Your life and work experiences could be making you BAD at recruiting and leading your team!

June 11, 2019


I am certain that you have a wealth of valuable life and work experience behind you, making you the exceptional person you are today. And as an entrepreneur who is growing their business and building a team, you’d like to think that those experiences are going to help, right?

When it comes to recruiting and managing a team, they are almost certainly tripping you up at critical moments. Let me explain…

As you move through life – living, meeting, interacting, working – you start to build up a whole bunch of PERSONAL BIAS. Got no idea what I’m talking about? For a brief summary of what bias is, take a look at this short article.

Basically, bias is present anytime your thinking is influenced by your subjective world view and you’re prevented from keeping an open mind. It can be as glaringly obvious as overt racism or much more subtle and nuanced.

To have biases is to be human! There is no escaping it – it’s just how our brains function. And it’s not actually a bad thing. Sometimes it’s very helpful to limit your alternatives based on what you already believe to be true about a situation. The problem is that for most people these biases sit at the unconscious level (we don’t realise they’re there) and we remain unaware of the impact they have on our decisions.

Taking it one step further, your life experiences coupled with the accumulation of personal bias can (and usually do!) lead to you making assumptions. That old saying “to assume makes an ass out of you and me” is tired but true because assumptions are so often wrong.

Bringing the focus back to building an awesome team (of A-Players who support your dreams and make them happen, right?!), there are two key areas where this unconscious combo can bring you undone: recruiting and managing.

Let’s look first at recruiting.

When it comes time to recruit, most people are busy, stressed, overwhelmed, overworked, uncertain, feeling impatient or alllll of the above.

Unconscious bias and assumptions creep in throughout the process – when writing your advertisement, screening applications, interviewing potential employees. Here are a few examples of how this thinking might play out:

  • You articulate particular job perks in your advertisement to make it attractive to the right people (not a bad thing but still an assumption).
  • You pass over an application because the applicant is about to finish studying and you think they’ll run off to start their new career the moment they graduate.
  • You assume you understand the nature of an applicant’s stated skills (you’ve done this, so you’d naturally understand this).
Applicant: I’ve worked in retail for 15 years and won the annual top seller spot 4 times.
You: Amazing! They’ll be able to generate leads for my new online course and help me with the sales emails.
  • You assume you understand the likely way someone can use a system or the level of their system skill.
Applicant: 	I’m a whizz with QuickBooks (Fact: I can do data entry with great accuracy and speed).
You: 	Great, they’ll be able to set up all those different accounting buckets I need and create my invoices.
  • You assume you understand the way an applicant would like to work.
Applicant: 	I’m a total extravert. Put me in a room of new faces and I’m completely energised.
You: 	They’ll go stir crazy working remotely and want to chat on Skype all day long. 
  • You assume you know what would motivate your applicant or the career path that “people like this’ would want.

So, how do you overcome this? Keeping in mind you are probably feeling stressed, overwhelmed and overworked.

You can cut through and eliminate the assumptions by:

Understanding THEIR REALITY.

Say things like…

Give me an example of a time when

Explain to me where your involvement in that started and stopped.

Tell me about the most difficult thing you can do in (xyz system).

Explain to me a normal day.

Understanding how their experiences fit into YOUR REALITY.

Tell a story about a difficult situation they might face in your business and ask them how they would handle it. If the response is general in nature, dig for specifics. For example, ask “what is the first thing you would do?” “What would you do next?” “What would you write in that email?”

Have the applicant EXPLAIN BACK to you their understanding of what they will be doing – on day one, week one or month one. See how they have received, understood and processed the information you’ve provided.

Okay, let’s move on to how you manage your existing or future team.

Even though you have a level awareness about bias and assumptions now, they can easily sneak in if you aren’t continuously checking, clarifying and rechecking with your team that you have understood them correctly (and whether things have changed!)

Most of us make assumptions about:

How people like to be TRAINED (and/or how they best receive information)

How people should be COMMUNICATED to. Often these assumptions are based on the way we have been communicated to in the past and or the way another business you admire communicates. News flash: the ‘right way’ to communicate with your team is the way that suits your business and gets you the results you need!

How people like to be acknowledged or REWARDED for a job well done. Going above and beyond deserves a thank you but what you may not realise is that it doesn’t have to be a financial reward. Team members can receive gratitude in so many different ways. Here are just a couple:

  • Greater flexibility;
  • Professional or personal development opportunities;
  • A greater sense of community and collaboration;
  • Increased responsibility;
  • A heightened sense of belonging within the business.

So the way to say thank you doesn’t have to be a bonus or a pay rise. It could be a public acknowledgement, sending flowers, a private thank you or many other things.

Are you wondering now what might suit your team members? Go ahead and ask them! “If I want to show my appreciation to you for a job well done, what can I do that you’d really value?”  I wonder what they will say. Let me know if it’s something you didn’t expect. I’d love to hear it.

What people want from their future CAREER or what may MOTIVATE them. We oftentimes base these assumptions on someone’s skill set or industry.

I frequently hear statements like “John will only stay with us for a year or two and then move onto a bigger business, for sure!”.

Sometimes these guesses are right, but quite often they aren’t. Consider how having that underlying assumption about John might impact the way you manage and motivate him. Could the choices you make about John in your business actually be solidifying your assumption into a self-fulfilling prophecy??

The best way to make sure you are basing your decisions on the way things actually are (not the way you assume they are) is to encourage great conversations about the future. Use language like:

  • What are you hoping to learn?
  • What really interests you at the moment?
  • Who do you admire in the industry?
  • What does success look like in 4 years time?  What would you like to have learnt by then or be doing?

Perhaps developing this awareness seems overwhelming, but your starting point is simple: stop and ask yourself “what assumptions have I made today?” Then start to encourage open communication by asking if your assumptions are correct. You can even say “I don’t want to assume, can I ask you _______” or “can I check my understanding of _______ with you?”

And next time you are recruiting, be sure to dig deep into those assumptions, particularly the ones relating the MUST HAVE skills and behaviours – or on anything else on your essentials list. It’s critical to your team building success that you are basing these decisions on facts NOT your assumptions.

Are you interested in learning more about how to put a robust but simple process in place for hiring your next team member?

Check out my Online Courses which offer you a self-paced option to learn how to recruit the right people and be the inspiring leader your business needs you to be.


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