Hiring For Attitude – Target Those That Are “A Pleasure To Manage”

A manager’s time is limited, so only hire those that are “a pleasure to manage” because they respect a manager’s time. Yes, most new-hires are unknowingly a burden. They drain a great deal of a manager’s time as a result of having to be provided with continuous coaching and direction. However, because a manager’s time is severely limited in a work-world dominated by remote work, pivots, and budget cuts; hiring managers should begin to purposely target the hiring of top performers who “don’t dominate a manager’s time.” I call them “a pleasure to manage employees” because they continuously act in such a way that it literally makes them a pleasure to manage. Others have called them self-motivated, self-managing, or low maintenance employees. The hiring process that targets them is known as “hiring for attitude.” It can also be characterized as a hiring process that targets candidates with a specific “set of desirable behaviors” that consistently produce results without requiring much of a manager’s time and worry.

These Employees Free Up A Manager’s Time So They Can Focus On More Strategic Things

Start by realizing that you should target “a pleasure to manage” new-hires because they don’t cause problems or nag you with questions and requests. But also focus on them because of the positive contributions that they make to the team. Like LeBron in the NBA, they also act proactively on the manager’s behalf as an “on the court leader.” The best will also remove some of the work from a manager’s plate. For example, you will know that you have hired “a burden-reducing employee” when a new hire approaches you within their first month and asks, “Is there a nagging problem that I can take off of your plate to ease your burden?”

If you are an experienced manager, the odds are that you have had only a handful of them during your career. They always leave an impression and become unforgettable employees (I bet you can instantly remember their names). In today’s world, specifically targeting and hiring these easy to manage employees is rapidly becoming critical. Most managers are now overworked and overstressed. To ease a manager’s burden, it is essential that new-hires must be capable of multi-forms of self-management in all but the direst of situations. Of course, the addition of these easy to manage employees allows their manager to use any freed up time to focus on higher business impact strategic actions.

These Behaviors Make Managing An Employee A Pleasure

During the recruiting and hiring process, you still want to focus on top performers. However, once you’ve identified the top performers, you should shift your assessment approach to focus on identifying those among them that routinely practice numerous “a pleasure to manage” behaviors. These “a pleasure to manage” new-hires act completely differently than traditional employees, high maintenance employees, or problem employees. They are the exact opposite of toxic employees. Once you find a single one, this type of employee will become the prototype for your “best hire ever.” The 12 different “a pleasure to manage” behaviors that I’ve discovered are listed below. The behaviors that generally have the largest impacts are listed first. You should target only the behaviors that you have found that make your job easier.

  1. Their actions reveal that they value and respect their managers’ time – even though they are not themselves managers or even leaders. They sparingly use their manager’s time and only when necessary. And, they “self-manage” not because they seek power or to become a leader, but because it helps their manager and their team.
  2. They are self-starters – even though they will just be another team member. Even before they begin their new job, they are planning ahead covering important areas that might require immediate attention. Those planning areas might include who they need to meet, what they need to learn, and what likely problems they will encounter during their first month. As self-starters, when appropriate, they also quickly acquire their own internal mentors. They, of course, don’t act in any important area without first informing their manager.
  3. They are self-motivated and purpose-driven – they took the job because they believe in its purpose. So, without added pressure, recognition, or rewards, they will put in the required extra hours and never loaf, because they are driven to meet their goals. Being self-motivated, they “find additional work” when there is any idle time.
  4. They are forward-looking – Each team requires someone to be forward-looking and to assume that every process and product will soon become obsolete. Self-managing employees understand that they are operating in a fast-moving world full of new technologies. So they are continually scanning the horizon for upcoming tactical, strategic, and global problems and opportunities. Because they anticipate the future, they are prepared rather than surprised when a problem appears.
  5. They “find a way” around obstacles – they realize that they operate in an environment full of roadblocks. They always have an alternative Plan B which means that they don’t get stuck for long when encountering roadblocks or delays.
  6. They are transparent and they communicate when necessary – they are open and trustworthy, and they don’t keep secrets from their managers. However, in the same light, when they do communicate, they use the favored communications channels of their manager. And, they communicate in such a way that a manager does not usually need to spend much time responding (i.e., using no response required messages).
  7. They are self-directed learners – Google has found that learning ability is the number one predictor of on-the-job success across all jobs. In our fast-changing business world, these employees continually anticipate new learning areas. Next, they develop their own learning plan, which seldom requires expensive formal corporate training or taking time off from the job. They continually build their own large external professional learning networks to learn from others with diverse backgrounds and experiences quickly. They, of course, proactively share their learnings with everyone on the team.
  8. They are collaborators – However, they don’t operate independently because, as team players, they realize the need for collaboration, cooperation, and sharing. They never consider a discovered problem as “belonging to someone else,” so they actively contribute to problem-solving.
  9. These employees rely on data – they use data to guide their work and to support their decisions because this approach produces superior results. But also because a data-driven approach is in line with how successful managers operate.
  10. They do work fast with a sense of urgency – In a rapidly changing world, every element of the organization and every worker will need the capability to complete tasks faster. These employees don’t require their manager to remind them of the importance of speed. And because they have a sense of urgency, they naturally complete their work faster than others and always before the deadline.
  11. They are highly adaptable – they thrive in our fast-changing and volatile world, so they don’t ever complain about rapid change. They are agile and they suggest pivots to their manager of up to 180° when the situation requires it.
  12. They have remote work capabilities – in jobs and teams that require it. They can work remotely and provide their manager with metrics quantifying their accomplishments. And when they work in the office, they also proactively maintain communications with remote team members.

Some Tips For Identifying “A Pleasure To Manage” Candidates

Obviously, you should first be looking for a candidate’s performance capabilities and technical skills. Next, you will also have to assess top candidates on their “a pleasure to manage” behaviors. Here are a variety of assessment approaches that others have used to choose from.

  • Let candidates know that you’re looking for “easy to manage” behaviors. Let potential candidates self-select in and out of the hiring process by letting them know within the job description and the job posting that you are targeting those with “a pleasure to manage” behaviors. Make it clear that the hiring process will include a thorough assessment of these behaviors.
  • Ask them to list the behaviors that would be required for minimizing the managers’ time. During the interview, remind them that you are specifically targeting self-managing employees that minimize the use of their manager’s time. Ask them to list the top specific actions that they would take to meet that goal (from most important to least important). If they don’t know several specific actions that would be required, you should be concerned.
  • During the interview, ask how they would reach one or more desirable limiting goals. Tell the candidate, upfront, that you’re looking for employees that mostly self-manage themselves. Give them a specific behavioral area (i.e., minimizing questions). Ask them, specifically, how they would act to reach the goal of minimizing questions to their manager. Continue that same approach for more of the desired behaviors.
  • Ask behavioral interview questions related to “respecting your manager’s time” Prepare questions in advance that assess your top targeted “a pleasure to manage behaviors.” For example, “Tell me about a time where you solved a significant problem while minimizing the use of your manager’s time. What specific actions did you take, and why did they work?”
  • Give them a current problem that requires them to minimize the use of a manager’s time. Instead of asking interviewees about historical situations that may not be relevant to your firm. During the interview, give them a real situation that will likely occur in this job that will require “minimizing the use of a manager’s time.” Tell them that the goal is to solve the problem, while simultaneously limiting the use of a manager’s time. And then, ask them to walk you through the steps they would take and to highlight the actions required to meet those dual goals.
  • Find problems in a current employee/manager relationship. Before, during, or after the interview, give final candidates a short outline of an existing flawed approach taken by a current employee. Ask them to identify possible problems, flaws, and areas that would unnecessarily take up their manager’s precious time. Be concerned if they don’t quickly find burdensome steps and key omissions.
  • Require employee referrals to assess “a pleasure to manage behaviors.” If you rely on employee referrals, make it clear that you want referrals that meet your “pleasure to manage” criteria. Consider asking the referring employee to specifically list and assess the “pleasure to manage” capabilities of those found in their referral candidate.
  • Have them force rank their “a pleasure to manage” capabilities. Many interviewers simply ask candidates directly, “Do you act this way?” However, a better approach that avoids an obvious “yes answer” is asking candidates to force rank their easy to manage actions from the strongest to weakest. This force ranked list can quickly reveal which behaviors they believe they are the strongest in. If they rank any of your essential behaviors towards the bottom of the list or not at all, you should be concerned.
  • Have references force rank their soft skills. In a similar way, ask a candidate’s references to force rank their view of the candidate’s manager’s time-saving behaviors.
  • Online tests covering these behaviors and attitudes. Many vendors now offer credible soft skills and attitude testing online. For example, Footlocker found that the addition of a single attitude test resulted in new hires that produced a double-digit increase in sales. When selecting an online test, it’s important to make sure that these tests are validated for the job family.

Final Thoughts

It’s a fact that a great deal of the traditional recruiting process focuses on identifying candidates with the appropriate technical skills and experience. And while this time allocation is important during turbulent times, it may be equally important to assess whether the new-hire will not just be easy, but that they will be “a pleasure to manage.” This will allow individual managers to apply more of their time and brainpower to high impact strategic areas. But also because these employees will make a manager’s job less stressful and yes, more fun.

Author’s Note: Please pass this article around within your team and network. And, if it stimulated your thinking and provided actionable tips, also please take a minute to follow and/or connect with Dr. Sullivan on LinkedIn.

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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