Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Acculturate your new hires- an Ingenious Turn-key Organization pt i

New employees must be acculturated
Last week I explained how to lead your customers.  This week we’ll explore how to lead your new employees and fold them quickly into your company culture. 

What is some of the scuttlebutt that employees grumble about their managers around the water cooler?   They’re overbearing, indecisive, lazy, oblivious, etc. If you sift through all the criticisms, you’ll likely discover the complaints fall into two piles: micromanagement and failure of leadership.  Both of these traits stem from fear: fear of losing control, or fear of appearing too militant.  And they're each sides of the same coin. 

Very few employees realize the difficulty involved in being a manager until they become one.  Management if often considered a thankless, arduous, and vilifying role within a company.  But approached the right way, it can be a motivating, energizing, satisfying responsibility.  With a few tools, any manager can become expert at unobtrusive supervision and grow their position into a highly respected billet within the company.

Recognizing the challenge of leadership, many companies have tried to banish the concept, flattening their organizations, or in a supreme pacifying effort, chosen to label each individual a manager… even if they manage equipment, resources, or just their own workload.  In this article we're concerned with personnel management.  Whether you manage a department of individuals or other managers, this article is for you.

You can usually determine a manager's satisfaction by gauging how they view their job.  Do they perceive the role as mainly keeping people in line, ensuring they do their darn job so they don’t have the chance to slack off?  If so, their corporate life will be bleak.  The best managers empower their subordinates – consisting primarily of getting out of the way – and ensuring they have the support necessary to do their job.

Great Managers

Do you want to be a great manager?  Then flip the hierarchical organization chart upside down and view the true essence of leadership: that you as a boss support your people; your boss supports you; his boss supports him; and so on.  You each empower your subordinates, not preside over them.

Surprising to most managers, your job is not to ensure that your employees do their job.  A boss is not a kindergarten teacher.  Your two tasks are making sure your employees have the tools and support (including training) necessary to accomplish their job; and ensuring each employee is a good fit for the company culture.

It’s more important for an employee to be a good fit culturally than be skilled at their job.  As a manager, your first priority is ascertaining whether your new hire will fit in with and preserve the company culture.  We're assuming you hire individuals with the best ability, especially in today's job employer-skewed market.  So assuming you did a decent job of hiring, if an individual is a good cultural fit for your organization, she can always be taught or, if necessary, be transferred to a more suitable billet within the organization.

Let’s take the example of a customer service rep.  He’s dynamite on the phones and gets results.   However, it turns out your new hire is a maverick, not a team player, and your organization embraces team culture.  You’ve just discovered the disconnect after hiring him.  What should you do?

If he doesn't fit in with your culture and you’re sure you can’t indoctrinate him, terminate.  Conversely, a customer service rep who is struggling with the skills of the job but has the right attitude you must continue to train and support until he progresses enough to do the job.  Will he become a star?  Maybe not, but the question is will he become better than your least competent employee?  If the answer is yes, then keep him and terminate the least competent or find another place for them.  If the answer remains no after a suitable ramp up time, then consider a related position within the company where he will be a better fit.  Do your best to retain an employee who is a cultural fit with your company.

A manager is like the captain of a ship.  It's easier and less chaotic when everyone's rowing the same direction.  You can individually upgrade each person's rowing skills over time.  But it would be bedlam to make a dramatic course correction because one guy's rowing the wrong way, no matter how strongly he rows.

Netflix has a hiring slogan: “No brilliant jerks!”  It’s more important to have the right attitudes in your people than the right skill sets.

Next week I’ll discuss how to correct an employee's behavior so neither the manager nor the employee wind up with hurt feelings.  And we’ll continue exploring the market plan.  Until then,

profitable business All!

An excellent tool that discusses cultural fit: "StrengthsFinder" by Gallup 


  1. I love the idea of thinking of your hierarchical organization chart upside down. That is a great way to think of any position-- as one of support. Great blog! Keep up the awesome work!

  2. Hi Tricia,
    Thanks for your readership and your comment. I know; isn't that a great leadership paradigm compared to the dusty old traditional model of the org chart? I can't claim ownership though I do subscribe to that model.
    Thanks again for following the column. I look forward to reading future comments from you. Next time let me know what you'd like to read about. Until then,

    profitable business All!

  3. Its such as you learn my mind! You seem to know so much approximately this, like you wrote the book in it or something.
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