AuthorRyan Hawk

How To Hire A Great Leader

A good friend of mine recently sent me an email asking for advice: “Ryan, I am in the process of hiring a few management positions. I have eight candidates lined up. What questions do you ask to hire great leaders?”

Below are some of my thoughts on: 1) The art of the interview 2) Knowing what you’re looking for, and 3) Understanding why you’re asking every question that you do. Prior to running the leadership advisory practice at Brixey & Meyer, I worked with large international corporations for 12 years in a variety of leadership roles. I’ve interviewed 500+ candidates for many different positions. Additionally, on my podcast The Learning Leader Show, I’ve interviewed 250+ of the brightest leadership minds in the world to better understand how we all can sustain excellence over an extended period of time. My thoughts have been formulated based on my personal experiences and the conversations on my podcast.

What Are You Looking For?

 

First – What are you looking for? What questions should you ask based on that answer?You’ll need to create this for yourself and it should evolve as you learn, make mistakes, have success, etc… And like a great stand up comedian, have a purpose for every word that you utter in the interview. Don’t “just ask questions” because that’s what you do in an interview. Ask questions that tie back to the qualities you are looking for…

What I Look For In A Leader

 

  • Self-Aware – Most people do not have this. Do they really know themselves?Strengths, weaknesses, etc. Are they able to express this intelligently?
  • Intellectually Curious – Will the person continue to improve/grow/adapt/evolve?What questions do they ask on a daily basis? How do they try to solve problems?
  • Well-Read — In my experience, people “who don’t have time to read” typically aren’t as successful long term as those who make the time.
  • Optimistic – Do they have the right outlook on life? Or do they think “with their luck” it will rain every day? The leader sets the tone for everyone.
  • Humble – Do they use the word “I” a lot instead of we? Do they blame others when things go wrong and take credit when they go well?
  • Thoughtful – Do they actually think? Do they take time to pause, reflect, learn, and improve? “The learning comes in the moments of reflection.”
  • Great Communicator – As a manager you need to communicate effectively across many spectrums – speeches, emails, working with colleagues and clients…
  • High Energy/Likable – Ideally, the team will like their boss AND respect him/her (my Dad is very good at this). High energy and likability are a good thing. Remember, people don’t leave companies, they leave their manager. Also, it’s hard to be a good teammate (with colleagues) if people don’t like you and/or you bring no energy to the room.
  • Confident – Not cocky, but sure of oneself. I like someone who has put in the necessary work to confidently trust in themselves to make good decisions.
  • Courageous – Have they fought through tough moments in their life? Are they able to make tough decisions when there isn’t consensus? Being a manager is a hard…

Some Questions I Ask (notice each question is tied to the qualities I’m looking for)

 

  • What is your process to learn something new? I don’t care what they are learning about (an instrument, a second language, historical people). I want to ensure that they have some sort of a thought process towards learning. The best leaders in the world are constantly learning. They strive to improve on a daily basis. If there is no process in place (even as simple as, “I love to read fiction books to boost my creativity” is better than a candidate who has no process to improve). And always ask for examples.
  • What books have you gifted the most to others? OR What books have influenced you the most? Why? (“In my whole life, I have known no wise people who didn’t read all the time — none, zero.” – Charlie Munger)
  • (Start, Stop, Continue Exercise) What should you do more of (start), what should you stop doing (stop), and what is one thing that you’ve really figured out and should continue doing as a leader (continue)? This is a hard question and I don’t expect them to be perfect. Even great leaders will struggle doing this off the cuff… I actually like it when the candidate pauses and thinks for a little bit. It shows they have the confidence to really think and they don’t feel the need to instinctively say something. Hard questions will come up throughout the person’s life as a leader/manager/coach… I want to know how they will respond in those moments. I want someone measured, self-aware, thoughtful. It shows security in oneself. That’s good. If they rush it and say something like “I need to stop working 18 hours a day” then that is a red flag. Ask follow up questions to dig deeper and understand the implications of “their stop.” “What are the implications of you working 18 hours a day?” “Why do you do that?” — Asking why as a follow up typically helps the conversation go deeper. “Approach each conversation with genuine curiosity.”
  • What questions do you have for me? Sometimes I start the interview with this or do it in the middle. If they are intellectually curious, they won’t need to get out their binder and ask the pre scripted questions. They can ask the natural questions that should be in their mind. – Additionally, I love the candidates who ask me questions without any prompting (and this is something I always do when I’m being interviewed). I like the confidence and the curiosity of someone who is willing to ask questions whenever they come to mind. I want candidates who view this as a two way street. If the candidate is strong, they probably have options. They should be interviewing me just as much as I’m interviewing them… My best hires over the past 10 years have done this.
  • How would your closest friends describe you? How about your colleagues? I’m looking for some self-awareness… Every adjective named shouldn’t be positive. Does this person really know themselves? Great leaders have high levels of awareness (both self and situational awareness).
  • What are the commonalities of the greatest professionals you’ve worked with? – I want to know who they will be looking to hire… Hiring is the most important aspect of being a manager. Have they thought about this? I hope so…
  • What are the common traits of leaders you know who have sustained excellence? Why do you think those qualities make up a great leader? I’ve found that a lot of candidates start describing themselves because they assume they are a great leader. I hope that they are striving for something… That they realize “they haven’t arrived.” Additionally, ask for examples of the people they’re talking about. Maybe it’s a great boss, or someone from a book they’ve read. Ask why, why why…
  • How will you build a great culture? Can you define what a great culture is? I’m genuinely curious about this. Maybe they can help me learn… Primarily looking for someone who has thought about culture and how to build a great one.
  • Can you share an example of when you made a big mistake? What went in to that decision? Why did it go wrong? How did you respond? What was the result?Self-awareness, courage, humility – Looking for all of those qualities with this question… Also, if they start blaming other people during the course of this answer = red flag. As the leader, don’t blame others when things go bad, take ownership.
  • Can you share the process for the last big purchase you made? This question is to measure thoughtfulness and for me to learn how they make big decisions. Do they do a lot of research before buying a car? Do they negotiate with the sales person? As a manager, they will need to make big decisions. I want to learn about their process for doing that… Again, if they do not have a process for this = red flag.
  • Find ways to “simulate” experiences they will have on the job. Do micro role plays with them to see how they handle situations. (Conflict; tough decisions; personal vs. business tough decisions; etc).
  • Ask the candidate to share what they have done that validates they are an excellent communicator – public speaking; writings – this is one of the most important business skills. Sometimes I ask them to give me a 3 minute speech on a favorite topic of theirs – something they are passionate about (sports team, vacation, spouse, kids, etc.) – I want to actually hear them as if they are speaking to a group on a subject for which they have passion (as I will need them to do this every day in their job).
  • I need to get an understanding of what kind of teammate they will be for their colleagues – Seek real examples of the candidate being a great teammate (charity work, prior job, sports, church, etc.).

Additional Thoughts…

The greatest interviewers ask great follow up questions. They are active listeners. They do not “just wait to talk,” but they genuinely listen and if an answer sparks something in their mind, they dig deeper. Interviewing people on The Learning Leader Show every week has really helped me develop this skill. As an interviewer, this is something to think about.

Be okay with silence. Roger Dean Duncan shared a great anecdote that he learned from Jim Lehren: “He urged me to ask a good question, listen attentively to the answer, and then count silently to five before asking another question. At first that suggestion seemed silly. I argued that five seconds would seem like an eternity to wait after someone responds to a question. Then it occurred to me: Of course it would seem like an eternity, because our natural tendency is to fill a void with sound, usually that of our own voice.” Lehren explains: “If you resist the temptation to respond too quickly to the answer, you’ll discover something almost magical. The other person will either expand on what he’s already said or he’ll go in a different direction. Either way, he’s expanding his response, and you get a clear view into his head and heart.”

Find this article helpful? Agree? Disagree? Comment and let me know what you think. And please like and share it with others as well…

Ryan Hawk runs the Leadership Advisory Services team at Brixey & Meyer. He works with clients all over the world to help them be more effective leaders, managers, and coaches. He’s learned the commonalities of sustaining excellence from interviewing 250+ of the most thoughtful leaders in the world on his hit podcast, The Learning Leader Show.

CONTINUE

Episode 242: Daniel Coyle – The Secret Of Highly Successful Groups (The Culture Code)

Episode 242: Daniel Coyle – The Secret Of Highly Successful Groups (The Culture Code)

Daniel Coyle is the New York Times bestselling author of The Talent Code, The Little Book of Talent, The Secret Race (co-authored with Tyler Hamilton), Hardball: A Season in Projects, and other books.  Winner (with Hamilton) of the 2012 William Hill Sports Book of the Year Prize, he is a contributing editor for Outside Magazine, and works as a special advisor to the Cleveland Indians. Coyle lives in Cleveland, Ohio during the school year and in Homer, Alaska, during the summer with his wife Jen, and their four children.

Episode 242: Daniel Coyle – The Secret Of Highly Successful Groups (The Culture Code)

Subscribe on iTunes  or Stitcher Radio

The Learning Leader Show

“We tend to think that great culture is like DNA – some groups have it and some don’t. As it turns out, that’s not true. Great culture is something you can learn.”

Show Notes:

  • Sustained Excellence = “They’re over themselves” – They do not have an ego. They figure out the big truths, get over feelings, have clarity, vision. Great communicators – Like an athlete, they can be obsessed.  Keenly aware, active listeners, intentional with actions.
  • Why write The Culture Code?
  • Spending time around great teams and businesses, “I love the vibe, it’s different.” Had a desire to understand how that happens.  How to create trust. “Typically we think of culture as in your DNA or not, but it’s not.  “Great culture is something you can learn.” The competition with Dan’s two brothers growing up led to this fascination and curiosity with building great team culture”We routinely deeply underestimate our environments and the effect they have on us.”
  • “As leaders, we need to create the conditions for excellence”
    • The 3 Skills — 1) Build Safety 2) Share Vulnerability 3) Establish Purpose
  • Build Safety – Why do a group of kindergartners do better than a group of CEOs?  The kindergartners have now agenda or care about credit.  They focus on doing the best work.  CEOs (in the study) were worried about who got credit and tearing each other down.
  • Safety is the single most important piece of foundation needed for great culture
  • Greg Popovich overdoes the “thank yous” – He regularly says thank you to the members of his team.
  • A painstaking hiring process – The single most important decision is “who’s in and who’s out.”
  • You should script the entire first few days of a new employees time at a company — Pixar example (20 minute mark) — “At Pixar, we hired you because we need you to help us make our movies better.”
  • John Wooden would routinely walk the locker room and pick up trash
  • Share Vulnerability – Functional notion that’s so important
  • “Sharing a weakness is the best way to be strong” — Navy SEALs example: The AAR (After Action Review)
  • The most important 4 words a leader can say, “Anybody have any ideas?”
    • Also, “I screwed up”
  • Over-communicate expectations
    • “We shoot, move, and communicate
    • “The only easy day was yesterday”
  • How to be a great listener
    • “Your goal as a listener should be to add energy.” Ask questions, don’t just sit there and nod.  Listen and absorb.  Help them leave higher than when you arrived.  Follow up to go deeper.  Being a great listener is a heroic skill.
    • Have “empathy and energy” as a listener — dig in to assumptions (unearth)
  • Aim for candor, but avoid brutal honesty – good groups care about relationships, not brutality.  Candor is a better word
  • “Culture: From the Latin word cultus, which means care.”
  • Great teams are made up of players who don’t want to let their teammates down.
  • Greg Popovich and other great coaches disappear on purpose to let their team figure out it through tough moments.  Smart leaders create opportunities for teams to struggle and figure it out. –> “The leaders job is to make the team great without him/her.”
  • Build a wall between performance review and professional development — When you combine the two, you get neither.  Toggle, create safety so you can be more open and honest.
  • Establish Purpose
  • What’s important now?  You must define that
  • Value statements aren’t super useful — “fill the windshield with a story.”
  • Clear narratives guide attention
  • Name and rank your priorities

“CULTURE: from the Latin cultus, which means care.”

Social Media:

More Learning:

Episode 078: Kat Cole – From Hooters Waitress To President of Cinnabon

Episode 216: Jim Collins — How To Go From Good To Great

Episode 179: How To Sustain Excellence – The Best Answers From 178 Questions

Episode 107: Simon Sinek – Leadership: It Starts With Why

CONTINUE

Episode 240: Todd Henry – Be The Leader That Creative People Need (Herding Tigers)

Episode 240: Todd Henry – Be The Leader That Creative People Need (Herding Tigers)

Todd Henry is the founder of Accidental Creative, a company that helps creative people and teams be prolific, brilliant and healthy. He regularly speaks and consults with companies about how to develop practices that lead to everyday brilliance. He is the author of four books (The Accidental Creative, Louder Than Words, Die Empty, Herding Tigers), speaks internationally on productivity, creativity, leadership and passion for work, and build tools for creative people and teams. In short, he’s an arms dealer for the creative revolution.  His latest book is called Herding Tigers: Leading talented, creative people requires a different skill set than the one many management books offer. As a consultant to creative companies, Todd Henry knows firsthand what prevents creative leaders from guiding their teams to success, and in Herding Tigers he provides a bold new blueprint to help you be the leader your team needs. Learn to lead by influence instead of control. Discover how to create a stable culture that empowers your team to take bold creative risks. And learn how to fight to protect the time, energy, and resources they need to do their best work.  

Episode 240: Todd Henry – Be The Leader That Creative People Need (Herding Tigers)

Subscribe on iTunes  or Stitcher Radio

The Learning Leader Show

“Great leaders have great rituals. Great leaders are connected. Great leaders have set questions they ask when they meet someone for the first time.”

Show Notes:

  • Sustained Excellence =
    • Great leaders have great rituals
      • Disciplined time to study/reflect
      • Well read
      • Go on walks
    • Great leaders are connected to their network
    • Great leaders have set questions they ask someone when they meet for the first time
  • Todd’s rituals
    • Same breakfast everyday, same coffee mug everyday
    • 1 hour of study/read/time to think
    • Writes morning pages (3 full pages long hand)
  • Creating space for yourself
    • Predictable space, a buffer – “I have a ritual of taking a long walk in the middle of my day” — “It helps me get lost in thought”
  • Set questions to ask when you meet someone
    • “What’s the most important thing I should know about you?”
    • What’s inspiring you right now?”
  • Cover bands don’t change the world
    • Go out and present YOUR ideas to the market place
    • “If you want to have a voice in the market place, you have to have a voice” — You can’t just regurgitate what others say: Take what you learn, synthesize it with your own thoughts and have a voice, a point of view
      • “Your synthesis is what is valuable”
  • Writing The Accidental Creative was hard and lonely
  • Leading Creatives – We assume they get it… No, you must be clear that they do.  Walk them through your thought process, what you expect, why you expect it
  • Brian Koppelman (Creator of Billions) – Leading with influence vs being a micro-manager.  The director must own the show… They must have a compelling vision, point of view. Koppelman must create the space to give the director of each episode that ownership (he owns it all)
  • Creative people need two things
    • Stability – Protect them, give them the space they need, be clear
    • Challenge – Cannot allow boredom
    • These two exist is constant tension, push/pull.  You have to know how/when/why to turn the dial on each
    • “Your entire career, up until you’re a manager, you have complete control — As a manager you must shift from control to influence (it’s hard) or the team cannot scale beyond you
  • Your team must understand the WHY behind what you do — If not they just inherit tactics but don’t know why they do it.  It can’t scale without knowing the WHY
  • Need to make certain creative people feel ownership of the work
    • Influence is about principle
  • Why is implementation and execution so hard?
    • Leaders struggle with insecurity
      • “Your area of greatest insecurity can inflict the most damage to your organization… It’s about ego more than confidence”
  • Why write Herding Tigers?
    • “I wrote the book I wish I had… A lot of people don’t have the model of what great leadership is”
  • Here’s what it feels like right now:
    • Action
    • Pause
    • Reflection
    • Redirection
    • Action

“Cover bands don’t change the world.  Find your own voice.”

Social Media:

More Learning:

Episode 078: Kat Cole – From Hooters Waitress To President of Cinnabon

Episode 216: Jim Collins — How To Go From Good To Great

Episode 179: How To Sustain Excellence – The Best Answers From 178 Questions

Episode 107: Simon Sinek – Leadership: It Starts With Why

CONTINUE

Episode 239: Dan Pink – The Scientific Secrets Of Perfect Timing (When)

Episode 239: Dan Pink – The Scientific Secrets Of Perfect Timing (When)

Daniel Pink is the author of six provocative books — including his newest, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, to be published in January 2018. His other books include the long-running New York Times bestseller A Whole New Mind and the #1 New York Times bestsellers Drive and To Sell is Human. His books have won multiple awards and have been translated into 37 languages.  If you’d like to listen to the first time Dan joined me on The Learning Leader Show, CLICK HERE.

Dan’s TED Talk on the science of motivation is one of the 10 most-watched TED Talks of all time, with more than 19 million views. His RSA Animate video about the ideas in his book, Drive, has collected more than 14 million views.(from DanPink.com) (Photo Credit – HOW Design)

Episode 239: Dan Pink – The Scientific Secrets Of Perfect Timing (When)

Subscribe on iTunes  or Stitcher Radio

The Learning Leader Show

“It’s like brick laying.  I show up every day and I hit my word (count) goal.  Day after day after day.  Every day.”

Show Notes:

  • Dan’s book writing process:
    • “It’s like 1930’s football… One short play at a time.”
    • Brick laying, very laborious…
      • Get in office by 8:30 and hit the writing (word count) goal every single day… Day after day after day after day…
      • Write 700 words a day, every day
        • “I show up and hit my number, every single day”
    • Combining research with interesting stories — work in chunks, have research in a Word doc, and the book in a separate doc. Review, go back and forth
    • Go through the (printed out) research, highlight, underline, review a lot
    • If you do this every day, it adds up
  • Why write about this topic? The topic of When
    • As a writer, you must pick a topic you are VERY interested in… You spend years on the project (research, writing, speeches)
    • “I wrote this book because I wanted to read it”
  • How to know if an idea is worth exploring?
    • “You don’t… But when you share it with others, does it create curiosity in them?  Do they ask follow up questions?  If they do, you may be on to something”
  • The 3 stages of our days
    • Peak – Analytical work, smart
    • Trough – The afternoon “Bermuda Triangle” — A bad time to make decisions
    • Recovery – A creative time
  • Why lunch is the most important meal of the day — This is a time where you need to leave what you’re doing, go outside, go with a friend, disconnect from work, don’t look at your phone, need to recharge
  • Breaks are enormously important – Social breaks (with friends) are better than solo breaks
  • Napping for 20 minutes in the afternoon is very helpful
    • Drink a cup of coffee, set you iPhone for an alarm to go off in 23 minutes, lay down with an eye mask.  If you fall asleep in 5 minutes, you get an 18 minute nap, and you wake up and the caffeine starts to kick in
  • Why NBA players who get more “touches” have more success than others… Scientific evidence supports this
  • The importance of endings… How we end things:
    • Energize – More 29, 39, 49 year olds run marathons than any other age.  People want to end on a high note
    • Encode – Evaluate and record experiences – How something ends is very important. Look at Yelp reviews — People remember the experience for how a meal ended more than anything else
    • Elevate – People prefer rising sequences. Dan’s favorite tip:  When sharing good news and bad news, always START with the bad news, and end with the good news
  • We are very intentional about who, what, why… why aren’t we intentional about WHEN?  We should be…

“We are very intentional about who, what, and why.  We aren’t intentional about WHEN.  We should be.”

Social Media:

More Learning:

Episode 078: Kat Cole – From Hooters Waitress To President of Cinnabon

Episode 216: Jim Collins — How To Go From Good To Great

Episode 179: How To Sustain Excellence – The Best Answers From 178 Questions

Episode 107: Simon Sinek – Leadership: It Starts With Why

CONTINUE