Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hire Adults, Expect Results!

You’re a manager who has just been given control of an important new project, and you want to do absolutely everything you can to make it a sterling success with features and functions that will guarantee strong market success (generating great revenues), outstanding quality, on (or ahead of) time delivery, and within budget. You’ve been given some range of freedom in building your new team; some to be chosen from among existing employees, and the authority to hire some new employees specifically for your project. Most of the available existing employees have been around for a while, and have a mix of capabilities and motivations. You know most of these folks, to varying degrees, and can learn more about them from peers and others. Your new hire budget (as with your overall budget) is, of course, fixed, but you have a choice of how you want to spend that money. You can bring in a good number of inexperienced (and less expensive) people, or fewer (and more expensive) experienced people, or a mix of both. What should guide you in building your new team, and how should you go about it? In the words of my good friend Lee Beaumont**, “Hire adults, expect results!

First let me clarify what I mean by experience and by adult.

Experience in this instance should be viewed as directly applicable and applied knowledge about one or more aspects of the project that are essential to its success. Experience in this definition has little to do with age. There are people straight out of school who may have specialized experience that may be absolutely critical to success, and there may be people who have been around for a long time, but whose experiences, while significant and valuable elsewhere, may not be at all applicable in this project. If you want to succeed, you will need experts with the right kinds of experience.

Being an adult has far more to do with behavior than with chronological age. It has to do with levels of personal responsibility, integrity, and trust. Adults are people who can be trusted to honor their commitments and deliver honest and reliable results in the times they said they would (see Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say, and Do What You Say You’ll Do!). With adults, you don’t spend your time babysitting and resolving stupid conflicts, picking up dropped balls, listening to “can’t do” excuses and other childish behavior. With adults, you get a level of initiative, creativity, and leadership that can emerge and transform the team and project to a new level; breakthrough products can result. With adults, new people in the organization have excellent role models to learn from, and a healthy mentorship relationship can develop that brings benefits to the mentor, apprentice, team, and project (see Learn from Good Role Models; Learn More from Bad!). With adults, you have people you trust to talk to and collaborate with in problem solving. With adults, problems can be foreseen, anticipated, and avoided much earlier and at much less cost. With adults, people rise to the occasion, and delivering on commitments becomes expected and fun. In my career I have known people straight out of school who exhibited outstanding adult behavior, and well-seasoned, even experienced people who still behave like children. Some children (of any age) can be trained, and some cannot! Being an adult does not mean you shouldn’t have fun in your work. Adults can still have fun at work, but not at the expense of others or the project. In fact, having fun should really be a prerequisite, since it is one of the key elements that motivate responsible adults to look forward to going to work every day.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Adapt or Die!

You recently left a prior position of your own accord, because you didn’t find it a fit, or the work environment was unacceptable, or for whatever reason (see Know When to Fold ‘Em, and When It’s Time to ‘Walk Away’, Don’t Turn Back!). Prior to leaving, you looked around for a good opportunity that would be a good match to your background and interests, and that would provide good opportunities for growth. You’ve just accepted a position in what you believe to be a promising company. You’ve been told what your job will be by your hiring manager, by the folks you interviewed with, and by Human Resources. You believe that job description to be a perfect match to your experience and interests, and you’re really looking forward to getting started. But when you start, your first assignment is actually fairly far removed from what you were told. But you do it well anyway. Then your second job builds upon your first, and is also far removed from what you had been told. As you move forward in your new job you find that, while there may be a passing resemblance to what you were told you would be doing, the reality is actually pretty far removed from that job description. What’s going on, and what does this mean for you going forward?

The mismatch of actual job assignment to what you were told it was going to be is typically not due to any ill intent on the part of anybody involved, but more due to the concept of ‘sh!t happens’, and what has happened, totally outside of your control, requires you to get deeply involved in these job assignments somewhat outside of what you expected (see The Best Laid Plans … and Then Life Happens!). You need to decide whether you want to adapt, or find something elsewhere that is more in keeping with what you expected (see Take the Time to Think!).

A reality of life, at least for knowledge workers at almost every level of a company, is that the job you expect to be doing often bears fairly little resemblance to the job you will actually be doing. This can be true for a wide variety of reasons.