Recruiting based on behaviour and fit

RecruitingIt surprises me when I talk with people about their approach to personnel selection. So often there is an over focus on skills. This is surprising given that so often when things don’t work out it’s as a result of behaviour and attitude.  There’s an obvious yet overlooked point – the skills element can be taught. Particularly when the candidate has the right attitude. Here’s three suggestions to help you understand more about a persons fit.

1) It starts before you even think about recruiting. Have you consciously thought about the type of environment you need to create success? Often this is skipped over. And often this is to the detriment of team performance. So spend some time thinking and articulating what you want to see. Involving others and developing a written team ethos can help here. Use this as a reference point in the selection process. The added bonus here is that you can use it to drive the existing team performance too. I use the ABC approach to get this conversation going – Attitude, Behaviours & Characteristics.

2) When discussing things with the perspective candidates use questions that help you get beneath the typical prepared answers about past experience. Here’s some examples:
– what are you like to be around when everything is going well?
– what do you do that gets in the way of being your best?
– what about others frustrates you? What behaviour does this provoke in you?

3) Get diversity into the selection approach. A good example of this I’ve seen in one organisation recruiting for a senior position is to use more junior members of staff as part of a panel in an interview. If successful the senior person will need to work with and sell concepts to more junior staff.  Why not start that early. This will bring a more varied perspective to the panel.

There are many ways you could go about the selection process. They will all have pros and cons. Just make sure you are objectively achieving the right balance. Jim Collins in Good to Great describes this as “getting the right people on the bus”. The All Blacks are more upfront about it in their selection with the simple “no dickheads” approach. I’ll leave it to you to determine what criteria they use for assessing that.

Leadership lessons from Le Tour de France

tour stopped 2One of the approaches I look to live by is seek first to understand and then be understood. I was first introduced to this in 1994 when reading Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Time and again I’ve been surprised by how this approach can change my view and more importantly, action. Despite my best intentions, I don’t always get it right.

Stage 3 of the 2015 Tour de France saw two nasty crashes in quick succession involving multiple riders. As a result the Commissaires (race referee) firstly neutralised the race and then stopped it completely for a period. I like masses of cycling fans, disgruntled riders and ‘pundits’ on social media thought this set a dangerous precedent. Particularly given that crashes are an unfortunate, yet inevitable part of the sport. After the stage had finished Christian Prudhomme (the general director of the TdF) explained the decision. All the race doctors and ambulances were dealing with victims of the crashes and this therefore resulted in no protection for the remaining riders in the race. 

On hearing the explanation my view of the situation changed instantly. A great reminder that it’s important to understand the facts before forming an opinion. The first leadership lesson. So what’s the second?

I’ve been following the TdF since 1982. I can’t recall a situation where the race has been stopped as a result of the crash. What happened yesterday was a good example of the leaders needing to assess the situation, interpret and then apply the rules accordingly. Even when this means breaking new ground. Rider safety is a clear situation to understand and make decisions against. As leaders you are likely to find more variables and complexity in the situations you face. The same principles need to apply though. Blindly following the rules is so often the route of poor decision making and loss of engagement from the people you lead. Leadership judgement is what’s required.

See how many times you and apply these two leadership lessons over the next seven days. As always, I’m interested in how you get on.

Learning from cycling’s world hour record ride

Wiggo lifting bikeFollowing on from my last post. Bradley Wiggins was successful in his goal to break the cycling world hour record. He rode 54.526KM (33.88 miles). Impressive stuff. What can we learn from that event when thinking about our plans and goals? Here’s three observations:
1) Things happen outside your control – an example of this from Wiggins’ attempt was the weather. The air pressure was less than ideal for the ride. Having the ability to recognise things outside your control is something that takes honest objectivity and practice. Unfortunately it’s not always as obvious as the weather. More likely it’ll be something less clear cut. An example I see regularly is when people are unsuccessful with getting a new job. Often they place all of the outcome at their door. And of course that can be the case. However, there are multiple alternatives. Asking did I commit myself and prepare in the right way? What could I prepare differently if going for the role again? Questions like these can help to gain objectivity. Of course it could just be that the job was already stitched up behind the scenes and nothing you could have done would have made any difference. If you’re thinking that’s unfair – well sometimes things are. Expending too much energy dwelling on them isn’t going to change the outcome so its time to accept the situation and move on to something more productive.
2) Recognise your team when you’re finished. After Wiggins had finished and become the new world record holder he quickly acknowledged his support team. First up were his wife and children. He explained how they’ve had to live with him whilst he’s gone through the challenges of training and now know far more about “weather atmospheric pressure” than they ever thought possible. For many of us it’s not quite so obvious when we should say thank you. It’s important that we do though. Don’t take it for granted that they know you appreciate them.
3) Hard work pays off. Having been lucky enough to witness the record attempt live at the London Olympic velodrome I was incredibly impressed with the consistency of Wiggins’ performance. He has a reputation for someone who when focused on a goal he believes in, will dedicate himself 100% to making it a success. I think that played out for the hour on the 7th June. He certainly has natural ability. Yet it’s too easy to skip over the hard work and no doubt sacrifice he has made to achieve what he’s done. Would people say that about you when describing your approach to achieving a significant goal? If they do, you are no doubt getting decent results as in my experience dedication and the right hard work does pay off.
How could you apply the above three observations to a goal you’re working on right now? Have a think. We’d love to hear about what you’ve come up with.

Increasing your resilience when goals begin to falter

Wiggins-Hour-Record1-630x432It’s often the case that people give up on a goal way too early. Or perhaps worse, don’t even start for fear of not being successful. This is a real shame because armed with the right strategies and tactics you can dramatically increase your chances of achieving the outcome you want. Here’s three ideas for you to explore:

  • Deliberately writing down the real why you want to achieve something. Often this is the element that people skip over. When enthusiasm is high at the start of working towards a goal it doesn’t feel like a good use of time. As you progress you often find that you’re challenged by the bumps-in-the-road and competing demands for your time. It’s at this point that really understanding your reason why comes to the fore. It will help bring objectivity, rekindle the motivation and help you make better decisions. Go full out with this element. Having something that the goal is contributing to which is bigger can also help.
  • Break things down. Obvious, yet not obvious enough for people to do this on a consistent basis. There are multiple approaches you can take with this. One popular approach is to break a goal down by performance e.g. training for a marathon can be a combination of a range of smaller distance goals. Taking this to the next level you could consider looking at the other demands of the event. Extending the marathon example this might include physical, weight, technique and mental goals.  This will provide a regular feed of activity to monitor your progress. You might like to break things into maintenance and target goals. Often people find the hardest element of this is the thinking and planning. In my experience you’ll significantly increase your percentage chance of success if you invest the time.
  • Involve others. The more publicly you commit to a goal the more likely you are to see things through – it of course doesn’t guarantee success. You’ll likely encounter different types of people as you do this. There are those who will actively support you. There’s also a chance that you’ll come up against the neigh-sayers. You know the sort: “Really, you want to do what?” “Come on, people like you don’t do things like that…”. “What’s the point, how are you going to feel when it doesn’t work out?”. I’m going to be charitable with the last example and give them the benefit-of-the-doubt. Perhaps they genuinely think they have your best interests at heart. However, as Bradley Wiggins proved in 2012, kids from Kilburn can win the Tour de France.
Bradley is about to tackle another big goal as he looks to take on the cycling world hour record. He’s been very open and public about his ambition. Not just to beat the existing distance but to put it beyond the reach of others for years to come. That’s confidence for you. He’ll get quite a lot of his confidence from adopting similar strategies to the examples above. Of course there will also be lots of focus and hard work. We mustn’t forget that bit.

So you’re not Bradley Wiggins and your goal is most probably quite different. Why not go for something you’ve been putting off or thought beyond your reach. Explore these strategies to support you. See what you can achieve in the next 90 days. You never know if you go public you might just inspire other people into action too. We’d love to hear your stories.

Legacy – Leadership Lessons from the All Blacks

LegacyFor those wanting to gain insight into the characteristics of elite performance you will have your time well spent reading James Kerr’s book Legacy. It covers in a readily digestible way, the approach the All Black use to get the best out of their people. At the heart of the ethos put forward is the fact that ‘better people’ make better All Blacks. Kerr makes a compelling case that the approach adopted is readily transferable into other settings. I agree. 

 The book is designed around 15 lessons.  These include: 

1) Sweep the sheds –  never be too big to do the small jobs that need to be done.

2) Pass the ball – leaders create leaders

3) Train to win – practice under pressure.

Throughout the book Kerr quotes from the experiences of current and previous All Blacks. He also draws nicely from other sports, business and leadership development literature. The result is a really decent and motivating read. Still need convincing – take a peep at the short video to give an even greater insight.

Learning from the doctor

doctorOver the last couple of years there have a been a number of instances with members of my family who have needed to make use of doctors in the NHS. One case recently prompts this  post. In my experience doctors are  good at giving feedback.This is my observation about their approach.



Step 1 – Get the difficult news out at the start of the conversation in a constructive and evidenced way.
Step 2 – Ask questions to confirm understanding.
Step 3 – Talk options about what could be done to improve the situation.
Step 4 – Ask questions to confirm understanding.
Step 5 – Agree next steps.

What could we learn from this approach in the workplace?

Point 1.  Don’t dance around a difficult subject with the fear that you’ll upset the person you’re talking to. Talking  vague business speak is something that’s seen in many a workplace conversation I’ve witnessed over the years. People are smart enough to see through small talk and find it frustrating to navigate between the lines to work out the meaning of hinted feedback. This isn’t an excuse for a clumsy or at worst bullying conversation. I love British Cycling’s Dave Brailsford expression ‘compassionately ruthless’. The combination of these two words captures the spirt of what I’m talking about here.

Point 2. Using powerful questions to confirm understanding is key. It’s all to easy to fall into the trap of using closed questions. This can allow the person receiving the feedback to interpret what’s been said and come up with a very different meaning . More powerful questions can really help illuminate understanding, ownership and promote an open dialogue.

Point 3. Leading on from the powerful questions – working together on what could be done to improve a situation is key. Getting buy-in and promoting the need for responsibility is essential to increase the percentage chance of sustained performance improvement. Simply providing ‘solutions’ for the job holder to implement may get a near term lift. If you just rely on this approach, the chances are you’ll be back to square one in the medium-term.

Point 4. See point 2!

Point 5.  Agreeing on the next steps is essential. Establishing real clarity over what is going to happen and who has responsibility for what. Obvious but so often missing or unclear. Allowing enough time for this part of the conversation is also advisable.

So why not adopt this approach the next time you want to conduct a performance feedback session? You might just find you end up with a healthier relationship.

Getting set for the week

weekly reviewThe weekly review and  forward plan keeps you on  top of your commitments  and actions whilst getting  alignment with your values  and your key roles in life.  Done regularly it becomes the foundation for sustained success and balance. Here’s a basic approach to get you started. Adapt this and make it your own. The more aligned you can get it with your personal situation, the more inclined you’ll be to do it regularly and then reap the benefit.

Getting in the right frame of mind

  • Connect with my values: insert your own values list
  • Connect with my roles: insert your own roles list
  • Connect with the past week: take some time thinking about what worked well over the last week and note any things you’d like to develop further

Five steps to getting clear

Step 1 – Collect in (don’t process)

  • Last weeks diary
  • Work bag
  • Various mail inboxes
  • Wallet/purse
  • Text messages
  • Desk
  • In your head
  • Around the house/office
  • Up and coming calendar (2 weeks)
  • Anything else that’s pertinent to you..?

Step 2 – Read and assess current status of longer-term plans – what next actions are required?

Step 3 – Process in – capture ‘stuff’ into the appropriate place e.g. calendar, action lists, reference material and of course bin what you don’t need.

Step 4 – Establish and write down key priorities for the coming week – be clear what success looks like.

Step 5  – Check balance across your roles and values – make adjustment if appropriate.

Goal 30 to 60 minutes

Of course things will change and you’ll need to adapt. Having completed this exercise you’ll have a reference point to assess those changes against. Give it a go and see how you get on.

What’s your role in helping others get out of their comfort zone?

comfort zone As a line manager it can be very easy to talk  about a member of your team needing to “get  out of their comfort zone”. I believe this  phrase is overused as it doesn’t suggest what  really needs to happen. It can also put people  into a defensive frame of mind and come  across as patronising. Here are 3 questions  you can use to help set up the situation to  achieve success.


1) Is there clarity on the thing you’re looking to achieve?

A lack of clarity on what is expected can cause an individual to procrastinate. Determining the next physical action becomes a whole lot easier when you know what you are looking to ultimately achieve. Don’t underestimate this, as investing time here will pay dividends.  It’s an obvious component that’s missing from many of the development plans I see.

2) What specific development support is required?

If a person understands the goal they need to achieve, determining the development actions becomes more straightforward. A recent example of someone wanting to improve their influence in difficult conversations resulted in 3 clear actions in a 30 day plan:  1) have coffee with three senior managers to understand their handling approach, 2) get and read the book Crucial Conversations and 3) develop a meeting approach and talk it through with a trusted third-party for a particular meeting the person needed to attend.  Of course the actions will relate to the goal. The point here is they are very tangible. Previously the person had relied purely on putting themselves into situations to ‘develop’. With mediocre results. That could be akin to a non-swimmer jumping in a pool and hoping for the best. Your role as the manager is to ask the thought provoking questions that establish the actions.

3) How will I manage myself if things do not work out?

This is a fairly critical point and is backed up by neuro-science. If people feel threatened by the consequences of failing, they will stand a good chance of not realising their full potential. As the line manager you’ll have a big part to play in setting the tone and response when things do not go as we would hope. This takes increased effort as we manage our own emotions. Get it right and you genuinely create a learning environment. The results of that will be significant.

So the next time you find yourself talking about someone needing to “get out of their comfort zone”. Stop and consider your part in making that a real success.

7 Ways to Bring a Better Balance


More and more challenges come our way competing for the precious 168 hours we have each week. It’s important that we take responsibility and work at striking a balance to achieve more of the right things. Here’s 7 things to get you stated.



1. Get a longer-term vision

Having a view on where you’re heading will help bring objectivity and perspective. You are much more likely to make different choices if you can see whether you are moving towards or away from where you want to be. It’s in those choices that balance exists.

2. Get comfortable with seeing day-to-day decisions in the bigger picture context

Armed with your vision you need to use it regularly when making decisions. It’s easier to say “yes” or “no” to an opportunity or task if you can assess its overall impact. This can be as small as do you go for drinks after work…?

3. Get a view of all the areas in your life and asses how you’re doing in them regularly

The wheel of life tool is a simple yet highly effective way to assess where you are in each key area of your life. Some examples: Health, Family, Friends, money and career. Subjectively rating yourself on a scale of 1 -10 will help you understand if there are any areas that are falling behind or way ahead at the expense of others. If you don’t like what you see take action to address this. It’s perfectly normal to have areas that get out of kilter from time to time. This approach will help you manage that.

4. Get creative

This is where you can have fun. Thinking about how you can be creative to get balance and ultimately achieve more is very rewarding. Here’s an example. Say your wheel of life tells you that your health and friends could do with a little attention. Rather than tackle these things separately why not get creative and find a way to achieve both at the same time. One client I worked with started playing tennis with a friend after work. Simple, yet effective.

5. Establish a weekly Review & Plan routine

Establishing a personalised weekly R&P routine will help bring some of the above ideas together. Done well, you get to objectively ‘check in’ with what’s going on in your world every seven days. This helps tidy up outstanding actions and commitments and look forward to help you prepare for what’s coming. At least as important is taking a few minutes to reflect on what went well and what you’d like to improve on. Over a period of time this will put you in a strong position to achieve balance.

6. Start with making sure you’re looking after you

The foundation for balance is making sure you are functioning well. Without that, all areas will suffer. I love the PRIME for Success approach that looks at your Physical activity, your Rest, your Intake, your Mind and your Energy. Read more about that here.

7. Get feedback

It’s easy to kid ourselves that we are more balanced than we imagine. Key to helping this is feedback. This can come in multiple forms from asking people to developing your own personalised dashboard, to track how you’re doing. The dashboard can include whatever you feel is important. I’ve worked with people who wanted to include health information, where they are financially or even how often they got home from work to read bedtime stories to the kids! The impact can be amazing when you see that you haven’t done the latter for two weeks, when you tell yourself being a Mum is so important. The feedback is only part of the story. You then need to make a choice. If you’re truly content with what you’re being told then fine. If not, what adjustments do you need to make?

If you do just one or two of the above I believe you’ll start to get a better balance in your life. I’d love to hear your stories of things you’ve done as a result.

Five questions to support goal setting

goal setting

When it comes to personal development, some people find the concept of goal setting a challenge. Here are five questions to ask yourself to engage your thinking?



  1. What gets in my way of achieving success?
  2. What trophy or award would I like to have in my possession?
  3. What is the smallest subset of the problem I could solve?
  4. If I knew I wouldn’t fail, what would I strive to achieve?
  5. What habit if I achieved it would have the biggest impact on my performance?