Once upon a time, a manager had a frog named Fred working on his team. After returning from a strategic planning retreat, he passionately exclaimed to Fred, “We’re going to open an air courier division! I’m going to teach you to fly!” Fred responded, “I can’t fly. I am a frog, not a bird.”

Disappointed at Fred’s lack of commitment, the manager told Fred, “That negative attitude could be a real problem. I am putting you through a training program.” So, Fred attended workshops, viewed inspiring videos, and read personal growth books.

On the first day of flying lessons, the manager could barely control his excitement. Fred could barely control his bladder. The manager explained that their office building had seven floors, and each day, Fred would jump out of a window, starting on the first floor and eventually getting to the top floor. By the time they reached the top floor, Fred would surely be able to fly.

Fred pleaded for his life, but it fell on deaf ears. He just isn’t committed to this process, thought the manager. But I won’t let nay-sayers get in my way. With that, the manager opened the window and threw Fred off the first floor. Fred landed with a dull thud and almost killed an unemployed carrier pigeon hunting for crumbs on the sidewalk below.

The next day, Fred begged not to be thrown out the window. The manager referred to a book on change management and read the part about how managers must always expect resistance when implementing new programs. Out the window went Fred with a splat.

This training routine continued through days three and four. Fred made even bigger splats as he was tossed from the third and fourth floors. Fred was trying his best. On the fifth day, after the manager urged him to fall smarter, not harder, Fred flapped his legs madly in a vain attempt to fly. On the sixth day, he tied a small red cape around his neck and tried to think Superman thoughts.

By the seventh day, Fred accepted his fate and no longer begged for mercy. He simply looked at the manager and said, “You know you’re killing me, don’t you?” The manager pointed out that Fred failed to meet any of their performance goals. Fred said quietly, “Shut up and open the window.” He leaped out, taking careful aim at the large, jagged rock by the corner of the building.

Fred went to that great lily pad in the sky.


Are You Trying to Turn Boots into Biscuits?

An old bit of Texas wisdom teaches that “you can put your boots in the oven, but that don’t make them biscuits.” Poor hiring and promotion decisions are culture and commitment killers. Highly effective leaders in high-performing organizations invest a high amount of time assessing new people they are hiring and everyone they’re considering promoting.

Most managers will interview someone once or twice before making a hiring decision. Strong leaders will put candidates through 4, 5, 6, or more personal, peer, and team interviews. A study by the Center for Creative Leadership found that when one individual made hiring decisions for management positions, the new hire was judged to be successful just 35% of the time. When a hiring team of four or five made the decision, success rose to 55%. But when the small group included both customers and subordinates, success rates soared to 70%.


Who and How You Hire Sends Powerful Signals

A robust and rigorous hiring process is much more likely to match the best people with roles that play to their strengths and bring out their best.

A far-reaching selection process that focuses on values as the final and largest hurdle (experience, skill or education, and personal characteristics being the first) also sends these clear signals to the job candidates and to everyone else in your organization:

  • We don’t hire just anybody. You are one of a select few.
  • Our values aren’t just pretty words on the wall.
  • This is an important job. You are an important person.
  • The quality of your work will be every bit as important as “making the numbers.”
  • We’re planning on a long-term relationship.
  • We’re careful about who we hire because we work hard to invest in and support your success.


Hire Flyer: Pitfalls and Pointers

Delegation is Abdication
Don’t leave hiring to human resources professionals. Their expertise is very helpful. But managers must manage — not delegate — hiring. Managers need to “own” the hiring process and the new team members it produces.

“Cap in Hand” Recruiting
Avoid appearing grateful or desperate when there are few qualified candidates, or you know you want a particular one. Make interviews tough and technically demanding — even for people you know you want. Sell the candidate on the job (assuming the fit is right), then turn the tables and encourage the candidate to sell themselves.

“Lone Ranger” Recruiting
Get broad and extensive input from other managers and the candidate’s future coworkers. “Fit” is hard to assess; it takes multiple perceptions from many people on the team. This process also sends a clear signal to a candidate about the value of the job he or she is getting and the need to be a team player. And it builds the commitment of other team members to helping “our” newly hired candidate succeed.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one… “People are our most important resource.” Almost every manager says it, very few live it.