stay in touch with 20 “connectors,” people who know a lot of A players.
But in addition to using your networks to recruit, staying in touch helps you figure out if your team consists of A, B, or C players. As you chat from time to time with A players you’ve worked with in the past you hear about their accomplishments, what they pay people, the standards they set … and when you share your frustrations with a certain employee, your network will give you feedback that your expectations are too high or too low.
5. Assess employees using Topgrading methods. You might already know that my first consulting engagement with General Electric was to improve their success promoting people. They improved from 25% to well over 90% success, and the internal assessment methods are almost identical to Topgrading hiring methods. Two trained interviewers conduct the tandem Topgrading interview and instead of talking with outside references (for hiring) they talk with bosses, peers, and subordinates in the company.
Tags: A-Player, A-Players, Brad Smart, career history, chris mursau, Fame, Family, Fortune, Fun, hire better, hiring, Interview, recruit don't absorb, Recruiting, Scorecard, smarttopgrading, talent acquisition, Topgrading, topgrading methodology, TORC, virtual bench
Doing a quick search in Google for “common interview questions and answers” will yield you 25,100,000 results.
I’m not sure what’s more surprising: the results or the questions that people typically ask in an interview?!
A few years ago, I had the unique opportunity to join an organization called EO. One of the first things they require you to do upon joining is go through a full day of “Forum Training” in which you get interested to a bunch of fellow Entrepreneurs and you also learn how to no longer offer opinions or advice. It really messes with your head – even today, after 5 years of practicing, I still find myself struggling to avoid hearing a challenge a fellow member is having and not offer feedback based on my opinions. As a society it’s present in our lives from the moment we can crawl and reach out for things like power outlets, hot stoves, etc. ”Don’t touch that!” we yell as parents. Yet, as our children get older and ask, “Why not, Daddy?” it’s sometimes hard to justify why we told them not to do something.
…focuses more on process (what is happening) than content (what is being discussed). The emphasis is on what is being done, thought and felt at the moment rather than on what was, might be, could be, or should be.
Gestalt therapy is a method of awareness, by which perceiving, feeling, and acting are understood to be separate from interpreting, explaining and judging using old attitudes. This distinction between direct experience and indirect or secondary interpretation is developed in the process of therapy.
Put more simply, by sharing my experiences and how I reacted to a situation that previously happened to me is much more valuable to a colleague than what I would do if I were in their shoes at that moment. In other words: opinions are worthless.
Mary Schmich wrote an OpEd piece in the mid-90′s titled “Advice, Like Youth, Probably Just Wasted On The Young”. In that was a very appropriate quote:
Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.
To bring this idea back to the focus of this blog, how to help you HIRE BETTER, I’d offer the following random questions from that Google Search of 25,100,000 results:
- What’s your biggest weakness?
- What motivates you to do a good job?
- How are you when you’re working under pressure?
- Are you a team player?
- How long would you expect to work for us if hired?
Can you guess the common theme in every one of those questions?
The answer: EVERY ONE OF THEM CAN BE ANSWERED WITH AN OPINION
One of the ways that we’ve made our process so consistent and effective is that we don’t allow people to share their opinions in interviews. Opinions in an interview are, simply, worthless. As a hiring manager you’ll find that you’ll have a LOT more success if you are asking questions that require someone to share with you how they behaved in a situation. We actually use a lot of the questions from the book Topgrading to assist in our evaluation of talent. Here are some examples:
- What are a couple of the best and worst decisions you have made in the past year?
- Describe a situation or two in which the pressures to compromise your integrity were the strongest you have ever felt.
- What are examples of circumstances in which you were expected to do a certain thing and, on your own, went beyond the call of duty?
- Describe a complex challenge you have had coordinating a project.
- When was the last time you missed a significant deadline?
Upon review, what do all of these questions have in common?
They require the candidate to answer based on their experiences.
The Bottom Line: if you’re asking questions in an interview that allow for someone to offer their opinion, there’s a high likelihood that they’ve been to a lot of the 25,100,000 websites that Google returns when you go hunting for common interview questions and how to answer them so you sound like a superstar. But for job-seekers, there isn’t a single website they can go to that will give them the answer to a question that requires them to share their past experiences.
While there are a lot of people who will argue that past experience is NOT the greatest indicator of future success, you, as a hiring manager, often have the choice of either relying on those past experiences or listening to someone’s rehearsed answers and opinions instead.
Tags: A-Players, advice, Advice is a form of nostalgia, behavioral-based, Brad Smart, career history, chris mursau, EO, hire better, hiring manager, Interview, Scorecard, smarttopgrading, talent acquisition, Topgrading, topgrading methodology
Today’s blog post comes courtesy of Brad Smart, the author of Topgrading. I remember reading his post in September of 2009 and thinking how powerful it was. When going through my list of topics for what made the most sense to blog about this week I realized that this was as timely and quite a bit more profound than anything I had come up with. He and Chris Mursau, the Vice President of Smart & Associates, write a great blog that you should definitely read on a regular basis.
I’ve taken the liberty of shortening the article down to apply more to a Hiring Manager than a job seeker so that you’re aware of the kinds of challenges that an A-Player might be having in clearly articulating how and why they’re exceptional.
A players are remarkably … um … inexperienced at job hunting, and they are remarkably inept at it.
C players, however, are nudged out of jobs and companies and they become masters at getting the next job. C players also become masters at imitating A players. They’ve read many books that teach them how to make their resumes look better and how to answer interview questions.
In this economic downturn thousands of companies have folded and hundreds of thousands of not just under-performers but high performers, A players, are out looking for jobs. The unemployed are from every industry and there are quite a few super sharp people out looking for work – sometimes for the first time in their career.
Here’s the problem: C players become masters at imitating A players; their resumes are full of hype and conceal negatives, and their interviewing behavior is well-rehearsed. So on the surface C players look like A players. And the poor A player who is looking for a job doesn’t know how to convey – “Hey, my resume is truthful and so is everything I say in interviews.”
Throughout their careers, A players needing a job have simply gone to their network and asked for connections to hiring managers. That historically has been a very productive method. “Birds of a feather …” and when A players contact their networks and say a super sharp A player they know is available … hey, job offers pop up.
- Rewrite your resume, tooting your horn. Keep it to 2 pages and list ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND SUCCESSES. I’ve looked at hundreds of resumes since the economic slide and I see A players being TOO HUMBLE. Don’t include much about responsibilities and don’t state your career objective (save that for the cover letter). Don’t puff yourself up – stick to the facts. But make it clear when YOU accomplished something and not just the team, of which you were a member.
- Rewrite your cover letter. Cover letters are usually boring and canned. Speak from the heart, say what you’re looking for, but here is the key…
- Make it clear that your bosses in the past decade would give you rave reviews. If you have received overall performance ratings that are tops, say so. Humble A players rarely do this – too bad because C players don’t do it for a different reason (it ain’t true that bosses gave them top ratings!).
- Offer to arrange personal reference calls with your former bosses (and subordinates and peers, too). Only A players CAN make such an offer and actually follow through, but again they are too humble. In the past their network got them a job and they knew that others were singing their praises, so they were simply their usual understated self. In this economy if you won Olympic gold metals, you’d better display them if you want to get on the team. It frankly impresses the heck out of recruiters and hiring managers to read and hear that your former bosses would praise you and that YOU do the work of arranging the phone calls.
- Don’t accept low pay. In the past few months I’ve seen some companies take advantage of people they are recruiting and hiring, knowing that even A players are desperate. Trouble is, when the economy improves, A players who KNEW they were worth more than what they were paid, leave. Companies you would want to work for won’t try to cheat you in the short term.
Brad writes that he’s interviewed more than 6,500 people over the years as his basis point for the credibility of his thoughts. I’d make the argument that I’ve seen more than 100,000 resumes in my career and maybe 0.1% of them were well written. Takeaway value = far too many hiring managers who made snap decisions about candidates based on just a resume even though resumes have a high likelihood of not telling anywhere close to the whole story about someone.
Tags: A-Players, Brad Smart, C-Players, chris mursau, hire better, hiring, hiring manager, Interview, job postings, resume, smarttopgrading, Topgrading, topgrading methodology, TORC, unemployment, unemployment rate
Continuing with the theme of evaluating the behaviors of Major League Baseball Teams and trying to tie their contracts, incentives, etc into those of a business, I thought it would be beneficial to look at an interesting article that was just published called, “How One Cy Young Vote Could Be Worth $21 Million“.
Written by Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Mr. Goold pulled back the curtain on the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) by suggesting that they were politically motivated (or de-motivated) when casting their votes for this (and previous) Cy Young award winners.
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of Steven Levitt (Author of Freakonomics). In his blog that he writes for the New York Times entitled “The Hidden Side of Everything” he said:
Most people, given the opportunity, would like to have a say in what other people earn. If someone is nice to me, throw a little extra Christmas bonus their way. If they are rude and surly, how about a 3 percent pay cut?
So I find it interesting that the Baseball Writers of America (BBWAA) recently approved a rule which says that any player who has an incentive clause based on an award voted by the BBWAA (e.g., the Cy Young award) will not be eligible to win that award. The proximate cause of this decision is Curt Schilling’s contract, which pays him $1 million if he gets even a single third place vote for the Cy Young. When he joked about paying off a writer to throw him a vote, that was the last straw.
I understand that the politics of voting for the Cy Young award may not make all that much sense to you if you’re wondering why I’m bringing this up so I’ll get to my point. Topgrading has long suggested a Scorecard by which you can measure the performance of an employee using statistics, accountabilities and accomplishments. This is something that baseball has been doing for over a decade. Granted, it’s a lot easier to measure OPS (On Base Average Plus Slugging Percentage), ERA (Earned Run Average), WHIP (Walks & Hits per Inning Pitched) or VORP (Value over a Replacement Player) than whether an HR Manager was able to improve the coaching skills of middle management, but the idea is the same.
For a baseball player, when millions of dollars are at stake, would you rather have someone demand $10 million per year in guaranteed pay with no performance incentives (hint: the sales guy who wants a base of $150k) or would you be more inclined to sign the player who said, “Pay me less than the market but if I perform, you’re going to need to back a bank truck up to my house”? As a business owner, I’m MUCH more inclined to risk the chance of paying a lot more in the long run to get stellar performance because, if the employee performs at a level a lot higher than what I anticipated, our company will be better for it.
Here are some additional thoughts from Derrick Goold on Adam Wainwright, the Runner-Up for the 2009 Cy Young Award in the National League:
Wainwright’s deal is packed with a two-year option for 2012 and 2013. Both years are triggered at the same time and the base value set for them is $21 million. Wainwright’s two-year option vests like [Matt] Cain’s [a pitcher with the San Francisco Giants]. If Wainwright finishes the 2011 season healthy — i.e., not on the disabled list with an arm injury — then the option vests if he has pitched a total of 400 innings in the previous two years or finished in the top five of Cy Young voting in the previous two seasons.
Consider that for a moment in light of what happened Thursday [the voting for the NL Cy Young].
If Wainwright finishes in the top five of the award in either the 2010 or 2011 season and he finishes the 2011 season healthy, a $21-million option vests for him and the Cardinals. We saw yesterday two voters make two votes that put two pitchers in the top five. That was it. One vote and a healthy arm could equal $21 million.
While I can see the point of Mr. Goold, I’d also argue that paying someone like Adam Wainwright, if he can pitch 400+ innings in the two years leading up to a contract extension and he’s getting votes for the Cy Young, is a VALUE at $21mm. He’ll be about 30 years old (the middle of a Pitcher’s Prime), he’ll have shown stability, he’ll be leading the pitching staff and he’ll have thrown well enough to have earned some recognition.
CEO’s who find themselves worried about Performance-based and Incentive Pay are only worried because they’re incentivizing the wrong things. If you can get your incentives truly aligned with moving your organization in the right direction – they make all the sense in the world.
Our phone has been ringing a lot recently with CEO’s of companies who are reaching out to me with questions about how to do a better job of implementing Topgrading – both to analyze their existing team to make it lean as well as to prepare for new talent acquisition as the economy is heating up and they’re ready to begin scaling again.
In nearly every situation, when I ask them why it is that they’re calling, they tell me, “Well, we tried Topgrading and it it was too hard or it took too long.”
It reminded me of an email I got the other day (I wish I could give credit but I entirely forget where I got it) that I thought I’d share in this blog:
Let’s conduct an experiment.
In the next paragraph, I’ll ask you to try to stop reading, close your eyes and count to 10. After which, you can open your eyes and continue reading.
Close your eyes and count to 10. Give it a good try.
Did you stop reading, close your eyes and count to 10?
If you did, you didn’t try: you actually did stop reading.
If you didn’t stop reading, you didn’t try.
Here’s the point, there is no “try.” You either do something or you don’t.
“Try” is a slippery word. At best, it communicates an intention; not a commitment.
I’ll try to make some call some people that should be on my “virtual bench” today.
I’ll try to get back to that compelling candidate this week.
I’ll try to get a firm plan from my management team around our talent needs for the next 12 months before the end of the month.
I’ll try to work with my HR Leader to help them understand the significance of Topgrading and why they need to learn about it.
You either schedule the time to complete the activity…or you won’t do it.
There is no in between.
Take a look at these two examples:
I’ll try to stop for the red traffic light.
I’ll try to love my children.
When the outcome is important, we leave “TRY” out of the equation.
The next time you’re about to say that you’ll “try to do” something, reconsider.
If the outcome of the activity is important, don’t try. Because if the activity (like Hiring the Right People) isn’t important, then why even try?
Tags: A-Players, chris mursau, hire better, if outcome is important, recruit don't absorb, Recruiting, Scorecard, strategic HR, talent acquisition, Topgrading, topgrading methodology, try, virtual bench