Cultivating A Dream Workplace – Hiring Managers

Hiring The Right Manager vs. Any Manager

Ryan Houmand of Qwerke philosophy on hiring managers is simple – they need to know how to manage! This sounds basic, but most companies hire managers who are really great individual contributors as sale people, engineers, etc and not those who are actually skilled at managing. The difference can be staggering for your company and its overall success.

What is your background and what kind of work do you do currently?

I hold a BA in Economics and an MBA and have 20 years of management experience. A lot of that with one company, ADP. I’m now trying my hand at retail leadership with the Home Depot. It’s a steep learning curve but it’s a blast!

What I discovered I do best is develop people and help them approach their potential. It’s the part I loved from every job – regardless of the industry. For example, at ADP I helped members of my teams find their best career path and become highly engaged along the way. The best career path wasn’t always on my team, sometimes it wasn’t even with ADP, but finding the right path is what’s important. I’m proud that I had some of the most highly engaged teams that company had ever seen.

At The Home Depot, there are two constituencies – customers and the associates on my team. I help customers accomplish things on their own that they didn’t think they could do (I’ve got lots of stories). I’m helping the associates on my team discover the parts of the job that they do really well and helping them focus on doing those things even better. Hopefully along the way, they’ll find the career path they want to follow. 

Finally, I spent one season at Park City Mountain Resort as a snowboard instructor. I did this at age 48. I found out on the first day that I was exactly twice the age of the next oldest trainee. But I did it because I love to develop people. I love to ride a snowboard, but there’s nothing like helping someone else learn it!

I wrote a book called “A Passion for Monday” because I really do believe you can love Monday just like Friday, but for a different reason. I’ve appeared on lots of morning news shows talking about “The 3 Mistakes That Make People Hate Monday” and I love to speak to groups on the subject of playing to your strengths and loving Monday. I’ve spoken at places like DisruptHR, the Utah Bankers Association, Association for Talent Development and have guest lectured at a number of graduate and undergraduate business schools.  I even gave a talk at Career Day at my son’s high school – that was a favorite.

What should companies look for when bringing on new managers?

The mistake I see all too frequently is that companies take their star individual contributor, rationalize that this is the person that will be the greatest leader for the team, and promote them. The reason this is a mistake is because those are two different talent sets.

The Gallup organization has decades of research on this topic and their studies show that companies make the wrong choice when hiring a manager 82% of the time. Further, they have found that only about 1 in 10 people have the natural talent to be great managers. They concede that about another 20% can learn what they need to be effective, or at least get by. Put in those terms, you might find a great manager in your pool of top performers, but that’s exceptionally rare. They are star performers because they have the talents to make them really great at doing the work.

Conversely, natural managers have talents that make them really great managers. They may be competent individual contributors, but they shine when they can manage the team. Neither skill set is better than the other; They’re just different.

If you miscast either of them they are never going to be engaged, never going to be truly happy. They’ll be less productive, less effective and the organization and your customers will feel it.

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Recruiting With Care

How do we vet for great managers in the interview process?

Find out why they want to be a manager. It will be one of three things:

  1. Money – They’ve reached the top of their salary grade, and to get a raise or progress at all they have to go into management.
  2. Influence – They want to be the boss, have the influence, make the decisions.
  3. They Love Managing – It’s all they ever wanted to do, it’s the only place they feel at home. A true manager wants to lead a team regardless of what it pays.

Reason #1 is a horrible reason to promote someone. If you have people in that situation, fix your compensation (because it is badly broken), so that they don’t have to go into management to make a living wage. If it’s reason #2, the influence or to be the boss, you still don’t have the right person.

On the other hand, if they can go on and on with stories of how they have helped people develop careers, resolve critical work issues, or have a talent for removing barriers, then you have a potential candidate. You might even ask, “If this position came without a raise, would you still want the job?”

Further, if their examples are all about how good they are as individual contributors, that’s nice, but irrelevant to the role of manager. You’re better off hiring a great manager with no knowledge of the job of the individual contributors than a top individual contributor with no management experience.

In that same series of studies mentioned above, Gallup found that these 5 talents are common among the greatest managers:

  • They motivate every single employee to take action and engage employees with a compelling mission and vision.
  • They have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.
  • They create a culture of clear accountability.
  • They build relationships that create trust, open dialogue, and full transparency.
  • They make decisions based on productivity, not politics.

Look for clues about these 5 talents by asking questions that will allow you a clear view into their experience in these areas.

How do we attract good managers to come and work for our organization?

One Word: Culture.

It’s not a quick fix and so it’s not the answer most people want to hear, but it’s the main thing that will attract good people.

Sure you can buy managers from other organizations with inflated salaries, but we know that money is not what engages or retains. Using money or other extrinsic motivators promotes adverse selection. People come to you for the wrong reasons, and so you get the wrong people. Referral bonuses work the same way. I know someone who has created a whole cottage industry around recruiting people regardless of whether or not they will be a good fit.

When you have a great place to work where the employees are engaged, people want to work there. Not only that, your internal people become great brand ambassadors and want their best friends, the ones they trust to do good work, to come be a part of that culture.

I like what I see in some of the Gallup research about employee engagement. Without going into a lot of detail, they have found that there are just a few things that drive employees’ productive motivations on the job. They are things like: helping people understand what’s expected of them, helping them put their talents to work every day, making sure they have the tools and other resources to do their job right, making sure their opinions count, developing them, and giving them chances to learn and grow.

All these things are important to managers and front-line employees from every generation. Once you’re on your way to a great culture, I think your brand and all its content need to bleed that cultural message. I really like what I see NextWave Hire helping organizations do. It’s always best to find an expert to help get your cultural message into the hands of those you want to attract.

Once in the door, ask them the right questions and don’t be afraid to dig deeper. Too often we interview with the same set of questions and we don’t deviate from that script. If you want to know more, ask more questions.

I like questions that elicit strong emotions like:

  • What do you LOVE about what we do here?
  • Why do you LOVE being a manager?
  • Why do you want to manage THIS team?
  • What makes you a GREAT manager?

As opposed to:

  • Why do you want to work here? (“I’m a hard worker and I’m detail oriented”)
  • Why do you want to be a manager? (I like to get into details and I like to work hard)
  • What makes you a good manager? (Did I mention I’m a hard worker AND that I’m detail oriented?)

Imagine trying to answer those questions yourself and you’ll understand the difference.

Great managers aren’t easy to come by, but they are out there. You just have to find them. You probably have some great leaders in your organization, but they may not be your current managers. Identify those with leadership talent early and get them on the fast track to management. Don’t fall into the trap of making them put in their time. If they have the talent to be great managers, they were born that way so development will be swift. You just need to teach them the business, the procedures and help them reach their potential.

Fitting the Position to the Person

Despite the challenge of hiring professionals who are strong managers, it’s important to emphasize this skill set when vetting candidates.  As we know, managers can have amazing impacts on the productivity of an entire team! Further, your company’s culture and employer brand are going to be effected greatly by the quality of your managers and their abilities to get the most out of people. Contact us to learn more about how to get great candidates to come to you.