If a new employee headed out to the job site carrying flags and paint when you knew he was supposed to be locating telecom cables, you’d likely raise an eyebrow and, hopefully, start asking questions. First, were you clear on the job order details? Did he understand what was needed? And was he really just going to mark the surface when what needed to be found was underneath it? Unless safety is a factor, good bosses start with good questions, and in fact, your initial question might be “Are you sure that’s right?” It’s the same question leaders need to ask before making work, leadership, and development decisions.
In a time when quiet quitting is upon us, a pronounced focus is on diversity, and being productive is less about direction than collaborative efforts, the question of “Are you sure that’s right?” is a good conversation starter and also a method for being inclusive. Are you sure that’s the right person for the position? Are you sure that person’s skills line up with your expectations for performance? And are you sure you’ve got the right people in the right positions? Such questions used to be had in discussions around having the right people in the right seats on a bus, but what’s becoming even more important is the timing of the questions you’re asking. Now they need to be addressed before the proverbial bus even pulls up to your office.
Leaders who are hiring, assigning, and developing employees are now tasked with the need for a more prudent and proactive approach. Ask the questions before making the assignment, seeing poor performance, and then having to enact discipline. Ask the questions before your reaction to their action causes you your own discipline, or even your position. And in fact, ask key questions in the following areas so you’re more certain that your answer to “Are you sure that’s right?”, is a resounding yes!
Gone are the days in which a hunch was all that was needed. Even checking references rarely results in information much more helpful. In today’s hiring environment, while vacancies still outweigh those willing to work to fill them, the need to thoroughly vet top tier candidates has become even more important. Spend time with the top two or three candidates and ask a lot of questions. Show them the work, maybe even the equipment. Demonstrate something minor and see how quickly they catch on to it. Scour their social media accounts and take a look at the character, the person, and their tendencies.
While personnel laws vary, the at-will employment concept is consistent. Yes, you can fire one who doesn’t pass muster, but who’s got time to find that out 90 days later? Bringing on a new employee without checking into who they are, what they’ve done, what their character is, based on what you can see or uncover, just might save you from a lawsuit, damage control, tarnishing of other great employees, and disgruntled clients.
Unless he or she has prior experience, it’s likely you would not send a green team member to use a split box locator for the first time, solo, without some assistance. For equipment knowledge, this decision is easy. For soft skills, it can be a bit trickier. Are you sure that’s a good decision to use the less experienced person to handle the complaint hot line? Are you sure that having the technician who’s been locating underground utilities since God was a toddler is the best option for giving slow step-by-step instruction to newbies?
When assigning or providing roles and responsibilities, ask yourself if this person has any natural acumen to conduct the task. If the answer is no, your results will suffer. When it’s less obvious, explore and conduct cross-training or trial periods. Many won’t say they don’t know what they’re doing or aren’t a good fit and instead they’ll sit in the job they don’t do well and quit. Let them kick the tires on any new assignments.
Developing those you lead follows a similar set of rules in that hiring is not a one-and-done effort. Assigning and promoting is not all of the development those you lead need. But as bosses get busy, those same bosses tend to believe that people can go forever without any devotion to their training, skill development, or behavioral needs.
What kind of training do you offer those you work with and lead? Is there a class they can take, a webinar to be seen, or a leadership development program to which they can become a member? Options are there and ignoring their need to grow, be nurtured and developed is not one of them. Ask yourself, are you sure that acting like this is going to get team members to stick around and stay motivated? Are you sure that same action works for your own long-term career satisfaction?
The world and those in it are changing. Employees can appear apathetic, less productive, and at times not very motivated. Don’t rely on the old tried and true methods you learned when new to leadership. Keep asking questions. Maybe start with tomorrow’s assignments and next week’s new hires. Are you sure they’re in the right roles and the right hires?
Monica Wofford, CSP is a leadership development specialist, keynote speaker, and executive coach. For more information on her books, training firm or coaching services, call 1-866-382-0121, or go to www. ContagiousCompanies.com or www.LeadershipDevelopmentCenter.com.