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Factor X Featured

7:00pm EDT January 31, 2007

Excellent teachers make themselves progressively unnecessary, and that is what Monica Navarro strives to do when developing her staff. “I give assignments and expect performance,” says Navarro, a principal at law firm Frank, Haron, Weiner and Navarro. “But I also provide the tools and support needed to get the job done. I believe in the Socrates method, which involves asking questions rather than giving answers. Most of the time, people have the solutions inside of them. They just need a little help uncovering them.”

Smart Business spoke with Navarro about how she teaches and challenges her staff.

Q: What qualities do you look for when hiring?

I look for a basic set of academic and professional achievement, but the Factor X is essential. Factor X basically means emotional intelligence.

I would choose a job candidate with astute people skills over a person with stronger academic achievements. I am convinced this is the most critical long-term predictor of success.

Gauging emotional intelligence requires careful interviewing. Does the applicant engage others at a personal level? Do they show maturity in communications and a balanced viewpoint?

When interviewing, I watch for warning signs that emotional intelligence may be deficient; for example, defensiveness or unease when the applicant is required to move outside his or her comfort zone. I look for a fundamental likability, because personality is a tremendous asset in most businesses, including ours. People want to work with those they enjoy being around.

The interview process is a critical time to determine how the applicant will be perceived by customers and in a negotiation situation.

Q: How do you train employees?

I provide a combination of formal and one-on-one training. Formal training includes seminars and workshops designed to strengthen skills.

One-on-one training is a little more complex. I always give associates tasks appropriate for their skill level and beyond to promote professional growth. It’s important not to give assignments that are outside the ballpark. This can blow their confidence.

But every project should push them a little beyond what they might see as their limits. It’s a balancing act.

I’m communicative with my associates — generous with praise but straightforward when work is not up to par. I help staff grow by asking the right questions. The end goal is to move the associates to a point that they can identify issues and fix them independently.

Q: How do you balance work and personal lives?

I feel very strongly about striking the right balance between work and other aspects of life. Without the proper balance, your outlook can become skewed and one-dimensional.

The best way to achieve balance is to operate efficiently. There are only so many hours in the day, so find a way to use time on the job wisely. You cannot do this without both discipline and a plan.

At the end of the day, I always, one, take inventory of what has been done, and two, determine what needs to be done tomorrow. Having this list keeps me in control and in charge of my work day.

Also, to the best of my ability, I avoid bouncing from project to project. Being reactive can result in a considerable amount of wasted time. Every time you get pulled off of one task and on to another, it takes several minutes to mentally get back to the place you were before. If this happens several times a day, it could mean losing an hour of precious work time.

Finally, you must devote the appropriate amount of time to every project. I could easily spend two weeks writing a brief. I could fine-tune it, and the end product would be flawless. But if I realistically only have half a day to get it done, I need to maintain the proper focus and pace.

Q: How do you deal with fluctuations in your industry?

Managing fluctuations requires two skills: diversifying and planning. Overly specialized employees are vulnerable to changes in the economy or consumer demands. Having a wide breadth of expertise allows employees to be more limber and efficient. As one sector goes down, another invariably goes up. Every organization needs to anticipate, monitor and be prepared for shifts in demand.

Trend forecasting is important in the planning process. It’s dangerous to get so focused on the day-to-day demands of the business that you lose sight of what is coming tomorrow.

Q: How do you measure success?

My idea of success is much deeper than a fat paycheck. I think those who measure success in dollar signs are actually poor people. Success includes rising up to your potential, tackling every job with tenacity and 100 percent effort, and sleeping well at night with a clear conscience.

Do the right thing, and success will fall into place. People — both employees and clients — will stick with you. Harmony and a sense of balance will be generated. You will have the unique privilege of getting paid for something you love to do. That’s success.

HOW TO REACH: Frank, Haron, Weiner and Navarro, (248) 952-0400 or www.fhwnlaw.com