When you’re interviewing job candidates, Bill Fink’s got one important piece of advice for you: Shut up and listen.
The worst thing CEOs can do is waste valuable minutes championing the merits of their companies instead of vetting the skill sets of potential employees. As founder, owner, president and CEO of Area Wide Protective Inc., Fink has become something of an expert on the subject of interviewing. He’s listened to hundreds of job candidates while increasing the payroll at his temporary traffic control service provider from 139 employees in 2002 to 610 in 2007.
During that same time, he has also asked interviewees a lot of questions. His favorite? “Tell me how you made your last job bigger than how you found it.”
The question not only helps him gauge a respondent’s growth potential, it also introduces that person to an atmosphere of growth that has fueled the company to 2007 revenue of $27 million.
Smart Business spoke with Fink about how to develop a customized training template after you’ve listened to and chosen the best new hire.
Don’t approach training with a onesize-fits-all mentality. A common mistake in business is the notion that one size fits all in training. To me, only the most rudimentary aspects of company orientation are one-size-fits-all.
Past that, training should be customized to the individual, especially at entry-level management positions and above.
What we do is look at the relative strengths and weaknesses of the individual, and then we customize training and orientation to enhance those strengths and bolster the weaknesses.
For example, ‘This guy is a superb public speaker, but he doesn’t have an organized-enough mind. We need to get him into some training where he will be better able to organize his thoughts, his day, his time.’
No two people are alike. No two people bring the same skill set or strengths and weaknesses to an organization, and that’s a good thing. But, at the same time then, if no two people are alike, then no two training protocols are alike, either, nor should they be.
Get buy-in through inclusion. Turf battles within organizations are ridiculous. They waste time, and they’re destructive. The best way to fight that is to be inclusive.
In terms of developing a training template for Joe, new middle manger, I can leave that to the vice president of human resources and say, ‘That’s his turf.’
But if Joe doesn’t become a better time manager than he was when he walked in the door, we’re all going to be looking at the VP of HR and saying, ‘What the hell happened here?’ But if we all bought in from the beginning, then it’s a collective failure, and the turfiness doesn’t manifest itself.
Once (the VP of HR) develops a training protocol for Joe, he’ll present that to us. Then the rest of the senior staff will say, ‘Don’t you think it would be better to dwell on this portion of the training a little more than the other?’
Then there’s buy-in. We’ve all had our hand in crafting the best plan possible.
For the important areas of the company’s future, a collective approach works best and produces the best results.
Encourage healthy debate. Debate is good, and it is not window dressing. I don’t want 100 yesmen or -women.
The first thing is setting sincere and honest ground rules. For most of the employees, even if they’re senior staff members, when the boss is present, the implication is always there that (they’re) really expected to take the boss’s point of view.
I make it clear that at a meeting, ‘Yes, I will make the decision at the end of the day, but for right now, in the course of this discussion, we are all equals, and every opinion is equal. I will judge you more by your ability to stake out and articulate a position.’
Over time, they get comfortable with that and very good and spirited debate follows. From that debate comes invariably the right answer.
Sell change. Selling change effectively to your people is the most important sale that a company makes. It’s not landing the million-dollar account.
What you have to do to sell change is to accurately and passionately portray the features and the benefits of the improvement that will occur once that change is made. Depending on the level of change, speak to the change agents personally. Look at their faces. Answer their questions.
If a physician came to you today and said, ‘You need a total hip replacement,’ he would first have to make a convincing case: ‘The pain you’ve been having, it’s going to get better once the surgery happens. You’re going to have a six-month rehab, but, at the end of the day, you’re going to be able to do more of the things that you want to do, and you’re going to be able to do them better then you did before.’
That’s an oversimplified example, but a lot of CEOs and upper-level management get irritated and angry when their people don’t accept change, and you end up saying something like, ‘This is what we’re doing. Take it, or leave it.’
Sure, you can mandate change, but you’re not going to get the morale and the motivation that you’d get if you effectively sold change. It’s one thing [for your employees] to say, ‘I understand where you’re going here. I suppose I can go along with this.’ That’s not a sale.
A sale is, ‘Wow, you’re right. We really are going to be better off. This really will work.’ That’s the reaction that I want.
HOW TO REACH: Area Wide Protective Inc., (330) 644-0655 or www.awptrafficsafety.com