Newsletter – March 15, 2017

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Making reference checks useful, why you shouldn’t yell at your staff, and more

Hello friends,

We sometimes hear managers talk about reference checks as a sort of rubberstamping of a hiring decision they’ve already made – a cursory step in the hiring process intended just to be sure the person they’re about to hire hasn’t fabricated their work history. To this, we say: Noooooo, that is not what reference checks should be!

When done well, reference checks can be a key source of nuanced insights about how a candidate operates and how she’s likely to do in the role you’re hiring for and in your particular environment. But that means that you have to see references as truly part of your decision-making process, not a final bit of paperwork to be completed as part of pulling an offer together. We’ve put together a reference check outline, worksheet, and suggested questions to help you dig beneath the surface to get truly helpful information.
Promise us that you’ll try this approach next time you’re hiring? You won’t regret it, we promise.
Turning away from that rant for at least a moment, this month we’ve also got four more resources for you that we hope will be useful in your work.
Why you shouldn’t yell at your staff … and how to go cold turkey if you’re tempted to
Ever lost your cool and snapped or even yelled at a staff member? Ironically, while yelling is an attempt to assert authority, yellers actually diminish their own authority because they look out of control. Plus, you have far more effective tools available to you – and, as our own Alison Green argues in this piece, focusing on those tools can help keep you from snapping. “Managers who yell typically do it because they don’t know how else to achieve whatever it is they’re trying to do,” she writes. “They feel desperate and frustrated, and yelling feels like the only tool they have to get their point made.” But when you’re confident in your authority to impose logical consequences on the situation (from asking for work to be redone, to directing the person work on a skill, to removing the person from a project, to letting the person go), “you know that you have the tools you need to get the results you need, and can therefore stay more calm.”
The benefits of just showing up and doing it
We’re big fans of outcome-based goals, but we’ll admit that this piece makes a good case that there are times when you'll get value simply from making yourself show up and doing the darn thing (whatever the darn thing might be — working out every day, making sure you give positive feedback to everyone on your team at least weekly, or so forth). James Clear writes, “The ability to show up every day, stick to the schedule, and do the work — especially when you don't feel like it — is so valuable that it is literally all you need to become better 99% of the time.” We might not state it quite so unequivocally, but his piece is a good push to think about whether you’ll be more likely to reach some of your goals if you hone in on where consistent activity is important.
Don’t forget to focus on the “why”
Whether goals are activity-based or outcome-based, it’s crucial to keep them grounded in why they matter. This Harvard Business Review piece suggests that focusing exclusively on extrinsic rewards and reinforcement can be counterproductive because it crowds out internal motivations – which, if your external reasons for the behavior are ever removed, will leave you with less or even no motivation. You can remedy this by pairing extrinsic reinforcement (like tracking goals) with a heavy focus on the “why.”
After you read the article, take a minute to ask yourself what you’re doing that you’re using primarily extrinsic reinforcements for – and whether there are ways that you could add more of an emphasis on “why” to those things.
The traits of leaders who do things fast and well
It’s popular to say that we can do things fast or we can do them well, but probably not both. But what if speed and quality didn’t have to be in opposition? Researchers took a look at one group of leaders who scored in the top percentile on both measures in order to identify what they did differently from other people. They isolated seven behaviors, including being absolutely clear about the vision and direction of their organizations, setting stretch goals and keeping high standards, being champions of change when needed, being skilled at considering external perspectives, and continually looking for faster, more efficient ways to operate. The article describing the research is a good reminder that we don’t need to buy into the idea that you always have to make a trade-off between speed and quality – and especially in the current climate, we may not have the luxury of picking just one.
As always, we hope you find these resources useful in your work. 


Jerry Hauser and Alison Green
The Management Center

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