Sunday, December 20, 2015

Identifying Leadership

There is clearly a crisis of leadership in most company and organizational structures; a lack of that which represents true leadership in business. Current hiring practices, as they are trending in the last decade, screen out all but the generic, cardboard cut-out conformists. Likewise, the utilization of psychometric testing has the same objective: to identify a cross-sampling of the “right kind of people” which, whether it was intended or not conveys to innovators, outside-the-box thinkers and stand-apart leadership types that they need not apply. 
Universities don’t develop leaders, it isn’t their function and campus activism isn’t analogous with leadership, in case you needed clarification. Institutions of learning might provide courses in leadership that may identify what leadership is, but this doesn’t produce or develop leaders. Same for most MBA programs in which the operative words, when it comes to Master of Business Administration, is management and administration. By the way, the terms management and leadership are not synonymous; telling people what to do is not emblematic of leadership qualities. There are a lot of managers who think they possess leadership qualities, many of them have Jack Welch’s books displayed for all to see; props that most of them have never read. With regard to company managers, most are preoccupied with self-preservation and maintaining the status quo than they are developing talent around them, preferring instead to surround themselves with yes men and women who won’t challenge them.
Yeah sure, there are people who rise to a challenge and can become fine managers, but they are increasingly fewer. However, there is still a place, an institution where real leadership skills and abilities can be found with predictably higher frequency; an environment of true equal opportunity, of shared risk and mutual respect, a place where developing such people is both a priority and necessity. I am, of course, referring to the under-appreciated, under-valued and under-utilized resource of military veterans. Granted, not every veteran is a leader, but a good many are. In fact, military veterans from most nations possess the very traits that many corporate and organizational structures lack and need - increased self-discipline and organizational skills, to name just two.
Meanwhile, spending company money on goofy and contrived “team-building” weekends, running obstacle courses or walking on hot burning coals, with lots of high-fives, is a bad joke and in this veteran’s opinion, a waste of money and a poor substitute resulting in very little to show for it.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Another Stupid Interview Question

I feel compelled again this week to address yet another ridiculous question interviewees are subjected to and feel obligated to answer. Clearly, the most basic premise of a job interview is for the hiring manager to challenge those with whom they will meet by asking “can you do the job and why should we hire you?” How is it such a basic task can be turned into such a circus; nevertheless, leave it to people without any business sense or bureaucrats to turn even the most straight-forward and clear processes into something unrecognizable and, quite nearly, pointless. 
Have you ever been asked this one, “…what animal would you choose to be?” or any variation referring to a kind of car, a food, even a candy bar you would choose to be? Along with the inevitable follow-up question, “…and why…?” My own wife experienced this very question at an assessment center style interview at a well-known and recognizable company that produces and sells chocolate and coffee, among other products.
She related to me afterwards, one of the attendees answered that she would choose to be a panda, to which the interviewer replied and challenged, “Well, that’s a lazy animal isn’t it?” This sounds more to me like something you’d encounter in a kindergarten or a therapy session. Pardon me but what in the hell does that line of questioning have to do with one’s abilities or qualifications for a job? And yet, somewhere there is some degreed and lofty intellectual who thinks this should be a part of the interview ritual for a Fortune 500 company. Near as I can tell the only thing it really measures is the threshold to which potential employees will allow themselves to be diminished, condescended to and their willingness to be humiliated by whoever is running the interview. I was rather pleased that my wife gave a flippant answer and soon after extricated herself.  But following their example, can I suggest something similarly stupid and pointless?
Here, try this, jump up and down on one foot, rub your tummy in a circle with one hand; meanwhile, at the same time, repeatedly pat the top of your head with the other hand. Yes, please do that because I want to evaluate your multi-tasking skills.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Stupid Interview Question

“What is your biggest weakness?” is one of the dumbest, brain-dead questions to ask a person being evaluated for a potential job opportunity. The people who ask this question actually think they are clever. This question is demonstrative of a true amateur pretending to be otherwise. And if I’ve offended anyone with my direct, but honest, statement please just go crawl away to your safe space and suck your thumb. Sometimes the truth simply needs to be delivered right between the eyes. Sadly many people are not good at conducting an interview, so they compensate with condescension and/or arrogance as a shield to deflect attention to their own shortcomings. We’re always told about the flaws in job candidates but, sometimes, it is the unfortunate applicant who must suffer through a meeting that has more in common with a pointless and meandering inquisition than an interview.
Consider that when you interview for a job, your stated goal is to present yourself in the best possible manner. Granted, their job is to confirm, verify and when there is doubt, to challenge a job seeker’s claims; to test their abilities, evaluate their attitude, learn about their accomplishments and how that person might fit into the organization they want to join, and possibly become a part of it. And yes indeed, an interviewer is and should be looking to expose and identify weaknesses. But, come on, asking someone to describe their own weakness(s) is so clichéd and nobody gives anything but pre-planned and contrived responses anyway. Because, for their part, interviewees usually have at the ready a prepared answer in anticipation, something just as clichéd such as; “I’m a workaholic” which is an equally dumb answer, suggesting an exaggerated work ethic will score points with the interviewer. Or, “I’m a perfectionist and I always strive to do my best.” Yeah I get it; you’re turning a negative into a positive, blah, blah… The reality is both sides are phony, engaging in contrivance while the interviewee seeks to avoid a “gotcha” moment. Yeah, that’s constructive (insert sarcasm here).
Sometimes it ends up being one big waste of time, setting traps and playing games, when an honest business discussion between professionals would suffice and accomplish more.