Posted by: Joe Hoffman | September 1, 2009

The Art of the Hire Part IV – Behavior

Imagine that you are going to buy a new car.  One of the first things that you do is build a list, mental or written, of the behaviors or characteristics of your new vehicle.

o    It goes fast.
o    Holds the road
o    Carries people and cargo
o    Gas mileage
o    Cost to buy

All these can be easily measured, so you put a range against each one to describe the behavior of your ideal new car.

o    Goes Fast        Zero to 60 mph in 7 to 10 seconds.  Top speed 120 mph
o    Holds the Road    Runs a ¼ mile “S” track in 10 -18 second
o    Carries people and cargo  Trunk Space, Rear deck size etc in Cubic feet
o    Gas mileage        Between 23 and 27 mpg local
o    Cost to buy        Less than $35,000

Except for auto enthusiasts and people who want bragging rights, we don’t care how the designers and manufacture arrives at the performance and behavior.  You just need and want to know that when you leave for that camping trip, it will hold your stuff, keep up with the semis on the interstate, climb the mountain road and not cost a new mortgage on your house to keep it fed.

There are literally hundreds of vehicles out there to choose from, from drag racers (goes very fast, doesn’t hold the road real well), to two seater sport cars (goes fast, holds the road, no storage space) on down to SUVs and sedans (Not very fast, not too good at holding the road, lots of space).  We can peel off the drag racer and you won’t be buying a new Koenigsegg ($1.2 Million) but there are still a lot of SUVs and sedans that will work OK.  The more specs that have at the outset, the easier and more effective the choice.

As a business leader, you want to hire the best people, those that will enhance your business. One of the most important aspects of identifying the great employee is their on the job behavior.  How will they respond to the daily pokes that life offers?   Suppose that you are in the hospitality business.  Would you hire a great undertaker as your bartender?  Even if he or she could mix any libation your customers wanted.  Probably not! The behaviors that make for best fit in each job are pretty different.

Behaviors are things like:
o    Energy Level
o    Assertiveness
o    Sociability
o    Manageability
o    Independence

Just as in the vehicle choice, most of us don’t really care how the psychology of the person is designed; we just want to know how they will behave in real life.  If you know what you need for a particular job, there are tools (assessments) available to identify the good choices from the bad.  If you already have people that you consider great in that job, then a benchmark can be built against them to fine-tune your choice even tighter.

Getting at this level of detail through an interview process is very difficult even for highly trained (and expensive) psychologists.  A business can use assessments, spending less than a few hundred dollars and save the interview for the important stuff, like personal chemistry.  The bottom line result, if you use tools that are reliable and offer predictive validity, is a lower cost per great hire, lower turn over, higher productivity and of course, better business performance.

If you are in hiring mode or are thinking about a turn around in the recession being on the horizon, contact me at Quade Consulting.   With our support, you will hire great people and improve your business performance.  We guarantee it!

joe.hoffman@quadeconsulting.com

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I’m a fan of Seth Godin’s blog for his slightly skewed view of business and marketing.  Actually he has a slightly skewed view of a lot of things but very thought provoking and insightful.  He recently had a post that looked at communications media and the bandwidth, or quality of the medium (information density)  versus the synchronicity of the sender receiver.

A thought provoking and I think, very funny quote from the post, “The 140 characters in Twitter is about as low density as you can get other than a stop light.”  I urge everyone to take a look at his post and would like to hear back as to where you would place “Facebook” on the chart since he seems to have left it out.

Seth’s Post The bandwidth-sync correlation that’s worth thinking about

The real challenge for the business person is selecting the set of media that get your personal brand and marketing message out there into the world without wasting a lot of time or inadvertently hurting your image.  Make wise choices!

Posted by: Joe Hoffman | August 4, 2009

My First Management Lesson

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” I received my first meaningful management lesson from what would seem to be an unlikely source.  I was in my first year as a first line manager at Control Data working with a good sized crew of techs implementing our Wall St. real time transaction systems.  My secretary was on vacation and I brought in a “temp” to cover for two weeks.   She was a well spoken, reserved young woman (actually 10-15 years older than I was) who was extremely effective, learning our processes on the first pass.  We worked well together.  On her last day, she presented me with a wooden desk name sign as a gift.  Engraved on the front facing a visitor was my name.  On the backside, facing me was another engraving that read, “The Art of Diplomacy is letting someone else have your way.”

My very first reaction was more than a bit negative but after a few moments, I realized that what she was telling me was important, both professionally and personally.  I had that sign on my desk for many years and still have it around here somewhere today.

Normally I would have jumped on someone for a not so subtle “shot” like that but when I reflected on it, I understood.  At this point in my life I was a self-important hotshot on a fast track.  The youngest manager in the company running the most critical new market penetration effort that we had going.  She and I  had spoken quite a bit and I had learned something about her background.   She was well educated,  holding a Doctorate in Romance Languages and was working at the UN as a French / English translator in the booth as well as on the floor during meetings and receptions and had a great opportunity to observe the good, bad and great diplomats at work.   In my own twisted mind, I took her gift as a compliment.   I was being told that I had something worthwhile but if I fixed my ego problem, who knows what might happen.   I never really “fixed my ego” but I did take the lesson to heart and it paid off well for me.

“The Art of Diplomacy is letting someone else have your way.”

Posted by: Joe Hoffman | July 27, 2009

Power Consumption and Life Expectancy

Power  The kind that turns on the lights and keeps you fed.


A man can produce two hundred fifty watts from his muscles for a reasonable length of time. When he has no more power, he is a savageLife Expectancy at Birth About 20

When he gains a kilowatt of energy from the muscles of a horse, he is a barbarian, but the new power cannot be directed wholly as he wills. When he can apply it to a plow he has a high barbarian culture, and when he adds still more he begins to be civilized.   Life Expectancy at Birth About 25

Steam-power put as much as four kilowatts to work for every human being in the first industrialized countries.  Life Expectancy at Birth About 30

In the Mid Twentieth Century there was about 60 kilowatts available per person in the industrialized countries.  Life Expectancy at Birth About 45

Nowadays, of course, a modern culture assumes 190 to 350 KW per person.  The US is right in the middle of that.  Life Expectancy at Birth About 80

These are just some back of the envelope calculations and do not take into account the power consumed elsewhere and used to create commodities and products imported into your life.

Picture1

This is an interesting correlation.   More importantly than just from a historical point of view, the same relationships hold true today as you look at the same data for industrialized nations and less developed.  Life expectancy and power available are closely related.  But it takes an order of magnitude change in power to be reflected in LE.

The relationship here and similar relationships with GDP and family income present a problem for the Green Power movement.  The next power jump will will be to about 1 Megawatt per person.  That is only four times the amount currently used,  the same  change from the 1955 level to now, not a huge jump.  Where will it come from and how do we get there in the next 50 years?  What about those other nations that need to move two orders of magnitude just to reach USA 1960 levels.

There is a really great book by David MacKay FRS, professor of Physics at Cambridge University that begins to open the dialog around a cogent approach to sustainable energy.  Just to get you thinking, if the US were to cut back its current power consumption and life style from 250 KW to the level in the UK lifestyle and consumption of 125 KW, we could replace ALL hydrocarbon fuels by building 525 new 1 Giga Watt Nuclear power plants.  Let us be clear about this. The silly little bits that the “greenies” shout about won’t do it, Cap and Trade will bankrupt industrialized nations and hoping for a new energy source to show up tomorrow is a fantasy.  We and the rest of the world need to get serious about implementing all of the sources, nuclear, solar, wind, tide, wave and and most importantly of all, research into new sources.

You may read MacKay’s book on line or download a pdf of it, at his website “David MacKay Sustainable Energy without the hot air” .  I strongly recommend it.

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