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How to Hire the “Right” Person

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KEY POINTS:

  1. BE WELL PREPARED
  2. WATCH AND LISTEN CAREFULLY
  3. SELL THE JOB IF YOU LIKE THE CANDIDATE

IN A NUTSHELL

Interviewing candidates to fill a vacant position is an important responsibility for a manager. When done well, the result will be the successful recruitment of excellent employees.

Think about the questions you want to ask. ( I have a few suggestions at the end of this chapter)Review carefully the papers of the applicant so that you do not have to refer to them in the interview.

Watch the body language, the subtle messages that the person is communicating. They are part of the gut feeling that you have of the candidate.

At some point, you will know that this is a person you want or not. If you are interested, start selling the job. Talk about the attractive aspects of working with the company.

Based on my experience, I will now identify some useful tips on how to conduct professional level meetings with prospective candidates.

BE PREPARED

Review all the materials regarding the candidate beforehand. Have the file with you for reference. Be sure to include any other documents that you need to refer to such as the job description. You may also want to bring some materials for the candidate to review later.

Do not flip through the papers, reviewing the resume, while speaking to the candidate.

THE INTERVIEW LOCATION

Use a conference room or interviewing room if you have one. Do not use your office. It is useful to sit together with the candidate at a table. No interruptions should be permitted. This includes cell phones and assistants pounding at the door.

START WELL

Make the candidate feel welcome. Start with some small talk at first. Explain the process and then start with an open-ended question. “Tell me about yourself” is a very common one.

Ask questions about what he/she says like “Give me some more details on that.” Or “Could you give me an example?”

Strive for a relaxed, friendly conversational environment. I believe that you will learn more  when the candidate is relaxed and comfortable.

ALLOW PLENTY OF TIME

The length of time and the number of interviews depends on the importance of the position. In any case, plan to have adequate time to learn what you need about the candidate. Some thought about the pace and structure of this meeting is helpful.

SELL THE JOB

In the closing part of the interview, if you like the candidate, start selling the position: benefits, work environment, the nature of the position.

Make Your Meetings Work For You

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Managers often find themselves leading staff meetings. They are known for not doing it well. A much appreciated skill is the excellent management of meetings. They should be short, well organized and productive. Here are some suggestions on how to do this:

START ON TIME

You need to be there before the meeting starts. Be ready with everything you need. Then start exactly at the time set for the meeting. Those who are not there will realize that they need to change if they want to please the boss. You must do this every time. Be consistent. It is helpful to have the meeting at the same time and on the same day.

HAVE AN AGENDA

Circulate the agenda well before the meeting along with any papers attached. Make it clear during the meeting that you expect everyone to read the papers and be prepared for the topics to be discussed. If there are those who need to report on an action, make sure they are ready by calling them a day before the meeting.

TAKE CONTROL OF THE MEETING

Follow the agenda. Monitor the time spent on each item. Take into account that sometimes interesting information emerges that needs to be discussed. At the same time, gently stop anyone who wants to discuss last night’s football game. Don’t allow any cell phones to ring during this time. At the end of the scheduled items you can ask if there are any other matters. If these topics can be discussed relatively quickly, go ahead. If the topic is complex tell the person to put it on the agenda for the next meeting.

END THE MEETING ON TIME

This will be much appreciated by everyone who believes that meetings are mostly a waste of time. You should order coffee and cookies ( or something else)  to enjoy after the meeting. This allows for a relaxed time when the football game or other matters can be talked about.

KEY POINTS

  1. START ON TIME
  2. BE WELL ORGANIZED
  3. END ON TIME

The Dreaded Financial Presentation

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It was the dreaded annual presentation by the Chief Financial Officer. He droned on, slide after slide, never missing the tiniest, most insignificant fact. I looked around the room. Half the people were asleep. The others were working their cell phones.  Absorbed and staring at the screen,   the CFO was oblivious. 

Finally, patience at an end, the Chief Executive Officer yelled out

“Get to the Effing bottom line.”

In response, the CFO started talking faster, whipping through the slides until arriving at the blessed point of the presentation… the bottom line. The CFO was determined to regurgitate all the numbers at his command. 

The audience heaved a sigh of relief. 

Generally, financial presentations are not this bad, but often they are bad enough. 

The sad thing is that they are important. 

The audience, be they senior management, investors, potential clients, or others, need to understand the financial condition of the company. 

They don’t need to be buried in a confusing avalanche of facts or obscured in a cloud of financial jargon.

For the past thirteen years, I have been helping managers in the financial industry and government officials make better presentations. Since I live in Peru, they have the additional challenge of presenting in English, not their first language. 

The good news is that this isn’t rocket science. Still, it takes hard work and determination to come up with a financial presentation that merits a standing ovation. Yes, I know. It is hard to believe but it has happened. 

Tomorrow, in my next post, I share the secrets of making a financial presentation

Reading for Business When English Is a Foreign Language

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Reading in English may be necessary to keep informed on recent developments in your field or in your company. Certainly, this can be slow going in a foreign language unless you train yourself in some special techniques.

The goal is to understand as much as possible while using your time as efficiently as you can.

However, keep in mind that your purpose can vary:

You may need only to get a very general idea and can skim the material,

you may need only some specific information and that is called scanning

You may need to get a general understanding of a subject by reviewing some textbooks.

You may need to scrutinize intensively highly technical material .

SKIMMING

In this technique, the eye runs rapidly over the material. Speed is essential because you have limited time. You may have to review extensive documentation, but need only to get a general idea about the contenIn English, often the first sentence in the paragraph contains the main idea. So some people just let their eyes run over that first sentence.

When skimming documents, it might be helpful to write a brief summary when you are finished. Someone might ask you your reaction and you can impress them with your answer.

Busy managers use skimming, even when using the “executive summary”.

Examples of skimming:

A magazine article when you are looking for something to read in greater detail.

Newspaper– for a general idea about the news of the day


SCANNING


This  skill is used when you are looking for a particular fact. You ignore everything but that particular piece of information as you run your eyes over the page. It doesn’t matter if there are words that you don’t understand.

Examples of scanning:

Looking in the newspaper for the price of your stock.

Checking out what is playing on television

Reviewing an airline schedule to get the most convenient flight



GENERAL

Say that you are studying a book on human resources, but it isn’t in your field. You are just trying to get a general idea of the basic concepts. It is an effort to improve your general knowledge. This can also be applied to a enjoying a novel for pleasure.

In these cases it is not necessary to know the meaning of every word. You are only aiming to understand the meaning within the context of sentence or paragraph.

Examples :

Books that expand your general knowledge

Light reading such as novels, adventure stories

magazine articles


INTENSIVE

Sometimes we have to review something very carefully. Contracts and legal documents require this kind of scrutiny. Each word and each figure must be reviewed. Now is the time when you really need a good dictionary.

Examples of Intensive review:

Financial statements

Insurance policy

Technical reports vital to your company

Legal documents



SUMMARY

Reading is time consuming, but a necessary activity. Practice is very important. Non-native speakers will, at first, find it tedious to read in a language not their own. However, the rewards for doing so are rich.

Not doing the necessary work will eventually hurt your career.

What to Do When You Can’t Understand A Difficult Speaker in English

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Listening and Understanding in English

Listening comprehension skills are essential to business communication. This is made more difficult when one is hearing a language which is not your native language. Many of my clients complain that have to talk to business associates on the telephone or teleconferences, attend meetings or video conferences, and conduct conversations while struggling to understand what is being said. In short, they hear, but can’t understand.

Listed below are some of the reasons they are having difficulty and my suggestions on how to deal with these problems.

PEOPLE SPEAK TOO FAST

Native speakers often do not realize that they speak rapidly. They continue to speak at their normal rate even though the person they are talking to is not a native speaker. It is quite all right to ask them to slow down if you don’t comprehend.

You can say:

“Sorry, I didn’t catch that. Could you slow down a bit?” or

“Please, could repeat that more slowly?”


SPEAKER HAS A HEAVY ACCENT

The speaker is hard to understand because of a heavy accent. People from all over the world speak English now, but many have their own special accent.

You could say something like,

“I’m sorry, I don’t know what your are saying. Could you explain what you mean again?”


SPEAKER USES SLANG OR CHOPS WORDS

Some speakers use words that are local slang, but may not be known to those in another part of the world. Or they may run their words to together or chop off half the word.

You could say,

“I’m sorry. I don’t quite see what you mean. Could you explain this again?”


SPEAKER IS DISORGANIZED

Some speakers are poorly organized or very careless with their words. This, unfortunately, applies in any language, but is worse when you are listening in a foreign language.

You could say,

“I’m sorry. I don’t understand. Could you explain what you mean?”


SOME TIPS

1. Ask them to slow down.

2. Prepare well beforehand.

3. Try to predict what people are going to say.

4. Take notes.

5. Repeat back to the person the information you just heard.

6. Practice

7. Stay calm.

Bad Things Happen: How to Handle a Crisis

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Be Ready, Be Calm

Managers have to deal with crises.

It is part of the risk of doing business.

In fact, the whole environment of doing business has gotten so much more complicated in recent times that it is almost inevitable that some crisis will occur in a company.

I am referring to globalization which brings many more complex regulations involving environmental concerns and the threat of terrorism.

Managers must handle a crisis. This is a logical part of their responsibility. Crises that are not well managed will destroy a career. Further, a badly managed crisis can destroy a business.  Here are my suggestions on how a manager can help manage a crisis

A Recipe for Success

Looking at the essentials, it is easy to conclude that good crisis management depends on good communication and preparation. The manager who communicates well, will likely manage the crisis well. Solid preparation leads to a calm and confident attitude on your part which then generates trusts and confidence in your ability. A crisis could be related to the business, a natural event or an act of terrorism or criminality.

How to Expect the Worst

Attempt to identify any potential crisis that the company might face. This will require establishing a risk management committee, made up of people who need to take some role during a crisis. They need to meet and brainstorm the various possible trouble spots that might occur. It would be valuable to have simulation and role plays  in order to clarify activity during the crisis. They can also establish protocol for communicating during the crisis.

This is when transparency is essential. Try to provide as much information as possible, at all levels. There two reasons for this: to keep rumors at a minimum and to retain the trust and confidence of all the stakeholders.

How To Repair the Damage

It is important to analyze  exactly what happened in the crisis. It is also necessary to review what actions were taken. This information needs to be clearly stated in a report to be reviewed by your risk management committee and other responsible persons within the company. Based on your findings, recommendations for action in the future should be part of the report.

TAKEAWAYS

  1. PLAN FOR A CRISIS
  2. KEEP PEOPLE INFORMED DURING THE CRISIS
  3. ANALYZE WHAT HAPPENED AFTERWARD

How Important Is Trust?

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Trust is essential in a business relationship.

Perhaps you could manage for a short time without the trust of your subordinates, but it would not be pleasant. Certainly, there are managers who have lost the trust of their employees and continue in their positions. But, are they successful?

Smooth running organizations are unlikely when your staff have no confidence in you. Once trust is lost, it is very difficult to build it back. So work hard to build it and keep it.

The process of building trust begins the very first day you step into your new position. A solid understanding of your own personal values and the ability to communicate them will be of great assistance in this regard.

Here are my suggestions on how you can build and keep that trust.

Listen

When a member of your staff tells you something, listen carefully. Ask questions. Acknowledge the contributions they make. If you do this, they will tell you more.

Face to Face Communication

Make time to talk to people in your department on a one to one level. In a large department, you will have to have a rotating system to allow this opportunity. Being accessible on a personal basis is very important.

Fairness

Make fairness an important principle. Remember that your staff will be looking to see that your treatment of them is even handed. Make it so.

Flexibility

Flexibility will build trust because you respond to the circumstances of the situation rather than rigidly applying a rule when it actually makes no sense.

Consistency

It is very frustrating to deal with a manager who is never consistent. Predictability is very important to the staff when dealing with a supervisor. Your consistency, though, comes from personal values on which your decisions are made.

Responsiveness

When you can respond to reasonable requests from your staff, it gives them the feeling that they can appeal to you especially when there are exceptional circumstances.

Generosity

When you can, be generous. Being tight-fisted without cause does not build trust. Of course, be careful in the use of your resources.

Awareness of corporate culture

Be aware of traditional ways of doing things in the company and make your best attempt to follow them. Of course, there are times when you can’t, but try to explain why.

Observ

Keep your eyes open. Watch body language. Listen for the remark not meant for you, but which may be significant.

POINTS TO REMEMBER:

1.TRUST IS ESSENTIAL

2. BE TRANSPARENT

3.BE RESPONSIVE

Thinking on your feet

Be Ready for a challenge

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In a meeting or a one to one discussion someone asks you a very difficult question. They may want to have an answer to a controversial matter or they may want to embarrass you. At any rate, don’t panic. Think through your answer carefully. Here is some additional help.

PREPARE YOURSELF

Anticipate questions or issues that will be raised. Be ready with some specific answers.

RELAX

If you are surprised by a question which may touch on a bad result or a controversial decision you were involved in, take a moment to center yourself.

ASK FOR THE QUESTION AGAIN

You want to make sure that you heard the question or statement correctly. So ask the person to repeat it. This also gives you time to think. This time, also, listen very carefully.

PAUSE

If you need more time, it is OK to wait silently while you are thinking. In your hurry to answer, you may make the situation worse.

ASK FOR CLARIFICATION

It may be that the question is very broad. It is a good idea to find out exactly what the person is looking for. You have to be careful. If you don’t understand a particular technical term, ask for clarification.

NARROW YOUR ANSWER

Try to have an answer that focuses on one issue and perhaps give one example. A wide ranging rambling answer that is too general will not be satisfactory.

CONSIDER THE SOURCE OF THE QUESTION

The purpose of the question may be to embarrass you or has some other hostile intent. If this is the case, stay calm. Answer the question carefully. Resume the presentation or continue with the meeting. Do not be drawn into a heated exchange.

IF YOU DON’T KNOW THE ANSWER. SAY SO.

It is much better to say you don’t know than to pretend that you do. You can say that you will get back to the person with the answer.

KEY POINTS:

1.STAY COOL

2. VERIFY THE QUESTION

3. GIVE A BRIEF ANSWER

Your time is a commodity

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KEY POINTS:

  1. TIME USE COMMUNICATES STATUS
  2. WHEN YOU ARRIVE AND LEAVE MATTER
  3.  USE TIME WELL AND SO WILL YOUR STAFF

IN A NUTSHELL

Time is money. This is a common expression heard in the United States. Certainly we can tell a lot about persons by how they spend money. Employees can also learn about their boss by how she/he uses time. Just as we have a limited amount of money, we only have a limited number of hours in the day.

Therefore, you need to think about how you manage your time.

A MATTER OF STATUS

If you are important, you can keep some of lesser importance waiting. However, it will not happen the other way around without some problems arising. A manager who keeps the CEO waiting is in trouble. He/she  is less valuable to the company.

If you are important, you decide how long your subordinates will be with you. Thus the top manager controls the time of his/her underlings.

Sometimes a manager plays favorites among his assistants by inviting one to be with her/him much longer than the others. This is observed by the others, and may be resented. Therefore the hours spent with the top manager may indicate status in the organization.

ARRIVALS AND DEPARTURES

When the boss arrives and leaves is always noted in the company. Some come in early, before anyone else, and others come in late and stay after most leave.

If the boss takes long lunches, it is noted. If the boss lunches at her desk, it is also noticed. The manager sets the tone.

If the boss arrives exactly on the dot for a meeting, it is noticed. Employees will make sure to be there by then. If they are late, they may drop in the boss’s favor. The boss, however, can decide to arrive early or late. The others, no.

The number of hours the boss works, will be noted. If he/she is lazy and works few hours, respect will fall for the manager and actually the employees, in my experience, will try to reduce their hours also.

If the boss works long hours, the employees will probably feel obligated to do so as well.

This depends somewhat on the culture of the company. Young lawyers are expected to work many hours more than their bosses in a law firm.

Where Are You Leading Your Team?

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Let’s Do It!

KEY POINTS:

  1. THE LEADER IS IMPORTANT
  2.  CLEAR GOALS HELP THE TEAM
  3. EACH TEAM MEMBER NEEDS A ROLE

IN A NUTSHELL

What does it take to be a good team leader? If you have just assumed this position or are wondering how to do it better, I have a few suggestions

THE LEADER IS IMPORTANT

It seems obvious, but it is necessary bring this out. It doesn’t mean that you are a dictator. That won’t work anymore. You need good communication and listening skills plus some empathy for the other person.

CLEAR GOALS

Clarity is essential. So the first thing that has to be done is work together until you are clear about what the task is and how to achieve it. That is your main responsibility as a leader at this point. It would be unwise to go further until you are certain that everybody understands what the end goal is.

TRANSPARENCY

Communication must be honest, consistent and without a hidden agenda. Trust among team members is the result.

ROLES OF TEAM MEMBERS

Select team members for the skills that they can contribute. Although each will bring different abilities, each should feel that his/her contribution is valued. In this regard, it is essential that each member of the team have his/her voice heard. You need to be sure that  those who are silent need to be encouraged.

CONFLICTS

Work with team members to place harmony and cooperation above conflicts which interfere with the successful completion of goals.

 BE A GOOD LISTENER

A good leader is a good listener. That means that you talk less and listen more. The result is that you get good ideas and team members feel valued.