Playing to Strengths, Part 4: Doing Your Homework

16 Mar
Alyssa doing homework(1)

(Photo credit: johnporcaro)

Let’s assume you’ve taken the first three steps in Playing to your Strengths.  You have

Now we’re ready for the next step: doing our homework.

While all these steps may seem unnecessary, and even annoying to someone who just wants to get on with the work at hand, let me just say from experience: there’s one lesson I have learned (and re-learned) that I promise I will never again violate:

It’s better to fill a position right, than to fill it quick!

The Time Factor

Granted, filling a position right can be time-consuming.  But filling a position wrong can be even more time-consuming.  We’ll talk more in part 5 how to recruit that “right” fit, but for now, we have to realize that being first out of the blocks doesn’t mean you’ll finish the race in first place.  Especially if the race is a marathon!

One way to minimize the time factor involved in finding that “right fit” is to build and maintain a constant network of people that have distinguished themselves in your book.

(As a side note, this is more easily done by extroverts and high-energy people.  If you have an extrovert on your developing team, perhaps one of their initial tasks is to put out the feelers for people of great quality!).

Of course, there’s one important question to answer first…

What Are We Looking For?

If you were very specific in defining your weaknesses, you’ve already got a 75% solution.  Now it’s time to fill out the rest.  One of the funnest ways I’ve found to do this task while engaging the imagination is to get your detective on!

The All-points-bulletin approach

Ultimately, you’re looking for a “suspect” that matches a description.  The description starts when you define your weaknesses.  Galvanize your team (or what you have so far) to put out an APB (All-points-bulletin).

For example, in our last post we were looking for the following “suspect:”

  • Can create budgets
  • Can track budgets
  • Is a known associate of non-profit organizations

Now we simply take it a step further by asking more questions about the individual themselves.

1.  What other skills will they need?

  • Another language?  
  • Computer skills?

2.  What experience would be valuable?

  • Those with experience often have “insider information” and know how to get things done more efficiently.  (At the least, they know what doesn’t work!)
  • They may also have access to more connections and know how to find resources

3.  What personal characteristics should they possess?

  • Do you need a stickler for details… numbers… spreadsheets?
  • Or perhaps that position needs to be a real people person?
  • Do you need a self-starter and self-disciplined person who will be working in the field?

4.  What personality traits should they have?

Really?  Personality?  Why does that matter?  Because, especially under stress, people will tend to revert to their natural personality.

People can wear a mask during an interview, and even during “normal” work cycles, but when it hits the fan and you need your team the most, you had better be prepared to work with that person behind the mask! (We’ll talk some more about how to get a peek behind the mask in future posts).

There is no magic formula here: it will depend on the situations you expect to encounter, and on the personality of your team.  But here are some examples I typically look for:

  • Doesn’t know how to quit
  • Innovative, without being destructive – (Dismantling… yes!   Destroying… no!)
  • Doesn’t seek failure, but when it happens, treats failure as a lesson and moves forward
  • Sense of humor

Now that you have a comprehensive description of your suspect, publish the APB and send your detectives out to canvass the world around you.  The more specific you describe what you’re looking for, the more likely you’ll find the right suspect!

Asking Around

The final consideration?  Ask others that know the potential hire.  Don’t just talk to the individual.

Be careful with this one… depending on your industry and whether or not this is a volunteer or paid position, there may be stringent rules on what (or who) you can ask.  If in doubt, seek guidance from a qualified HR contact or legal representative for your organization.

But there’s a lot of “asking around” that can be done easily.  Consider these options:

  • Take a look at their social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc).  (And word to the wise… be very careful what you post there, as well as what other people have you tagged in!)
  • Take a look at their track record and trajectory – 10 jobs in the last 10 years?  (Hmmm…)
  • Contact their previous supervisors – and not just the ones they list on their resume.  (Of course I’m going to list the bosses that will give me good reviews!  But don’t you want the “whole” picture?)

In the end, doing your homework can be a bit time consuming.

On the other hand, NOT doing your homework can be a LOT time consuming.

Happy hunting!

What other considerations do you use when selecting new team members?  What other advice, pitfalls, or success stories can you share?

1 Comment

Posted by on March 16, 2013 in Leadership


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