Archives for September 2011

Personal Styles That Bias Performance Reviews.

Performance reviews, one of the most dreaded managerial responsibilities, are difficult enough to do without personal bias getting in the way. What follows are highlights about how your personal style, identified using the DISC behavioral model, might get in the way of effectively managing your employees.

DISC Personality and Behavior Assessment Profile

“D”s prefer to evaluate others by how well they meet the standards and challenges set forth by the “D.” The amount of work accomplished by others must meet the “D’s” expectations. They tend to set demanding standards for themselves and will seek out who do likewise. However, they will become impatient when employees don’t do what was expected and even more competitive when people surpass them. They tend to set stretch goals. When an employee isn’t doing well, high “D”s don’t have much problem relaying bad news and discipline. But their sometimes abrupt, just-get-it-over-with behavior comes off as confrontational, more than constructive feedback, even when what they had to say needed to be said. You’ll often hear others say, “I agree with what he said, but not how he said it.” Some high “D”s may even send a memo or email telling an employee they’re not pulling their weight or even that they’re fired. Positive perfomance evaluations are based on results, not the details. Coaching will be limited to “just go do it and keep me posted.”

“I”s tend to evaluate other by how well they verabilze feeling. They see performance reviews more as a time to look talk about doing better than a time to confront underperformance. High “I”s prefer a face to face meeting, often times in a casual setting. They may even schedule a difficult meeting over lunch. Telling an employee bad news is extremely difficult for the high “I”; they may tend to beat around the bush before telling an employee what needs to be said. High “I”s tend to set optimistic goals, even unrealistic, because it never hurts to dream. While other high “I”s might enjoy their cordial presentation and letting under-performing employees down easy, other behavioral styles will likely be thinking, “why don’t you just say it and stop talking already?” High “I”s are great coaches if you believe inspiration and motivation can change behavior. But most coaching sessions will be more talk than action, with the coach doing most of the talking.

If any style is challenged by performance reviews, it’s the high “S”. Performance reviews are truly times to acknowledge contributions of the employee and identify areas of improvement. High “S”s will likely be the most lenient managers. They prefer stability to change. Discplining or terminating an employee is very stressful and requires change if the employee leaves or needs to be replaced. The high “S” may not sleep well the night before an evaluation and is especially drained after the meeting. They will bend over backwards to accomodate under-performance, and hope the employee will quit before they have to confront them. High “S”s tend to set realistic goals – why set goals you can’t reach, it’s risky, confrontational and demoralizing. High “S”s are the very best listeners and natural coaches of all the styles.

For the high “C”, performance evaluations are rather “matter of fact.” Their reviews are well-documented, detailed, and critical but objective. Results, accuracy, and cognition get high ratings. If the top rating is a 5 for outstanding performance, high “C”s rarely give higher than a “4” – “there is always room for improvement”, they think. Goals are specific and measurable with exact milestones. They will be realistic and at least in the high “C”s mind, attainable. High “C”s set a very high standard and how you reach your goals is just as important as getting the result. Ongoing feedback will be rare but when provided, the high “C” will consider it constructive. Unfortunately the recipients might perceive it as critical

Understanding how your personal style might bias your judgment of employee behavior begins with a DISC self-assessment. For more information about the DISC personality test profile, click here.

This article originally appeared in The Total View, a weekly online newsletter that focuses on hiring, management and retention strategies. The Total View is written and published by Ira S. Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions and is distributed with permission by The Chrysalis Corporation. Subscribe for FREE to The Total View by typing your e-mail address in the newsletter sign-up box on the right side of this page.


So Much Free Advice Available, Why Are Interviews So Ineffective?

Creating an effective employer interview question guide is a necessity for hiring qualified workers. But a simple search for the phrase “interview question guide” turns up 60,200,200 Google results in only 0.14 seconds.  With such an ample supply of free advice, why are employee interviews so ineffective at employee screening and employee selection?

The problem with most employee interviews is that the wrong questions can elicit persuasive but unpredictive candidate responses that influence managers to hire them.

There are two types of wrong questions.  First, you have the illegal questions – the questions you can’t ask.  Federal and some state law explicitly prohibit asking specific questions about age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion and others.  These questions are nixed because they generally have nothing to do with the ability to do the job.  The solution to this problem is simple – avoid these questions.

That leads us to the second type of questions – the questions you can ask.  Unfortunately that approach doesn’t mean you can ask just any question that comes to mind.

For example, an interviewer often asks this popular interview question to a managerial candidate: “describe for me how you have motivated an under-performing employee?”  The candidate describes a scenario that is music to the interviewer’s ears. The interviewer checks off that question and moves on to the next. Unfortunately the candidate could have just recited a scripted response he picked up on the Internet or learned from a friend. Providing the “right” answer doesn’t conclude the candidate actually performed this act or even has the ability to do it. All he or she did was merely show a skill in answering a question.

While the candidate might have indeed accomplished what he says he did, the skilled interviewer should not accept the response at face value.  He should follow up by asking something like “And how did you learn that process?” or “have you been able to repeat that success again?”  Few if any interview questions relating to job fit should ever answered satisfactorily with just one response.  The interviewer should always be prepared with a probing follow up question. My rule of thumb is that for every question asked, the interviewer should be prepared to ask two additional follow up questions.

Interviewers also tend to ask a lot of questions that might be job related, but not job relevant.  Agencies like Equal Employment Opportunity Commission only require that employers ask job related questions.  But while a question like “tell me what you disliked about your last job” might be job related, it might not help you determine if the individual can actually do the job for you.  A job relevant question might be “tell me how you generate and qualify leads” or “describe your role in developing and implementing a plan to reduce employee turnover.”

By asking the right job relevant questions, followed up with additional probing questions to challenge your assumptions, managers will begin to hire successful workers and avoid the problem of selecting candidates who interview well, but perform poorly.

This article originally appeared in The Total View, a weekly online newsletter that focuses on hiring, management and retention strategies. The Total View is written and published by Ira S. Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions and is distributed with permission by The Chrysalis Corporation. Subscribe for FREE to The Total View by typing your e-mail address in the newsletter sign-up box on the right side of this page.


Sales Personality Traits Draw A Fine Line Between Success and Failure

Not all salespeople are successful. Given the same experience and education,Sales Personality Personality Test why do some salespeople succeed where others fail? Is it motivation? Product knowledge? Evidence suggests that key personality traits directly influence a top performers’ selling style and ultimately their success. What follows is a list of my findings after reviewing thousands of sales personality tests and post-hire discussions with clients.

Collaborative – A fine line exists between confidence and bravado, ambition and selfishness. Ego and greed are two sales personality traits that don’t mix well with clients. While there is no question that the salesperson who believes “that second place is the first place for losers” can be successful, that’s a tough blueprint for sustainable relationships. Long-term high value clients don’t develop when every sales transaction has a winner and loser. Top performing salespeople in all but the low-margin, high volume transactional sale requires the ability to collaborate with, not compete against, customers. The focal point of every sales transaction should be team, which includes the customer and other critical players within the company. A dash of modesty and humility wouldn’t hurt either.

Conscientiousness – The stereotypical salesperson is often deemed to be synonymous with over-promising, under-delivering. It’s also a given that most top performers don’t like completing and submitting reports. But not liking details and low compliance doesn’t bode well with clients. One trait that differentiates top performers from average and below-performers is conscientiousness, having a high level of reliability and accountability.

Curiosity – A passion for asking questions (and then listening for the answer) is a trait that over three-quarters of top performers possess. Especially in today’s marketplace, a thirst for knowledge and desire to be a subject matter expert is a must. Unfortunately for many previously successful salespeople, a large part of their past success relied on others spoon feeding them information. But now, the ability to solve problems quickly is a key differentiator. This doesn’t mean that every top performer is a walking/talking encyclopedia. But it does mean that he or she has to know what to ask and where to get the information about a customer’s business, competition, and customers almost on the fly. On the other hand, low performers take too much for granted and accept too much information at face value.

Sociability – One of the most surprising differences between top performing salespeople and those ranking in the bottom half is their level of sociability and outgoingness – and that doesn’t mean hire extroverts, reject introverts. Many “best fit” models place a high value on extroversion as a predictor for sales success. But research has shown time and again that listening skills are just as important to selling as networking and persuasiveness. Managers tend to be impressed with the extrovert who can walk into a room of 100 strangers and within minutes be the life of the party. They are the analog equivalent of the Facebook user who has 5,000 “friends,” a large rolodex. But extroverts have a tendency to do a lot of talking and not enough listening (That’s what makes them extroverts!) But how many salespeople do you know (or maybe even hired) that has thousands of contacts but few sales. While presentation and interpersonal skills are critical, over-reliance on sociability and extroversion as key indicators for hiring salespeople leads to a significant number of failures. In other words, the introvert who is curious, articulate, and personable yet reserved, can be just as successful if not more so than the gregarious extrovert.

Stability – Resilience and coping skills are likely the most overlooked traits when it comes to selecting salesperson. Emotional stability which drives both resilience and stress management is also the most misunderstood trait. In one study after the other, too much stability is as bad as too little when it comes to predicting top performers. In fact, in several studies, 50 percent of low performing salespeople had so much composure that they lacked a sense of urgency, an Achilles Heel in most sales organizations. Likewise, candidates who had an “edge” about them – always restless and anxious, almost ADHD-like – often turn out to be the high-energy, always “on” individuals. Management rewards them for hard work and loyalty, only to discover that they are also high maintenance, demanding, and needy. Over time, the team of “Energizer” bunnies wears everyone down around them, including the manager. Of all the sales personality traits, the right amount of emotional stability is one of the most predictive of top performance.

These five traits can be assessed easily with a number of different employee assessment tools, including a combination sales personality tests and behavioral interviewing. The assessment model I recommend is based on the 5-Factor model, most easily remembered by the acronym OCEAN – openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. We currently offer three different assessments based on this model – Clues, Prevue, and ASSESS.

Learn more about each of these assessments and how they might fit in your business, contact us today for a complimentary, no-obligation, employee selection consultation. We guarantee that you will take away valuable information that you can implement immediately to improve your company’s hiring process – regardless of whether you become a client of ours.

Click HERE to make contact!


This article originally appeared in The Total View, a weekly online newsletter that focuses on hiring, management and retention strategies. The Total View is written and published by Ira S. Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions and is distributed with permission by The Chrysalis Corporation. Subscribe for FREE to The Total View by typing your e-mail address in the newsletter sign-up box on the right side of this page.

18+ Surprising Things That 18-Year-Olds Find Normal

No matter how much I try, I’m amazed each August when the Beloit College Mindset List is released. And this year’s list for the Class of 2015 is no exception.

The list has been compiled since 1998 by Beloit’s former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief and Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride. Coincidentally, they just released a new book The Mindset Lists of American History and the subtitle says it all: From Typewriters to Text Messages, What Ten Generations of Americans Think Is Normal.

Originally intended to remind college professors that their students are from a different generation not a distant planet, the list is an intriguing, and sometimes cruel, reminder that we’re getting older. “We” for this example includes Veterans (born prior to 1946), Baby Boomers (1946-1964), and much to their chagrin Generation X (1965-1979). What’s important, each generation considers their experiences and values normal. Unfortunately what is normal for a Baby Boomer is just history for the Millennials. And what is normal for Millennials seems quaint and even trivial to generations that passed before them.

This year’s “Mindset List” again includes life shaping experiences that are part of a Baby Boomer’s or Generation’s DNA but is totally irrelevant for the college freshmen, the class of 2015 mostly born in 1993. As the survey suggests, this younger generation hasn’t the foggiest idea about what older generations are talking about when they we say “I remember when….” For Baby Boomers, the list is a harsh reminder about how much times have changed in just 40 years.

Consider this: Back in the ’60s, people pulled up to the gas pump and get 3 gallons of gas plus change, a windshield wash, and oil check (gas was only 31 cents a gallon). You could also send letters to 20 friends for $1 or send 25 postcards. And if you stopped by the grocery store, you could purchase a gallon of milk for 95 cents; a Pound of sirloin steak for 85 cents; and a six-pack of Pepsi for 59 cents. And remember that media called the newspaper? You could get the New York Times for 10 cents from Monday through Saturday. And if you splurged you could spend 30 cents for the Sunday edition! For today’s 18-year-old, this isn’t recent history – it’s almost fiction.

Flash forward to the Millennials entering college this week. Among other things, a river in South America is not the first thing they think of when they hear the word Amazon; there always has been an Internet ramp onto the information highway; “PC” doesn’t stand for “political correctness”; they’ve never touched a “dial” on a TV; LBJ stands for LeBron James and music has always been available via free downloads.

Here’s 18 more things a few more things that 18 year olds starting college this month find normal:

1. Andre the Giant, River Phoenix, Frank Zappa, Arthur Ashe and the Commodore 64 have always been dead.

2. States and Velcro parents have always required that they wear their bike helmets.

3. The only significant labor disputes in their lifetimes have been in major league sports.

4. There have always been at least two women on the Supreme Court, and women have always commanded U.S. Navy ships.

5. “Don’t touch that dial!”….what dial?

6. Refer to LBJ, and they might assume you’re talking about LeBron James.

7. They’ve always gone to school with Mohammed and Jesus.

8. The Rocky Horror Picture Show has always been available on TV.

9. Arnold Palmer has always been a drink.

10. Dial-up is soooooooooo last century!

11. Their older siblings have told them about the days when Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera were Mouseketeers.

12. Music has always been available via free downloads.

13. Sears has never sold anything out of a Big Book that could also serve as a doorstop.

14. They’ve always wanted to be like Shaq or Kobe: Michael (Jordan) Who?

15. They’ve often broken up with their significant others via texting, Facebook, or MySpace.

16. Their parents sort of remember Woolworths as this store that used to be downtown.

17. They won’t go near a retailer that lacks a website.

18. “PC” has come to mean Personal Computer, not Political Correctness.

Read the rest of the 2015 Beloit College Mindset List.