You wake up in the morning, take a shower, brush your teeth, make some coffee, say good bye to your kids, kiss your spouse, and head out to work. During your commute to work, you begin planning your day to maximize your time at work, and serve your team more effectively. With 3 one-hour meetings, 1 presentation to prepare for, 4 follow-up calls to make, and seemingly endless emails to respond to, your day quickly fills up before even getting to work. No worries here, you are a highly efficient and effective leader, able to handle issues as they arise.
Then it happens. Your boss give you another week’s worth of work that must be completed in the next few days. On top of that, your team’s regulatory training is due by the end of the week, your monthly reviews are scheduled for Thursday… the list goes on. How do you handle the growing list of tasks and responsibilities that must be accomplished in what appears to be an impossible amount of time? Staying late at the office is not really an option as you have your son’s baseball game tonight and your daughter’s dance recital the next night. You are family-oriented so missing these events is not an option.
What do you do? Enter the concept of selective disobedience.
Here is how this works. As the leader of your team, you are responsible for what they do and don’t do. When your boss (manager, supervisor, or leader) gives you a task, generally it does not mean you do it, rather that you are responsible for making sure it is completed. To get more done, you train, enable, and empower your team, then delegate, follow up, and follow through.
When you are given an excessive number of tasks, you have the choice of doing them all okay or doing some of them very well. The “do less better” concept from last week. If you choose the first, then you will be mediocre at many things. If you choose the latter, then you will be excellent at some things and short on others. But this does not mean you will never get everything done (although it does not mean you will either). You and your team may get all of your tasks done, just not exactly when originally wanted. This is selective disobedience.
As the leader of your team, you must prioritize all of your work, and complete the most important tasks first. However, when you commit to accomplishing one task, you are also committing to not complete another (at least not right away). You must selectively disobey in order to prioritize and accomplish the most important and impactful tasks and responsibilities of you and your team. There will likely be some repercussion such as a “talking to” from your boss, but if you do your job well, and your leadership understands and respects you, then they will expect you to employ appropriate selective disobedience”.
How have you employed selective disobedience lately? Do you think you have never employed selective disobedience? Think back to the time where you chose to be late for a meeting because of another task from your boss or dropping a child off at school. Did you miss the budget submission deadline for another presentation?
Do you have a supervisor that does not understand, respect, or trust you? If or when you selectively disobey, you experience extreme repercussions – being yelled at, adverse counseling, written up, suspended, etc. Stay tuned for next week’s post on how to handle disruptive managers.
I recently conducted an interview, as a panel member, for a technical position within my organization. The position requires a great amount of technical (IT) skill in SharePoint in order to be successful. I was provided a list of 12 questions the board would ask and use as a basis of evaluation. Each question was specific to SharePoint. In preparation for the application process, a general position description was advertised which contained a clear requirement to understand SharePoint from a developer perspective. In this case, the position was for a SharePoint developer, which is a niche skill. Many of the applicants were technologically savvy, communicated well, but just did not have the knowledge or experience as a SharePoint developer.
There are generally 2 primary styles of interviewing; technical and discussion centric.
This method should be used when the position requires technical skills that must be employed immediately. This could be a sudden vacancy in the IT department, internal financial review office, or other positions that require a specific certification (such as an OSHA hazmat specialist). In these cases, it may be more beneficial to conduct a more technically focused interview.
This method should be used in any case. At a minimum, getting to know the applicant by simply talking will put the applicant at ease, creating more relaxed natural responses. Once the person is relaxed, if needed, get into the technical aspect of the interview. Or, simply talk. Sometimes, it is better to hire someone you can get along with, who is motivated and has the drive and enthusiasm you seek, instead of a highly technical individual.
So, which is more effective?
It really just depends on the situation. Going back to the initial example of the SharePoint developer, we could have hired just about any of the applicants as they were technically competent. In that case, however, we needed a turn-key employee, someone we could hire, help him or her learn how the organization conducts business, and let them do their job. We could not afford to spend the time to train someone to do the job due to other constraints. If we could, we would have trained one of our existing employees.
There are a few questions to ask as you develop your interview process or overall style. First, can the skill you are looking for be developed internally? What skills do you require immediately? What does your organization value? What type of personality are you looking for?
Take this a step further. Why is the organization hiring outside of the organization for an essential position? Organizations should invest time in developing and mentoring their team. Cross-training should be completed at all levels. When a sudden need to hire presents itself, the organization should be able to promote from within. My personal goal is to work myself out of a job through SOP development, training, and automating repeating processes. If I can disappear for a month at a time and my team can carry on without being completely adversely affected by my absence, then I am doing my job. I push my team members to do the same. Many consider this ludicrous as it would seem that I am unnecessary. My job is to lead my team. My job is to motivate and inspire, mentor and train, and provide task and purpose for my team. If a single person becomes the point of failure or the “choke point” where everything stalls out, then the organization is doing something wrong.
Getting back on track and wrapping up, the most effective interview process is situationally dependent. However, I recommend focusing the interview on getting to know the person, and hire the best personality based on your organizational culture. Yes, consider their background, skill, experience, and technical prowess. But much of this can be learned on the job. Character and personality take a lifetime to develop. Which is the better investment for you and your organization?
Jared W. Snow
You can divide leadership competency into three areas: what the leader knows (knowledge), demonstrated abilities (skills) and actual behaviors (actions). This model advocates that a good leader needs all three (knowledge, skills, and actions) to demonstrate competency. For example, a leader may have a wealth of knowledge but never apply it appropriately in solving real world issues. Another leader may have good basic interpersonal skills but lack critical knowledge and expertise to inform them in making critical decisions. Another leader may have all the knowledge and skills but due to anxiety and fear does not act in a timely manner to provide effective leadership. A competent leader by this definition then is a knowledgeable leader of demonstrated skill who acts in a timely and appropriate manner.
You can further divide knowledge into interpersonal knowledge, conceptual knowledge, technical and tactical knowledge. Interpersonal knowledge is about understanding people and how to work with them. Interpersonal concepts include coaching, teaching, counseling, motivating and empowering. Conceptual knowledge is an understanding of the broad principles and ideas required to lead. Conceptual knowledge includes judgment, creativity, reasoning, analytical thinking, critical thinking and ethical reasoning. Technical knowledge relates to the narrower job related abilities needed to accomplish specific assigned tasks and functions. These might include computer skills, knowledge of laws and regulations or operations of proprietary systems. Tactical knowledge is an understanding of appropriate principles and models in the employment of people, teams, and actions where most appropriate.
A skill is a demonstrated ability. This is different than reading about a subject. For example, I had read a lot about flying and thought this would make me a great pilot. My first time in the air with an instructor clarified for me the difference between knowledge and skills. Reading about landing an aircraft is far different than actually doing so in a slight cross wind, in the rain, at a strange airport with a dozen strangers looking to see if you will bring the ship down in one piece.
Having knowledge about leadership is like just reading about flying. If it takes flying to learn to fly, it takes placing yourself in leadership roles to learn to lead. Actions are the behaviors we exhibit and generally are what members of our team observe. From our actions the team members speculate about our knowledge and abilities. It is during real world leadership challenges and opportunities that we can take our knowledge and abilities and act upon them. They will see for themselves if we really can fly or if we will crash and burn.
In summary, it is important for each leader to take an inventory of the knowledge, skills and actions required for competence and to compare that list with they actually know and do. Go and lead.
William H. Snow, Ph.D.