Most of us are familiar with fractals. These are geometric or mathematical patterns that repeat themselves regardless of scale. But most don’t realize that people exhibit similar fractals on the job. I refer to this concept as the Leadership Fractal – a set of skills and competencies that exhibit a repeating pattern growing in scope and scale.
To determine this during the interview I start by evaluating the candidate’s major accomplishments to determine the results achieved and the process used to achieve them. This always involves the successful interaction of planning, team, technical and organizational skills.
When done multiple times a pattern emerges revealing the consistency and quality of the work and the rate of change of growth. Collectively, this is what I call the Leadership Fractal. And when you find it, you’ll discover it’s a great predictor of future success.
Past Leadership is the Best Way to Predict Future Leadership
Some people say past behavior predicts future behavior. But this is only true when the jobs and the environment (e.g., pace, culture, manager, resources, etc.) are identical.
Past performance is a far better predictor of future performance when the jobs or environment are different. To do this properly you first need to define the job differently. I suggest preparing performance profiles that describe the work as a series of 6-8 performances objectives. Then use the Leadership Fractal to bridge the difference gap.
Use the 10-S Leadership Assessment Technique to Bridge Gaps in Skills and Experiences
As you compare a candidate’s major accomplishments to the performance objectives of the job consider these critical factors:
- Scope. Consider the impact of the work, its focus, the size of the budget, size of the teams involved, and the person’s role.
- Scale. Consider the complexity of the work and the different groups the person has responsibility over.
- Staff. Determine who the person manages, how they are managed and developed, the quality of the people the person has hired and if the person manages managers and executives.
- Systems. Understand how the person uses systems and big data to manage, control and predict.
- Sophistication. Consider how all types of decisions are made and the types of decisions the person has made.
- Solutions. Ask candidates how they solved major problems and their focus on balancing the practical needs of getting things done quickly vs. eliminating long-term root cause problems.
- Strategic. Determine if the person sees the big picture regardless of the size of the project. Being able to visualize and articulate a solution, even his/her approach to problem-solving, ensures strategy drives tactics and unintended consequences are avoided.
- Systematic. A proactive and repeatable pattern of improvement ensures projects are successfully and consistently completed on-time and on-budget.
- Skills. Understand how the person used his/her skills, behaviors and competencies to get the required results. It’s what people do with what they have that needs to be assessed, not just what they have.
- Stretch. If the jobs are getting bigger find out why. The strongest people are often assigned to handle the toughest problems. Those who want to get ahead faster volunteer for them.
Rather than look for a perfect match on skills and experiences look for a perfect match on these 10 “S” factors. This will remove the lid on quality of hire by putting a solid floor under it.
Reverse Engineer the Leadership Fractal to Get a Better Job
There is no reason job seekers can’t reverse engineer this entire process during the interview to demonstrate how their track record of past accomplishments matches the open job. Pulling it off requires these critical steps:
Conduct Discovery. You’ll need to first ask the interviewer to describe some of the major challenges in the open job. Then ask lots of questions to understand the problems, the resources available, the business constraints and the people involved.
Prove Your “10S” Ability. You need to provide a number of examples of comparable accomplishments to convince the interviewer you’re a good match on all of the “S”s especially scope, scale, staff, skills and sophistication. As part of this provide lots and lots of specific details including names, dates, amounts and percentages.
Sell Your Leadership Fractal . After you provide a number of examples put them all together to demonstrate your trend of growth over time and the fact that what you’ve accomplished is a great match for what they need done.
Managers use a different process to hire strangers than people they’ve worked with in the past. With acquaintances it’s based on the person’s past performance doing comparable work. If it’s a promotion it involves focusing on the person’s rate of change of growth and ability to handle stretch components of the job. Job seekers need to be sure they’re evaluated the same way. To be successful they need to take matters into their own hands. Those who can demonstrate their Leadership Fractal won’t have a problem.
Being 20 percent better at anything is simple. To be 100 percent better, you need to challenge every assumption and everything you believe to be true.
I was conducting a performance-based hiring interview workshop for recruiters and hiring managers last week. During the opening remarks I asked the group how much better they wanted to become as a result of this course. The responses ranged from 20 to 100 percent. I suggested that becoming 20 percent better at anything required nothing more than being more efficient. However, to be 100 percent better you have to throw out your old playbook and totally rethink the problem. This is probably true about life in general, but since the course was about hiring, I told the group to do these six things to become 100 percent better at hiring.
Image: Getting Images
How to become 100 percent better at hiring
- Define the job before you define the person. I've been successfully recruiting extraordinarily talented people for more than 35 years. I won't take an assignment unless the hiring manager knows what the person needs to accomplish in order to be considered successful. If the hiring manager doesn't know what these performance objectives are, the chance of finding a great person who can and wants to do them is problematic.
- Assess the quality of the person's results, not the quality of the person. Rather than assess the personal characteristics of the candidate, first evaluate the candidate's accomplishments. The simplest way is to use the one-question performance-based interview. Then compare the candidate's accomplishments with what you need done. Not surprising but somewhat counterintuitive, if the person has accomplished something comparable in a similar environment, he or she will possess the exact personal characteristics you're seeking.
- Wait 30 minutes before making any yes/no decision. More hiring errors are made in the first 30 minutes of the interview than any other time. Research has shown that we all look for facts to justify our instant judgment about a person. This is the rationalization effect in action. To counterbalance this, you should use the first 30 minutes of the interview to prove your instant evaluation is wrong. Winning this simple mind game will prevent at least 50 percent of future hiring mistakes.
- Don't negotiate the compensation (or anything else for that matter) before the candidate understands the job. When I talk with a candidate about a job, I start off by saying, "Let's ignore the compensation for a bit and explore the chance the job might represent a career move. If so, we can figure out if the final package makes sense." The point: Changing jobs for a fully employed and extraordinary person involves a detailed understanding of the job, the opportunity, and the circumstances. Preventing this discussion by straining people through some arbitrary and highly negotiable filters is a sure-fire way to miss the chance to see and hire the right person for the right reasons.
- Eliminate gladiator voting by implementing a "wisdom of the crowd" approach. Adding up yes/no votes based on a series of short or biased interviews is unlikely to result in an accurate prediction of on-the-job performance. Using a quality of hire talent scorecard, on which interviewers are assigned a subset of factors to assess and their evidence is shared, will profoundly increase assessment accuracy.
- Think differently. Out-of-the-box thinking starts by recognizing you're in one. This applies to anyone who wants to be 100 percent better at anything, not just 20 percent more efficient.